bed bug mystery: surviving dry cleaning in a comforter?

by nobugsonme on December 5, 2006 · 55 comments

in bed bugs, information and help, other causes of itching, reader questions, signs and symptoms of bed bugs

I got another question from another (anonymous) reader– we’ll call her S.

S. wants to know:

Last spring, we thought we had bedbugs. I woke up several mornings in a row with very itchy bites, and there were tiny blood stains on the sheets. We sent our down comforter and pillows to the drycleaner, washed our sheets, and an exterminator came. He inspected the entire mattress and box spring, and had us vacuum both the bed itself and the floor underneath. He found no bugs. When we put everything back together, it seemed that the problem had gone away.

However, that down comforter was hung on a hanger in our storage closet, and we haven’t used it in 6 months. Now that it’s winter, we decided to pull it back out. We put it on the bed Saturday night, went to sleep, and I woke up with multiple bites on both upper arms.

Can bedbugs live in a comforter for six months? Or might this be something other than bedbugs? We’re fairly certain that whatever “it” is, it’s in the comforter, so we put that comforter back in the storage closet, in a bag. Also, why didn’t the drycleaning kill whatever it was? Is there some other way to clean this nice down comforter, or do we need to throw it out?

Any advice you can offer on this confounding matter would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much…


What a great question. (Sorry, though, that it is prompted by bites, from any source.)

I will give my not-very-expert opinion, and then I will ask others to weigh in with their varying degrees of expert-tude.

The short answer is that bed bugs can certainly survive for six months if not properly removed from a comforter. However, since the comforter was not completely sealed, I’d be really surprised they did not pop out and find you sooner. They can easily walk 10-20 feet (and I would not put it past them to walk further for food, especially since 6 months gives them time to rest on the way to dinner.)

If the comforter had been sealed in an airtight cover, the bugs, if still in the comforter after cleaning, could easily have lived 6 months and been ready to feed when you opened the cover. We’d be assuming also that that they survived their trip to the dry cleaners, for whatever reason. We’ve been told that “dry cleaning chemicals will kill bed bugs.” That said, like anything else that kills bed bugs, things can go wrong, methods can be misapplied: dry cleaning chemicals can, I assume, be used incorrectly, or in insufficient quantities.

However, you had the comforter stored on a hanger. If it was within the home, there’s really no reason the bed bugs could not have come walking to find you. Or at least someone else closer to the closet (if there is anyone closer to it). Is the storage closet in your home, or in an apartment building basement or a storage facility? In the latter two settings, your comforter could have been exposed to other people’s bed bugs, or even bat, rat, mouse or bird bugs. Bringing the comforter back in could have brought in those pests. (A basement or storage facility would explain why the bed bugs did not simply come and find you or move on to someone else.)

There are other possible reasons for the resurgence: could the reappearance with the use of the comforter also coincide with some other event that could have exposed you to bed bugs? (A visit to a place where you originally picked them up, perhaps? A neighbor’s bugs moving in? It’s possible.) Are there mice or rats or birds or bats possibly nesting within 20 feet of your bed, either inside or outside? They all act like bed bugs, and they could be biting you, especially if their animal host has departed, flown away, or been exterminated.

Finally, it’s possible that there’s another entirely different reason the comforter is “biting.” I don’t know how long you used the down comforter originally, but is it possible you had an allergy to the down, the fabric, or the chemicals used to clean it? I am not sure exactly what an allergic reaction would look like, but this FAQ says “Non-insect causes: allergies to cosmetics, animals, chemicals of all kinds may cause similar symptoms. There will, obviously, be no bed bug feces, bugs, or cast of shells in this case. See dermatologist and/or allergist.” (I paraphrased that from other sources, but I suppose this could be either an animal allergy (to down) or even a chemical one (something used in the dry cleaning). It also depends, I suppose, on what your “bites” look like. And I am not sure what else besides an allergy might have caused this, but if the comforter was not sealed, I’d look for non-bedbug causes. Remember allergies can develop out of the blue, to substances that previously did not bother you.

Do you have any other “signs” of bedbugs, like little black specks that look like black pepper sitting on your sheets or comforter? If so, who knows, maybe they did hide out in the comforter for awhile, or maybe they left the comforter to bite others (neighbors? people in the home?) and when those hosts left, came back to you? In the presence of any bedbug signs, I’d destroy and ditch the comforter right away and get a PCO in to treat the area again. If you indeed had bed bugs the first time, you caught them early and did a great job of that. You were lucky to get rid of them (they were not in the walls, etc.) By the way, blood on the sheets is a bed bug sign, but if something else is biting you or making sores you are itching (and so you’re causing yourself to bleed in bed), there could be other reasons for blood.

If you want to save the comforter, and are pretty sure it is bed bugs, you can seal it in an XXL ziploc (Target, Home Depot, for 18 months, the longest anyone has claimed they could live without feeding. Make sure the seal is air-tight and will not be disturbed. Yes, you could dry clean again, but I’d be worried that whatever allowed them to survive might do so again. You may also be able to find a comforter cover that is dust-mite-proof and then enclosing it in that for 18 months and sealing the zipepr with tape. I wouldn’t, though: zippers are very hard to completely seal, and bedbug nymphs can get through zippers. You just need a few to escape and you’ll be losing a lot more than the cost of the comforter. Personally, I’d ditch it.

Does anyone know if fleas infest down comforters? Even if you don’t have pets, fleas can be found in your home. Maybe they live in the closet.

Perhaps some of the entomologists, pest control folks, or Bedbuggers themselves have other suggestions or ideas? Or better questions, to help get to the bottom of this?

1 deb December 5, 2006 at 9:56 am

There is a possibility that the Dry Cleaners did a lousy job, and/or that the bedbugs went way “down” into the down, and it might have been hard for them to pass through it , apparently they go dormant as a survival method, the monsters ! When you laid the comforter flat on the bed they made have been jostled and “woken up” and then crawled out…also some dry cleaners are not “green’…whatever that means, and green doesn’t kill bedbugs. So, you can wash your down comforter in hot water and dry it, remember these are feathers that get wet in nature ! It takes a long time to dry them, My humble suggestion is to pack it up and throw it away. That is what I did with 4 of my down comforters , now I use very low nap blankets. For me it is not worth the worry of providing them an ideal spot to hide in, and then have it cost me thousands more in extermination costs. Until we see some hope to end this epidemic I believe we must alter our life styles and the things that are in our home. “Clear the woods” , don’t offer them an easy environment to hide it… vigilant….know that they are insidious and nature gave them tremendous survival skills… We must outsmart them…living with bedbugs is “insupportable”…

2 Sean December 5, 2006 at 11:09 am

Deb above is likely correct.

Dry cleaning is a cursory surface clean. They will spray the outside of the comforter and likely steam it.

Trouble is that if the bed bugs got inside the cover and worked their way into the down itself the dry cleaning would not likely kill them.

Depending on the cost of the comforter will depend upon what you do with it. Check with your local pest control company and see if they are able to fumigate the comforter. Fumigation will 100% rid the bed bugs, but the cost might not be worth it.

You can seal the comforter is an encasement designed for people with allergies. Essentially they are mite proof. Mites being MUCH smaller than bed bugs means that these encasements are also bed bug proof when installed correctly.

If these are bed bugs then you now run the risk of having a fertilized female on the loose. An inspection by a pest control technician is advised.

Having not seen any clear evidence of the bugs themselves you can not rule out other causes;

Allergies (keep in mind a person can develop new allergies at any time)

Entomologist / Pest Professional

3 S. December 5, 2006 at 1:47 pm

Hi, this is S. that posted the original question. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful responses.

I had this same comforter for 5 years before this happened, so I don’t believe I was ever allergic to it. Since getting it cleaned, we’ve been using my boyfriend’s comforter, which is also made of down. So I don’t think I’ve developed any recent down allergies.

