As dog owners and hiking fans, my wife and I regularly walk in the local forest and countryside. Whilst it’s extremely good for our health and mental state, what isn’t so good is the propensity for ticks to try and attach themselves to us and our dog.
Our house is on the edge of the forest, so we’re in the lucky position where we can get through our door and quickly jump in the shower. We can also wash our messy dog down in the spare downstairs bathroom… but will having a shower get rid of ticks?
Do ticks wash off in the shower?
It is possible to wash ticks off yourself and that of a dog using a shower, providing the ticks have not yet burrowed and embedded themselves into the skin. Effective showering can also wash away any tick eggs that might be in your dog’s hair, or on your body.
Whilst a shower won’t wash ticks off that have already attached, it does offer an excellent opportunity for a full body check on yourself or your dog. You can look and feel all over for any ticks that might have dug into the skin.
Another reason to shower after being possibly exposed to ticks comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (cdc.gov). They say:
“Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease and may be effective in reducing the risk of other tickborne diseases.”
To conclude, ticks cannot be washed off in a shower if they have already dug into the skin – no amount of soap and hot water at a typical shower temperature will kill a tick. You can read more about what temperatures can kill ticks lower down the page.
But what about your clothes?
How long can ticks live on clothing?
If you have been walking through long grass and believe there could be ticks present, take your clothes off when you come in the house – ticks are able to live on clothing for up to 3 days without a food source.
When we come in from a forest walk, we will often place our clothes in the tumble dryer, without washing them. This might sound counter-intuitive, but the hot air in a dryer can be effective at getting ticks off of your clothes: the warm air will dehydrate them and can kill them off.
Once you’ve done that, jump in the shower and do a manual check for ticks (instructions on that lower down the page).
Will ticks come off in the water?
We’ve established that ticks will not come off in water if they are already attached to you or your dog’s skin, but what about washing your clothing in water? Here’s a quick overview…
Does washing in hot water kill ticks?
Washing your clothes in hot water is surprisingly ineffective in killing ticks. In fact, someone has actually done the research into this with a study (read in full on BCA-Clinic.com).
Do ticks die in the wash?
They found that the typical hot water temperatures in a washing machine are not hot enough to kill ticks on clothing. Here’s a quote from the published findings:
“According to the research, when the temperature was lower than 54°C on a wet heat wash, 50% of ticks managed to survive the cycle, which proves how ineffective it can potentially be. The research didn’t end there. A shocking 94% of ticks survived the wash when the temperature was moderately warm (27–46°C), and all ticks survived a cold wash, at a temperature range of 15–27°C… it took 55 minutes maximum to kill all ticks at >54°C.”
The research suggests that you are far better off, using a tumble dryer to wash ticks off your clothes.
“A dry heat wash on a temperature higher than 54°C will eradicate all ticks on your clothing. This is well within the range of most modern appliances, so you shouldn’t need to procure any new technology to keep your clothing tick-free.”
Bottom line is this; to get ticks washed off your clothes, put them in a dryer on a lower heat for 1 and a half hours, or a very high heat for an hour.
What temperature will kill ticks?
The BCA Clinic article I referenced earlier was very specific about what temperature would kill ticks. I will leave their quote below:
“We now have an exact temperature setting that we can confidently say kills all ticks – both nymphal and adult forms – on a dry heat wash. That number is 54°C, which translates to 130°F. Any temperatures greater than this will kill 100% of ticks that are attached to clothing.”
How to check for ticks on your own body
Once you have started to wash ticks off in the shower, run your fingers all over your body. This fingertip method is the best way to find ticks, particularly the small ones that are still nymph-sized – they can be as small as pin head.
The areas on your body that are important to check include:
- Your head and hair.
- Behind your ears.
- Armpits, waist, and belly button.
- Between your legs and behind the knees.
Handy Hint: Dog owners are rightly worried after tick bites due to the diseases they carry. But what is the risk of a dog getting rabies from a tick bite?
How to check for ticks on your dog
Ticks are harder to spot in longer haired dogs, but the method for checking is the same. You simply run your hands all over your dog, parting the hair as you go to check the skin. Ticks will feel lumpy and can be sized between 1mm and 1cm.
Before they attach to your dog, ticks look like little spiders, having a white-colored body in an egg shape. They don’t become larger and darker until they have had a chance to suck the blood of your dog.
The most common place to find them on a dog’s body will be on the belly, ears, feet, and head areas.
Always be extra cautious with ticks, they can cause serious diseases such as Lyme disease and anaplasmosis to name but two.
For you, that means washing in a shower after being outside, and for your dog, that means effective tick medicines and even a tick collar. That’s what we use with our dog, and in the last 4 years have only seen one tick on him.
Ticks will wash off in the shower, but only if they have not had the chance to attach yet, so the visual and fingertip checks are essential.
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