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Experience with steam/chemical treatment combo by PCO

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  1. HelpinDC

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jul 5 2011 13:05:00
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    Hello everyone! Hoping I would never have to visit this site again, but alas, here I am.

    I am wondering if anyone here has experience with getting a steam/chemical treatment combo by a PCO?

    We went through hell getting rid of our bed bugs last winter, and had declared success after the last bug was seen in mid-January. I actually do think we were successful, but bugs have now entered our apartment again (I knew this was inevitable after learning two weeks ago that 1/3 of the units in our building had bugs again).

    Anyway, last time around we had 3 chemical treatments (unsuccessful) and then a heat treatment/chemical treatment combo (successful). (For the heat treatment, our entire apartment was heated to 140 degrees and then chemicals were also applied during treatment and one week after.) I liked the heat treatment because the preparation was very easy.

    However, now my apartment maintenance is no longer using the heat treatment for bed bugs (I don't know why? Too expensive?) and is using a new PCO that does a combination of heat (with a steam cleaner) and chemicals. The maintenance staff claims it's been very successful in the
    apartments that they're treated it with, but I have my doubts. (I have a feeling that the bugs spread to my place after they used this PCO to treat 2 of the units in our building.) The new PCO doesn't even seem to have a website, heightening my doubts.

    What I liked about the heat treatment is that the heat reached everywhere and everything (including electronics, all the items in our closets and dresser drawers, furniture, etc.) I don't understand how electronics can be steamed and also how they could ensure that they have covered every nook and cranny of our apartment (including items stored in plastic bins or photograph boxes).

    Would appreciate any experience or expertise about this method of treatment!

  2. Winston O. Buggy

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jul 5 2011 16:36:06
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    Dry steam vapors when combined with chemical application is considered a good way to go. In addition someone should vacuum and use bed bug proof encasement's as well. Steam can not be used directly on electronics.

  3. lagirl31

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Tue Jul 5 2011 19:13:30
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    I'm not an expert, but steam followed by chemicals was the route our PCO took (also chosen by our apartment manager, with no website - I was nervous too!) and it seems like it has worked well for us. We're currently just over four weeks with no bites or sightings (fingers crossed times a million as I type this).

    Prior to treatment, we heated and bagged all clothing in drawers and moved all the furniture away from the walls. CDs, electronics, DVDs, books, etc. were all left where they were. I had asked the PCO about this specifically to make sure we didn't have to bag those items. In our case, they weren't steam treated either. The assumption was that any bugs harboring in those items would come out to feed, cross poison and die. Check with your PCO.

    Our PCO used steam directly on our furniture and the clothes hanging in our closets. After the steam, they put chemical dust (drione, I believe) inside our connecting walls to prevent the bugs from spreading and then they sprayed Phantom and Gentrol around the perimeter of the entire apartment. We had three treatments at one week intervals.

    Honestly, I don't know how big an affect the steam had in our case. Our PCO didn't seem particularly experienced and didn't do any inspection to speak of. I think steam really relies on a good application, and I don't know if we got that. The PCO said he steamed carefully and never saw a single bug come out, which is what he normally sees.

    The chemicals did seem to work. We got bites during the course of the treatment, but they did finally stop. I haven't posted a success story yet because I have been too afraid of jinxing things to even start moving my furniture back into place. But I'm feeling really hopeful.

    So, you can beat this with steam and chemicals! But if you don't fully trust your PCO, it really pays to stay vigilant yourself. I installed passive monitors, I kept tape on hand all the time so I could catch any samples I found, I noted all dates and locations of bites, I inspect our bed frame weekly myself, since our PCO doesn't inspect much. I would never have considered self treatment, I just think of this as supplemental inspection. I also called my PCO three times a day while I was prepping the apartment, so I could be sure I was following all their guidelines. Different PCOs have different methods, so you need to ask them rather than go by anything you read online.

