Lingerie, remember lingerie?

by nobugsonme on April 17, 2007 · 11 comments

in bed bug epidemic, bed bugs, clothing, reader questions, spread of bed bugs, tools and weapons

Where do we begin to answer that frequently asked question?

A friend from the blog whose bed bugs are hopefully gone for good called me today. She just bought a bunch of new lingerie. Woo hoo! For the gents who are blissfully unaware (if I have not already sent them running with my choice of topic), lingerie is generally a strictly “wash on cold and hang to dry” sort of thing. Remember Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl?

“No! More! Panties! Drying! On! The Rod!”

The ladies here know– having bed bugs means you wash everything on hot and dry it on hot. Unless you send your “unmentionables” to the dry cleaners (do people do that?), they’re going to be subjected to treatment forbidden on every garment care label.

Most female Bedbuggers quickly start finding out what happens when you flout those directions, and toss the delicates in with the whole kit and kaboodle. The results include shrinkage, discoloration, and expensive nice things wearing out very quickly. And don’t get started on nylon hose and tights, which don’t go in the dryer, and so are pretty much disposable, if you’re a Bedbugger.

And then there’s the inconvenience and the cost and the work. Most Bedbuggers–male or female– start washing everything after one wearing. This means much more laundry than ever before. And your clothes wear out faster–being washed so harshly on hot and dried on hot, and then washed this way much more often, in many cases. Some try to cut down on laundry by changing into “indoor clothes” and sealing up their “outdoor clothes” for another use. But this can lead to wrinkles and mustiness (sealing worn clothing in a bag leads to very different effects from airing it on a hanger.)

Those hit during the summer have the advantage of not having to wash winter coats and bag them between wearings. They do, however, have to deal with bed bugs that breed more quickly, and the effects on bites of heat and humidity, which can increase the itching considerably.

People stop sitting in soft furniture, walking barefoot at home, and resort to checking sheets and other bedclothes obsessively before getting in, and worrying about taking anything from home to car, work, or anywhere else. They shower, dress in fresh clothing, and rush out to work and appointments, because lingering at home means things might crawl into their clothing and be moved elsewhere.

I hear some entomologists and PCOs say that this sort of “hitchhiking” is a rarity and not something to worry about. But we all know people whose workplaces, cars, friends, relatives were infested under similar circumstances. And how else could the NYC public schools have bed bugs in them, if people were not bringing them in and out? (Last thing I checked, they weren’t brought in on used mattresses: politicians take note.) So even if it’s a slim threat, anyone with an awareness of the danger and any kind of conscience becomes concerned about it.

If you think about the people in your life who are elderly or suffering an illness, who are disabled, who have infants, who just plain don’t need to deal with all this (I think I covered everyone there), you consider what might happen if they were the ones exposed.

These behaviors we go through to try and avoid spreading bed bugs may look like an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but they’re surely not a disorder. Nevertheless, like OCD, they take up a lot of energy, and a lot of time, and they make people look at us strangely (if they see what we go through).

Most frequently asked questions here are about how to avoid or get rid of bed bugs, but since we’ve had more visitors lately, I want to do something to convey for those who don’t know, what this can be like, for months. At least. But this one is also for the Bedbuggers who are somewhere on the “road to recovery” from bed bugs. Even when the bed bug crisis is over, it takes a while for people to stop doing things this way, because the new habits become ingrained. At some point you need to realize the crisis is over and take some ceremonial steps towards the “normal” way of doing most things. Most of them, I stress: do continue to leave the cover on the mattress, and do not sit on the wooden benches on the NYC subway platforms!

There’s a scene from the movie Road Warrior, the dystopian film about a future where the hardy and haggard survivors of some apocalypse battle for survival in armored vehicles. Another unwashed fellow in rags and with rotten teeth exclaims to Mel Gibson’s character,

“Lingerie! Remember lingerie?”

Now this guy not only missed lingerie, he missed all the comforts of their pre-apocalyptic state (and, I assume, the inhabitants of said lingerie). That question rings in my mind, as I remember musing to a friend about how many months I went without sitting in my sofa.

“Comfort, remember comfort?”

The point is, you take a lot of things for granted in a modern, “technologically-advanced” country, and a lot of these are things you have to do without when you’re trying to rid your home of these vermin: pretty and comfortable clothing and furniture, free time, relaxing at home, a good night’s sleep.

To add insult to injury, the stigma is such that it’s hard to tell others, and if you do, they often still won’t understand. And often, some of those who don’t get it may be right there in your home, not being bitten, denying there’s a problem or unwilling to understand it, rolling their eyes, refusing to participate–after all, they too may think you suddenly developed OCD. I feel for them also, but that’s for another day. (Remember, they miss you, the way you were before: in nice clothes, not worried about little things, smiling.)

I was thrilled my friend bought new lingerie. It might sound silly, but it’s symbolic. Good for her. And I hope she does not ever have to go through all that again.

Bedbuggers: what’s the worst “new habit” you’ve had to develop in your fight against bed bugs?

And what’s the one thing you most look forward to doing again, when your home’s bed bug crisis is over?

1 S April 17, 2007 at 12:45 pm

My worst new habit is checking myself in the rearview mirror while driving. I touch my face and neck, rub my hands together, and just keep checking the mirror. It definitely looks like OCD, but for a long time I thought I was being bit in the car (and I may have been, I might never know). So I can’t quite sit still while sitting in traffic.

I can’t wait to carry a purse. I’m carrying a plastic shopping bag, with my wallet and camera inside a gallon ziploc, inside the bag. I spray it with Kleen Free and keep it inside an XL ziploc at home. I can’t wait to just toss stuff in a purse, and then toss the purse on the floor or coat rack or kitchen counter.

