VIDEO TIP: How to get rid of bedbugs
Bedbugs are always unwelcome house guests. Watch for tips on how to quickly get rid of them and how to prevent them from making future visits.
Hi, I'm Kimberly Austin for Howdini.com with some advice on what to do between the time you discover a bed bug infestation and when the exterminator comes to get rid of it. Depending on the severity of the problem, what you do in those few days may make the difference between a successful extermination and a failed one.
Everything you own or one owns has to be touched, cleaned, and bagged. Nothing gets left untouched.
Janet Friedman has made a business out of helping people get ready for bed bug exterminators, most of whom require a daunting set of preparations to be completed before they'll come in to do the treatment.
And the protocol basically involves cleaning out every closet, every drawer, every cabinet, every shelf. People get pretty upset.
It can cost thousands of dollars to hire Janet's company and thousands more for the exterminator. But stress and expense are probably the worst parts of having bad bugs. You might get bite, and they might itch, or even become infected. But bed bugs do not spread disease.
So try not to panic. Your first instincts may actually cause more harm than good.
If you happen to have other rooms that you could sleep in, do not sleep in those other rooms. Because the bugs will find you. And then you've spread the blogs from one room to another.
Neither does it pay to start throwing out all your furniture.
And especially if you have a big infestation, you now infesting the rest of your home or hallway, if you're in an apartment, or the staircase or the elevator.
Lou Sorkin is an entomologist at New York's Museum of Natural History and has been studying bad bugs for the past 10 years.
Where do bed bugs hide?
Bed bugs hide wherever they fit.
And in a severe infestation, he says, the insects will spread out and harbor anywhere within about a 25-foot radius of where they feed.
Many bed bugs can be found in the folds of the clothing. They can be in the folds of curtains. They can be in the curtain rods. They can be in closets. Of course, smaller bed bugs will fit in smaller places-- laptop computers and phones, clock radios, or behind paintings.
Which means getting rid of bad bugs is a multi-step process. The first thing to do is gather up to a month's worth of clothing, just like you're going on a trip. Place everything in plastic zippered bags, and use these as your closet during treatment, keeping them sealed as much as possible.
The Bed Bug Busters team arrives with plenty of those bags, rubbing alcohol, and a few pieces of equipment they will use to vacuum, clean, or heat, and then seal away virtually every item in the home, so it can't be reinfested. Clothing, bedding, slip covers, and pillows go into the dryer on high for at least 30 minutes. Friedman says even dry-cleanables will be fine as long as they're not wet when they go in.
Heat kills bed bugs. And heat is our friend.
For things that can't be put in a clothes dryer, Friedman's team uses a portable heating unit called a PackTite.
And we use that for cleaning papers, shoes, purses, things that are difficult to clean any other way.
Inside the PackTite, a thermometer is placed in the middle of the contents and set to reach or exceed 120 degrees. After an hour at this temperature, any bed bugs or eggs that may have been inside will be dead. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is used to capture and trap any bugs hiding in picture frames, baseboards, or furniture. Just about everything else gets sprayed with rubbing alcohol which kills on contact. When they're finished, the whole will be piled with plastic bags. And unfortunately, this is the way it needs to stay until all bed bug extermination treatments are complete.
Actually, it's about 30 days all together-- roughly around 30 days.
James Crenshaw is a certified pest control applicator who specializes in exterminating bed bugs. He says the job may require vacuuming, steaming, and spraying pesticides several times with at least seven days between treatments.
Because we have to come back just in case we missed a egg. Then we'll have to kill that and come back a following week to make sure that everything's gone. By a third one, 9 times out of 10, you're done by then.
You'll likely be advised to vacuum furniture and baseboards for yourself every day between treatments and afterward for another two weeks, just in case. And it is widely recommended that after your mattress and box spring have been treated, usually in the first visit by the exterminator, you place them in bed bug proof encasements.
And these have special zippers so that the bugs cannot get in or out. So if the bugs were already in your mattress, they won't come out of the mattress. If they're outside the mattress, they can't get into the mattress.
Ask your exterminator about what furniture you do need to get rid of. It will probably be less than you think. But whatever goes out should be wrapped tightly in plastic. The last thing you want to do is spread the infestation. It could come back to bite you.
Look for more expert advice in the rest of the Howdini bed bug series on this site, including how you can protect your home from an infestation. I'm Kimberly Austin for Howdini.com.