Can I walk through a bedbug house?
July 18, 2016 8:22 PM   Subscribe

How best to protect myself during a brief visit to a home with bedbugs? Or better not to go at all?

I would like to tour a house that's up for sale. It has tenants. They have bedbugs. Obviously this will reduce the number of lookers and bidders, possibly in my favour- house might be a real bargain. How can I best see this house without bringing home bedbugs? The space is a little cramped in some areas, so brushing past hanging coats, etc, is kind of likely.

Bonus question:
It's a semi-detached house and it's a bit run-down (currently it's a step above a rooming house, and the connected house is probably about the same). If I were to purchase this house, what should I do to eradicate the lil' stinkers forever and ever? I would happily pay to do whatever is needed to both halves of the house to ensure it's done right- and I could do it again after the existing tenants moved out- but it's kind of likely that the neighbouring house's tenants also have bedbugs and lack resources for the kind of deep-cleaning that actually eradicates bedbugs and minimizes the chances for their resurgence.

Any thoughts? Thanks!
posted by pseudostrabismus to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If the houses that border your potential house also have bedbugs, and the houses share common walls, you're not going to be able to eradicated them forever. You're going to keep getting reinfested by your neighbors, no matter how well you exterminate and how well you try to seal the cracks in your house. You need to exterminate the entire structure, which in this case includes the other houses that touch yours. So I wouldn't even consider buying the house unless you can be assured that all of the houses bordering yours are also going to undergo thorough extermination by professionals, as many treatments as it takes.

If you want to visit, though, I think your best bet is going to be to tour the house dressed in clothing that then does not touch anything else you own after it has been inside the house. If there are enough of them, they will absolutely try to hitch a ride home with you. So I'd wear a set of clothes to the house that you don't ever want to wear again, and then immediately after leaving the house, before you get in your car, change your clothes, seal those clothes in a plastic bag, and trash them. Does the house have an uninfested garage or some other detached structure where you could change your clothes? Also, I'd cover your hair, and then toss the hair covering when you toss the clothes. Even still, the chances aren't zero, but that certainly greatly reduces them.

(I've had bedbugs. They're not the worst thing in the world, and they are eradicable, but I would definitely try to avoid them, and I would not move into a home where the neighbors had bedbugs. I have no desire to live through that again.)
posted by decathecting at 8:33 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Seconding decathecting. If I'm understanding correctly, this place is attached to another house, which probably also has bedbugs AND is something like a rooming house--i.e. has multiple tenants renting out rooms as opposed to one family or couple. Even if you treat the attached house , an environment where people are renting out rooms individually will be particularly hard to keep bedbug-free. There will be more people moving in and out, bringing in furniture from thrift stores or from the street, more people who have been traveling, staying at motels or friends' houses and then coming back potentially infested, more people having guests over who might bring bedbugs with them, etc compared to a family or couple or single person tenant.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:40 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thirding that you won't be able to fully eliminate an infestation. I lived in an apartment adjacent to an infested building NYC and they made it through two years in a row.

You don't need to throw out your clothes, though. Just throw them in the dryer when you get home and take a hot shower. Bed bugs and their eggs die in heat.

Bed bugs are actually really bad at casually hitching a ride. If they were good at it, NYC would be 100% infested because of people's close contact on the subway. The problem is once you're infested, it's really hard to completely get rid of them.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:45 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Don't put your purse down. Take your shoes off outside your house (or even better, don't wear your shoes into the place you're touring - sometimes they have those booties - wear those.) Don't sit down in the house.

Serious, 100% foolproof bedbug eradication is done with a several-day tented fumigation with Vikane. Heat treatments take one day and are sold to people who want to save a little (not much) money and time; but they melt the seals around your plumbing and don't always work. If you can tent the entire structure, you will be ok. If you can't tent the entire structure (I'm not clear if you'd be buying the connected house as well?) then I wouldn't buy the place.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:58 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I had a job which involved visiting homes, some of which had bed bugs. One time I went into a house and did not sit, lean on, or touch any surfaces. I was there for maybe 10 minutes. I still found bed bugs crawling on my clip board.

Our general protocol was to spray ourselves (and vehicles) down with permethrin. We were also instructed to strip down before entering our own homes and immediately throw all of our clothing into the dryer on a hot cycle, followed by washing and then re-drying. I kept my work shoes outside. I'm not sure how scientific this protocol is, but I went into lots of infested homes and did not end up with an infestation of my own. YMMV.

I was a social worker and it was pretty important to try to look normal / not be offensive, but if you have no such constraints I would consider something like this to throw on over your clothes.
posted by charmcityblues at 12:10 AM on July 19, 2016 [8 favorites]

I would get some carhart's overalls and a shirt i could throw away, which would look a little strange to anyone in the house who might see you, but not hazmat suit weird. Then I would change before I got back into the car. The hard part will be the moment when you're half naked on the street before you put your non bedbug pants on. But I'm traumatised from bug infestations and probably would also never go near a house with a known bedbug infestation without a really really big incentive.
posted by dis_integration at 6:52 AM on July 19, 2016

I'd go to the Home Depot (or the equivalent) and get a Tyvek suit and throw it away afterwards, even before you get into your car.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:55 AM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Also don't forget that your shoes are going to be potential vectors for bed bugs, so you'll need to treat those as well as your clothing.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:04 AM on July 19, 2016

Thanks for the replies! I haven't been anywhere NEAR the building yet but just thinking about and checking in on this question keeps making me itchy. I'm probably very much too neurotic for this house
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:11 PM on July 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

« Older What's this song? 80s pop-ish sounding, female...   |   Falling out of an airplane in a tank of water Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.