Most of you probably remember the message from S. last week– the woman who had bed bugs earlier in the year. The letter she wrote me, and which I posted as a blog item, has now attracted more comments than any other post here. She’s still working through the infestation, and your suggestions are welcomed. The earlier post and comments are here.
The background: Last Saturday, S. took a comforter out of a sealed bag, where it had been since being dry cleaned (after a very small bed bug infestation) 6 months ago. She had no bites while the comforter was in a dry cleaner’s bag, more or less sealed, for 6 months. She took the item out after 6 months, and out came bed bugs. After a day or two she sealed up the comforter again, but the bed bugs are now active in the room, with at least 2 adults having been seen.
I have to add a disclaimer here: you can never really be certain with bedbugs, where they came from– no matter what you think, it’s always possible that there’s another source, and in this case that would translate to the theory that the reintroduction of bed bugs coincided with the reintroduction of the comforter. However, what really appears to be the case here is that a down comforter came back from the dry cleaners with bed bugs still inside, these lived for 6 months, and have now re-emerged to carry on where they left off.
S. has a good shot at fighting them, since she is allergic to the bed bugs and so noticed them biting right away. Since there’s evidence, she’llbe able to get a PCO to treat right away. And if they came from the comforter, they may or may not have spread very far.
But it raises the question of whether dry cleaning is effective. Were these items really thoroughly dry cleaned? Or was the item dry cleaned and bed bugs survived it?
This has raised questions for me as to whether we should bother dry cleaning (or even clothes dryer-drying) thick items like comforters, thick blankets, washable rugs and pillows. More testing needs to be done in this area. Sure, this could have been a case of sloppiness on the dry cleaner’s part, but if that’s so, it can’t be the only isolated case. And it may be that these items can’t be salvaged, and may in fact be the cause of other reinfestations or difficult-to-treat infestations.
The bottom line is that you can’t be too careful, too thorough, or too ruthless in tossing things out. Please check out the other conversation, and add to the comments if you have suggestions for S.