vacuums, encasements & cats, advice?(10 posts)
Ok, I did a stupid thing. I dragged home a chair from the street. I've been picking furniture up on the street for years and never had a problem (nothing upholstered, though, because you never know what's been on it) This chair was bamboo I think, sort of like large wicker, and had some foam cushions which I figured I would replace.
Two days later my son developed what I thought was hives on his arm and leg. It took two more days for us (my husband) to figure out that whatever it was it was coming from the chair, which we pitched immediately. The bites occured where the wood was, not the cushions so I was still thinking it was a skin reaction to the finish or something. A couple of days after that one of my son's classmates identified his rash as bedbugs, soon after which I found this website. I read enough to learn that hot wash/dry could kill them, so I washed all slipcovers and linens etc. The next morning I woke up with bites on my arm. So I spread them around with my careless washing.
I figure they would have been here anyway, the chair was here for several days. I'm sure most of them went out with the chair, but after a couple of days getting bitten in my bed (and perhaps on the couch in the same room) I haven't been bitten in a couple of nights. So I'm guessing this means there aren't that many bugs yet. My LL sent his PCO the day after I fessed up to having them, because I don't want to spread them to my neighbors and I want to get rid of them before the problem gets any bigger. He seems to know what he's doing, he did a good inspection of the bed. The mattress was already in a vinyl cover, but the zipper wasn't duct taped or anything. The box springs are not covered. He checked inside the vinyl cover, the box springs, under the bed, he checked some boxes near the bed, and surprise surprise, didn't find anything but a lot of dust and pet hair. He thought it could be dust mites. He found a carpet beetle larva. Before he left he admitted that it probably was bbs. So I am about to begin vacuuming and washing and bagging. I need to buy a vacuum, but I'd rather not spend $300. Is there a good bagged, HEPA canister vac for under 200?
Also, my PCO immediately said I'd have to toss my mattress. I can't afford to buy a new one (or 3, since I have 3 now, though I don't think they've made it into the other room yet...) I would like to convince him that it is possible to treat the mattress and encase it and leave the casing on to kill anything that escapes the poison. I'm thinking of putting two casings on, one from NA to keep the bugs in, and a cheap vinyl one with duct taped zipper for extra protection from poison inside, easier cleaning since you can't take the other one off ever, and waterproof protection, which was the original point of the one I already have. Is that a lunatic plan? I figure I can replace the vinyl one on the outside as necessary without disturbing the NA one. Also I have a cat who tears at the box springs with her claws so I'm guessing I just have to get rid of those because encasing them won't work as soon as she starts in. But then she might go after the mattress. Any advice about cats and encasements?
After reading here I'm not even sure that chucking my mattress would solve the problem as, yes, I live in NYC, so there is a chance that I'll get a new one that's been joyriding with an old, contaminated one in the truck. I'd rather sort it out with what's in my house now. Though the couch may have to go, and an upholstered chair. Unless we find a bug soon and can start treatments before it gets too out of hand.
I was at Bed Bugs and Beyond (lol) yesterday and saw those vacuum storage bags, where you suck out the air with your vacuum and store things in small spaces. I know they're expensive, but I thought it would guarantee an airtight seal for long term storage of things. Does anyone have experience with those? If I'm going to use them, should I do that before I start vacuuming up areas that may contain bugs, even though I'd be sucking the air out of the bag, not blowing it in? Do I risk contaminating the stuff in the bag unnecessarily?
I'm trying to remain positive and not freak out any more than I have to. I think I may have been lucky (??!!) in the sense that as stupid as it was to drag that chair in (and I'm kicking myself but also furious at the people who put it out knowing it was infested without marking it) I knew pretty quickly what was going on, and got most of them out on the chair. As opposed to bringing one home in my son's school bag (we did get a letter from his school that they're there, with no further info or helpful hints...) and not realizing what was going on until there was a moderate to heavy infestation. I do have a lot of clutter, it's a small space and there are too many of us in it, as often happens in NY. So I'm trying to see this as an opportunity to clean and purge the rooms and closets of everything we don't really need. We have too much stuff anyway.
I want to thank everyone here, this has been an incredible resource for information and comfort (I read the success stories page just to know it was possible, and that has helped me not to lose it completely.) I was pretty stressed before this happened so I'm trying to keep it together and deal with it before it takes over my life. This is a great website, though I'm terribly sorry to have need of it, I'm glad it was here for me when I did. You're doing amazing work here and I hope it helps to educate people and ultimately slow the spread of this scourge. We definitely need some public health education in NY. I'm guessing the city gov't doesn't want word getting out too widely because tourism is such an important industry here and who would want to come stay in a hotel in a city they knew was infested? Just my guess.
Thanks again, everyone.
bbITCHY, I double-encased my mattress. I put the vinyl on the mattress first then an allergen-proof cover over that. Zippers on both taped up. I did that, because my infestation predated this blog and I wasn't aware of "bedbug-proof" covers, and I wanted double barrier protection. I put the softer allergen-proof cover on top for comfort reasons only - not for function. It worked fine.
