Ditching bedbugs?
April 4, 2012 5:35 PM   Subscribe

I just had a run-in at work with two adult bed bugs. What do I need to do before I go home (heck, before I get in my car) to ensure they don't infest my stuff?

I accepted some documents from a customer, and when I set them down on our marble counter top an adult bedbug came crawling out from under page one. I immediately smushed it with the end of my pen, and used the pen to move it across the counter and directly into the trash can. A few moments later, I lifted page one and found another adult bed bug sitting atop page two, already dead. I used the pen again and scooted it to the trash can.

I didn't ever touch the bugs with my bare hands, but I continued to use the murder weapon/pen and likely rested my elbows/forearms on the counter where I killed the first bug. I didn't put the pen in my mouth or anything, but I also didn't wipe it or the counter off. I have a change of (gym) clothes in the car, but I can't change for another couple of hours.

I work with the public and handle lots of regularly-circulated materials, but this is the first time I've ever been squicked out. Please assure me that my minimal encounter with these horrible beasts wasn't substantial enough for them to propagate into my life, and/or give me stuff to do to ensure they won't live on past that trash can.

Sub-question: Any tips for phantom itchiness?
posted by saguaro to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You will want to throw your clothes in a dryer on high heat for awhile and take a hot shower yourself. That will kill all the bedbugs on your person or on your clothes.

Unfortunately, this doesn't help you with getting in your car. A thorough physical inspection should be enough. As long as you don't have any bed bugs clinging to your clothes, you should be OK.

Also, alcohol is a contact killer for the eggs, so you could just keep some rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spray everything down.
posted by AaRdVarK at 5:48 PM on April 4, 2012

I would spray the rubbing alcohol as per AaRdVark above and put the papers in the microwave for 30 seconds just in case.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:59 PM on April 4, 2012

If you squished them it should be fine. They aren't as hardy as ticks and can be killed pretty easily.

As far as your clothes are concerned, it is highly unlikely (though not impossible) that they will be transferred via your person. They prefer to hide in dark, quiet, not moving areas. But yes, putting your clothes in the washer (hot water) and then the dryer for an hour should take care of it. Or the washer. The adult bugs drown very quickly and the heat will kill the eggs.
posted by houndsoflove at 6:01 PM on April 4, 2012

Response by poster: I did continue to handle the documents for a little while, but then they were sealed up in an envelope and mailed away. I've used some of our substantial anti-bacterial wipe stash to scour the area of the encounter. The gym is here at work; there's a chance I can even get hot water from the showers. Should I shower and change here before getting in my car to go home? Will it matter if I have to go to the car to get the gym bag and then carry the gym bag over to the locker room a block away?

Ugh, I feel gross. And itchy.
posted by saguaro at 6:05 PM on April 4, 2012

Best answer: Just to clarify, getting squished-bug on you should be fine. What to worry about is living bugs. (The eggs are almost always attached to something with bug-glue, so I wouldn't worry much about that.

To be super safe, get your gym clothes. Put your current clothes in a garbage bag and seal it as well as you can. Inspect your body (though it's super unlikely you'd find a bug on your body). Then go home in your gym clothes and wash/dry your work clothes on hot.
posted by feets at 6:07 PM on April 4, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and since I know half the trouble of bedbugs is in the mental craziness & worry they cause, it may make you feel at ease to know that I lived in a bedbug infested apartment unbeknownst to me for two months, visiting my parents a few times every week and bringing my laundry to their house sometimes. My laundry bin had been stored in the infested bedroom and I often left my clothes on the floor. I never infested their home.

