A couple of years ago I was scheduled to go visit a friend in another city. About a month before the planned visit, she e-mailed me that they had found evidence of bedbugs in their home. They had made great efforts to rid their home of the pests, but as they were not sure how the bedbugs had “got in” in the first place, they could not absolutely guarantee that their home would be pest-free during my visit.
At first, I admit I was horrified. But then I started noticing that in recent travel catalogs there was a plethora of merchandise offered which claimed to protect against bedbugs. Suddenly, the little critters seemed to be a world-wide epidemic. I decided not to miss a longed-for visit with my friend. These days, anyone who travels runs the risk of a “close encounter of the un-wanted kind” with these little sucking crawlies who can’t live without human blood.
Well, I found out that bedbugs, like head lice, are as happy to live in a clean environment, and feed on clean people, as they are to live in a filthy flophouse and feed on bums!
However, the good news is that bedbugs are easier to get rid of than head lice. They cannot survive 115 degree heat (and you can get them out of clothes by washing and drying on hot) and they won’t stick to your hair like lice nits do….shampooing washes them out.
My friend had researched everything she could about the little pests. The first day I got there, she gave me a very large ziploc bag, and I put everything into it that I would not absolutely need while I stayed with her, and sealed the bag. (This included a rain-poncho, papers, etc.)
During my visit, I did not get bitten at all that I could tell; it may have been because I was sleeping in a bed with a metal frame and the legs were set in small dishes of borax. But while I was staying with her, she did some evidence of bites on one of her children, proof that her place still was not cleared of them. So, the last day I was at her place, I set aside several hours to go through everything I’d brought with me and make absolutely sure it was pest free before I went home.
My shoes and my luggage, and almost all items except clothes, I took outside to her patio, and sprayed thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, using a large spray bottle she had filled with the stuff, letting them dry in the sun.
I changed into a light dress and washed all my other clothes in hot water and dried them on high heat (bedbugs or their eggs cannot survive above 110 degrees, my friend had told me) (the U.S. Gov’t says 115degrees).
I took the clothes out of the drier and put the items I would be wearing in a zip-loc bag, and carried other clean laundry out to my carry-on (which had been sprayed with the rubbing alcohol, dried in the sun, and was still out on her patio.)
I then showered and shampooed my hair, and dried off and dressed while still standing in the shower, including my shoes which had been sprayed with rubbing alcohol and dried in the sun.
Items which couldn’t be sprayed and washed, such as my laptop, she took to work with her and left them in her car in the sun, which because it was summer would heat up to more than 115 degrees. (A friend says that one can also put a laptop in the freezer and that this kills bedbugs and any eggs).
Lastly, there were a few small items which I had not “bedbug-proofed” including a small notebook, a necklace I’d bought, and the light dress I’d worn while I washed my other clothes. I put these in a clean zip-loc bag carefully sealed, and packed them, but did not allow myself to open that zip-loc bag until two months after I’d come home, way past the life cycle of a bed-bug.
After I’d packed everything on her back patio, I carried my carry-on through her house and into the car without setting it down on anything. I did not sit down at all after changing into the clean clothes and my rubbing alcohol-sprayed shoes. And I did not bring home any bedbugs!
To summarize: wash and dry your laundry on hot, spray other items thoroughly with rubbing alcohol, or if you are able to, leave them in a car in the sun if it’s a hot day or you can put them in the freezer). Small items can be sealed in a ziploc bag for six months, by which time all live eggs or bugs will have died .
If you are staying at a hotel it would be difficult to do everything as I did, but if you have a back yard or a patio, you could treat everything before you brought it into your house once you get home, putting your laundry into a large shopping bag getting it into a hot cycle of the washing machine (or laundromat) before it comes into contact with any of your furniture or carpets. Spray the non-washables down with rubbing alcohol before you bring them into the house. In hot weather, leaving some of the items in a closed car for a few hours will kill any bedbugs, eggs, or larvae. And small items which you will not need for a while can be sealed in a zip-loc bag and not opened for a couple of months.
A fact about bedbugs which I did not know is that some people can be bitten without showing any signs of it. Others react to the bites and the evidence can be seen on their skin.
I recommend that you check out www.epa.gov/bedbugs. Also, if you Google bedbugs, you can find some interesting articles by people who have had personal experiences with getting rid of the little critters.
So, as the old saying says, “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite!”