If you get bed bugs, your first urge will be to panic and throw out your bed and everything on it! That’s exactly what you shouldn’t do. Dragging all that stuff through your house on the way to the dumpster will just spread the problem.
The best thing you can do is leave your bed intact and immediately call in the pros. Bed bugs aren’t something you can kill with a can of Raid, but there are some steps you can take that will help get rid of the nasty critters:
- Vacuum infested areas. Immediately double bag the used vacuum bag in plastic and dispose of it outside.
- Wash and dry infested bedding and clothing on HOT settings. A spin in a hot dryer should kill any bugs that live through the wash cycle.
- Use a commercial steamer to steam clean your carpets, sofas and chairs. Richard Cooper, co-author of Bed Bug Handbook, says, “Heat is the single easiest way to destroy bed bugs.” Of course, he wrote his book before Cyronite was introduced in the U.S. Cryonite is an even more effective way to kill bed bugs by freezing them.
- Clean up the clutter to remove potential hiding places and allow professional products to reach and kill all the bugs.
- Invest in specially designed bed bug-proof mattress and box spring encasements.
Bed bugs evoke the image of 1800 dirt-encrusted flophouses, not lovely upper middle-class suburban homes in classy Arlington, Virginia. Tell that to Washington Post reporter Daniela Deane who recently recounted her close encounter with the dreaded Cimex Lectularius, the evil bed bug. Click here to read the whole story.
Sick and in bed, Deane started breaking out in itchy red welts. She was incredulous when her doctor told her it was bed bugs. That’s the reaction most people have, but bed bugs are equal opportunity pests. “They’re not like roaches and flies that feed on filth,” advises Michael Potter, a University of Kentucky entomologist and leading bed bug expert. “You can have a very, very fine hotel, with a guest who comes in with bed bugs in their stuff, and you’re off to the races.”
Expert hitchhikers, bed bugs can enter your home on luggage, clothing, pillows, linens, used furniture — anything that’s recently come in contact with the little blood suckers. Bed bugs can survive away from their human food source for up to a year without feeding! Deane figures they invaded her life during a Manhattan hotel stay.
Deane’s reaction was typical, if extreme. She dragged her king-sized bed, duvet, sheets and pillows outside and threw everything away. (Not recommended, by the way, and a good way to spread the problem.) “Most people just flip out when they realize they have bed bugs,” said Richard Cooper, co-author of Bed Bug Handbook: The Complete Guide to Bed Bugs and Their Control. “They can’t emotionally deal with keeping an infested mattress.”
Next time: What to do when bed bugs visit you.