    In your case, I would be really insistent about hearing how the manager plans to deal with the overall problem, because it is affecting your building. My manager had the PCO inspect all adjacent units to ours, and we talked to all our neighbors to make sure they were aware of the signs (yes, those were mortifying conversations and I hated having to do it). The PCO did treat all adjacent units as a precaution and so far it seems that everyone else has remained clear.

    Good luck!

  4. Nobugsonme

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jul 6 2011 2:58:44
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    Steam and pesticide sprays seems more likely to deal with the problem more quickly than with the pesticides alone.

    The idea is they're trying to take out the bed bugs directly with the steam, which means fewer bed bugs have to crawl over residuals to die.

    I started and run the site but am "not an expert."
  5. Winston O. Buggy

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jul 6 2011 8:18:56
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    You can also use steam more liberally than insecticides in some areas. Steam used properly will also penetrate about half an inch or so and get into metal creases and otherwise hard to reach spots.

  6. HelpinDC

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jul 6 2011 12:46:37
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    Thanks for the responses, everyone! I was actually able to convince my apartment mgt. to do another heat treatment (with a follow-up chemical application) in our apartment. This worked for us last time, so I'm hoping it'll work again!

    I met with a representative from the PCO that does the steam/chemical combo and was not impressed. Basically, it seems that they only steam the furniture and mattresses, and then spray the chemicals along the baseboards. The other "stuff" in our apartment (such as our books, electronics, picture frames, etc.) would not be treated. When I asked, "What if there are bed bugs in there?" he said that if I was concerned about that stuff, I could place it in my car to be heated. Really??

    I'm glad that others have had success with this method, especially since that's what they're using on the rest of the units in my building. For me, though, the biggest problem with the steam/chemical method was that I would have had to treat all my clothes and linens again and remove everything from the closets (and remain that way for all 3 treatments). I just mentally and physically do not have it in me to do that again (especially when I'm unsure that the treatment will even work.) (Last year, I heated all our clothes and linens, took everything off the walls, and had to bag just about everything in our apartment (essentially the same amount of work as moving) for a chemical treatment that failed.)

    As for treating our entire building as a whole, I couldn't agree more. I have made this suggestion until I'm blue in the face, but they won't listen. They even have the nerve to suggest that I have brought these bugs into my apartment from an outside source, refusing to adequately acknowledge that the bugs are clearly capable of traveling from one unit to the next. (5 of the 12 units in our apt. were infested before I found bugs this past weekend.) How can a person of even moderate intelligence think that bed bugs were independently brought into 6 units in the same building (within a month's worth of time)? I don't know if they really are this dense or if they just refuse to shell out the money to treat the building as a whole and knock this problem out once and for all.

  7. HelpinDC

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    Posted 8 years ago
    Wed Jul 6 2011 12:53:08
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    Also, they have inspected all the units in our building, but are only treating the ones where the PCO found bugs. Since our ordeal began last November, we have had 5-6 inspections and they never found bugs in our apartment (only during the heat treatment did they find any). I have always been the one to find them (usually on the walls). One of my downstairs neighbors showed me bites on his arms that he was afraid were bed bug bites (and I'm almost positive they are, from the look and pattern of them), but the inspection of his apartment was negative, so his place is not being treated. (I told the maintenance manager about this, but they're relying on the results of the inspection.) (My neighbor needs to be proactive and find a bug to show them, but I guess he hasn't.)

    Anyway, they are treating the units in my building haphazardly and one by one. Two weeks ago, I was notified that this was going on b/c I got a notice that they inspected our place for bed bugs (we were going on 6 months of being bed bug free at that time.) I asked what was going on and found out that 2 units had bugs and were being treated. One week later, I found out 4 units had bugs (plus my neighbor with the bites). One week after that, we got bugs again. Hmm - seems like the treatment they're using is just spreading them around, wouldn't you say? I've pointed this out to them, but they won't listen.


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