Plus, the bites look like bug bites, similar to the photos linked from your site. They start out puffy, like mosquito bites, then calm down into red bumps. They are very itchy, and there’s 3-4 in the same area on each arm. I also had one on my face.

The storage closet is located in the bedroom down the hall, probably no more than 30 feet away from my bed. The comforter was on a hanger, inside a plastic drycleaners bag. So I suppose if bedbugs were in the comforter and the bag wasn’t sealed, they could have walked over months ago. Obviously, as you all have taught me, drycleaning isn’t a sure solution.

However, I think the bag was pretty well-sealed. There were no itchy mornings the entire time. So I guess I’m riding on the theory that the bugs went dormant for 6 months, then awoke when we opened the bag.

I will ditch the comforter. I didn’t want it to come to that, but I guess the signs are pretty clear. I will also call a pest control professional. One more question: I only had the comforter on the bed for one night, but is that enough time for bugs to move from comforter to bed? In other words, could my whole bed now be infected all over again?

I could be making this up, but I am feeling itchy all over now (even though the comforter is back in the other room in a bag) and just found a new bite on my arm today. Not immediately when I woke up, but just now, around 11:30 am. Can bug bites show up later in the day, or would I wake up with them?

Thank you all so much for your help – there is really not much help for this problem out there, and I greatly appreciate your advice.

4 Still Fighting December 5, 2006 at 2:22 pm

For heaven’s sake, throw it out.

Triple bag it in thick outdoor garbage bags, each as bugtight as you can make it — squeeze air out, then twist the opening into a rope and tie a knot in the rope. Include a large label, sheet of paper size, at least on the inside of the bags saying “BED BUG INFESTED — DO NOT USE!” Don’t worry about whether you are telling the “truth” with the label. This is not something to play around with. Wash yourself and your clothes after bagging.

Just to complicate matters — it’s best to do the above as close to garbage pickup time as possible. If you have a garbage can or dumpster that isn’t likely to be raided, you might then go ahead and trash the bag immediately. Otherwise, put the comforter out just before pickup and think carefully about where you store it in the meantime — perhaps *not* back in a potentially infested storage closet. Be kind to your trash collector, who may have to handle the outermost bag.

Beforehand: You’ve said that the comforter is back in your storage closet at this point. Bring at least one garbage bag *to* the closet when retrieving it, and do not let the comforter touch other things on its way to wherever you are doing the main bagging job. Along with the comforter, be sure to throw out whatever it was bagged in when in your storage closet. If possible, leave the comforter in that bag and put the whole thing in the garbage bag that you’re bringing to the closet. Then label it and bag everything thoroughly, as outlined above. It all sounds crazy and it sounds like a lot, but it should be over with relatively quickly.

It’s too bad about the loss of your comforter, but a one time expense is not worth worrying about compared to what you may be going through as a result of keeping it. And really, would you ever feel safe using it again?

You did say “bites.” So this doesn’t sound like allergies to me.

Also, I got the impression that your storage closet is separate from the rest of your living quarters. Please at least consider having a PCO check out your storage closet at this point. Sean already advised having the bedroom checked out again. But at minimum, ditch the comforter.

5 Sean December 5, 2006 at 2:25 pm

Hello S,

I feel like I am talking to someone from a Bond movie 🙂

If the bag was well sealed I would suggest checking the bottom of the bag for signs. If there was bed bugs inside not all of them would have survived the six months and some may have molted. Look for cast skins and dead bugs, you might need a magnifying glass to see the little guys.

Seal the comforter up in a plastic garbage bag (knot and duct tape the top) and get a professional opinion before ditching it.

Sorry to be the one to say so but all it takes is one fertilized female to begin a population.

As for the bites, yes they can take time to develop.

Entomologist / Pest Professional

6 Still Fighting December 5, 2006 at 2:44 pm

I wrote my above comment before reading the latest from “S.”

Oh, dear, it sounds as though it is time to have the place checked out again by a pest control technician, as you say you are doing. You do know to wash and dry all your bedding on hot/hot, right? But that’s likely not enough at this point. Ask the exterminator about how you can encase your mattress and box spring, regardless of what is found or not found. Tell the pest control people *everything* so that they’ll have a idea of what makes sense at this point. Under the circumstances I would be surprised if a few chemicals aren’t in order.

Be glad you caught this “early” — you are absolutely doing the right thing in calling — and if you are just now getting bitten again, you have a good chance of nipping things in the bud, but only with professional help.

To answer your question, bed bug bites can show up quite a while after you get them, so the fact that yours showed up around 11:30 a.m. doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in your bed. Or it could’ve happened elsewhere in your home later in the day, which is equally worrisome.

I am so sorry this happened to you, especially after you figured you were being careful. It’s not fair.

At this point you may want to double- or triple-bag the comforter “as is” but keep it around and ask the pest folks what to do about it. I’m not sure, but they may want to take a look at it, and/or may have a better idea about how to dispose of it “safely.”

Definitely have someone over, rather than just calling for general advice. You can’t afford to worry about expense at this point — not treating will cost you much more down the pike.

7 Still Fighting December 5, 2006 at 3:46 pm

I think we’re all agreed that “S.” needs to keep the comforter around (in a sealed bag) for the PCO to look at.

However, my initial gut reaction (“ditch the thing now”) brings up a related question. I’m interested in hearing general advice about getting rid of stuff safely in an infested home, in such a way as not to expose others. Thinking about it, I figure at minimum, bagging stuff in an outer, guaranteed-“clean” trash bag just before taking it outside is a must. Leaving the trash sitting around for a while inside would not appear to be a good idea.

Any other thoughts or suggestions?

8 Still Fighting December 5, 2006 at 4:08 pm

Something was bugging me (!), and I now note that “S.” and “S.” ‘s boyfriend have been using the boyfriend’s down comforter. Maybe even recently.

S., I don’t want to make you so paranoid and worried that you don’t do what you need to do — get the PCO over there to treat, probably encase some stuff.

But, given that this new thing has happened, I would also urge you to consider getting rid of anything on your bed that is not washable or encasable. New pillows are probably in order, and pillows can be encased in hypoallergenic coverings. And — sadly — it sounds as though the other comforter may need to go. If you want to minimize your future exposure and reduce the chance of breeding, you can seal the pillows and the boyfriend’s comforter in bags until you’ve talked to the PCO. (You can sleep without pillows for a night or two, right?) Even if they say things are probably okay to use, take it with a grain of salt — remember what happened before.

Wash all other bedding on hot and dry it on hot before sleeping in the bed again.

Take a deep breath, and say to yourself: It’s only stuff. Peace of mind is priceless.

9 Dee December 5, 2006 at 6:38 pm

I wouldn’t be so quick to ditch the comforters. Not ever having used anything down, I don’t know if this is an option, but I would think S. could put the comforter in a very hot dryer for a couple of hours, then seal it & store it for 18 months. I think we’re getting too ditch happy, when, with some things, a good long storage is a better solution. It not only keeps stuff out of the landfills, but keeps infested things out of the hands of the dumpster divers.

10 S. December 5, 2006 at 7:34 pm

Hi there, S. again. I have made a pest control appointment for Thursday early am. It was the soonest they could come. In the meantime, I will multi-bag (but keep) the original comforter, retaining its original plastic bag for inspection. I will also bag my boyfriend’s comforter, which we have indeed been using for the past two nights, and all our pillows. I will wash the sheets on hot/hot and then put them in a bag too. (Is that necessary? If not, what should I do with our sheets? Can they just go on a shelf after cleaning?)

New question: where should we sleep for the next two nights? We have a rug in the living room that we slept on 6 months ago when I was first getting bites. Will our sleeping bodies attract the bugs over to the rug? In other words, is it any safer to sleep there, as opposed to sleeping in the bed, or will this only widen their range in my apartment? I am obviously a little afraid to sleep in the bed, but I don’t want to make the situation worse.

