How Long Can Ticks Stay On Clothes? And 2 Ways to Avoid Them

By Emma

Ticks live in long grass, and you’ll usually come across them while hiking or exploring wilderness areas. They’re so small that you won’t notice them before you go traipsing through the grass. And sometimes, they may end up on your clothes. So how long can ticks stay on clothes?

How long ticks stay on your clothes varies, but it will be no less than 24 hours. Some can stay on your clothes for up to 3 days. To be safe, you should always try to get rid of the ticks on your clothes as quickly as possible.

There are lots of questions you may have about ticks and their behavior, though, so I’ve done the research to answer those for you.

How Long Can Ticks Stay On Clothes?

Ticks are resilient little creatures. They can live in clothing for up to a year with no host, but this only applies if the clothes are permanently outdoors. They need a moist environment to stay alive.

Once you go inside and shed your clothing, then it’s highly unlikely for the ticks to even live a week. At most, it’ll be about three days, but most ticks will die in under 2 days while living in clothing.

You should note that taking off your clothes and storing them won’t ensure the ticks die, and it may not even shake them out of your clothes. If you store tick-infested clothes with other clothes, then the ticks may transfer to your other clothing—but even then, they won’t live long.

Can Ticks Bite Through Your Clothes and Skin?

Ticks can only bite through extremely light clothing. They’ll be able to bite through mesh and fabrics of a similar thickness, but you are generally safe with other forms of lightweight material. However, they can crawl around until they find some exposed skin.

If ticks find your exposed skin, then they’re likely to bite it, so do your best to optimize your outfit. Tuck your pants into your socks, and tuck your shirt into your pants.

If you do end up getting bitten, don’t worry. Usually, the area will appear red and perhaps slightly swollen. This isn’t an infection, it’s just a reaction to the tick’s saliva, and the site will heal within a few days.

If you develop a rash, severe swelling, a headache, or flu-like symptoms then you need to visit a doctor immediately. This reaction is rare, but it’s a very real threat if you’re bitten by a tick that’s carrying lyme disease.

How Do You Remove Ticks From Your Clothes and Gear?

To remove ticks from your clothes and gear, wash all washable clothes and gear if possible. If not possible, make sure you place it in a secluded area. A garage or closed-off closet is a good idea, but make sure there are no clothes or blankets in the closet in case the ticks migrate. 

I recommend bringing a “Tick Bag” on every camping trip. It can be a simple reusable bag that you put your worn clothing in after you’ve adventured through long grass. Don’t take this clothing out again during your trip, and the ticks will likely be dead by the time you get home.

Wear clean clothes on your journey home, and wash the bag and all the clothing in it as soon as you arrive. Wash them on the highest heat that’s safe for the fabric. 

Many of the ticks will be dead already, but washing the clothes will remove any remaining ticks or eggs they may have laid. 

Inspect your non-washable gear after a few days, too, just in case tick eggs are lurking in it. Ticks only lay eggs in the spring, so you won’t need to do this check during the rest of the year.

As for your washable gear, it’d be a good idea to wash it out as soon as you can. This includes your tent. However, before you wash your tent, be sure to check out these 4 reasons why you can’t wash a tent in a washing machine.

Can You Remove Ticks From Your Clothes While Camping? 

It’s not easy to remove ticks from your clothes while camping. Shaking out your clothes can help, but it won’t always dislodge any lurking ticks. The best way to get ticks off your clothes while camping is by soaking them in hot water or leaving them in the sun.

If it’s not a hot day, you’ll have to find a way to wash them in hot or boiling water. If you can get this from your site, then great! But if not, then you won’t be able to fully rid your clothes of ticks while camping.

You’ll have to revisit the idea above of having a “Tick Bag”. Isolate the clothes, keep the bag sealed tightly, and it’s best if you open it outside of your tent when you’re adding more clothes into it.

Leaving your clothes hanging outside under a scorching sun for about 15 minutes will do the trick if possible, and putting your clothes in the dryer also works. The heat has to be very high to kill the ticks, though.

Why Do Ticks Get Into Your Clothes?

Ticks spend their lives lurking in long grass, eager for someone with exposed skin to pass by. When they see exposed skin, they jump for it, but sometimes they get caught up in clothes unintentionally.

