Bed bug B.S. in the media, part II – Rachael Ray on preventing infestations, bed bug lifespan

by nobugsonme on September 30, 2010 · 5 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs and travel

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.

Fifteen days?!?

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!

1 Colleen October 1, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Can someone please help me? I live in an apartment complex. I found bed bugs about a month ago. The complex sent their exterminator over to start treatment which was about a month ago. They are treating every 2 weeks so at this point, I have had 2 treamtents. I was bit again last night so I decided to inspect further tonight. I was told spraying alochol would help. As I was spraying, I noticed a few black spots on the wall that smeared when I wiped them. The more I sprayed the alcohol, the more the spots appeared. I went into the other bedroom and sprayed the alcohol on the wall and the black spots appeared again. It seems when I use the alcohol, the paint is removed and these black spots appear, from under the paint. Could it be that their were bed bugs prior to me moving in and their feces were painted over?

2 nobugsonme October 2, 2010 at 12:36 am

Hi Colleen,

I would recommend not spraying alcohol in your case.

First, it’s a contact killer. That means it kills bed bugs sprayed directly. If you do not see bed bugs, right in front of you, then spraying alcohol is probably not going to kill any bed bugs. (It may be removing paint, but no one can say what you’re uncovering under paint.)

Second, you’re getting professional treatment. There’s always a chance when you spray things like this that you may be washing other products away or affecting them in some way.

If you want to discuss this further or have other questions, please come to our active user forums:

3 Melissa October 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm

“Rachel Ray would do well to invite some real bed bug experts to be on her show”

Correct information is the last thing Rachael Ray cares about. She can’t be bothered to learn or disseminate correct info re food and nutrition, her supposed forte, either.

4 L October 5, 2010 at 9:55 pm


I hate to say it, but spraying treatments are next to useless. If at all possible, get your apartment heat treated. The treatment takes about 7 hrs and you will probably have to pay out of pocket ($700-1600) but it beats bagging up and washing all of your belongings every time you get a “treatment” (which leads to more spreading). Not to mention the psychological effects that come with dealing with an infestation.

The bad thing about an apartment complex is that the heating system is usually connected from unit to unit and when landlords do not properly treat an infestation, the bugs can easily migrate.

I haven’t heard of using alcohol. But its possible that is a reaction with the paint. If there are spots evenly distributed all the way up an down the wall, it is unlikely they are from bedbugs.

5 nobugsonme October 5, 2010 at 10:47 pm


Like L, I am a fan of heat treatment in general.

However, keep in mind that if you are in a building where others have bed bugs, you may keep getting them from your neighbors after heat treatment ends.

The other likely option, pesticide treatment, would have to continue as long as bed bugs are “coming over” to you.

If you’re fairly certain others in the building don’t have bed bugs and you do not have a source of repeated/continual exposure, then heat treatment is a good option!

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