Also, the PC company sent over a Bed Bug Protocol, which includes many steps that seem relevant (ie removing clutter, vacuuming the area, washing sheets). But it also includes some steps that seem extreme, such as washing the entire household’s laundry, including everything in all our closets and drawers. Is this really necessary at this point? We haven’t even confirmed that we have bedbugs. I want to follow their directions, but washing and drying every garment that my boyfriend and I own will probably take days. However, I’m happy to oblige if it will help.

Again, thank you to everyone who’s written in with comments. This community is priceless!

11 deb December 5, 2006 at 9:26 pm

Don’t move to the rug… will widen their range….stay in your bed and remove the bed from the wall and read the bedbug FAQ’s on this Blog…create a safe zone around your bed and then go after them with a vengance..I am afraid to tell you that if as Sean said, one fertilized female was lurking in the comforter they may have moved into your mattress…I would follow all of the steps that the exterminator tells you to…..this is the nitemare of bedbugs…Deb

12 nobugsonme December 6, 2006 at 2:27 am

Wow, S.– I was busy today and now I look in and see you’ve been well looked after. Deb’s right–do not move. You MAY have a small localized infestation right now, if you are lucky, and we don’t want to spread it.

I had assumed your item was unsealed. Does your dry cleaner wrap things in an airtight way? I just want to add an aside to others: I would not normally trust dry cleaning in a DC-bag to be bedbug proof. The ones I’ve gotten back have always had a hanger sticking out of a hole–not airtight.

Even the plastic closet garment hangers at the Container Store would allow a bed bug to escape. It sounds like they did not in this case, for whatever reason. But I just don’t want others to think dry cleaning is safe. (Always bag in an airtight bag as well.)

About laundry: I’d do the decluttering, vacuuming (throw the vacuum bag away after each use! The monsters can crawl back out). Wash sheets on hot, dry on hot for a good long time.

Since you only probably have had bed bugs again since Saturday you might take a chance on the laundering-everything. Perhaps a compromise would be to bag everything in airtight bags (XL ziplocs or 3mm contractor bags with contractor ties and preferably multiple bags). At least then the clothes and linens are contained. Personally, I’d try to wash it all. I’d do as much as I could, since we don’t really know how far they’ve gone since Saturday. But at the very least seal in bags all your clean and dirty clothes and linens; you can decide what to do later. And you can do it at your leisure. But be cautious. If they are in the bags, they may have eggs and a generation of nymphs by the time you open them at the laundromat…

Sorry this is bleak, but it sounds like you probably have the best case scenario: caught early, source known. At least strongly, strongly suspected. Let us know how it goes!

13 nobugsonme December 6, 2006 at 2:31 am

ps Yes– after washing / drying anything on hot / hot, bag it in a sealed bag. (Obviousloy, if you don’t wash everything right away, make sure those “suspect” bags don’t get mixed up with the clean ones. If you put stuff on a shelf, unwrapped, it is exposed. And that goes for pillows, socks, sheets, anything. Stuff that comes in the house new can be exposed too. And remember, even after the PCO comes and treats, if they have laid eggs already, you won’t get them all. So don’t take your stuff out right away. New eggs would hatch in a few weeks, and you might need a second treatment then, even for a small infestation.

(People who need multiple treatments usually keep clean clothes and such in bags for awhile, just to be sure they won’t have to wash it again. And the truly worried will wash it all again after it comes out of the bags…)

14 nobugsonme December 6, 2006 at 3:05 am

Hi Still Fighting:

I recommend 3 stages for throwing something out:

1/ pest control (if possible)
2/ destruction (but in such a way that does not spread the problem)
3/ bagging (again, careful not to spread problem while bagging)
4/ removal

If your PCO thinks you need to toss, or you want to toss a sofa or mattress, have them treat it first. I’ve heard of PCOs helping people treat (by spraying), bag, and remove infested mattresses or furniture. I am not sure they’re all willing to do this, but I hope so, since improper disposal can mean spreading the problems to neighbors and thus, eventually, back to you.

I’d add the second step (destruction) if possible. Yes, we should label items, so people don’t disturb them. But there are lots of stories on the net and in the press about properly labeled stuff being taken right away by others. Lots of people resell secondhand stuff as their livelihood. As sad as it is, they may not understand the importance of the warning, or may not even care–if they can sell your furniture for $50, they may do that regardless of the risk to self and others. If they’re in the trash-picking line of work, they may well already have exposed themselves to bed bugs. And although I think its morally wrong to resell infested stuff, it’s also morally wrong that we live in a country where some people have to pick garbage to survive, and this really is some people’s livelihood. So while I would do anything I can to convince them to stop picking up dangerous stuff, I know some will persist.

Thus, for the safety of others, destroy anything you can: take a boxcutter and cut the sofa, mattress, etc. so that no one will want it. MAKE SURE YOU GET THE PCO’s ADVICE ON HOW, OR ASK FOR HELP, and you might want to do this outside. Remember, you don’t want to cut something open and unleash a wave of bugs into the room.

Smaller items are easy to destroy and can be done while the item is sitting in an open bag which is immediately sealed — dismantle the picture frame or break it, rip a poster, cut the unwashable curtains in thirds, etc. Make the thing not worthwhile.

Just some possibilities. I’d be interested in others’ advice.

15 Still Fighting December 7, 2006 at 3:20 pm

S., I was thinking about you today. You did very much the right thing by scheduling the pest control appointment at first opportunity. These past few nights must have been hard on you, but you have a good chance at this point.

When you have the time, please let us know how things are going so far.

There’s one other thing nagging at me — just my natural paranoia kicking in. *If* you are using the same PCO as last time, and *if* they previously advised you that you might “save” the useful comforter by dry cleaning it, you might want to get a second opinion (even another PCO, sigh) on any measures that don’t appear to go far enough.

On, and National Allergy, has a great line of box spring and mattress encasings. These products aren’t enough in and of themselves, but they can be very helpful.

16 S. December 7, 2006 at 3:40 pm

This is S. with a follow-up: the PCO came this morning. He inspected both comforters and didn’t find any signs of bedbugs. He inspected the mattress and found a hole in it. (We taped the hole with packing tape, and are getting encasements today for mattress and box spring).

Then, he checked the two glue mats that the previous PCO had put down about 6 months ago. He found one dead bedbug, stuck to the glue mat.

It was big and brown and fully grown. He couldn’t tell how recently it had appeared/died there, but since the glue mat was put down 6 months ago and I had only had bites since Saturday, we had to assume this bug was recent. He agrees that they were probably in the comforter.

(Note about glue mats: the PCO said that normally they don’t work for bedbugs, but that we were the second household he’d seen recently where he found a dead bedbug on one. He thinks it may have simply fallen off the bed, happened to land on the mat, and died – but the point is, don’t disregard those things. They are very sticky.)

According to his recommendations, here’s what we will do today/tonight:

– Encase both mattress and box spring
– Vacuum the rug again
– Vacuum the mattress again
– Vacuum the floor underneath the bed again
– Wash our sheets again
– Take both comforters and the mattress pad to a laundromat, wash them, and dry them in big industrial dryers for at least an hour

I had a new bite this morning. He didn’t treat today, but he said if I have another bite tomorrow, he will come back and treat. I’ll let you know if I learn anything new. Thanks!

17 Still Fighting December 7, 2006 at 5:21 pm

Wow. Just — wow.

I still don’t understand about the comforters. Wouldn’t you be risking spreading these things to other people by taking them to the laundromat — especially the one you’d moved to your bed just before the new bites?

Don’t forget to (double?) seal the vacuum cleaner bag in an airtight trash bag and, ultimately, discard it after you’ve done today’s vacuuming. Hopefully that, at least, is something the trash pickers wouldn’t raid! In any case, don’t leave the things in the vacuum cleaner any longer than necessary.

There’s no guarantee you’ll get bitten every day even if the things are still there. Sean, what’s your opinion on chemical treatment at this point, based on what S. has said?

