Major bedbug problem
June 2, 2015 11:23 PM   Subscribe

I live with friends. We have a major infestation of bedbugs. (Cockroaches too, just for added fun.) I worry that all the bedbug oriented websites are trying to sell me snake oil. Tell me how to kill all the bugs short of burning down the entire house.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You need to get an exterminator and all agree to fully cooperate with instructions. Don't try to handle it yourselves. Expect several repeat visits.

I say this based on experience of being haunted by just one or two of the little monsters.
posted by tel3path at 11:37 PM on June 2, 2015 [7 favorites]

Yes, professional help as soon as possible. Don't let them get entrenched while you try to figure out what to do. When I had bedbugs, I had to get the exterminators in three times before it took.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:40 PM on June 2, 2015

:( How awful for you!

I don't have good news. My friend had bedbugs. Two visits from the exterminator PLUS she threw away most of her soft furnishings, still couldnt get rid of them. She moved house after that.

Problem was that she was living in a duplex where the other tenant wouldn't let any exterminators in (and he was an old hoarder, probably not very well so no one pushed him) so if you're in an apartment or other joined-up arrangement, treating your place and your belongings might not be enough.
posted by stellathon at 12:06 AM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was just going to say, oh good, you're in a house. I've been lucky to have so far escaped those particular bugs, but people I know who've dealt with them had issues because other people in their apartment building hadn't also had their place treated.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:07 AM on June 3, 2015

some history: I thought it was a secondhand dresser I brought into the house. after three partially successful smoke treatments we brought in a different exterminator. this guy pointed to a pile of mattresses in our neighbours' backyard and said that's the kind of thing people do when they have bedbugs, and if our cats get into those mattresses (they do) it was possible the bedbug had ridden in on a cat. Or, since we share a wall, it could have snuck in through the electrical outlets.

Bedbugs can live for 18 months or more without food or water so doing stuff like leaving mattresses outside will not kill them, just provide a vector for reinfesting your home and others' too. it also gives you an opportunity to spread them through the house as you carry the furniture out to the yard.

in threads like this people always tell you to OMG PANIC and that you must dedicate many hours of your life to doing all of the exact things that will ensure that you spread the infestation. Even if you move, you could easily take them with you, for example.
posted by tel3path at 1:12 AM on June 3, 2015

Cockroaches I can sort of help. A few years back I wrote this little guide on self-administered cockroach eradication.

I can't help you on bedbugs. You may have to dump most of your bedsheets, pillow cases, comforters, and maybe even the mattress and box springs. (And the pillows and whatever else you may have that touches the bed regularly) Launder everything you want to keep, toss the rest, AND get exterminator.
posted by kschang at 1:39 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Talk to an exterminator before you do anything. We had bedbugs, got an exterminator that had a guarantee, and never saw another one again. We didn't throw out anything.
posted by amarynth at 3:58 AM on June 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

The Bedbugger forum has quite a few experts who can guide you to professionals in your area who actually know what they are doing. Many don't.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:04 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Definitely call a professional for assistance. Let them come in and treat and inform you on what to do now to help avoid re-infestation.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 5:07 AM on June 3, 2015

This is what worked for us. Do all of your laundry--EVERYTHING--and then seal in large garbage bags. (Get used to them--you will live out of those for 2 months.) Have the exterminator come. Then caulk every single seam in your house--every baseboard, around windows--any little crack the buggers can retreat into. Then, the key is to have the exterminator come for a second time--apparently the eggs can survive the first run, so a common problem is that the exterminator will kill all the adults, but then the second generation can make a triumphant return and wreak havoc with your psyche. So, maybe 2 weeks later (check the timing with the professionals) have them come again to kill the teenage menace before they can spawn new horror. Continue to keep everything soft in garbage bags until you're pretty sure you're safe. GOOD LUCK!
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 5:51 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The only thing that really worked in this situation for me (besides getting rid of furniture, alas) is a Packtite. Put everything in it that won't melt - books, shoes. Can't tell you how much of a difference this made in my life.
posted by bookgirl18 at 6:05 AM on June 3, 2015

