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November 11, 2012 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Leaving a bedbug infested apartment - how do we move safely?

Since a couple friends suggested I post the "obligatory askMefi freakout" about my situation, here we go.

About three weeks ago, my wife and I moved into what was going to be our first place together after getting married. It's a townhouse attached to four other row houses owned by the same landlord.

With a few days of moving in, we found out the entire place was infested with bed bugs. We called the landlord and he offered to try spraying and bug bombing himself, but all the research I've done says that won't do it. (My wife? Also extremely allergic to bed bug bites. Yay.)

We called an exterminator who determined the little crawling bastards are in the walls, floorboards, masonry, everything. When we showed the report to the landlord, he told us he wouldn't pay to have the building heat treated, and if we won't let him bug bomb, we should just move out and he'll refund our deposit.

That's great (note: not actually great).

I'm working on finding a new place to live, but I want to make sure we can move safely and not spread these. I've seen some stuff online about companies that will fumigate your moving truck, but I'm not sure anyone offers that service in central Ohio, where I live. We've already bought and deployed Diatomaceous earth and encased our mattresses and pillows, and I've spread DE on the slats, bed boards, and bed frames.

I'd love to hear all the advice and suggestions you guys can offer.

I'm also planning to get a lawyer to take this landlord to court for cost of sanitizing, fumigating, and replacing whatever we have to get rid of, and to report him to the board of health in our city, so any and all advice on that is also appreciated.
posted by BZArcher to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh - I forgot to mention that we also have cleaned almost all of our clothes and sealed them in space bags, plus bought a steam cleaner gun-thingy to spray down shoes, bags, us, etx before leaving the house.
posted by BZArcher at 7:30 AM on November 11, 2012

I moved into a place about three years ago with the same issue, and the landlord refused to do anything about it. The only things that kill the bugs are heat and poison. I put everything - EVERYTHING - that would fit into the dryer at highest heat (it takes a lot of energy, but whatever -- bed bugs!), and then immediately transferred it all to trash bags. As an extra precaution, I took it all to a laundromat and did it again, using different trash bags. Everything that couldn't go in the dryer, I put outside and washed, however possible, and if I was still nervous about it, got rid of it. I even took a hair dryer to my bed, mattress before enclosing it in a bed bug cover, and dresser. The dresser especially, since there are so many little cracks that they can hide in. Those little bastards are just too crafty.

I was also extremely allergic to bed bug bites - had to go get a shot of steroids. Special. I feel for you guys - it sucks. Feel free to send me a message if you'd like more info. Good luck!
posted by eenagy at 7:48 AM on November 11, 2012

also - make sure you tell the neighbors. If they're in your rowhouse, they're in theirs, too.
posted by eenagy at 7:52 AM on November 11, 2012

Your landlord is in the wrong. Bug bombs totally don't work in this situation, and though I don't know the law in Ohio, in many places this would count as making the place uninhabitable.

That said, you're doing the right things (putting heat treated clothes in giant Ziplocs, steam cleaning, moving out of what is likely a totally infested fourplex). I worry about your ability to do all of it without a pest control professional though. Maybe the Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force could help you find someone who fumigates trucks? is their URL.

Sorry, BZArcher, this sucks...
posted by feets at 7:55 AM on November 11, 2012

Also, try reposting this on they are pretty highly wound and NYC-centric but they know a lot about it...maybe they can help you either figure out the best DIY technique or help you find a local pest control guy.
posted by feets at 7:58 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

For anything that you cannot heat treat or spray with the right kind of poison, but don't want to flat out get rid of, here's the plan:
Rent a storage unit, preferably not climate controlled.
Seal everything in plastic bags or bins so you don't contaminate the neighboring units.
Leave it there for 18 months, because that's how long these horrifying little things can live without food.

That's what my friend did in your situation, and she managed to avoid bringing any bugs with her to the new place.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:06 AM on November 11, 2012

I would also put the apartment on

That site saved me from renting an apartment once...
posted by melissam at 8:14 AM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Dealt with this exact situation. What saved me was a nifty gadget called a packtite. It is basically a space heater in a giant suitcase. Fill it with things that can't go in the dryer, like books (they live in books!) and some shoes before packing them up. In addition to the giant ziplock bags and putting clothes in the dryer, I am pretty sure this is what kept us from bringing bugs with us when we moved out. I was lucky enough to be able to borrow one from someone, as they are not cheap. (like every part of this process!) But it is worth looking into.
posted by bookgirl18 at 8:33 AM on November 11, 2012

Unfortunately, diatomaceous earth didn't help us. You could consider having an exterminator come and do your new place immediately after you move in & unpack, just as a precaution, but that would be expensive (a professional exterminator did work for us, knock on wood, though it's been several month now.).

I second the idea of putting things you don't want to heat-treat in sealed containers in storage. You don't need to leave them for 18 months; just leave them until next summer. When it hits around 80 degrees, put them (still in sealed bags) in your car for a couple hours; the temperature in the sealed bags, especially if they're black, will easily hit 115 degrees which will kill the bugs and their eggs. Our infestation was during the summer, and that's how we treated all our clothing the final time.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:35 AM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We had the same situation and what saved us in the end (we did bomb the place twice, but that had almost now effect because our very old apartment then was full of nooks and crannies, was a home steam cleaner. We bought I think this model: Karcher, for about $250.

Steam applied daily to a room - slowly cleaning the entire floor, the furniture etc - killed them off within two weeks. At the same time, we mass laundered everything and ran things in a hot dryer for an hour, and we also threw away a lot and what we wanted to keep but couldn't steam or put in a dryer (picture frames we suspected had bedbugs for example) we put in big plastic tubs and taped completely shut and put in storage for a while.

We did not bring furniture that we couldn't steam treat. We did bring one mattress over by double-bagging it in plastic and sealing that tight. Better and cheaper to replace furniture or pay for storage than to risk a new bedbug outbreak.

The car-black plastic bags is a good method to kill bedbugs too. You need heat for over an hour at least.

It took us two weeks of prep to move, but we were busy doing other things, so it could've been done in 2-3 days of effort. Totally worth it - a year on and no bedbugs in the new house at all.
posted by viggorlijah at 3:34 AM on November 12, 2012

Response by poster: it looks like we're going to be able to work with a local company to load up a moving truck and then heat treat everything inside the truck. I'll let everyone know how that goes. Hopefully this won't be a problem for much longer.
posted by BZArcher at 7:23 AM on November 12, 2012

Response by poster: So as it turned out it got too cold for them to guarantee success for heat treatment of the truck.

What we ended up doing was a three (maybe four) part solution:

1) All of our salvagable furniture was steamed and then chemically treated

2) Clothes, sheets, etx were laundered or dry cleaned.

3) Electronics and similar items were nuvan stripped

4) We bought a pack-tite and everything else has been unbagged and cooked in the pack-tite.

A lot of things are still bagged up with nuvan strips or just not unwrapped and treated yet, but we're managing pretty well, so I can't complain too much.
posted by BZArcher at 1:57 PM on December 11, 2012

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