Good luck with the encasements. Thanks for posting, and good for you for being proactive.

18 S. December 7, 2006 at 5:47 pm

About the comforters: when the PCO was at our house, he carefully inspected every inch of both comforters. He checked every dot and crumb with a magnifying glass. He didn’t find any traces of bedbugs.

That said, I suppose the insides of either comforter could have bugs/eggs/droppings, although he found no holes either. Can they get through fabric?

His recommendation was to wash them – water would agitate anything there – and then dry them on hot until they are dry and then some. The laundromat tip was just because it has big, industrial-size dryers (as opposed to our little consumer one). But you make a good point – I wouldn’t want anything to get out and spread.

They are currently in sealed garbage bags, and I can take them right to the washers and be as careful as possible. But he thought they were clean already, so it seemed like this was more of a precaution than a treatment.

Given all that, I suppose I could just throw one or both of them out. I guess I’m not sure if that’s necessary. So the bottom line question is, comforters checked out today as clean, but still – wash or toss?

About the vacuum: yes, we emptied the vacuum right into a garbage bag, immediately sealed it tight, double-bagged and took it to the dumpster. We also washed out the vacuum’s plastic cylinder (it’s a bagless Dyson). We’ll do the same again tonight.

About the treatment: it will be about $250 for one 2-hour treatment, which I think seems fair. But is it necessary? I’d rather do it for peace of mind, but not if it’s not necessary at this point.

Thanks for your thoughts!

19 Still Fighting December 7, 2006 at 6:39 pm

Hmmm. He inspected the outside of the comforters, and saw nothing.

You’d taken yours to the dry cleaners. That probably would’ve killed anything on the outside. Heck, your former PCO should have *seen* anything large on the outside, on the previous visit. (That is, seen anything that somehow survived six months on the outside until the comforter was put back on your bed.)

Unless all seams are airtight, I doubt the comforter is bed bug-tight. The fabric would not be nymph-tight.

Bed bugs love hiding inside fabric.

If they were inside before (as seems likely) and got out, that could happen again. Down is a great insulator so I don’t know that drying on hot would affect everything left inside in this case.

How much is your peace of mind worth?

20 nobugsonme December 7, 2006 at 8:04 pm


The bed bug on the sticky trap is probably from the comforter. But it may be the case that wherever you got bed bugs from originally has given them to you again. I’d put out more sticky tape and traps around the bed area and floor. Because you never know. I know of several people who caught full grown bedbugs AND nymphs this way. Check them weekly if not more often. From now on, you’ll know if its the comforters or not.

Also, I’m not sure how long a dryer would take to kill them in a comforter (did not even know you could dry down on hot for an hour?) Anyway, I know you don’t want to toss them, but I think Still Fighting has a point. The first instar nymphs are tiny–like a speck of dirt. They can get through a tiny hole made with thread. It is likely that there are some kind of seams on the comforter and this is enough for them, if they’re hiding in there.

This is not just a comment on your situation, but in general: I think it would be all too easy for a PCO to inspect a home and not see BBs that are there, unless s/he were terribly thorough. Even then, with a magnifying glass, especially if there are not a lot of bugs, they may not be seen.

You’re actually lucky that you feel the bites–that way you will know. But if you feel more bites, get a thorough treatment–not just of the bed, but the whole apartment.

Do you have an idea how you got them originally? I’m not sure if you’re in a multi-unit building, but there’s a chance they’re coming from someone else if they did that the first time. They had to get into your comforter somehow, in the first place.

21 S. December 7, 2006 at 8:24 pm

My peace of mind is long gone, and I miss it desperately. I’m exhausted from lack of sleep, and freaked out from every itch and every spot. Your point is well-taken.

It sounds like washing and drying the comforters could easily not do anything. We’ll throw them out tonight. In sealed double bags, with signs that discourage people from opening them (ie my best rendering of the gross bedbug I saw today!)

The treatment question remains on the table. Until today I still had doubt as to whether this was bedbugs or not, but after seeing one today that doubt is gone.

Here’s my current thought: if they are in the mattress or box spring, and we encase those tonight, then we could be okay with no treatment. If they are on the floor, and we vacuum properly every day, then we could be okay with no treatment. But if they are somewhere else, like the curtains, walls, floorboards or furniture, we need to treat. I guess I just have no way to know right now.

22 Still Fighting December 8, 2006 at 5:56 pm

S., I am truly sorry about your peace of mind. You need to get to a place within yourself where your path is clear to you, and that is not at all easy given what you’ve been through these past few days. Plus which, different people are likely to give you different answers.

I was a little disturbed by your “maybe they’re just in the mattress or box spring” thinking because I’ve been down that route myself. And with the good things you’ve been doing around the bed, and discarding the comforters (congratulations, and, sigh, sorry) it could be a long time before you get bitten again even if they are still around somewhere.

You saw the dead bed bug. Did he have you keep it? Probably doesn’t matter; a reputable PCO would confirm its existence to anyone you ultimately decided to go with for treatment. Anyhow, it appears from the evidence that there had been living bed bugs somewhere in your place for six months or so. That alone, to me, is worrisome. The “good” news is that if you were bitten only a few times the infestation may be easily treatable. Not that the prep is easy for you, but your PCO would be dealing with a relatively small number of bugs before it got to be a large number. And you have the proof many of us don’t, a real live dead bug. 😉

I wish Sean or someone else would weigh in here about whether to wait for a new bite before deciding what to do. (Did you see his recent posting? It appeared to focus on treating as early as possible.) Maybe you could call another reputable PCO for a second opinion about whether to treat immediately? You could mention the timings of the bites, and the fact that a bed bug was found on the glue mat when it was.

As our host says, at least now you’ll know it’s not the comforters (anymore). The thing to focus on is that they got into your comforter somehow — and, recently, out of it, and you don’t know how many or where they may have gone. And, understandably, the uncertainty is doing bad things to your state of mind. And you have one PCO telling you to wait for a new bite, but that sounds doubtful to you.

My sanest advice is to go to one or two other good professionals, give them the facts, and see what they think about treating immediately (that is, even in the absence of new bites). That would also give you something to do while waiting to be bitten again. 🙁

I’m far from being an expert here, and wish I could be of more help.

23 S. December 8, 2006 at 7:56 pm

Thanks S.F. for this assessment. And to everyone, I apologize if this has turned into an individual case study. If it’s not appropriate for this site, I don’t need to keep updating. Please let me know if this is the case.

However, perhaps my case is similar to others’ and can serve helpful to this community in the future.

The comforters are gone and the mattress and box spring are encased. However, I found another bite on my shoulder today (around noon). So, we decided to treat. The PCO is actually on his way over right now.

So, I’ve emptied my entire closet and dresser and my boyfriend’s dresser. Question: what is the deal with clothes? I’ve been told (by this PC company) that it’s up to us, but they recommend we wash all our clothes. As in, the entire household’s clothing. Has anyone ever done this? Would bedbugs be hanging out in our clothes? This task seems almost insane…but if this is another standard step in the process, and people think this might help, then we’ll get started now. I’m imagining we would separate into giant piles of whites, darks and drycleaning – would drycleaning suffice for dryclean-only clothes?

Also, pillows: the PCO has recommended we wash them at a laundromat, on hot for an hour, same as his previous comforter recommendation. I fear the same problem – they are down, which would protect the bugs, I could contaminate the laundromat, etc. etc. Is there any way to salvage the pillows? I was bit twice on my face in the past week, so there’s a chance they were/are in the pillows.

And finally, rug: we have a big shag rug on the living room floor, and it’s the place where we originally laid the comforter down (for about an hour while we watched a movie) on that first fateful night. I was bitten in the span of that hour. We have been vacuuming the rug every day for fear that eggs were laid in it. We will vacuum for at least ten days and the PCO is going to treat the rug too. Question: should we try to steam clean it as well?

So, clothes – pillows – rug. Thoughts? Thanks!

