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Sep 11, 2013

The Subject Was Bed Bugs



A quandary, friends.

Yesterday at the Salvation Army I found a very luxurious-looking fake fur throw, fully lined with cotton twill and measuring approximately 60" x 60".  The price was just $5.99 so I bought it.

It looks and smells extremely clean. 







I would use this as a sofa throw, since the brown faux-shearling schmatta we have there currently is so worn out that I'm (almost) ashamed to display it in photos; if you follow this blog you probably know itIt's an eyesore and itself a hand-me-down from a neighbor who was getting rid of it a few years ago.

The thing about fake fur, however, is that you're not supposed to dry it in a dryer -- you're not even supposed to put it in a front-loading washing machine.  Dry cleaning is usually recommended, but obviously that is not going to involve high heat; it couldn't.

So my question is: Am I putting myself at an unacceptable risk for bed bugs?

I'm not sure if the Salvation Army does any kind of pre-inspection for infestation; perhaps yes, perhaps no.  But even if they do, do I really trust the staff at the Salvation Army?  (Have you been to a Salvation Army lately?)

I bring many things into my apartment from thrift stores and flea markets.  If it's clothing or bedding, however, I generally wash and machine dry it.  I certainly wouldn't bring upholstered furniture in from off the street and probably not from a thrift store either, but how about this fake fur throw?

The way I see it is, a visitor could unknowingly track bed bugs into your house on their clothes or bags, right?  (You don't make your guests strip in the hallway, do you?)  Plus, bed bugs have been found in stores selling new merchandise -- there's simply no guarantee you're safe (though statistically it's probably less likely if the item is new).  I stayed in a number of hotels this summer and I never checked for bed bugs, nor did I always keep my clothes off the floor as I've read one should do.

I guess the risk of getting bed bugs is a little like the risk of riding a bicycle without a helmet: if you've never been injured riding a bicycle without a helmet, you may not get what the big deal is; if you have (or if someone you know has) been injured, the risk will seem more real.

So what do you think?   Should I --

1)  Do a close visual inspection, throw caution to the wind and enjoy my new throw, or

2) Take that white plastic bag still sitting on my balcony and throw it down the incinerator?

3) Other

Thanks for the advice!

71 comments:

  1. Will it fit into a freezer? Kill those bed bugs!

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    Replies
    1. Freezing it should kill them. We have a no 'picked' textiles policy in our apartment as Midtown is supposedly 'rampant' with bedbugs. But if you are really attached to it, I'd freeze it for a few days and don't open it until you've frozen it!

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    2. I agree! I bought a lovely hat and a winter coat this summer at a garage sale, and immediately put them in a garbage bag in the deep freeze for 2 weeks. Kills the little buggers (if any are there!) and puts you conscience to rest.

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  2. I would put it in a plastic bag, seal it up for a few weeks. Then, outdoors, I'd peak inside and see if there's any "debris" or bedbug poop. Or find a bedbug sniffing dog, yes the do exist, and get it sniffed. I'd never put anything used in my home without washing and drying it on hot first!!!!!!

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    1. Would a couple of chihuahuas suffice? ;)

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  3. ... Well, if you're considering throwing it out, and it was that cheap, why not try the washer and dryer?

    Best case, you're good to go; worst case, you lose something you were prepared to throw out anyway.

    (And having had friends with bedbugs: once you have them, they're fiendishly hard to get rid of, the bites itch and swell like crazy - on me, anyway - and it's generally expensive and deeply unpleasant and time-consuming. Paranoia is my friend, in this case!)

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    Replies
    1. I'm with Ros. Why not give the dryer a try. I believe an hour of heat does it, right? (Maybe that's lice.)

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    2. Do not ever dry your fake fur. It will melt and fuse some of the fur together and will lose its soft hand.

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    3. I have a huge faux fur bedspread and I was it in a front loading washer and dry it my dryer regularly. I use the lowest heat setting and check on it often as it tends to get all tangled up. I've never had any of the fur fuse and it's still as soft as the day I bought it. Maybe I'm just lucky.

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  4. I once picked up bed bugs on an ill-fated trip to Paris, and let me tell you, it was awful. I'd stay far away! Don't put yourself, your family, and other perfectly good possessions at risk. The agony of being covered in rows of angry-looking and painful welts is just not worth it. Just thinking about it makes me want to put on a decontamination suit! Option 2 is my very biased advice.

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  5. Bed bugs can't fly or jump. Take the throw, place it in a garbage bag and sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth in with it. Shake it around, leave it a day or two and then remove and shake out the Diatomaceous Earth. The DE will kill the bugs and is completely safe for you, your pets, your home, etc.... You can even eat it.
    DE can be purchased many places, DIY stores, amazon, etc...

    Great just to have around the house. The freezer suggestion works for bedbugs as well if you have the room.

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    Replies
    1. Make certain you only eat FOOD GRADE Diatomaceus Earth. All Diatomaceus Earth will abrade bugs until they dehydrate from the micro-abrasions. Safe for bigger critters like pets and relatives to touch, but only food grade should be ingested.

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    2. what about the bedbug larvae? does DE kill them as well?

