The War on Bed Bugs on caulking

by nobugsonme on February 22, 2007 · 32 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs

Frank at the War on Bed Bugs is not a PCO, but he’s an amateur with a very determined IPM approach to beating bed bugs.  His recent post on caulking is good advice.

1 wantmyskinback February 23, 2007 at 10:14 am

how does boiling water work with caulking to fight an infestation? i read frank’s entire caulking post, but at one point he mentions boiling water.

2 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 12:04 pm

WMSB, it would be great if you left a comment on his blog and asked him! I did not catch that…

3 Frank February 23, 2007 at 2:58 pm


Sorry to cause you confusion. The use of boiling water has nothing to do with caulking, I was only suggesting it as another alternative control measure.

Heat treatment may be more effective than we originally thought. According to some recent experiments by Dr. Michael Potter, both washing and drying on hot settings killed all stages of bedbugs. In his experiment, it only took five minutes to kill all the bedbugs in a clothes dryer at 175 degrees Fahrenheit. But this is only one single experiment, some individuals may be more resistant to heat than others. Just to be on the safe side, I would suggest you to do a full dry cycle.

The thermal death point for bedbugs is 45 degrees Celsius, and the temperature of boiling water is 100 degrees Celsius. Therefore, in my opinion, boiling water is more lethal than any pesticides, but of course, it has limited applications. I used it on my chair and vacuum cleaner. You may even use it to treat your furniture and bed frame, but don’t use it on anything expensive, especially the outside surface, since it might cause damage to the finish.


4 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 4:27 pm

Hey Frank,
I’m curious how you used boiling water on your vacuum? Water and electrical products? THIS SOUNDS DANGEROUS. More information please!
Also, I am grateful for the info on 175 F dryer. However, I did look up the “hot” setting and at least on the dryer I found, it listed hot as 140 F. We know washers and dryers can vary, so I’d make sure I checked before I relied on that 5 minutes working. As you say, Frank, better to be safe. I like an hour. But I go by the rule of drying on hot for 10-15 minutes after the stuff is totally dry.
Can’t say it did wonders for my clothes.

5 WantMySkinBack February 23, 2007 at 8:09 pm

NoBugs, tried to ask Frank on his blog, but somehow couldn’t. Didn’t have google or something….so, I asked it here.
ANYWAY, Frank, would you recommend I pour boiling water on my bed frame before I spray it with Kleen Free? I have a platform bed from a very expensive (unfortunately) store, and it has wooden slats. The PCO’s have looked at it (lightly) and decided I hadn’t any bb’s in there. But I bet I must have one or two….so, before I hack it with an axe and toss it to the curb, should I do the boiling water trick? And also and pour it on my floors before I polyurethane them? I plan to stain and poly my floors (with OIL based poly as recommended by Jeff at Pestaway, who’s client after 3 months of sprayings finally did this and her bites stopped) in March when the kids and I go away for Spring break….

6 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Hi WMSB, I didn’t mean you shouldn’t also discuss it here, that’s fine! I just wasn’t sure Frank would see it as quickly. Anyway, in case you try to comment there again, you should be able to if you click “comment” and where it says to log in, choose “other” (meaning you don’t have a blogger account). Then you will be able to fill in your nickname and comment.

7 WantMySkinBack February 23, 2007 at 8:15 pm

I figured out how to use his blog and asked there as well.

8 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 8:38 pm

What kind of wood is the bed frame? And are you going to sand the floors before you put finish on them? Water on any hard wood, boiled or not is going to wreak the wood, steam is not any better.A alcohol based wipe may work, but I do not know if is affective for BBs.It may also ruin the finish. Did I see something about murphys oil soap on here? it may work.
Get back to me and let me know about your wood and I’llsee if I can help you sort this out.

9 Frank February 23, 2007 at 9:04 pm


Electronics are probably the most difficult to deal with. Freezing might be the best option but some electronics are sensitive to extremely low temperatures. I kept all the small electronics including telephone, alarm clock, headset, keyboard, mouse, CDs and books in the freezer for about a week before moving, and nothing was damaged. Based on what I have read so far, a minimum temperature of 0 degree Fahrenheit for one week is required. A chest freezer can be used to treat bigger items.

My vacuum cleaner was bagless and I gave it a quick rinse in boiling water after every use. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to do this though, since the plastic part may be deformed due to the high temperature. But if you have a bagged vacuum cleaner, you can give the bag a rinse before throwing it out.


Boiling water is a sure way to kill them but it can cause mess, and be sure to not hurt yourself. An alternative is a steamer, which can also be used to treat furniture and bed frame. If you suspect that bedbugs are harboring in the slats or bed frame, the permanent solution is to eliminate the gaps by caulking. If you are not comfortable with a caulking gun, use masking tape instead.

I wouldn’t recommend pouring boiling water on your floors since it might cause damage. If you have big gaps in the floors, fill them with wood filler first. Polyurethane should cover all small cracks and crevices. Oiled based urethane is very durable but the smell can last for days, if not weeks. Water based urethane does not smell as badly but are also not as durable. Both are available at Home Depot and you can apply it yourself with a foam brush.