The ticks will rarely be able to bite when they’re in your clothes, but it’s a good idea to change after you’ve hiked or walked through long grass, especially damp long grass. Shake out your clothing to try and disengage any ticks lurking in them.

Make sure you wear long sleeves and avoid shorts when you are in the long grass. You won’t be able to feel the ticks when they hop onto your skin and bite. Having the ticks on your clothing is safer for you than having them on your skin.

I know it can get hot in summer and long sleeves and pants may sound like a nightmare, but you can wear light layers in pastel colors, and you shouldn’t be too hot.

Can You Keep Ticks Off of Your Clothes?

There’s nothing you can do to your clothes that would guarantee to keep ticks away, but you can use insect repellent to keep them as far away from you as possible. Avoid spending too long in warm, moist, tall grass, and cover your arms and legs.

Trying to prevent ticks from biting you is better than doing nothing at all, so don’t be disheartened by being unable to keep them off of your clothing.

Buy and use insect repellent even if you’re sure you’ll be avoiding tick-infested areas, as it’ll keep other insects at bay, too. It won’t stop ticks from accidentally getting caught up in your clothes, but it’ll likely stop them from jumping onto you on purpose.

Wear insect repellent on your clothes and exposed skin, and never put it under your clothes. Look for an EPA-approved insect repellent, and make sure it contains oil of lemon eucalyptus or low concentrations of the chemical DEET.

This Murphy’s Naturals Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Insect Repellent Spray is a great natural insect repellent, and as you can see, it contains the right ingredient. Some people may find it preferable to a spray with DEET, as it’s free of harsh chemicals.

Can You Ever Avoid Ticks?

The best way to avoid ticks, in general, is to stay away from areas that may contain them. If you’re not hiking, then choose a campsite that’s as far from long grass and shrubs as you can. Only adventure in short grass, and stick to activities on grass-free ground.

At home, you can avoid ticks by keeping your grass short and cutting back long weeds, but beyond that, there’s nothing you can do.

Ticks will always be a threat in long grass, so you’ll have to compromise your activities to fully avoid these pests.

How Do You Treat a Tick Bite While Camping?

If you get bitten while camping, remove the tick from the skin with tweezers. Tug it out slowly in an upwards motion, and clean the wound with soap and water afterward. Ideally, keep the site of the bite covered for the rest of your trip.

You should always bring tweezers if you’re camping, as they can be useful for tick bites, splinters, and more. You never know when you’re going to need this emergency item.

Bringing rubbing alcohol is also a good idea, as it’s smart to disinfect a tick bite with it.

It’s also a good idea to visit your doctor after receiving a tick bite, as some ticks can spread lyme disease. Most, though, are harmless, and you can read more about it here.

How Long Can Ticks Live Without Blood?

Most mature ticks can live for up to a year without blood. Some can even survive up to 476 days without a single drop of blood. Some species can only live 30 days without blood, though, so it varies vastly.

How Long Can Ticks Live Without a Host?

The Rocky Mountain wood tick can survive up to 600 days without a host, but most can only last around a year without attaching to a host.

How Long Can Ticks Live In a House?

Ticks can live indoors for 24 hours up to as long as a few days. They may survive longer if your house is particularly humid, but most of the time they’ll die in under a week.

You’re highly unlikely to go home and end up with a tick infestation, but you still need to be careful to kill any ticks you do accidentally take home with you.

They can easily jump onto your pets while you’re camping, so if your pet spends a lot of time outdoors, then the ticks may live longer on your pet. Be sure to wash and groom your pet to kill any ticks after a camping trip.

Summary

Ticks lurk in long, moist grass, and they can live in clothes for up to three days after getting caught up as you pass them by. Thankfully, they’re easy to kill by washing the clothing on high heat.

You shouldn’t have too much trouble with ticks if you cover up well when you’re in long grass, and always be prepared to remove a tick if one happens to bite. Wearing insect repellent will help keep them at bay, too, so never neglect to bring this useful item on your trips.

AUTHOR

My name is Emma, and I’m a city dweller who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve gone on a number of car camping and backpacking trips over the past few years. I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.