Product that will kill bedbug eggs?
October 30, 2007 7:02 AM   Subscribe

What can I spray on flea market/thrift store furniture to make sure I kill potential bedbugs at all life phases?

Can you recommend a product with which I can spray furniture I buy at a flea market that will stay potent long enough to kill any unhatched bedbug eggs that may be lurking in cracks? I'm looking for something that doesn't become ineffective after killing any live bugs, but something that will kill the eggs as well.

(I know buying used furniture is risky re: bedbugs.)
posted by annabellee to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If such a product existed the US would not have the bedbug problem it does now. Even DEET isn't effective on them. The only thing you can do is put it away for 14 months until everything dies.
posted by schroedinger at 7:21 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

If such a product existed, might have a lead. There are some contact kills that will kill a bedbug on contact, but I imagine you'd have to quite literally immerse (as in 'lower into big pool of') the product in them for them to do as you ask. There are also barrier kills that are laid down around floorboards, etc.

If I remember correctly — and double-check with Bedbugger's FAQ — extremes of cold might work, but only if the temperature stays below a certain number consistently — no temporary warm-ups above it. (I can't remember what the number is — I want to say it's in the forties, but I'm not sure.) If you have access to a walk-in freezer ...

I'm not yet in a place where I'm supplementing my existing household with better furniture. But when I do, I'll be buying new. I look at the difference in price as, in part, paying for my peace of mind.
posted by WCityMike at 7:49 AM on October 30, 2007

This is not a good idea.

Take it from me, a person who battled the critters for months. schroedinger's suggestion ("The only thing you can do is put it away for 14 months until everything dies") won't work, as bedbugs can gestate for up to 18 months. ian1977's ("What if you could submerge the item underwater for a week? Would that kill the eggs or would they survive that?") probably wouldn't; I've known bedbugs to stick around in soaked furniture for quite some time. (Don't ask.) WCityMike might be onto something with extreme cold, although I trust the bug's resilience implicitly, and wouldn't feel safe anywhere above zero kelvin or something. (Ha.) Bedbug-infested furniture is best thrown away.

Of course, I should say that there is a chemical which will kill bedbugs and other vermin on contact, which will continue killing, and which is safe for humans, if not for some other animals.

It's called DDT.

Long story short: don't buy furniture from the flea market if you don't trust it to be bedbug-free. Bedbugs are more like gonorrhea than like the flu; you might get rid of it, but it'll be worse than not having it, that's for sure.
posted by koeselitz at 8:27 AM on October 30, 2007

Oh, and if you do try to find black-market DDT, good luck. I think you'd be better off manufacturing it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:30 AM on October 30, 2007

From your WP link:
"Other villagers object to DDT spraying because it does not kill cockroaches[66] or bedbugs;[75] rather, it excites such pests making them more active,[76][79][78][77] so that often use of another insecticide is additionally required.[79] Pyrethroids such as deltamethrin and lambdacyhalothrin, on the other hand, are more acceptable to residents because they kill these nuisance insects as well as mosquitoes.[66]"
posted by oneirodynia at 11:01 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: I trust that you aren't talking about mattresses, but rather upholstered chairs, etc.

Perhaps you could take the item outdoors and vacuum it thoroughly with a shop vac, while checking for evidence of insects. Then be sure to empty and clean the vacuum afterwards.
posted by pluckysparrow at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2007

Best answer: Even hiring a professional exterminator, one that specializes in bedbugs and you've vetted by calling multiple references, could easily fail at detecting/eliminating bedbugs and their eggs from used furniture on the first try. And that's the only legal thing I can think of that might come close to insuring a lack of bedbugs.

There are two roads:
1. Never buy used furniture, or
2. Buy used furniture with the full knowledge that even if you're careful, you're playing bedbug Russian Roulette with your own sanity.

There are lots of things you can do that might reduce your chances but don't technically guarantee any success--long periods of consistent, extreme temperature; a thorough washing, vacuuming every nook and cranny with a very strong vacuum and discarding the bag in a sealed container. But again--this stuff is preventative, not a solution, and if bugs want to live in your house almost nothing will stop them!

Throwing something away or putting it in storage when you find or suspect bedbugs, rather than having an exterminator come in and confirm and then do their thing is not a good plan. That's how bedbugs spread. And it just makes it more likely you'll get 'em again when your next door neighbor gets 'em and they crawl on over to your place after they throw out their furniture.
posted by lampoil at 11:25 AM on October 30, 2007

I once asked a similar question. The basic answer was, you can't.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:39 AM on October 30, 2007

As a follow-up to my suggestion about the cold, it's evidently a not-surefire but possible solution requiring temperatures <0° F.
posted by WCityMike at 2:31 PM on October 30, 2007

The Navy seems to be recommending Bedlam.
posted by M Edward at 7:08 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

pluckysparrow: "Perhaps you could take the item outdoors and vacuum it thoroughly with a shop vac, while checking for evidence of insects. Then be sure to empty and clean the vacuum afterwards."

Vacuums are useless against bedbugs, which can hide in the very grain of the wood.

When people try to eradicate bedbugs, they can't really do it through fumigation, since the bedbugs hide in such small corners. The only thing that can be done is to remove all wooden and fabric items that can be removed, and to spray the wood that can't be removed with highly toxic chemicals for several hours and wait for them to die. This usually has to be done multiple times, because bedbugs hide, and they're hard to get in one go.

If vacuuming really helped, I would be about $8,000 richer, and I might still be living in my little apartment in Brighton. Believe me, it doesn't.
posted by koeselitz at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2007

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