10 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 9:24 pm

Thanks Frank. I say freezing electronics can be risky and I would not recommend it, though people may be interested that it worked for you for those items.

Another option would be to simply treat your home, making sure there was some kind of barrier around the electronics, which pests would have to cross. (A sample example would be to keep the base of the computer on a table, and surround it with DE. The bugs will come out eventually to bite you (or try), and they will cross the barrier. PCOs may have other ideas, but I don’t think anyone is thoroughly treating and removing bed bugs from every area of their home and having them live indefinitely in electronics.

I also would not apply water to the vacuum (except the “cup” or whatever you call the thing that collects the dust in a bagless–I used to have one and it was meant to be washed, though even there, as you say plastics can be damaged in some cases.

As far as bagged vacuums, I’d just have a garbage bag ready and seal it with an airtight seal, and get it out right away.

Remember, if your PCO is using residual pesticides, having one bug come out of a vacuum or TV is not the end of the world.

11 wantmyskinback February 23, 2007 at 9:27 pm

thanks frank. i have caulked my floorboards in the last month, but prior to, a man from Poland (who lives here now) came with a $100 steamer and tried to burn them out of the base boards, the floor tiles, my bed frame, my desk my bureau, my chair. he said that was how they did it in poland. then he caulked and put wood filler (some of it is falling out) in the tiles. i didn’t ask him to caulk my bed, and that is a great idea. he did steam it. and i washed it down lightly with murphy’s oil recently. i haven’t gotten to the slats because my very heavy foam mattress is on it currently and i have to get some help with that. i won’t put water on the floors, but they are already discolored and damaged. that’s why in march i’m staining/painting them white and putting oil based poly (i will deal with the smell, anything will be better than thinking i still have bugs). there is something in the oil, same as baby oil, mineral oil, murphy’s oil, that will not only seal them, but give them uncertain death! i’m bringin’ out the big guns frank.
strangedays: my bed is from design within reach. it’s that dark wenge stuff, i don’t know what type of wood, but it’s probably better to really douse it with the murhpy’s oil soap. when i can get some help w/the mattress of course.
no bugs, i forgot to ask jeff from pestaway when i saw him the other day when my things should be unbagged, but i feel his standard answer is: never ! i told him how difficult it was for me to go to work in the same clothes over and over and that my “going out ” clothes were non existant. i am envious of others who are buying lots of shoes and items on sale now, and when i asked him “what do i do when i need to go shopping (it’s an addiction/affliction that i have” and he offered this advice: “don’t”. 🙁

12 nobugsonme February 23, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Take heart, WMSB. When bed bugs really catch on, designers will be making all kinds of clothes that can be washed and dried on hot.

That, or soon we’ll all be wearing white pre-shrunk cotton all the time, and you’ll be able to buy white, pre-shrunk cotton business attire, jeans, clubbing outfits, the whole nine yards. Crocs will make its signature waterproof (washable, hello!) shoes to match. I bought some crocs last year when I was having my trauma: cheap, washable shoes that slip on. Not really for all occasions, but my shoes were creeping me out. (The only problem is, huge static electricity generators! Watch out!)

When Vera Wang and the president of Target start itching, I expect to see some changes here.

13 wantmyskinback February 23, 2007 at 9:35 pm

ha ha ha ha ! excellent ! 🙂

14 Bugalina February 23, 2007 at 9:35 pm

I agree with Jeff..curb your need to consume…Its pro survival….bed bugs don’t do well with petroleum distillates.( they do like stuff ) ..that’s why the oil based poly works…Good for you…bring out those big guns….that’s what will get the job done !

15 wantmyskinback February 23, 2007 at 9:40 pm

Hi Bugalina, I was JUST thinking about you. Hmmm which of these products we are using to fight our war, do you think are on the NYSE? The ziplocks? Mmmmaybe the Murphy’s soap? I might want to invest and get my lost money back.

16 Bugalina February 23, 2007 at 9:42 pm

Don’t think I haven’t given it some thought!! Talk to bugzinthehood ! xo

17 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 9:45 pm

I should tell you that I am a pro at wood flooring and almost so at wood species and carpentry. I can give you all the tips that the pros use, and if they are in your floors, they will not like you after you do a proper refinish. Mind, they may go elsewhere, but they will have very little chance of coming through the floors after a proper refinishing. In fact, no chance of coming through the floors, but the walls are another story. A good look around, from floor to ceiling, and vice versa, and a good plan, will help. With commited time, money on rentals and needed supplies, and my advice, a beautiful finish is going to be the result of your efforts, but the BBs. may be able to find another way in. The walls, etc, electrical outlets and so on. This is where the caulk and perhaps expandable foam,comes in. And the proper inspection of a PCO before you do anything. Don’t waste you time by missing steps, get outside advice before you spend lotsa dough, only to find out the problem has or is manifested in another dimention. Think like a home builder, you build a foundation, and make the house become a home. In this case, I think, you should think like a interior finisher. Start at the top and work your way down, work with gravity.Make tight the ceiling, the walls, then do the floors, then seal the edges of the floors with caulk or PL, or 1/4 round and any combo of these. Top to bottom, seal it tight.
get back to me with specifics.

