How long can ticks live on clothing?

No one likes ticks. They’re little bloodsucking critters that annoy us on hikes, put a dampener on camping trips, and can get through any hole you might have in your gear. So, how long can ticks live on clothing and what can you do to get rid of them? Let’s dive in this topic and find out.

Ticks live on clothing for 24 hours on average if not on human skin
Tick on human skin, Source: Unsplash

What to do if you find a tick on your skin

If you find a tick on your skin, you’re going to want to remove it straight away. Pick it off directly with a pair of tweezers and then clean the affected area with soap and water. Make sure you cover the wound with rubbing alcohol. Like any wound, you’ll want to keep it clean and dry throughout your trip. Also, it’s always worth keeping the tick wound covered up for the remainder of your adventure. 

What to do if you find a tick on your clothing

Found a tick lurking around your clothing or gear? Now is the time to act. Quickly brush off the ticks before they have the opportunity to sink their little teeth into you. Once you’ve done that, spray your clothing with tick-repelling bug spray. You can buy clothing-specific bug spray that seeps into the fabric and lasts longer than if you use regular skin bug spray on your clothes. You can even get tick-resistant outdoor clothing now, which Dr. Thomas Mather speaks about in this handy video.

This also means that you’re probably in a tick-heavy area. You might want to head over to the shorter grass – ticks love long, dry grass where they can hide and pounce on unsuspected victims. Ticks aren’t normally as prevalent in shorter grass or open areas, so you’ll be safer there. 

How long can ticks live on clothing?

So, if you don’t notice the ticks on your clothing, you may want to know that ticks can live on clothing for around 24 hours normally, but can still be present for up to two or three days in some cases. If you’re out on the trail, it’s going to be harder to get your clothes clean than on a day hike. However, it’s not impossible by any means. 

Depending on the type of tick, they can live without a host for up to 600 days. What’s even more crazy is that they can survive without blood for up to 470 days. On average, ticks can live for 30 days, and up to a maximum of a week in a house. These conditions all depend on the type of tick, the humidity, and more.

Can ticks bite through clothing?

So if you’re wearing thick outdoor gear or even jeans, ticks won’t be able to bite through the fabric. If you’re wearing thinner running leggings or tights, this might be a different story. It’s always safest to wear thicker trousers or bottoms and tuck the hems into a pair of thick socks. This prevents the ticks from creeping up your leg and getting under your clothes.

There’s also some new research coming out that lighter colours can repel ticks and other insects. So, if you want to cover all bases, then opt for light coloured, thicker adventure gear, with some tick-repelling long socks. You won’t look like the coolest person ever, but you will come back from your hike tick-bite free and comfortable!

Can ticks hide in clothing

The short answer is yes, ticks can absolutely hide in clothing. They’re small and thrive in a lot of  little nooks and crannies. So, even if you open up and inspect your clothing items, you still might not be able to spot them all. It might be that they’re hiding in the hemlines, behind fasteners, or in creases. You need to deep clean and dry all of your clothes if you suspect that ticks live on your clothing. In the meantime, you’ll want to keep them separate from other furnishings, fabrics, or people. 

It might be wise to use a specific color that does not attract bugs. This will help repel ticks, but do not rely solely on it. That’s just an extra measure you can take.

How to avoid ticks 

If you want to avoid ticks, you’re going to want to stay out of the long grass. If this is unavoidable, then at the very least, you’re going to need to ensure that you’re camping in either the short grass or in an open area.

You can avoid ticks by investing in some decent tick-specific bug spray both for your skin and for your clothing. Keep applying this as often as the bottle directions state. It’s only at its peak effectiveness for so long, just like sunscreen!

You also want to make sure that you’re covering as much skin as possible. Like we’ve mentioned, ticks can’t bite through your clothing, so if they can’t find your skin, they can’t get it! Tuck in your trousers to your socks, have long sleeved shirts and make sure your feet are all covered up. By and large, ticks are found at the height of the long grass, so unless the long grass is higher than your waist, you’ll want to focus on your lower body. 

Can ticks survive the washing machine?

You might think that just throwing all of your outdoor clothes in the wash will do the trick and get rid of any possible ticks, but you might be unpleasantly surprised. Ticks can survive in water, even hot and soapy water. While it might take care of a couple of ticks, it’s not a sure fire way to get rid of all of them and ensure your adventure clothes stay clean and fresh. Keep reading into our next section to discover how to get rid of ticks on your clothing for good!

How to get rid of ticks on your clothing

So, now we know that ticks are great at hiding in our clothing and can survive being in the washing machine, how can we actually get rid of ticks on your clothing? Let’s find out how.

Dry your clothes on high heat

While hot water doesn’t kill ticks, hot air does. As long as you can dry your clothes on high heat for at least six minutes, you should be able to kill any ticks that are in your clothing. Of course, you need to make sure that your outdoor gear is safe to be dry cleaned at high heat. The last thing that you want to do is destroy all your gear when all you want to do is destroy any potential ticks. 

The longer you dry your clothes on high heat, the more chance there is of killing ticks, but in trials, six minutes seems to be the turning point.

Keep clothing in a secluded area

If you think there are ticks on your clothes and you either don’t want to tumble dry them or they’re clothes that cannot be tumble dried, you’re going to need another way to get those ticks off your clothes.

So, we’ve said that ticks can live between 24 hours and a week in a house, depending on the humidity. You can leave your clothes in a secluded and dry area where the ticks can die out on their own. After that you can give them a wash and dry them naturally on a line or on the radiator. You want to give the clothes at least a few days, if not a week, and make sure that they’re nowhere near any other blankets, clothes, or fabrics, where the ticks can jump to in a pinch.

Get a tick bag

On the trails and need to store potentially tick-infested gear? Make sure you buy a designated tick bag and keep it as an essential part of your trail kit. Made out of a thicker material and with specially-designed closures, you can securely put your clothing and gear in your tick bag and keep it all separate from the rest of your stuff. It’s definitely worth picking up a couple of them, especially if you tend to hike in tick hotspots or at particular times of the year when ticks are most prevalent.

Clean your tent

This might be a no-brainer, however, most people forget about it. Ticks can also hide on your tent canvas. That’s why it is very important to clean a tent after you bring it home. Make sure no ticks are hidden, both on the tent and on the bag where you hold it.


So, ticks can live for anywhere between 24 hours and three days on clothing if you don’t do anything about it. There is plenty of ways that you can get rid of ticks whether you’re on the trails, have access to a dryer, or just need to keep your items dry and clean. There are also a ton of ways to prevent tick bites in the first place. If you follow this guidance, you can be sure to have happy and healthy adventures!

About Antonio

I’m Antonio, a passionate traveler, and outdoor lover who’s running this website. I started this site to share my passion for camping, traveling, and bikepacking.