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  6. Visual inspection outdoors, followed by spritzing it with rubbing alcohol, which kills bedbugs and does not kill fake fur.

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  7. How about option 3 wash it on high, dry it on high and see what happens. Lots of things say they can't be washed but really can.

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  8. Thirding the two previous freezer suggestions... how big is your freezer? ;) It takes much longer than running through the drier, but if you can get your freezer to 0F for 4 days, that should be enough to declare it safe.

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  9. Faux fur really will crinkle and mat in the dryer. Most of the time it can be either machine-washed or hand-washed, but the combination of heat and friction does some serious damage to the fibers, which are, after all, just acrylic.

    Diatomaceous earth or alcohol won't damage it, though. :)

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  10. I'd seal it up really well and put it in the freezer sealed in one of those jumbo ziploc bags. I bring things into the house all the time that would probably make other people squirm. I once bought a huge lot of awesome vintage patterns at an estate sale that had very clearly been partially eaten by silverfish. I sealed them all in ziplocs and let them bake in the sun for a while and they were fine. Personally, silverfish woryy me more than bedbugs do.

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  11. I'm on the Spray with Alcohol Outside and Move Forward game plan. My daughter lived in NYC for three years and never once had a problems, vigilant to the point of crazy about them. She and her husband moved to Dayton, Ohio, and were infested inside of three weeks. It's a huge problem everywhere. Even in Alaska, which I seriously do not get.

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  12. What a great bargain on the fur! To be safe, try this bed bug spray recipe: http://theherbgardener.blogspot.com/2009/05/get-rid-of-bed-bugs.html

    There's two sachet recipes too. I use them to detour wool moths in closets. It would work of other creepy-crawlies as well.

    I'd put the fur into a garage bag after spraying it, leaving it for several days to be sure all is dead and gone.
    
I believe anything cloth is washable. What did they do back in the time before dry cleaning? Wash everything. Do a soak in your tub with some of the essential oils, and hang to dry. You can't lose much trying.
    Go For It!

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  13. For $6, I'd wash & dry. If it works out, you have a fabulous faux fur throw and no bed bug worries. If not, you're out just $6 + laundry money. My daughter has a faux fur blanket that I wash & dry. I was not going to spend way too many dollars on dry cleaning.

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  14. I've actually washed and dried a faux fur throw at home. We bought it at Costco last winter and love it. I haven't had any trouble with the faux fur. It hasn't melted or gotten damaged at all. I do dry it at 20 minute increments just to be on the safe side.

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  15. If it was me, I'd double bag it and put it in my car in the sun. It would only take one Virginia summer afternoon.

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    Replies
    1. Sold! Where do I buy a Virginia summer afternoon...? ;) But seriously, I'd combine airing outside (if possible) with a generous stay in the freezer.

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  16. Yikes, why risk it? Here in San Francisco they just had a bed bug infestation at Goodwill! I told my daughter to steer clear of the place!

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  17. Quite frankly, given the intended use, a washable throw would make much more sense. This item may have come from a clean home, but if you have ever seen the sorting areas at most of these thrift stores I would personally toss the piece.

    However, if you would still like to keep the throw, go ahead and wash it (hot water, gentle/delicate cycle) and dry it to see how it holds up. Page 10 of the official NYC bed bug guide has water temp and drying time: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/vector/bed-bug-guide.pdf

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  18. I vote for the machine wash and dry. I bought a bunch of throws last winter from Home Goods to cut apart and make infinity scarves. Washed and dried them all with no problems.

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  19. DUMP IT! Frugality has its limits.

    Yuck.

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  20. I have a faux fur throw that I put through the front loader and dryer with no damage. I would rather wash it and risk it than worry about what might be on it.

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  21. Ask Roscoe.

    http://www.bell-environmental.com/roscoebedbugdog.aspx

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  22. Everything I buy second hand comes into the house and goes straight into the dryer. If it goes in dry, the fibres are not damaged yet the heat kills any bugs and eggs (it's supposed to work on wool moths as well). Then I will think of a safe way to clean the fibre.
    Freezing will work, but it has to be very cold for a several days. I understand below -20C for at least five days. (http://bedbugger.com/2007/08/04/faq-leaving-stuff-out-to-freeze-walk-in-freezers-etc-how-cold-and-how-long/)(OK I was guessing too short a time.)
    I find the dryer much faster; tho' obviously the item has to be small enough to fit.

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  23. Living in the middle of New York, I'm not sure if this is a practical solution -- but if I were you, on a hot, sunny and breezy day, I'd throw it in a washer, then line dry under a hot sun. That is really the best way if you can. That's how traditional Japanese futons are cleaned (under the sun, no immersing in water ever though). Looking at the photos however, it seems like it would be ok if you wash and dry in the dryer. Worth a try. Good luck!

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  24. I'd wash it in hot water, with detergent of course, and dry it on high heat for twenty minutes or less before it singes.

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  25. The guy who writes "Things I find in the Garbage" bakes a lot of items that can't be washed or dried. That might also be worth a try.

    http://garbagefinds.com/the-summer-of-garbage/trash-picking-tips/

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  26. I have a few of these throws, I always put them in the machine,never have a problem with them, they dry up lovely.