24 nobugsonme December 8, 2006 at 8:22 pm

Hi S.

Your case study is the most popular post yet, and is very welcomed. Keep updating us, please. I think others will find it very educational, and I hope we’ll be able to help you, in some way, to make this go away sooner rather than later.
The short answer is dry cleaning is recommended, for clothes that must be dry cleaned (or can’t be washed on hot and dryed on hot). However, I think you’ve given us some evidence it may not work on thick items, so I’d say clothing only.

Also, it is important to tell the dry cleaner about the items’ exposure to bed bugs. This is something that is happening now, so you can’t be the only one, and they will simply need to isolate the items before treatment (you should bring them in a sealed, aritight bag, of course).

Regarding the clothes: you must wash all clothing in the house (also towels, sheets, linens) on hot and dry on hot. They must then be sealed in clean, new bags, with an airtight seal. Look at our FAQs ( — there’s one on clothing.

Pillows, blankets, anything must be treated or gotten rid of. I am now wary of the pillow–I’d buy a new one and encase it with a dustmite-proof cover.

You could try vacuuming the rug then steaming the rug thoroughly on both sides, letting it dry and then having the PCO spray it.

Or if it is not an expensive item, and you want the problem solved, you could toss it.

I know none of this is pleasant or what you want to hear, but the thoroughness with which you treat this now affects whether you go through this again. (You can be super thorough, and it can still come back. But you can only worry about what you can control.)

25 nobugsonme December 8, 2006 at 8:26 pm

ps I hope that didn’t end on too negative a note. I think you have a good shot of getting rid of the monsters, for good!

26 S. December 10, 2006 at 11:55 am

This is S. with an update. The PCO treated on Friday evening. He sprayed all around the edges of the bedroom and living room. It only took one hour, so it was only $125 (half of the original estimate).

He also sprayed the entire shag rug. He explained that his chemicals would kill bugs but not eggs, something that I hadn’t realized. (He said the egg protects the bug inside all too well). So we will continue to vacuum that rug every day. He said his chemical lasts about two weeks, and so the scenario is that eggs in the rug hatch, the bugs come out, and immediately walk on poison and die. (He sprayed every inch of it). It’s a very deep shag rug, probably an ideal hiding place – but it’s also the most expensive item in our house and we really don’t want to lose it. If the problem is still here in two weeks, then we’ll probably steam clean.

I didn’t find any bites Saturday morning, so we felt pretty good about that.

But this morning (Sunday), I found a new bite on my face.

I think we are moving from “this is an annoying problem” mode to “oh my god this could never end” mode.

We’ve wrapped up and thrown out the pillows. We took down the curtains that hang right over our bed. (The PCO inspected them and didn’t find anything, but he said they were a possible hiding place so we should get them cleaned). We are getting some more glue mats to place under the bed, and some new cheap pillows with encasings. We continue to change and wash the sheets daily.

Tonight we will separate the clothing and start the washing. Please let me know if there’s anything else we can do!

27 nobugsonme December 10, 2006 at 10:30 pm

Hi S.,
Sounds good.
You will be bitten in this time, but hopefully soon it will be MUCH less.
You’ll need the PCO to come back in two weeks to treat again. (Most people would say every two weeks until bite-free). I know that sounds like a lot, but some people have waited longer (according to traditional directions) and had a hard time eliminating them.

28 S. December 12, 2006 at 9:10 pm

Update: I found bites on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, but none today. However, I have some questions that I can’t seem to find answers to anywhere.

First, why do they only bite me? My boyfriend has never felt even a single bite. I have heard it’s something to do with body temperature, but I need a clearer understanding of this massively unfair fact.

Second, can they bite me while I am awake and moving around? Last night we lifted both mattress and box spring to double-encase them (and tape some holes in the somewhat-crappy original encasings) and within the hour, I had a bite on my eyebrow and another on my hand. It’s also possible they bit me while I sat in my desk chair in the other room, but either way – really? When I’m awake and the lights are on?

Third, they bit my face for 3 consecutive nights. Last night we slept with our heads at the foot of the bed, and I am (so far) bite-free. I’ve been especially paranoid of my feet today. Is this any indicator that they may be living near the “head” end of the room?

And lastly, most of my bites have surfaced somewhere around mid-morning (10 am to noon). I know that they inflict you with their own anti-itch fluid, giving them time to make their exit before you feel anything, but is it normal for bites to consistently show up many hours later?

I have yet to actually see a live bug, so that’s good. But the bites are steady at 1 or 2 a day, so my paranoia continues. Thanks for any advice on these matters!

29 Still Fighting December 14, 2006 at 8:18 am

I am about to say something unpopular.

To start with, I think there’s nothing particular odd about the timing of “mid-morning” bites’ appearance.

However, since you are getting so many, and didn’t before or didn’t notice them … I wonder if some or all of what you’re seeing now could be a reaction to the general stress of the situation. You might figure that’s a terrible thing, since if so how could you possibly know one symptom from the other? But there may be people who could tell you, or at least tell you what is common among folks who’ve been going through this. I once swelled up massively in one of the places you describe, in a context where it could not possibly have been a bed bug bite, and very likely because I had been thinking about bed bugs.

Have you considered getting a second opinion from another PCO about what may be going on here? Does anyone have ideas about who else to ask?

30 long ago... December 14, 2006 at 1:19 pm

Hello, S. Sorry to hear about your troubles…

Still Fighting’s post reminded me a bit of my battle (about 12 years ago) with the bugs, tho I had a different sort of reaction…

I definitely had the beasts, and they did bite, but my body made things worse by adding an allergic reaction to the mix. The symmetry of the reaction initially made me think it was *just* an allergy, but hard evidence finally made me realize what was happening: I’d get bites, scratch and agitate the bites, and then welts very similar to the original bites would show up a few minutes to a few hours later in the same place on the opposite side of my body.

Very odd, and I’m not sure how common it is, but seemed worth mentioning considering your mid-morning ‘bites’.

31 nobugsonme December 14, 2006 at 3:24 pm

Lots of us have noticed bites appearing after they were obviously made. (it makes some people think they’re being bitten away from home, which is of course possible, but not always the case).

In my case, I often notice the bites after I shower, and in the hours following, whether it’s morning or afternoon. Which is interesting. One theory is that the heat brings something to the surface. (Or maybe I am just being bitten before I hop in the shower.)

Heat–shower or just ambient heat– makes the itching worse for me.

Also, it’s very common for women to be bitten (or be bitten and feel it) and the men they live with to either not be bitten or not feel the bites. It also happens sometimes men are the sufferers, and women get off scot-free. And then pairs of men or pairs of women will often have one sufferer. But yes, women are more often itchy. There’s the theory about body temp.

I’ve heard of men who were bite free for months after female house-mates were suffering, and then started feeling and seeing bites.

32 nobugsonme December 14, 2006 at 6:24 pm

Hi S.

Let’s see if PCO Bedbugger Sean will see this and respond about respraying in less than 2 weeks (if he doesn’t, I can email him.)

You asked: “Nobugsonme, after my last post you said “You will be bitten in this time, but hopefully soon it will be MUCH less.” What did you mean by that? Why would I still be bitten at all? Would it be possible that some bugs get around the poison? Or did he just miss the eggs because the eggs are resistant? And in that case, wouldn’t we get those ones with second treatment?”

Sorry I was cryptic! I meant that the eggs take time to hatch. I think the 2 week gap between first and second treatments that I often see recommended is because they are going to hatch and bite during this time.

Some nymphs and adults may also bite you during this time. I am not sure what materials were used (dusts as well as sprays?) but some of them require bugs to walk through them to die. (This is why most PCOs tell people not to sleep elsewhere– you’re the bait, and you have to attract the bugs out.) Some of the bugs will be biting you and then dying. Others will be hatching, biting and dying. Others are just kicking the bucket with no dinner.

If you have a small, contained infestation and the PCO did a good job, then 2 treatments spaced 2 weeks apart may be all that’s needed.