Even the eggs are visible, but it is kind of a crapshoot. Take the preventative measures and then you can know you made the effort, but don't get too freaked out and paranoid over it. (Watching my experience made my mom absolutely nuts. She once even bagged what was clearly an apple seed and asked me if it was a bedbug. It didn't even have legs!)
posted by houndsoflove at 6:11 PM on April 4, 2012

p.s. even if you had been bitten, which does not sound likely, you wouldn't be feeling the itch yet -- bedbug bites aren't usually felt for several hours. So your current itching is psychosomatic! Dunno if that helps, but there it is.
posted by feets at 6:12 PM on April 4, 2012

My child was attacked by bedbugs visiting her cousin's house. She did not transfer any to my house upon returning home, even though she got a full night's sleep before complaining of the itches: basically we took no precautions with her person or her overnight bag for something like 10 hours. Her father's house DID get an infestation, but I have to assume that was because the cousin's father got kicked out & moved in with all his infested stuff. So there's another for you anectdatal reassurances pile.
posted by Ys at 6:29 PM on April 4, 2012

Are you sure they were bedbugs? Bedbugs are tiny and reddish, but so are lots of things. Google search bedbugs & image search.
posted by hexatron at 6:31 PM on April 4, 2012

This previous question (from 'Related Questions' below) links to some good FAQs.
posted by carsonb at 6:38 PM on April 4, 2012

To be extra-safe, park your car in the hot hot sun for the next couple of days...even if its still a bit brisk out, the glass will act as a greenhouse and hopefully make it hot enough to kill any that are in there (tho it is unlikely they will get in in the short time it takes to get your gym bag. Put your work clothes in a garbage bag for the trip home.
posted by sexyrobot at 7:20 PM on April 4, 2012

Response by poster: get your gym clothes. Put your current clothes in a garbage bag and seal it as well as you can. Inspect your body (though it's super unlikely you'd find a bug on your body). Then go home in your gym clothes and wash/dry your work clothes on hot.

I added 'Wash exposed skin with scalding water several times over the course of the evening' and 'Take a really hot shower when I got home.' Everything I wore at work today is in the trunk of my car. I didn't want to bring it into the building, so it's just going directly to the laundromat/dry cleaner tomorrow. Also now I have a great excuse to clean out my trunk completely and methodically.

I'm confidant enough I'm not infested to sleep tonight. I think.
posted by saguaro at 9:28 PM on April 4, 2012

but I continued to use the murder weapon/pen

I guess I don't really have experience to add (luckily, I have yet to encounter an IRL bedbug, dead or alive), but that line made me laugh.

Thinking of client-person's apartment is rather cringeworthy though; I mean, what are the chances of bedbugs lurking in the midst of paperwork? And then hanging on for dear life all the way during transportation? Ugh. On the flipside--imagine the experience from the soon-to-be-compressed bedbug's POV.

Bedbugs don't live in your hair like lice do, though, so I'm assuming that since they go away between meals, they aren't quite as well equipped for perma-clinging to your body. So it sounds like just one shower will do! (unless more are required for peace of mind...)
posted by Estraven at 3:14 AM on April 5, 2012

I don't think putting the papers in the microwave will work necessarily.
posted by banished at 7:48 AM on April 5, 2012

By the way, bedbugs don't carry any diseases (which is why they're considered an annoyance rather than a health concern), so you can probably relax about the pen and your body and stuff if you don't think there's any actual living bedbugs around still.
posted by Kololo at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2012

Response by poster: Yeah, I killed but good all the living ones I found yesterday. I was really worried about egg transfer from the documents or the corpses to my clothing. The documents were produced from a clear plastic binder box, their 'important papers' box that, now that I think about it, probably got stashed under the bed or something. But what I was wearing last night didn't get back in the car or the house before being thoroughly washed, so I'm pretty confident I'm in the clear.

Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions and also for keeping me sane and not so worried.
posted by saguaro at 11:52 AM on April 5, 2012

To reiterate from yesterday, I think it is super improbable that eggs fell off the documents or off the bugs onto you. See this Ohio state government document where they say bedbug eggs get "glued" on so hard that they can't be removed by vacuuming: http://www.odh.ohio.gov/features/odhfeatures/budbugsfeature.aspx. :)

Glad you are feeling less creeped out!
posted by feets at 4:20 PM on April 5, 2012

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