Call a professional - heat treatment is effective, efficient, non-toxic, and worth the investment, in my experience.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:46 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

You need an exterminator. Don't bother with all the other stuff online - multiple treatments by an exterminator will be necessary. Sorry, bed bugs suck.
posted by Toddles at 7:38 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

When we had bedbugs, we used a multi-pronged approach. We washed and put all of our stuff in plastic bags, got a hot box to treat items we wore, thoroughly treated our bed and put the legs in bowls of diatomacious earth, and above all got an exterminator in. We had to move all of our bookshelves away from the wall, but it did work.
posted by happyroach at 8:50 AM on June 3, 2015

I was told by two different exterminators that there's little or no point getting rid of furniture, not even bedding and soft furnishing, except for the psychological reassurance . After dealing with this problem and reading a lot about it online, I agree with them that you need *at least* two, sometimes three visits from a reputable exterminator on a schedule recommended by them. Treating a house is easier - if it's an apartment building, the whole building needs to be treated.
posted by Drexen at 8:51 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ugh, I'm sorry. Pay for a good, bed-bug experienced exterminator and follow all their instructions to the letter.

Also start gearing yourself up to move out if that doesn't work. Take as little as you can with you and heat-treat everything you take (down to the shoes you wear out the door).
posted by amaire at 8:55 AM on June 3, 2015

I also didn't throw out anything.

When people say "launder" they mean launder at 60 degrees celsius and follow it with at least 60 minutes in the dryer on high heat. If you can't launder a thing, but can put it in the dryer, do so. Then seal tight in black plastic garbage bags until the exterminator has been and gone, as mentioned above.

Accept that you can't do this without professional help and that several treatments will be needed. You can get rid of the little fuckers, it's just really hard.
posted by tel3path at 9:48 AM on June 3, 2015

I really really hate all the stupid woo and old wives tales and shit about this. I was fed so much garbage by coworkers, my partners coworkers, and the internet.

To the point that when i finally called a professional he rolled his eyes and told us to quit looking at the fucking internet(direct quote).

The Bedbugger forum has quite a few experts who can guide you to professionals in your area who actually know what they are doing. Many don't.

Yea, this. Call a real exterminator, follow their instructions exactly. It dealt with it in one go, and it's never been a problem again. I left some of the "anti breeding" strips hanging up for even longer than they recommended just incase.

I've also heard, and by i mean both from professionals and friends(which i know i just pooped on), that heat treatments are unreliable. The chemicals are not some super toxic death serum. Just get your house sprayed.

I also second putting everything in bags that you can deal with. EVERYTHING. I wore basically one dried-hot outfit for a month, got new shoes, and bought the cheapest shittiest clearance rack at bed bath and beyond bedding.

It sucked really bad, but it worked on the first try. If you really follow it to the letter it will.

Please don't be one of those superstitious people who throws everything out.
posted by emptythought at 1:36 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

I dealt with a bedbug infestation with Bedlam and Suspend and Sterifab.

I did throw out the mattress and then wrapped the new one (and bed spring) in those plastic airtight covers.

I used bedlam for spot spraying in cracks and around the edges of my bed posts/furniture legs.

Sterifab is basically alcohol in spray form so leaves no residue. It did take the stain off my headboard though I don't know if it did anything to the bedbugs.

Suspend is no joke, open windows for at least 24hrs, use a high quality respirator. I only used it around the edges of the room and around the outside of the house in a very small strip.

I was terrified for weeks they would come back. I even contemplated procuring some DDT. They never came back. The Suspend also killed all roaches, ants, spiders, beetles, etc. I didn't see a live bug of any kind in my house for a solid 6 months.
posted by M Edward at 11:20 PM on June 3, 2015

Steam (Google "steam treatments") and lots of elbow grease. Ugh.
posted by WinstonJulia at 3:47 AM on June 6, 2015

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