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How Long Can Ticks Live On Clothing?

ticks on person

Went hiking recently? Took all the precautions to prevent ticks from latching onto you, but one still managed to sneak through? Chances are, if the tick is attached to your clothing and not your skin, it won’t survive more than a few hours.

However, that won’t always be the case.

So, how long can ticks live on clothing?

How Long Can Ticks Live On Clothing?

tick on clothing

The answer to this question depends on a few factors, including the type of tick and the environment in which it’s found.

Generally speaking, ticks can survive for quite a while on clothing. Some ticks can live for up to a year without a blood meal, so they can stay attached to clothes for a long time. This is especially true if the ticks are in a warm, humid environment.

Typically, once you’re back home, the humidity and temperature in your house will be much less hospitable to ticks than the environment outside, and they will eventually die. Ticks in a household environment will usually die within 24 hours but may survive for three days.

Ticks thrive in moist and humid environments – so once you’re back home, crank up the AC and get rid of any standing water to make sure you’re your uninvited guests don’t overstay their welcome.

Can Ticks Bite Through Clothing?

As for ticks biting through clothing, the answer is generally no. Ticks cannot bite through most types of clothing unless it’s a very lightweight and thin fabric. However, ticks can attach themselves to clothes by crawling under loose fabric, so it’s essential to check your clothing for ticks after spending time in an area where ticks are known to be present.

Let’s take a look at some everyday clothing worn while hiking and how you can prevent ticks from crawling their way through to your skin:

Can ticks bite through jeans?

For the most part, jeans are typically thick enough that ticks cannot bite through them. However, ticks can also crawl under clothes, and jeans are usually exposed to ticks crawling on the ground.

Speaking from personal experience, I live north of Houston, TX, and ticks here are generally not a problem. However, I recently got back from a hiking trip in Texas and didn’t realize I had a tick bite until the evening when I felt a bit of a tickle on my leg. The tick had made its way under my jeans and latched itself onto my leg.

So, while ticks cannot typically bite through jeans, it is still essential to take precautions by wearing long pants and tucking your pants into your socks when hiking or spending time in tick-prone areas.

Can ticks bite through leggings?

If your leggings are very thin, then it is entirely possible for ticks to bite through them. If you are going to be in an area where ticks are present, it is a good idea to wear thicker leggings or jeans instead.

The one advantage leggings have over jeans is that they are more form-fitting and can help protect against ticks crawling up your legs.

As I said, it doesn’t typically happen unless your fabric is very thin, but why take the chance? Ticks can carry some pretty nasty diseases, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Can ticks bite through socks?

Typically not. However, if you wear short socks, you run the risk of ticks being able to navigate their way up to your skin. To help keep ticks away, I suggest wearing long socks and tucking them into your jeans.

how long can ticks live on clothing - do ticks hide in clothes

Do ticks hide in clothes?

Some ticks are small enough to hide in the nooks and crannies of clothing, so it’s important to take a few minutes to check your clothes for ticks before you leave an area that may have ticks.

Unfortunately, if you are wearing loose-fitting clothes, ticks can attach themselves to your clothing, make their way inside, and hitch a ride back home with you, where they may then attach themselves to family members or pets.

Will ticks die in the laundry?

If you suspect a tick on your clothes, your first thought after coming home from a long hike would be to immediately throw your clothes in the wash to try and kill those pesky critters, right?

Can ticks live through the washer?

You may be surprised to know that ticks can actually survive in the washing machine.

Ticks can actually live for up to 2-3 days after being submerged in water.

That means that if you do a load of laundry within 24 hours of being out in the woods, there’s a good chance ticks will still be alive and crawling around on your clothes. So then, what do you do?

Can ticks live through the dryer?

However, the dryer is another story.

Ticks love moisture. So, therefore, the dryer is their mortal enemy.

According to this study, ticks died within minutes when exposed to dryer heat.

So when it comes to how long can ticks live on clothing, your best bet is to wash your clothes in hot water and then put them in the dryer on high heat for at least 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, most ticks should have died off.

What Can I Spray On My Clothes To Keep Ticks Away?

If you’re not keen on throwing your tick-infested clothing in the washer or dryer, there are preventative measures you can take before you step foot outside.

There are several tick-repelling products that you can buy to spray on your clothes, such as permethrin and DEET. DEET from Sawyer Products is a strong insect repellent that’s worth looking into.

Permethrin is a pesticide that kills ticks on contact, and DEET is a chemical that repels ticks and other insects. Both of these products are available over the counter at most pharmacies and outdoor stores.

How Else Can You Keep Ticks From Getting On Your Clothes?

Studies have actually shown that wearing lighter clothing attracted 20% more ticks than darker clothing. 

The study only included 10 participants; however, according to the study, “all participants had more ticks on light clothing in all periods of exposure.” So, it may very well be a good idea to avoid wearing light-colored clothing. 

Instead, go for darker colors such as black or navy blue. The one downside to this is that ticks may be harder to spot.

Also, ticks love to crawl under loose-fitting clothes, so wearing tighter clothing will help discourage ticks from crawling on you. I always suggest wearing longer socks tucked into your pants to provide an extra layer of protection – especially if you’re going to be in a tick-prone area.

Summary

At the end of the day, there is no denying ticks are pesky little creatures, and unfortunately, there’s no way to avoid them altogether. They can be challenging to spot, and they attach themselves to our skin in the most inconvenient places.

However, by taking pre-emptive steps by using tick repellent, wearing tight-fitting clothing, and checking your body for ticks regularly, you’ll substantially reduce your chances of getting bitten. And if you do find a tick on your skin, remove it as soon as possible using tweezers.

If you follow these simple tips, you can help protect yourself from ticks and their diseases.

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