Although I found the misinformation in the Ohio story about sanitizing secondhand items disturbing, Rachael Ray’s second big bed bug feature, which aired yesterday, gave it a run for its money. (A previous Rachael Ray segment on bed bugs aired last October.)
Although Dr. Ian provided some useful advice, other suggestions were pointless or even potentially harmful. For example:
When you return from a trip, take out each article of clothing from your suitcase and shake them out over a white towel. Then immediately throw into the washing machine and wash and dry your clothes along with the towel on the highest temperature setting.
Let’s review those steps again:
1. Take everything out of your suitcase,
2. Shake each item invididually over a white towel,
3. Place the towel and every item through the washer and dryer on hot.
So basically, you just attempted to spread bed bugs by shaking each item out to dislodge the pests, and then proceeded to wash the items anyway.
This does not make any sense whatsoever!
Shaking will not dislodge bed bug eggs, but it might release bed bugs into your home. Instead, place everything directly from your bag into the washer and wash and dry on hot. Skip the white towel entirely.
Clean items which are not labeled for machine washing and drying can often go in a hot dryer without damage if they start out dry. Fifteen minutes or so should be enough for regular clothing items which are dry and not thick, and packed loosely in the dryer.
There’s also similarly bad advice for shoppers:
Bed bugs can show up in any kind of store, so after a nice day of shopping take the time to check your purchases for bugs before you bring them into your house. Take them out and shake the clothes on a light colored towel, if they are bug-free toss them in the washing machine and wash and dry on a high temperature.
Interestingly, non-white towels are acceptable for this use. Hmm.
Again, skip this whole rigmarole and toss the new items in the washer and dryer (or just the dryer, as above).
Also, in warning against bed bugs in shipping boxes, Dr. Ian says,
Since bed bugs can live up to 15 days without eating, chances are if they got into your package, they’re still alive.
We’re not entirely sure how long bed bugs can live without eating, since the 18-month estimate is no longer considered accurate. However, people need to know that bed bugs can live a lot longer than 15 days without feeding.
I would go with “as long as 12 months or more” to be on the safe side, until we have a definitive answer.
Dr. Ian may be a medical expert, but he is not a bed bug expert. Rachel Ray would do well to invite some real bed bug experts to be on her show, and give them time to talk. And there are plenty of good ones in the NYC area — such as Dr. Louis Sorkin and Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, to name just two.
Inviting these or other experts on bed bugs would be a big help in avoiding this kind of misinformation.
Thanks to toledo for bringing the Rachael Ray segment to our attention in the forums!