I've read and heard repeatedly from PCOs that discarding mattresses aren't necessary. Maybe you could search this blog for some expert opinions and print it out to show your PCO. Also ask him why he's recommending you throw the mattresses out. It sounds like he didn't find any bedbugs on them. Is there some special circumstance in your case that requires it?
With vacuums and bedbugs, be aware that it's recommended you change and discard the used bag after each and every vacuuming session. If a bedbug gets sucked into a vacuum, then it'll probably crawl its way out.
Sorry this has fallen into your life. I totally relate to the lure of found "treasure." I'm a recovered thrift store flea market craigslist junkie.
Thanks persona-non-bugga! I think one of the things that will make me saddest in the long run about this will be losing my heart for flea market/thrift store/craigslist/street finds.
I think my PCO just doesn't know about the encasements, so my plan is to print out some of the info and see if he thinks that's a reasonable approach. BBs are not his focus and I don't think he wants them to be, but he keeps getting calls (duh) so he's learned about the treatments. So maybe I can further his education, unfortunately.
I bought a vinyl cover for my son's mattress and put it on yesterday because I don't think they're in there yet and if I can keep them out that way it should make treatment easier. I felt a bit like I was locking the barn door after the cows were frolicking in the countryside, but I figure if there's a chance his mattress is clean I might as well try to keep it that way. He's not had any new bites since we got rid of the chair, but I'm wondering if he's maybe not that allergic. He had a lot of bites, and they occasionally bothered him, but I think I'd have been miserable with that many. But he did react, and he's sleeping in another room in a loft bed so perhaps it really is because they're not in there yet.
I have an inexpensive mattress pad on top of the vinyl and while it's more stuff to wash it makes it not uncomfortable. Of course I may have a different opinion about "more stuff to wash" once I get going.
I wouldn't beat yourself up over the chair,since the school has them and who knows?
I would be very careful in the future with his bookbag and school clothing though,especially after you rid yourself of them.The mattresses needent be tossed,actually in the beginning(when no one knew better) they used to recommend it,then they figured out that a new mattress would just get infested anyway.Covering them as you have done will do fine(make sure not to remove the covers for 18 months ),but the cat is going to have to be kept out of the bedrooms until this is over,I'm afraid.It wouldn't take much to get a hole.Also,watch your bags if your cat is a plastic chewer,mine is and I had to redo the laundry and put the bags into plastic bins to keep them safe.As for the vacuum,get the most powerful you can afford.The bags need to either be sealed and tossed or sealed up in plastic until needed,and of course the bag used to seal would have to be sealed and discarded.I used a ziplock xl to seal the vacuum bag in until next use,I had a canister not an upright though,so use whatever works for you.If you want to show the pco something about mattress protocols look on the threads for the last day or 2 and there's a link to one of the universities entomology sites that says they shouldn't be tossed.Treated and encased I think they recommend,just search bb's and a lot of different university sites will come up.Good luck.
"I think my PCO just doesn't know about the encasements, so my plan is to print out some of the info and see if he thinks that's a reasonable approach. BBs are not his focus and I don't think he wants them to be, but he keeps getting calls (duh) so he's learned about the treatments. So maybe I can further his education, unfortunately."
bbITCHY, this is a concern. If you sense that he's not that knowledgeable about bedbugs, consider talking to your landlord about getting another PCO in while it's still early in your fight. Again and again, I've read that successful pesticide application for bedbugs requires knowing how and where to apply the stuff. Knowing how and where bedbugs hide and behave. Knowing what combo of treatment methods are most effective. Treatment is intensive and works best when there's a professional that's committed and knowledgeable. It's scary if a layperson has to educate a professional about bedbug basics.
This PCO doesn't want to deal with bedbugs, yet he's reluctant to say no to these jobs. Maybe he has a hard time saying "no" in general. He's letting you know all this ... This might be his passive-aggressive way of telling bedbugged customers to run for their lives.
Your landlord and you might be better off hiring a PCO that has more bedbug expertise. If you do stick with your current PCO, ask him about his track record with bedbugs. Maybe he's successful despite the other factors.
This FAQ might help.
p.s. I haven't experienced it but lots of complaints about vinyl encasements ripping very easily.
The PCO did a pretty good search, not a cursory one, pulled up the bed, looked inside the cover, checked boxsprings and under the bed, also around it, a wall hanging and a stack of boxes next to the bed. (These are going out today.) Also he checked the other beds and said that treatment would have to be the whole apartment, not just one room. He uses a combo of pesticide and dust, drills holes in the walls to get dust in there...he seemed pretty thorough describing what he does. He also said there was a book he'd buy to read up on it, so maybe he'll find the info on encasements in there.
I asked about steam and he doesn't use it. He told me I need to get a good vacuum and start cleaning, which I'm doing, and that success has a lot more to do with what I do than what he does, all of which is consistent with other things I read here. On the other hand he said they go inside the mattress, which I've read is not the case unless there are tears.