It may take more, but the fact that you’re being bitten even after one treatment is totally normal.

I am not sure anyone knows for certain, but I’d venture your boyfriend would be a suitable substitute for you if you were not there. I’ve seen some things which said that even a pet might be bitten if you went away and left it there. (So if someone went away, the bedbugs might start on the cat, who would normally not be their first choice.) Also, I get a sense that some people are bitten but don’t react to the bites. The swelling, itching, hives, bumps: all allergic reactions. It’s possible he is being bitten at least sometimes but does not see or feel the results. I think the man here was bitten and did not notice or see bites for months, and then started to have more of an allergic reaction. This is all speculation, but I’ve heard others suggest this may be the case.

Something you said earlier– that you were bitten more on one end of the bed: one entomologist was giving advice on searching hotel rooms and said you should check all around the bed, for example, and not just one side of the mattress. The bugs can be on one side only and perhaps they bite whoever’s nearest.

But we also know they’ll walk 20 feet to feed if they need to. Apparently they’re expending just the necessary amount of energy; they really are remarkable little b@#$%^ds.

33 S. December 14, 2006 at 6:07 pm

Thanks for your comments on gender. I am curious: what if, as an experiment, my boyfriend slept in the bed by himself? Say I was out of town? Would they bite him then? In other words, if there is usually “one sufferer” out of a pair, is it that I’m acceptable and he’s not, or just that I’m preferable? Just curious if anyone understands this subtlety.

And wow, thanks for all these responses on the bites. I can relate to the bites showing up after a shower; I can also relate to the bites showing up in the same place, opposite side of my body. I’ve had a few bites appear on my forehead in the evening and thought “What???” And then thought, “Okay, maybe these are just pimples or something.” Also, some bites are much itchier than others.

So while we definitely found evidence of one bug, I will readily admit that my bites (or some of my bites) could be from stress. I am quite stressed (though I’ve been quite stressed before, and never had any sort of skin reaction). Perhaps I am imagining the bites into existence.

So here’s the question. We scheduled a follow-up with our PCO for 2 weeks from the original date. This seemed like standard procedure, and was in line with the advice from this website. Eggs hatch in ten days, poison lasts two weeks, etc.

But just now, I got a message from the PCO company, saying that if I am still getting bitten, we should treat sooner than next Friday. They said “ASAP” in the message.

Will treating one week after the initial treatment do anything? Isn’t all the original poison still there?

When the PCO sprayed last week, he pretty much only did the baseboards all around the bedroom, and the whole shag rug in the living room. In retrospect, I was wondering why he didn’t do the baseboards in the living room too, or the wooden bookshelf or dressers. These seemed like just-as-likely hiding places. So I see value in him coming back soon, if it’s to spray MORE PLACES. If it’s just to re-spray the same places, I don’t see the point.

Nobugsonme, after my last post you said “You will be bitten in this time, but hopefully soon it will be MUCH less.” What did you mean by that? Why would I still be bitten at all? Would it be possible that some bugs get around the poison? Or did he just miss the eggs because the eggs are resistant? And in that case, wouldn’t we get those ones with second treatment?

I have left the PCO a voicemail. I am questioning his rationale, and am hoping for this group’s opinion. Thank you!

34 bedbugresource December 16, 2006 at 3:14 am

(Editor’s note: this message got flagged by the anti-spam tool — probably because it has multiple URLs in it. Sorry Sean and S.– I will try to catch them sooner next time. Just thought I’d explain that Sean’s message below was from the 14th. Nobugs.)

Hi S,

WOW … I thought this one died ages ago and I have not been checking it.

Lots of info to take in.

Some answers;

1) You vs Him – Bed bugs do sometimes have a preference for one person over another. The reason for this is unclear. There is some evidence that it has to do with the pheromones that we emit. There is other evidence that points to the methylphenol content in perspiration.

The other possibility is that they are in fact biting him; He just does not react to the bites.

2) Missed Spots – Bed bug treatments must cover every possible crack and crevice (dressers, night stands, electrical outlets, etc. etc.).

Carpets are not typically a place where bed bugs will harbour, although a deep shag might be tempting.

Your PCO is looking to come back ASAP because they know they missed something. An hour is simply not enough time for proper treatment.

3) Company Choice – The information that they have been providing you is pretty accurate. I am impressed. At least I was right up until I read how long it took to do the treatment. Book smarts and experience are often two very different things.

4) Treatment Interval – It is not so much a question of how frequent the PCO comes. It is how often the spray the same area. It does no good to spray pesticide on top of pesticide. All this serves to do is cause repellency. Two weeks is a good interval (most liquid residuals will deteriorate at about that rate). This also coincides with the hatch cycle for bed bug eggs.

5) IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) – Nothing every needs to be thrown out. It disturbs me to see so many people wasting money and perfectly good stuff.

Somethings are more difficult than others to treat. Sometimes it is easier. Sometimes it gives peace of mind.

Always there is a way of treating it.

6) Bites On Face – Stress can often lead to shingles ( Often shigles is concentrated around the face. It can start off with a few spots and then spread ( Please go see a dermatologist to rule that possibility out.

If you have more questions please email me


Entomologist / Pest Professional

35 S. December 15, 2006 at 5:23 pm

Thanks everyone for this advice.

Sean, the group had somewhat come to a consensus around throwing things away – especially comforters and other thick down items. My PCO suggested an hour on hot in a dryer, but folks here said that down would insulate bugs/eggs from the heat and defeat the purpose. We have indeed thrown out our comforters, but we still have five pillows in bags. If you know a way to clean them, please do share!

The PCO may have indeed missed something. I have a big red itchy bump on my leg today, the biggest bite by far. If a bedbug is growing up, will it give larger bites than when it was a nymph?

I scheduled the same PC company, but a different guy, to come next Tuesday morning. It’s the earliest we could both make it, and it’s 11 days after the original treatment. He said on the phone today that he fears the other guy “missed a spot,” just like you said, and that he’d be really thorough in checking everywhere. We have to take all our books and picture frames off the shelf now too.

One more question, related to the paranoia of thinking that you’re being bitten during the day – can they be in my coat? It’s a wool peacoat, not down or anything, but I keep feeling this irrational suspicion that they are in my coat. Like when I notice a bite when I’m in my car. I know it’s unlikely, but is it possible? Perhaps I should get the coat drycleaned just in case.

I do think our problem is relatively small and contained, and that perhaps it won’t be much longer until we can put the house back together. But I don’t want to jinx anything. We’ll just be patient.

36 Sean December 15, 2006 at 5:28 pm

If it puts your mind at ease dry clean the coat.

Unless it was on the floor then I don’t see a need to clean it, but at this point you might as well eliminate that option.

You notice things in the car because you are stuck in traffic with nothing else to do 🙂

37 nobugsonme December 16, 2006 at 2:50 am

S. though the traditional advice is that hot washing and hot drying anything OR dry cleaning is recommended to kill bedbugs on clothing and linens (and presumably comforters, blankets, pillows), your case threw us for a spin: you think the dry-cleaned comforter harbored your earlier infestation of bed bugs for six months.

Maybe they came from elsewhere. But since the evidence seemed pretty clear to you that dry cleaning did not kill those bugs last time, it made me (and I think others) wary of the dry cleaning option. (Since pillows are similar or thicker, we were wary there too.) I’d buy new pilows, and cover them in a bedbug-proof cloth enclosure (Target has these for pillows and mattresses too). But this is all speculation– to hear dry cleaning did not work in this case was a surprise to me.

I respect Sean’s experience as a pest control operator, and he has a lot of knowledge about bed bugs. But we’re generally told to wash all clothing and other cloth items in the home. When we bring clothes home from the laundry, they’re kept sealed in bags. Anything sitting out (on the floor or anywhere else) can become a bedbug hiding place–if that weren’t so, we wouldn’t be told to keep stuff in bags until the bed bugs are long gone. Some things can’t be kept sealed; to deal with this, most of us wash bedclothes often, for example.