2 wantmyskinback April 17, 2007 at 1:01 pm

My worst new habit is putting all of my dirty laundry in a large clear bag, and also the clean laundry (in another bag). Then I put all the clothes in their respective “baggies”, and probably will continue to do this for a long time. (My grandmother used to crush the cans flat after we had canned food, before throwing it out, she always had done this during the depression, hard habit to break). I look forward to sleeping on a soft down pillow, with a cushy cozy fluffy down blanket, NAKED.

3 lieutenantdan April 17, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Not thinking about nymphs that are almost impossible to see crawling on me. I am thankful to Lou for the wonderful pictures of the nymph on his finger and feeding close ups because of the valuable information that they provide us, but I can’t get those images out of my mind.

4 Bugalina April 17, 2007 at 2:10 pm

Too many to list…

I look forward to the day when I can welcome people into my home, being genuinely happy again to entertain.. without worrying if they are carrying bugs, or eggs on them. I used to be the person who welcomed everyone, now I am Howard Hughes..
I will look very forward to traveling again without spending a small fortune on ziplocks…

5 willow-the-wisp April 17, 2007 at 3:31 pm

I really hate re-seeing the same awful images the day I had found more than 100 of them under the futon I sleep on, almost every single night before I can fall asleep, and I really really really miss–a real good uninterrupted 8.0.
(Good call, Key Master … trying to figure out who’s really a dude and whose really a lady up in here lol …)
the stigma the stigmata and all that steam chhhhh!

6 hymenoptera April 17, 2007 at 4:25 pm

I was going to start this response with a line about how although I don’t wear
lingerie I must admit to having spent some time admiring or trying to get into several sets but I’m not going to go there. But I am going to go into how this certainly does seem like a vexing problem in regard to bed bugs yet another dimension of intrusion with flimsy and somewhat transparent recourse.
As a thought how would a blow dryer fair vs. the material. or what about steaming ? Another thought might be putting them in the freezer which would not kill the little buggers but make them easier to pick off, hopefully this would not result in frigidity once they defrosted. Then again you could come clean and use one of the soap material to kill on contact and then wash in cold water. I really don’t mean to sound flippant but sometimes you have to make light of a situation to carry on. While on the subject of lingerie, lets throw in the subject of adult toys. I know of two cases in which bed bugs found safe heaven in “FORBIDDEN DRAWS” and the problem was not resolved till the matter was addressed. Unfortunately bedbugs are a personal pest and not only disturb our private lives but our personal relationships as well.

7 parakeets April 17, 2007 at 4:51 pm

I can’t wait for the day when I look forward to climbing into bed. Now it is such a fearful thing. I spray my back with Skin-so-soft and the edge of the bed with Kleen Free, look all around the mattress for bugs, put my clothes I’ve just worn into a zip lock bag, and take a white t-shirt out of a zip lock bag to wear…and then lie there as stiff as a board. I remember relishing that feeling of snuggling into bed. No longer. Now when I get into bed I wonder how long before the “blood meal” is served. I know I am already on the table.

8 nobugsonme April 17, 2007 at 10:01 pm

Everyone–that all pretty much sounds familiar.

Hymenoptera– Oh no! I was laughing until I heard the punchline…

Spraying with something then washing in cold is a good idea, but the problem is the air drying–they can crawl on when the clothes are “on the rod.” (This is a problem for winter coats and rain gear, too.)

Freezing after air drying might work.

New invention idea: a cloth “airing closet” which is made of cloth bed bugs can’t crawl through, and which hangs from a single bar from a shower rod or other hanging device. You’d have to do something to the rod to make the bedbugs unable to climb down (glue traps)? I’m good with the ideas but someone else has to build the thing.

9 buggedinbrooklyn April 17, 2007 at 10:22 pm

I always hated laundry, but to deal with ziplocks and hot water/hot dryers, out right sucks for our favorate stuff.
what I wound up doing was use a small amount of clothes from a clean ziplock bag…
then they go into a dirty ziplock.
I spared most of my clothes so I only runed about 5 shirts, and 4 pants.
socks and mens undies do far better then what you ladys normaly dress up in.

I did rewash 2 bags of clothes yesterday, and, yes, put them in my empty dresser draws.
it’s time for me to start moving on now.

I also started to buy new clothes.
something I have not done since November.
wow, I have the new stuff still in plastic bags out of habbit, in my draws…I have to fix that.

I also had my fist set of guests in my house this past weekend.
man, I hope all the bugs are gone fore good.

I also just booked a trip.
yep, it’s time to get over this.

no if I can only stop itching…shit, still didn’t buy that foo foo girly stuff yet for my itchy legs.


10 so_confused August 31, 2009 at 6:28 am

Easy. Shaking whenever I sit down. In my mind it keeps the bugs from climbing on me. And having to wash hair brushes everytime i use them so the they don’t get in my hair.

What i miss most of all, and would almost kill for at this point (or sleep with an exterminator for a discount on something). I wish I could sit in my bed or any bed and read a good book. I havn’t felted relaxed enough to read for weeks.

11 nobugsonme September 2, 2009 at 2:33 pm


I am sorry to say I don’t think shaking before you sit down really prevents bed bugs from climbing on you. If they’re on you (say in a pocket), they might not fall off. And once you stop shaking, they can certainly climb on again.

I hope you are getting good treatment to get rid of your bed bugs, and also that you will be able to relax and enjoy yourself again soon.

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