P.s Finally glad to contribute something worthwhile

18 Bugalina February 23, 2007 at 9:54 pm

provide as little space as possible for them to hide in…deforest your space…caulk..and fill..and dust the outlets…..deb

19 wantmyskinback February 23, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Strangedays, that was awesome advice, feel free to contact me directly at: and I will gladly talk to you about the refinishing. I began with steaming, walls, closets, floors, baseboards, furniture (as mentioned). then caulking everything that seemed reasonable (but i couldn’t see caulking the little holes that adjust my closet shelves). then we put wood filler in the the damaged 1957 oak tile floors. I can’t refinish then ( yes, my contractor will lightly sand before applying color and poly) until we are away for Spring break in 3 weeks (I have unco-operative teenagers, did I mention that?). It’ll be easier for them to work in here when we are gone. BTW the first time i did my floors here 2 years ago, it was with OIL poly ! But the bugs came later….

20 jessinchicago February 23, 2007 at 10:05 pm


I think your efforts are incredible. I’m wondering a couple things. Does your PCO know the lengths you are going to outside of his/her treatment? I mean, does your PCO know you’re considering pouring boiling water on your bed frame and vacuum? Have you gotten some sort of expert opinion about bringing out these “big guns?” Was the steamer from Poland part of your PCO treatment?

I’m wondering if people are working with their PCOs while using supplemental tactics, and what their PCOs have to say about it. I’m hoping that PCOs are giving their opinions on what might or might not work.

Keep fighting the good fight!


21 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 10:21 pm

So you have oak parquet flooring, it sounds like, no prob. You need a special machine to do this correctly, because, if you use traditional drum sanders,etc, you WILL kill the floors. Might as well go with another flooring..
These floors are traditionally glued down, is that the case with your floor, or do you know?
You can tell if they are alternetly patterned, and if they are older than 30 yrs.( you say 1957, how do you know?)
Do they squeek at all?, can you move anything like a stove to see the edges? If they do not squeek,(they might make a noise like EErrkk, in spots but not loud) and you can see black tar like stuff on the edges, then you have a floor that is well worth preserving. This flooring is worth about 20 dollars a s/ft.used, to buy today, in reasonable condition. Tell me about the wood filler you used before, cause it is probably s#@t and can be rid of with out any real effort. You need to make sure the parquet is tight to the sub-floor.
I just realised this could go on, so we should talk directly, through email I guess.
If anyone else has questions about woodfloors, get back to me.


22 jessinchicago February 23, 2007 at 10:28 pm


Looks like you found your niche. I’m so glad you’re helping others.

Doesn’t it make you feel better?


23 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 10:34 pm

A big fat YEP!

24 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 10:36 pm

I really am feeling more alive just being able to respond to others in any sort of need.

25 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 10:36 pm

Isolation sucks

26 jessinchicago February 23, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Let’s continue this conversation on the “Tales of Bedbug Woe” thread, okay? It fits there. I’ll respond in that thread.

27 strangedays February 23, 2007 at 10:48 pm

how do I get there?

28 jessinchicago February 23, 2007 at 10:53 pm

Go to the front page (link at top of this page) and scroll down till you see the post with “Share your tales of bedbug woe here” in the title. Or click on the last comment I made (right side of your screen) and you’ll get there.

29 Frank February 26, 2007 at 7:41 am

One last thing that I would like to add is that, just because I suggested the use of boiling water as an alternative measure, does not mean that you should start pouring boiling water on everything, because it could potentially injure yourself, damage the item, and excess humidity could lead to other problems such as dust mite and mold growth, and provide hospitable environment for many pest. Similarly, some electronics may be sensitive to low temperatures, I wouldn’t recommend to throw anything expensive into your freezer. I think it was inaccurate for me to say that freezing was the best option for electronics, nobugsonme’s idea of having barrier around the electronics is another excellent advice.

30 nobugsonme February 26, 2007 at 1:05 pm

Thanks Frank–and we’re glad you’re here.

Remember those cups that McDonalds started using after the woman spilled coffee in her lap and sued them: “This coffee is extremely hot.” They should not have needed to say so, and we also should not need to say, readers, that you know you should not be pouring water on your electronics (eg vacuums), or even assuming the freezer won’t damage them. The point about wood floors is also important for the reasons Frank and SD have mentioned.

Frank has been very inventive about experimenting, which I think is great, but I don’t want readers to write in and tell us they were electrocuted or killed their electronics.

Jess made another wonderful point, which is one we make often: if you’re going to do anything, check with your PCO first. If your PCO says its a bad idea, I’d have to go with them on this.

31 connie May 27, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Does this ever get better..

I feel like I’m always crying.. I have no bed, no sofa.. My apt. doesn’t look like my apt. anymore. All my clothes are in plastic bags.. So sinful what i thru out..and for a present i bought an oreck hepa vac as well as there steamer.. i needed to spend 856.00 like a whole in the head but i have to take all prevention…


32 nobugsonme May 27, 2010 at 3:13 pm


Bed bugs are terrible. Please come to our forums where you will find a lively and supportive community of people who understand:

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