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Bedbug Battler's Checklist

Tips for dealing with bedbugs before, during, and after an infestation. From someone who learned the hard way.

Photo by Courtesy of Orkin

Yes, This Old House editors can suffer from bedbugs, too. And when I told friends, family, and

anyone riding the same elevator, you'd have thought I was confessing to

having mononucleosis, The Kissing Disease. But there's nothing literally or

figuratively dirty about the way you get them.

Battling the pest for a full month, I learned that even though there are

ways to repel them, they travel in the walls from neighboring apartments to

yours and—even if you live in an unattached house—can hitch a ride on visitors' clothing and used furniture

you might bring home. Staying quiet about the fact that you have them,

though, is the best way to help them spread.

So, this checklist is my contribution to

your pest control, whether you have them or not. It doesn't take the place of treatment by a licensed pro; it's meant to accompany expert extermination. It's your guide to pitching in with the pros against the pests:

PREVENTING THEM

Keep your bed from touching walls and wood work. Despite the name, they live in

walls, not your mattress. So don't help them aboard.

Caulk holes in your trim and fix cracks in your walls.

Use a bed with metal legs. The bugs can't climb metal.

Place wooden bed legs in glass jars for the same reason.

Quit using a box spring. The hollow wood framing is an ideal nesting place for

any kind of pest. And with today's thicker mattresses, who needs it anyway?

Never bring used furniture indoors. You may not see the pest on the piece, but

this is the chief way many people get them.

Schedule regular visits from an exterminator.

AT WAR

Zip a vinyl cover over your mattress and seal the zipper with duct tape. While

they're hard to find, they're easy to suffocate.

Bag and wash every bit of clothing from the infested room. Extremely hot water

is best, but dry cleaning delicate things works also.

Shampoo and vacuum any area rugs and only place them in a treated room.

THE AFTERMATH

Do not unwrap your mattress.

Keep unwashed clothes sealed in plastic until they're clean. Don't reuse the

bags.

Throw away or bag for several months any upholstered or fabric items you cannot

wash. Adult bugs suffocate in the bag, but bed bug eggs are sticky; if they're

clinging to the bag's contents, they may re-infest the room.

Invest in hanging plastic wardrobes that zip closed. Just in case you face

the bugs again, the plastic should protect at least these items. It beats paying to

re-wash clean clothes.

Get more information on battling bedbugs.