How Long Can Chiggers Live on Clothes?

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The best way to avoid chiggers while camping is by wearing long clothes to cover any exposed skin on your body.

Better on your clothes than your skin, right?

But, that begs the question – how long can chiggers live on clothes?

The last thing we want to do is bring them back into our tent, or worse yet, back home!

So, let’s explore the life cycle of a chigger and find out how long it can survive on your clothes!

How Long Can Chiggers Live on Clothes?

Chiggers can live on clothes, including shirts, pants, shoes, or any article of clothing, for up to three days. However, it’s likely they won’t remain on clothing for more than a few hours as they need to find a host to feed on to get to the nymph stage of their life cycle.

Fun Fact: Chiggers (Trombiculidae) are also known as red bugs, harvest mites, or berry bugs.

The reason chiggers don’t stay on your clothes or your skin for long is that they, by nature, need to get to the next stage of their life cycle, which looks like this:

Chigger life cycle

The chigger life-cycle has four stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. After overwintering in the soil, adult female chiggers lay their eggs in vegetation and damp soil during early spring. Tiny larvae soon hatch with six legs. It’s these larvae that are parasitic and cause chigger bites. They eventually find a host, feed for 3 to 4 days, then drop off and molt into the nymph stage. Nymph and adult chiggers sport eight legs and feed on small insects and insect eggs found outdoors. The entire life-cycle process can take 2 to 12 months.

Chiggers only stay on your clothes for a very short time, likely a few hours. If they do attach to your skin, they still typically won’t stay attached for more than 1 to 2 days because the skin irritation will lead to scratching, or they simply drop off.

Can Chiggers Go Through Clothes?

Socks and long clothes are an effective way to minimize the risk of being bitten by chiggers. But, technically, chiggers could burrow through socks and attach to your skin. If you notice little red bites on your ankle beneath your socks, it’s likely chigger bites.

Fortunately, they make insect-repellent socks to prevent this from happening! Insect Shield Sport Crew Socks are designed to repel insects and bugs, including mosquitoes, ticks, ants, and chiggers.

What to Do With Clothes With Chiggers?

If you suspect you have chiggers on your clothes, how do you get rid of them? Will washing clothes kill chiggers?

Yes, washing your clothes will kill any chiggers that have hitched a ride. Immediately wash them in the washing machine with hot water and detergent, followed by a cycle in the dryer.

While your clothes are being washed, inspect your skin for little red dots, particularly around your ankles and waistline.

Next, whether you see any evidence of chiggers or not, thoroughly bathe with hot water and soap.

If you have chigger bites, apply an over-the-counter anti-itch treatment like hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the affected areas. A cold compress applied over the bites can also help relieve the itching and irritation.

Tip: Contrary to popular belief, do not use nail polish on chigger bites as it has not shown any relieving effects.

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