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After a hike, we often find many ticks on us (and remove them of course). But the assumption is that some might still be in the clothing, on the shoes, etc. I don't want to throw the worn stuff in the laundry hamper, and have the ticks potentially crawl all over the house, and I also don't want to (or can't - think motel room) immediately wash after every hike.

For that, I thought I had the really clever idea to put my clothing (and shoes) inside a plastic bag in the microwave, for maybe ten seconds (at full power), assuming that would be unsurvivable for ticks (and hopefully any other bugs, spiders, and whatever else was alive in my cloth - shudder). Then I throw them in the laundry hamper (or luggage) for later washing.

Question: Does ten seconds of micro-waving kill ticks? Is this a useful approach?

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    inside a plastic bag, of course ;-) I don't care about used underware and socks in the microwave either... the good thing with micro waves (vs. dryers) is that motel rooms have them. – Aganju Aug 5 '17 at 2:54
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    You don't want to throw your stinky clothes in the washer, but you're ok with putting them in the same thing you warm your food in? – ShemSeger Aug 5 '17 at 5:57
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    @ShemSeger the Q sets the OP isn't happy to put the clothes in the laundry basket, and doesn't want to wash immediately on return. The implication is that they are happy to put the clothes in the washer at an appropriate time. – Chris H Aug 5 '17 at 9:46
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    Can the clothes in question handle boiling water? If you're considering dry-microwaving you might damage the microwave even in the absence of metal. – Chris H Aug 5 '17 at 9:48
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    This doesn't answer your actual question, but it might solve your dilemma: Put the clothes in an air-tight compressible bag, perhaps like [these]()amazon.com/Acrodo-Compression-10-pack-Packing-Storage/dp/…) until you return home and can deal with the clothes thoroughly. This will at the least trap the ticks and not allow them to spread. – cobaltduck Aug 5 '17 at 12:36
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I wouldn't count on this working dependably, especially with shoes. The problem is that a microwave works by directly heating up certain molecules, most importantly water. And the energy from the microwave is spread over all such molecules in it. If your clothes are sweaty, there could easily be enough water in them so that it absorbs most of the energy and the ticks aren't heated up enough to die, especially if it's only for ten seconds. And leather shoes will always have quite a bit of moisture in them.

Basically, you'd need to adjust the time and intensity of the microwaving to the total amount of water in there, which you cannot really know. If you misjudge and microwave too little, the ticks survive. If you microwave too much, you could damage the clothes, or the microwave. Again, shoes are especially problematic because they contain glue, which could be damaged by the microwave.

  • I would also add that microwaves (especially cheaper ones) only heat certain points/patterns in their interior to high temperatures, leaving others mostly cold (That's why all microwave-manuals tell you to stir your food in between goes, so that the heat is spread evenly). I would bet that some ticks might survive in these 'low heat pockets' to only crawl out later... – fgysin reinstate Monica Aug 9 '17 at 5:44
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Yes, microwaving will kill ticks. It would do so by making the innards of the bug heat up until it explodes. Pretty gross, so definitely put the clothes inside a bag first!

There's a few sources talking about killing ticks via microwave, for example this one and a Quora thread. There's even a video of someone doing this too.

Things to be careful about:

  • Do not microwave if there is any metal on the clothing!
  • Be very cautious about anything catching on fire (e.g. elastic?) - microwave only in short intervals and keep an eye on it.
  • Natural fibers should be relatively safe. Synthetics on the other hand are plastic, so they can melt if they are heated too much for too long.

Other ideas you could try:

  • Iron the clothing
  • Use a hair dryer
  • Get a sealable bag and stash it there until you can wash the clothing
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    +1 for pointing out the grossness. Which leafs to a reservation on this method: If the clothes are going to be splattered with exploded ticks, won't they be unwearable? So I don't see what is gained by not washing them. Most motels have washers. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Aug 5 '17 at 22:38
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    @ab2 Good point, I'm not sure how easy it would be to clean off microwaved tick guts (ew).. I suppose it would be sterilized, but I know I wouldn't want to wear that! – user812786 Aug 5 '17 at 22:46
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    The new answer by Michael Borgwardt makes this one seem wrong. – James Jenkins Aug 7 '17 at 13:34
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    @JamesJenkins Well, we both agree that the microwave will kill the ticks eventually, his answer gives more details on how long you might need to and what it might do to your clothing. Wet fabric doesn't dry well in a microwave because there's nowhere for the moisture to go, but it still gets very hot in a relatively short amount of time. – user812786 Aug 7 '17 at 14:14
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I am interpreting the question broadly as how to kill ticks on hiking and gardening clothes, not just the efficacy of microwaving them.

The method I suggest will work fine if you have a dedicated dryer in, say, your mudroom or gardening room or your garage. 10 to 20 minutes in a dryer will kill ticks by desiccation. You will have dead, but not exploded ticks, and you will not be importing ticks into the main portion of your house or contaminating the dryer that you use for clean clothes.

You might be able to adapt this to an apartment (e.g., dryer on the balcony or in the entrance hall), but this method is not considerate to others in a motel.

Source: Appalachian Mountain Club:

... there’s one sure-fire way to kill any ticks that might have hitched a ride on your clothing. Throw any potential tick-bearing clothes in the dryer and run it on high heat for 10 minutes.

It’s not the heat that kills them. It’s the dryness. Ticks require moisture to survive and will rapidly desiccate and die in dry conditions—and a quick spin in the dryer is all that’s needed to crisp ’em to death. (Ticks can actually survive a hot-water run through the washing machine.) (Emphasis added.)

(Note that this requires you to saunter through your house or apartment naked, which depending on you and the other inhabitants could be a pro or a con.)

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