If the coat is worn and brought in the home, like shoes, it can become a place bed bugs are harbored. The chance increases with larger infestations. Some of us like to keep these things in a sealed bag too. But this is often very inconvenient–when the coat or shoes are wet, forget it. You can only do so much.

ON THE OTHER HAND– we often feel itchy during the day. My theory is it’s the bites we already have (or skin patches which may have been bitten but aren’t flared up). I even get irritated by something brushing on my skin, or the way certain clothes cling makes my skin crawl (where it never did, pre-bedbugs). Your skin is probably really sensitive right now. So while it’s possible you’re being bitten by something in your coat, it’s even more likely just general bed bug skin irritation.

38 S. December 18, 2006 at 10:49 am

Hi guys, S. with an update. I went for 4 days without a bite. Our laundry is back from the wash ‘n fold and everything is in XL ziplocs (except coats which are hanging on a coat rack). We were starting to think things were looking up, but then this morning I woke up with a bite on my finger. It’s red and has a little clearish bump in the middle. It itches and hurts. Argh!

So, the PCO (same company, different person) is coming tomorrow morning. We are assuming they missed something the first time.

We did buy new pillows from Target, and covered them with encasings. The old pillows are in purgatory – in garbage bags in the other room. We may throw them out, but right now we are waiting to hear if anyone knows a way to clean them.

The saga continues…thanks for your comments and I’ll keep you posted.

39 nobugsonme December 18, 2006 at 12:51 pm

Hi S.,
I think it’s those eggs hatching–hopefully after your follow-up, they’ll be gone.

I hate to say this, but are you taking the items into the wash and fold in a sealed bag, and do the laundry workers know they contain bed bugs and must be carefully kept separate? If not, or if they don’t get how serious this is (which some people don’t), they may be allowing the item to spread bed bugs before its washed–and you may be bringing them back home as well as transmitting them to others.

I’d personally not use wash and fold for this reason. But I imagine you’re being careful, so perhaps its fine.

40 S. December 19, 2006 at 11:54 am

Hi Nobugs, thanks for your concern. When we took the laundry to the laundromat, it was all in sealed bags. We talked with the people about bedbugs, how serious the problem was, and how to wash and dry on hot/hot. They were good listeners and took us seriously. When we brought the clothes home, we put them right into XL ziplocs and kinda checked everything over just to make sure.

In the meantime, the new PCO came this morning. We showed him the double-encased mattress and box spring, and he said it’s good that we did that, but he still wanted to treat the bed. So he took off the encasings. He didn’t find any activity, but he sprayed all along the edges of the mattress and inside the bottom of the box spring. He told us to leave them out today to dry, but to put the encasings back on tonight.

The wall at the head of our bed is brick, and I would say it’s ‘slightly crumbling.’ There are zillions of little cracks where bugs could hide. He thought they were possibly somewhere in this wall. He sprayed up and down the wall and around the window. He also sprayed the dressers and shelves, as well as re-spraying the baseboards all around the room.

This guy (John) used a small handheld aerosol can with a long thin spout. The previous guy (Mike) had used a larger, heavier spray with a hose, and had to mix his stuff with water from our sink. John said that his spray was more effective than Mike’s spray, because it was more concentrated, and that his thin spout could get inside all the cracks better.

He also said that he rarely has to return a second time. Obviously we will wait and see, but he seemed pretty confident in his treatment. He is the service manager at his company and said he had a lot of experience with bedbugs. He further said that our infestation was very light, and that relatively speaking, we were doing just fine. (But he did look at the bite on my finger and the welt on my leg, and agreed that they looked like bedbugs).

He looked closely at the shag rug in the living room, and said that it was almost “too soft” for bedbugs to hide in. While they may like fabric and mattresses, our rug is a thick fluffy wool, and he thought they probably wouldn’t have laid eggs on it, but rather just stayed in the comforter (which we then took to the bedroom) and nested somewhere nearer to the bed. He thought it was good that we’d vacuumed the rug every day (and that Mike sprayed it last time), and that by now it was probably okay. We’ll probably continue to vacuum for the next week until we leave town, just to be sure.

The best part was that this visit was considered a “follow-up,” and therefore free. We had paid Mike $125 an hour for each of his visits, but John said that we’d already paid for the initial treatment and that this visit was free of charge. Hooray!

We asked his opinion on cleaning the pillows. He said that if we put them in a washer on hot, the hot water would kill any bugs or eggs. Does this sound right? We were thinking we should just throw them out, but perhaps if we wash, dry and encase, might they be safe? Anyone have experience one way or the other with pillows? Maybe we should do a double wash, like for a full hour?

Thanks to all for your thoughts. Again, this website is truly amazing.

41 nobugsonme December 19, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Hey S.,
Thanks for your kind words.

It sounds like you got a more experienced guy and hopefully this will be it. Remember, some eggs may still hatch–if you continue to be bitten, get him to come back in 2 weeks. (That’s not to say it won’t be successful, but don’t panic if you need him once more.)

About the pillows, remember, washing does not kill the BBs–the washing is important, but its the DRYER that is crucial. So, if you’re going to do this, wash once or twice but dry for a LONG time. I’d make sure you dry for an hour. They may not be able to handle an hour on hot, but I’d recommend it. Then encase.

But remember, the standard advice is that dry cleaning or washing/drying on hot work. And you dry cleaned the comforter and it did not work. Just going by your experience, it’s possible these thicker items are going to provide too much hiding space. I’d toss the pillows for some peace of mind, and encase new ones. It’s up to you but remember, nobody’s really sure what works, and if you can part with the pillows, you may be glad you did when you finally get rid of these monsters…

42 Worn out December 28, 2006 at 10:54 am

I’d like to ask a quesition if I may. After finding this blog and reading up on bedbugs, we seem to have the sure signs of bedbugs. I wake up every morning with new blood spots at the foot of our bed, but never see a sign of nor feel the effects of any bites. My wife on the other hand always has bite marks and they itch as described above, but there are no blood spots. Does anyone have any ideas about this?

43 nobugsonme December 28, 2006 at 11:59 am

No–except that some people are bitten and do not itch or see marks on themselves–presumably they’d still be able to bleed when bitten. The bites, in this case would not be swelling up: the swelling and itching are allergic reactions, and so it sounds like you are being bitten but are not allergic. Whereas your wife is being bitten, is allergic, and yet she isn’t bleeding–that happens too. Many of us don’t see blood spots on the sheets.

Read the FAQs if you haven’t yet (links at the top of the blog) and thanks for commenting!

44 Worn out January 17, 2007 at 2:43 pm

In case anyone is interested, I found a web-site that sells a non-toxic powder form that kills the bugs naturally. We decided to throw out all of our old bedding and pillows (it was time anyway), lifted the mattresses and vacuumed everything everywhere. This was a nasty bit of buisness as we saw where they were hiding under the box spring mattress and saw several of their “nests”. We carefully sucked it all up and disposed of the vacuum bag immediately outside. I then liberally applied the powder to the base boards around the bed and all over the mattresses. We left the room untouched for 3 nights before we cleaned up the powder. (The manufacturer suggests leaving the powder to dissipate naturally on its own, but I had to compromise with my wife. She wouldn’t let it stay on the sleeping mattress, but we did leave it between the box springs and the sleeping mattress and on the carpet under the bed.) We applied it on a Thursday night and on Saturday morning when I went to inspect the work, I saw 3-4 bugs which had died and 2-3 more that were struggling to survive. I left them in place and later in the day they were still there, but had died. The powder dehydrates the bugs. I don’t mean to go on forever, but coincidentally a lady that works for the company that makes the powder came to my place of business to buy some material the day after we had applied the powder and when I found out that she worked there, I was able to ask a few more questions and she was excited to answer my questions and explain more about the product. Anyway, it has been about 3 weeks now, and we have not seen a bug yet. We think that we may go ahead and put some more down this weekend just in case, but we are very pleased with the product. If you’re interested, (editor’s note: URL deleted; google Diatect). P.S. I don’t work for Diatect.

