The FAQ below focuses on the original Packtite, which was subject to a voluntary recall by the manufacturer in December, 2013. More on the recall here — including what to do if you have a Packtite Original. To read about the newer, larger, more expensive and more powerful Packtite, available in the US and Canada, check out this FAQ. You can purchase the new and more powerful Packtite Max, which replaces the Packtite Original, as of January 2014 from Bed Bug Supply or US Bed Bugs.
Heat is one of the only reliable ways to get rid of bed bugs.
The Packtite is a little machine into which you can place packed or unpacked luggage, stuffed animals, shoes, “unwashable” clothing, and other items. You leave your stuff in it for several hours while it heats up to kill bed bugs and eggs inside. You need to carefully follow the instructions and monitor the temperature at the core of your items, in order to make sure 120 F is attained throughout, and then leave the Packtite running for an hour after the temperature is reached.
Although the unit was originally designed so that frequent travelers could heat their luggage to killing temperatures when they got home from a trip (in other words, for the purpose of preventing a bed bug infestation at home) people with bed bugs quickly saw the possibilities in terms of de-bugging items in the home.
Packtite measures measures 36l x 19w x 24h inches and looks like this:
The Packtite was independently evaluated by entomologist Sean Rollo of The Bed Bug Resource, who found the Packtite did reach the required temperature of 120 F, and said “In summary, I am happy with the unit.” On our Bedbugger forums, bedbugs78 asked if the item would melt plastic bags. David James, the Packtite’s creator, responded:
I can answer the plastic question, with our newly designed unit we tested cheap thin walled plastic bags to see if we would have any melting issues, these bags were tested by tying them directly to the metal frame inside and were positioned closest to the heat source- after 4 hours of heating we did not have any plastic melting issues. The inside of this unit reaches sauna like temperatures and is a good guide to use when considering what to put inside. We are currently including a digital thermometer with each Packtite so that the user can monitor temperatures of personal items placed in the unit to insure they reach killing temperatures.
… we have a long list of specific safety instructions plus we are including a digitial thermometer with every unit so that our customers can track the heating process if they like. Each unit also has a timer so that it will shut off after 4 hours.
The timer is an important safety feature. People began to use the machine to kill bed bugs and eggs in all kinds of stuff which was previously difficult for individuals to treat.
Bedbugger forum user Overwhelmed said,
I’ve treated a pretty wide variety of stuff: purses, books, shoes, mail I need to send to my roommate who is away at grad school, the footstool and removable seat of an armchair that lives in my bedroom, the carpet attachment to my vacuum, the wood-framed mirror that hung on a wall near my bed . . .
Adele tells us she baked a loosely packed box of papers.
Mangycur had some creative ideas also, including heating empty clean-but-used Ziploc XL bags, yoga props, and a cat scratching post. She asked here if we might compile a master list of items which could be treated in the Packtite, and David reminded us that the best practice is to learn to use the probe to monitor the temperatures, so we can judge whether any particular item has reached the correct temperature to kill bed bugs. David said,
The master list idea would be nice, but I think there will be just too many variables and might discourage use of the included thermometer to monitor ones progress. We could say x number of hours for sweaters, but the type of sweater, the size of the sweater and how tightly folded etc the sweater was put in would effect treatment time. I would recommend running the thermometer into the center mass of what you are heating and once it hits 120 give it another hour just to be sure. I love the different things you mentioned putting in the unit, who knew bed bugs could be into yoga?
Packtite owners must use their own judgment. Remember you are baking an item at 120-140 F. Even items which can usually be safely treated (such as leather shoes) may suffer effects in time from repeated heat treatment. One has to use own’s own good judgment.
Of course, if you have an infestation of bed bugs, you have to worry that even the cloth-covered Packtite might become infested while sitting around on the floor. Not to worry, David notes here,
… if you are worried about the outside of the unit being infested, you can remove the internal frame and put the canvas bag part in a dryer.
Thinking back on a short time ago when people used to put sealed things in storage for up to 18 months rather than keep potentially-infested items in the home after treatment, this is really quite a revolutionary option.
For people who are infested at work, or whose children are attending a school known to be infested, this may be a way of keeping bed bugs in clothing, backpacks and purses, from coming into the home.
If you want to be sure your Packtite (or dryer, or other heating method) is reaching 120F in all areas, you can apply Thermaspot temperature sensors (also made by Packtite) in various areas. If the Thermaspot turns from white to black, the temperature was reached. Read more about Thermaspot here.
Good news? As of September 2011, the Packtite is also available in a much larger size. The new Packtite Closet works faster and has a built in bar for hanging clothing. It is also available in Canada as well as the US.
You can see a video of Jeff White of Bed Bug Central talking about and demonstrating the use of the original Packtite below.
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