My reluctance to ask the landlord to get someone else is that he has an ongoing relationship with this guy, so I know he trusts him, and also he's his cousin. I was worried that he'd not know anything at all and I'd be in a sticky situation with that. He talked about how bad the situation is in my neighborhood and warned me against buying a mattress around here or a cheap one because those are all refurbished. Not that I was likely to anyway.
So I'm doing a mad cleaning with my new vacuum and wondering if my problem is just a few bugs, what are the chances that if I'm aggressive enough now I could eliminate the problem? I'm just using Murphy's to clean, no DE or Sterifab or any of the other stuff, but I'm wondering if I did could I get them all or is that a pipe dream? What beyond clearing clutter and vacuuming everything and washing things down with Murphy's could I do that might get rid of them if there's a chance of that? I don't want to make it worse by doing the wrong thing, but I keep wondering if it's possible to get rid of a light infestation on my own.
Thanks for explaining more about the guy. No PCO (or anyone) is perfect, and he sounds like he's got a lot of good things going for him. And really, your own instincts are your best guide.
In addition to what you're doing, I'd urge you to keep inspecting. Are your mattresses on bedframes? I would take the frames apart, turn them over. Examine all joints and screwholes. Helpful tools: flashlight, magnifying glass, and white business card to scrape into crevices. Keep a spray bottle of 91% rubbing alcohol or Murphy's to kill any specimens you might find. Other places to inspect and scrape - other furniture close to the beds, sofas, and under baseboard molding. Focus on rooms where that chair sat, and any rooms where people spend a lot of time sitting/lying still.
Since it's been relatively recent that bedbugs were introduced in your home, maybe you'd have a shot at finding their harborage place(s) and zapping them directly that way.
I'm a big fan of mechanical-kill dusts. DE isn't that expensive. Brushing it along the perimeter of the room and other strategic places might tip this fight to your advantage. Ask the PCO if this would be an okay thing to do. Maybe he'll put it down for you.
Good luck, bbITCHY. I hope these bugs are outta your life soon if not already.
The PCO was over today to inspect a lovely collection of lint I gathered last night at 3 am (after cleaning all day.) I swear I saw some of them moving on the sheets, but of course without reference points it could easily have been exhaustion. I had printed the article from the "Is it possible to self treat" thread and he went through the list of treatments and told me what he uses and why (and why not some of them as well.) He discouraged me from trying to do things on my own, but he was definitely open to the encasements, though he did suspect that they could fail by tearing, which the vinyl ones seem to do and is definitely an issue because of the cat.
That's also the reason I'm hesitant to apply DE myself. I've thought of it, but with two young kids and a cat who get into all kinds of spots I'd hate to make them sick. I think I'm going to get a steamer though. The pco doesn't use it because he's a lone wolf (solo artist) and doesn't do enough bedbug eradication to justify the expense (though I get the sense that it's increasing considerably). So perhaps, since it's so early on I can zap them with that. I think they're in the box springs, which are not covered.
We did a mad cleaning yesterday and possibly destroyed some evidence. I know my hubby washed the metal frame in Murphy's but wasn't looking for the signs. The box springs are intact so that's a likely spot, and some other furniture near the infected ones. I'll check more carefully. I had a lot of clutter and dust and cat hair, so it's hard to deal with the macro level of cleaning and sorting all the stuff and the micro level of finding bugs at the same time. I fear I'm putting the computer at risk spending so much time on this incredible website. I will attract the bugs here and then what?
Thanks again for all the good wishes and good information. I don't know where I'd be without this site.
>Bed Bugs and Beyond - hahaha. I think I'll end up calling it that from now on.
Re: the encasements, I would do what persona-non-bugga suggests. Double seal with cheap vinyl covering first and then fabric, because vinyl tears more easily.
As for saying goodbye to recycled goods, I commented a short while ago about how I suffered an anxiety attach after reading several pages listing the finest thrift stores and purveyors of other used goods in the latest Best of Denver issue of our free weekly newspaper. Not only am I cured of this thrifty habit, but I wish everyone else was as well!
Yeah, the thrift stores, garage sales flea markets...I keep having this voice in my head saying things like "maybe just wood, which can be washed with Murphy's, or wood and clothing which can be washed..." kind of like the voice that tries to talk me into smoking cigarettes again. I scared my hubby by saying "maybe we could find a nice used couch" it was pretty funny.
In other news, I got one bite yesterday, but no signs of them on my little guy. I kind of feel like I'm waiting for eggs to hatch, I don't think there are that many bugs here. I did a scorched earth purge of upholstered things and my son's mattress which I think had one in it, partly because I knew I was going to get rid of it soon anyway. I was contemplating treating the box spring with limestone and sealing it up, and either taping or getting those things they have at pet stores for keeping cats from scratching furniture. Plus keeping her claws trimmed. Perhaps also the mattress, with double encasements. I could be deluding myself, but I think that might get rid of whatever's here, because I don't think it's that much. I've been mopping with Murphy's and really sloshing it on the floor so it gets into the cracks and into the baseboards in case there's anything in there.
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