One reader asked how people got rid of bed bugs, say, about the year 1910 before modern chemical treatments were invented. Well, how about the year 1730 and this published formula?
Warning: This is extremely flammable. We have not used this method and we strongly recommend you do not either.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
(Note: originally, we linked to an online source, since taken offline)
24 January 1730
A physician communicates this well-experienced receipt for the destroying of buggs, with which he entirely cleared his own beds, &c. five years ago, and has told it to scores of families since, who have all found the same effects by it, and never saw a bugg afterwards.
Take of the highest rectified spirit of wine, (viz. lamp spirits) that will burn all away dry, and leave not the least moisture behind, half a pint’s newly distilled oil, or spirit of turpentine, half a pint; mix them together, and break into it, in small bits, half an ounce of camphire, which will dissolve in it in a few minutes; shake them well together, and with a piece of spunge, or a brush dipt in some of it, wet very well the bed or furniture wherein those vermine harbour and breed, and it will infallibly kill and destroy both them and their nitts, altho’ they swarm ever so much: But then the bed or furniture must be well and thoroughly wet with it, (the dust upon them being first brushed and shook off) by which means it will neither stain, soil, or in the least hurt the finest silk or damask bed that is. The quantity here offered of this curious neat white mixture, (which costs but about a shilling) will rid any one bed whatsoever, tho’ it swarms with buggs: Do but touch a live bugg with a drop of it, and you will find it to die instantly. If any bugg or buggs should happen to appear after once using it, it will only be for want of well wetting the lacing, &c. of the bed, or the foldings of the linings or curtains near the rings, or the joints or holes in and about the bed, head-board, &c. wherein the buggs and nitts nestle and breed, and then their being well wet all again with more of the same mixture, which dries in as fast as you use it, pouring some of it into the joints and holes where the spunge or brush cannot reach, will never fail absolutely to destroy them all. Some beds that have much wood-work, can hardly be thoroughly cleared, without being first taken down; but others that can be drawn out, or that you can get well behind, to be done as it should be, may.
A few definitions:
Camphire: henna flowers
Rectified spirit of wine: a form of brandy
Lamp spirits: I’m guessing kerosene