45 nobugsonme January 17, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Hi Worn out,

I am intrigued by the fact that you bought this product off the internet one day, and an employee of the company came in the next day. What are the odds that both your place of business and this pesticide manufacturer are in the same small town in Utah? It’s a wonderful coincidence!

Anyway, the product you mention is made of pyrethrins, diatomaceous earth, and sasparilla oil.

Pyrethrins are a pesticide with plant origins, and used by lots of pest control operators. I’m not sure I’d say it was non-toxic–it’s about how you use it. Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a powder of natural origin, which can be harmful if inhaled. The reason the company recommends leaving this product down is because DE kills when bugs come in direct contact with it (bugs not directly in the area you sprayed need time to walk over it). DE is also among the substances used by pest control professionals.

It sounds like your infestation was fairly concentrated around the mattress and bed. I am glad this worked for you, though the other tesimonials here (about treatment with pyrethrins and DE, the active ingredients you used) show it is not always as easy, alas, and especially if others cannot see the bugs or their nests, they should expect it will take more work (and probably a professional).

46 allergicgirl January 18, 2007 at 10:53 am

Hi S..or anyone-
I got on this blog to read about bites. S, I’m having a similar problem to your’s. I started getting bites about 3 weeks ago. It took me a while to figure out they were bed bugs. I bagged everything. Washed and dryed it all in high heat. (Will 40 minutes in the hot dryer be long enough to kill them?)
I think the infestation is small, and it seems to be localized in my room toward the back wall. We had a PCO come and spray the whole apt. He comes back in two weeks.I have two roomates who still have not had any bites at all. I threw out my mattress, so I’ve been sleeping with my roomate or on the couch. Both my roomate and I have been using my old washed and dryed pillows and two washed and dried blankets.she has not had any bites. The only time I go in my room is during the day to use the bathroom or get some shoes.

Here’s my question about these “mystery bites” though… Two days after we sprayed, I went into the hallway (outside our apt, where we’re keeping our bags of clothes. I put on my coat that had bben hot dryed for 40 minutes. Later that night, while in at church, I got to bites on my upper arm. I got paranoid and put the coat back in another bag to redry. I went 2 more days without bites (still sleeping on the couch or ith my roomate with the same blankets ande pillows). One night I ironed on high another coat that had been in my closet. (The PCO said they probably weren’t in there b/c it’s far from my bed). I wore the coat. Later that night, before even going to bed, I got about 8 bites on my shoulder and upper arm. Big itchy welts. I decided to dry everything that was in my closet too. It’s all still in bags. I don’t know if they actually are in my closet or if this is a delayed allergic reaction. Can bites appear 5 days later? No one else seems to be bitten except me. The bites have been appearing in the evening. Last night, I slept on the couch (which was not infested, and was sprayed), which I have had no bites on. I woke up with 2 on my face. All my new bites are close to older bites. I haven’t had any in new areas. Always on the face upper arm, or shoulders. Could these be delayed allergic reactions? How do you treat them? Could the bugs have moved to the couch? It’s so far from the infestation, and I thought My blanket and pillow were clean. We haven’t seen any bugs anywhere. Just evidence of them in my old room. My roomates seem to be fine. They’re in the same places I am. The one I’ve been sleeping with had them year’s ago in another house, and she was bit then, so I know she’d react, if she were bit.
Are these bugs or just allergies to old bites? how can I be sure and how can I treat them?

47 Bugalina January 18, 2007 at 11:15 am

You shouldn’t have moved…I made the same mistake and they followed took them two days to get from my bedroom to my living room sofa…stay in your bedroom and fight them from there…and they absolutely can be found on clothes in the closet..there was a young man last summer who found them all over his wool suits…I think they like wool…you and your roommates must follow the directions on isolating your beds and covering them and clearing out all clutter …go onto the FAQ’s on this blog…follow all directions..start to inspect EVERYTHING you own…and use double bags or clear large ziplocks…get some of your own products..and use an experienced PCO…a GOOD have lots of work to do..

48 nobugsonme January 18, 2007 at 11:34 am


I am starting a new thread here. BEcause blogs bump old stories to the bottom, you’re not likely to get a lot of responses here.
So, instead, click below:


I will keep this thread open for dry-cleaner-comforter type tales, but ANYONE including S is invited to look for the latest thread each week called “Tales of Bedbug Woe”, and post there. Because you want more people to read what you write, right? 🙂

49 sue January 25, 2007 at 3:15 am

Okay, so I’m confused as i don’t know what right now. I couldn’t find the patience to read through all these emails. I mostly read S’s comments. So please check my story out. I bought wooden (dont’ know if it’s oak, maple or mahogany) bedroom set. The most fantastic set you can find. Spent $5500 on it. Vanity, night stands, amoire and canopy bed. I bought it last Feb. So I had a cat I bought for my daughter. I bought in in April. In June my daughter went away for the summer. I started getting bitten. It was summer time. I thought it was mosquitoes. (excuse spelling) Anyway, my daughter came back and she seemed to be allergic to the cat. I got rid of it thinking it had fleas and gave my daughter allergies. Fall came and I was still getting bit. I figured the apartment might need treatment for fleas. I got it treated. The cat was gone and there shouldnt’ have been any mosquitos this time of year. So then I wake up EVERYONE moring itching and seeing bit marks. Not to mention the nights I’m just tossing and turning. I call the furniture place and tell them they gave me bed bugs–the PCO didn’t say so but they suspected it. They couldn’t see anything but figured that’s what it was. I get Ashley furniture to replace my set with an Identical one. I’m fine for a month and BOOM–it’s back. Now mind you, Ashely furniture wouldnt’ take back the old set. I let my sister have it (mattress included) and warned her it was bug infested. She has not gotten ONE single bit and Xmas time I slept in the bed and didnt’ get bit either. Now i have mystery bites in the new bed and somehow it’s gotten all the way to my daughters room and couch in the living room. I’m so stressed, so tired and have been lysoling, bleaching and spraying HOT WATER on the mattresses and pillows. It is ONLY temporary relief and I don’t know what to do. Should I ask the landlord to switch apartments. I KNOW it’s not your average bed bug. This is something else. SOMETHING VICIOUS! PLEASE HELP~!

50 Buggylicious January 25, 2007 at 11:20 am

I have the same exact problem. There are no sightings of bugs anywhere, (these are no-see-um bed bugs, or like the show “HEROS” they are invisible) and my bedroom set is also expensive (DWR) and wooden. I am not giving it up. BUt the bites were absolutely real, and the bugs were hiding somewhere. I’m having treatment by a PCO, and getting my floorboards caulked at this very moment….Sorry to hear about your problem, and your kitty cat. Poor thing. I hope she found a good home.

51 Bugalina January 25, 2007 at 11:55 am

Sue ..You absolutely must get in touch with a competent exterminator…ASAP…If you are in a multi family dwelling they could have come from another apt….they travel on electrical conduits ( wiring) and pipe chases…that’s why the areas around these must be treated..You can always hire a bed bug sniffing dog, although they don’t exterminate , they do pinpoint where the bed bugs are coming from….this narrows down the unknowns…It is common to panic anc throw things away…this is because our Public Health Depts. are not issuing any directives about this epidemic….they want to keep us in the dark and not educate us…In time they will be forced to come forth about this bug epidemic…please ask us any questions…I think the bug sniifing dog is around 300.00 or a little more, for a visit…but I think its money well spent…if you need links we can help you….Bugalina

52 nobugsonme January 25, 2007 at 1:01 pm

Hi All,
Sue– I am moving your comments and the response here. Click to see them.
They’ll get more attention, I Promise.

Comments on THIS thread are closed, to avoid confusion.

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