Will this bed bite me back?
July 29, 2011 6:14 AM   Subscribe

Boston Bedbug Filter: Moving into a new place, there's a nice bed frame and mattress there, should I use it? Also, my stuff is in storage in Woburn at Extra Space. Should I be concerned about bedbugs? Anything I can do to prevent them?

Hi there,

Just found a funky apartment in Somerville. It's a really old building, turns out I know the landlord who is a really nice guy. The guy who is vacating my room left a lot of stuff, just moved out with a days notice and moved out west. TVs, laptops...and a pretty nice bed frame with what appears to be a pretty nice mattress.

Now I have a mattress that's in storage (I'm also concerned that that could have picked up bedbugs while in there). But I don't have a bed frame. This is actually a really nice frame. The mattress looks really new.

The landlord and the current tenant (who seems totally honest) have assured me that there have been no problems with bedbugs. I did talk to the old tenant on the phone and he didn't mention anything either.

Basically I'd like to use the bed and frame, but I'm wondering if despite all evidence to the contrary I shouldn't?

Sub-question: all my stuff is in storage right now at Extra Space in Woburn. Including my mattress. The idea of bedbugs only occurred to me after I put it in there. What's the risk of contamination there? Anything I can do when I transfer my stuff to make contamination less likely?
posted by sully75 to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do it. Go to Target or somewhere and buy a zippered mattress cover (shouldn't be more than about 20 bucks). Not just for bedbugs (as the protection offered from it would probably be minimal), but to add a barrier between your sheets and the mattress. No matter how new it looks, you've always gotta assume that it's been jizzed and sweat on at least a few times.
posted by phunniemee at 6:30 AM on July 29, 2011

1. Have you heard anything about bedbugs at the storage space? When you go to pick up your stuff, look around for bedbug traces (this won't pick up a small infestation but you might as well check anyway) - bring a flashlight and look in and around cracks for bedbugs, nymphs and eggs. Look for bedbug debris - shed skins and droppings. Look behind and under things.

If I had to use stuff that had been in a space I suspected was contaminated, I would do the following:

1. Get two fancy mattress covers for my mattress and two for the boxspring (you can find the good kind linked through bedbugger.com). Cover the mattress and boxspring, making sure not to tear the encasements (keep pets out of your bedroom if you have clawy pets). Replace your pillows. The mattress covers you can get at Target are flimsy and not airtight. The purpose of a mattress encasement is to keep any bedbugs inside for a couple of years until they starve.

2. Before bringing things into your new place, any fabric that was not sealed in an airtight container should be tumble-dried on high until you feel confident that it has reached at least 113 degrees - this means about 20 minutes for regular stuff, longer for quilts and thick things. If you heat things in the dried without washing them first, this will not injure or shrink most fabrics (silk dupioni with beads, etc - maybe rethink this approach). I do this by bagging things in an airtight bag and carrying the bag to the dryer in my basement.

3. Inspect everything else very carefully - ie, leaf through your books page by page. Wash everything that can be washed.

4. If you have soft furniture or wooden furniture, there's not much you can do - vacuum it with a good vacuum very, very thoroughly and get into all the cracks, maybe unstable the fabric covering the bottom and vacuum the insides too and tumble dry any cushions that you can, or buy an industrial grade steamer and steam it several times. You can often disassemble wooden furniture completely, steam it and reassemble it with diatomaceous earth in the crevices. Although I suspect that there wouldn't be too many bedbugs deep inside furniture unless there were people regularly sitting on the furniture. Remember to throw out the vacuum cleaner bags right away, since they may contain bedbugs or eggs!

I would not use a stranger's mattress. If I could take the bedframe apart and clean it down 100% with a steamer, I might use the bedframe.

I would, in fact, clean the apartment as well as humanly possible. I'd probably buy that good steamer and steam all the cracks, for example. (You need a good one - not the cheap Target kind, since the steam doesn't get hot enough.)

In all honesty, the bedbug epidemic has changed the way I live. I do not buy used furniture; I thrift very, very carefully and keep everything ziplocked until I can heat-treat it. I have gotten rid of stuff. (Note: I have never had bedbugs; I know people who have; we had a huge bedbug scare last summer where I was getting bitten at night for weeks and couldn't figure out what it was, so I got kind of obsessed with diagnosis and treatment.)

If I were moving around a lot, I would get rid of almost everything both for moving reasons and so that I could start over if I had bedbugs - that seems to be easier and cheaper than treating if you're in an apartment. If you're prepared to trash everything you can't treat (and trash it safely so that no one else picks it up and gets bedbugs - ie, slashing mattresses and furniture, burning stuff if you can) then you can take a lot more risks.
posted by Frowner at 6:34 AM on July 29, 2011

(Bedbugs, in short, are insanely horrible and expensive.)
posted by Frowner at 6:36 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

For the record, I have heard nothing about bedbugs in the storage space, neighborhood or house. I'm just paranoid. Close friends who live in another town in Boston had them and it was a nightmare (but they apparently did get rid of them).
posted by sully75 at 7:05 AM on July 29, 2011

googling extra space storage woburn bedbugs brings up nothing except this question.

Hadn't thought of the giz angle...
posted by sully75 at 7:07 AM on July 29, 2011

Bedbugs don't live just in the mattress. They can reside in cracks in the frame, or cracks in the wall. If you are concerned that this bed may have bedbugs, it is likely that the apartment is already infested anyway.

Getting bedbugs in storage seems like a relatively minor risk. Bedbugs need a human host, and are attracted to warmth and C02 (that's why in some households where there is an infestation one person can volunteer to sleep in the most infected space to prevent the bedbugs from migrating elsewhere in the house to bite other people). While your mattress in storage might have possibly come into contact with bedbugs in storage, it seems unlikely.

That said, why not just use your own mattress?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:22 AM on July 29, 2011

Well this one is a nicer mattress. And hasn't been in storage. And I was thinking, I guess, that on the odd chance that there are bedbugs in the mattress, they are probably all over the room anyway, so it won't matter too much?
posted by sully75 at 7:35 AM on July 29, 2011

I figure you might as well use the furniture the old tenant left behind. The apartment either has bedbugs or it doesn't. If it does, getting rid of the bed won't get rid of the bugs.
posted by phoenixy at 7:39 AM on July 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Use the mattress! moving them is such a pain and if there have been no complaints of any kind you should be fine. I've gotten mattresses and bed frames on craigslist and been fine. Check for suspicious spots, get a mattress cover and rest easy.

if you found the furniture on the curb, that would be another story...

except I still pick up curb furniture all the time
posted by ghostbikes at 9:00 AM on July 29, 2011

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