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  27. I always make my guests strip in the hallway.

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    Replies
    1. Mine strip whether I ask them to or not. I always thought it was normal...

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    2. Hahahahaha!!!!! Thanks for that word picture!

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  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. The freezer option has already been discussed, so I removed my comment. I'd wash it.

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  29. I'm glad bedbugs aren't a problem here! how scary!

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  30. I heard you can even bring bed bugs home with borrowed library books. Be careful!

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  31. Yeeewwww! Take it to the cleaners for heaven's sake. They'll know what to do. Who knows what that throw has seen in an earlier life.

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  32. Honestly, I'd try it in the dryer. Most of these things aren't supposed to be washed and dried - they're not actually so fragile that the heat of a non-commercial dryer will melt them. I would never, ever bring something into my apartment (never mind if I lived in in New York!!!) without treating it. I pre-treat shoes from eBay.

    Dry cleaning does not reliably get rid of bedbugs. And in fact, dry cleaners can harbor bedbugs, because of course there's lots and lots of clothes coming through.

    I had a bedbug scare a couple of years ago (mercifully it turned out to be fleas from a roommate's pet which spent most of its time in the roommate's room, next door to mine) and did a LOT of research. Bedbugger.com is a great starting point.

    Since then, I've become obsessive about dryer-treating everything I buy used and all my stuff on return from travel. I've dried a lot of things on high, including some pretty delicate stuff. If things aren't wet first, nothing bad happens. I bet that the deal with that throw is that if you washed and then dried it, the twill would shrink/lose some kind of finish or the thread would deform and the front and back would get out of alignment. Mere dry heat should not do this.

    (I feel so strongly about this that I was moved to de-lurk.)

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  33. Oh, I will add that washing may kill many live bugs, but it does not kill eggs. Only heat kills both bugs and eggs. This is why even if I'm going to wash stuff, I dry it first - I don't want to seed my machine with bedbugs.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, this is right!!! Please do this first (heat kill, prob via drying) and then worry about washing or not separately.

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  34. The NYC bedbug page states that eggs can live up to 10 days, so any suffocation technique (garbage bag in car, etc.) should take that into account.

    I offer my guests hazmat suits. If they decline, I know they're infested.

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  35. Freeze it for 4 days. Seriously. This is the recommended approach for items which cannot be washed/dried (purses or hats, for example).

    Our exterminator recommended it. We had one apartment with a new and thankfully small infestation just a month ago. The clothes & bedding we took to the laundromat, with I swear $200 in quarters, but her purses and hats went into our freezer for 4 days.

    I apologize if this has already been mentioned. I didn't take the time to read 47 comments!

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  36. I bought Sandra Betzina's first book about sewing different fabrics years ago, back when I was making a throw that was faux fur on one side, faux suede on the other. She advised prewashing and putting the fur in the dryer. I knew I wasn't going to hang 12 yards of fabric up to dry every time the throw needed washed, and the last time I had anything faux fur dry cleaned, it came out toasted - so I threw it in the washer on cold and the dryer on low. Came out perfect! Guess it depends on the fur as a faux fur trimmed knit hat I bought died under the same treatment.

    I'd wash and dry it. I figure it's less nerve wracking, and possibly cheaper, to wash and dry it than deal with the consequences if it does have bed bugs.

    I haven't bought anything from a yard sale or the market since Toronto started having bed bugs everywhere. I had enough of serilizing the house, stripping beds, debugging carpets, the works when the kids were little and came home with lice/worms/impetago and the cat got sand fleas.

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  37. Riding a bike without a helmet and bed bugs: although risks are low, consequences are a bitch - why bother? Something more manageable will surely come along.

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  38. the freezer is used to kill moths eggs when you have fleece for spinning but if that does not work, how about a steamer. I have a Polti Vaporetto that says if you steam your mattress with it you will kill bed bugs. maybe use one of those on it.

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  39. Wash and Dry it. If it can't take a wash and dry, it is not worth having. Even if I could afford dry cleaning I would not use it. Your clothes just come home with other people's dirt and sweat all over them. Once upon a time I dry cleaned a linen blouse I made, and it came home smelling of somebody else's sweat. Not to mention the environmental problems with dry cleaning.

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  40. Other.

    I was told many years ago in a Home Ec class taught in a not-a-bit-affluent rural Midwestern town/village that it is totally fine to get things from any flea market/rummage sale/secondhand store/whatever BUT...that to prevent spread of vermin (and it was lice not bedbugs back then but applied to both) one should seal the thing up in one tightly knotted (or better yet two separately tightly knotted) plastic trash bag and leave it for MINIMUM thirty days. That would cause any living critters to starve and any eggs/larvae to hatch and starve. So there you go.

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  41. You could wrap it in something black and put it out on the balcony in the direct sun for a few days. Apparently 140 degrees F. is the charm!

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  42. I just arrived home in Australia from NYC, Peter I could actually see your apartment building from my hotel! I recognised it from photos on your blog. I got bitten by bedbugs in my hotel, and researched "how to kill bedbugs" before I flew home. When I got home I didn't take anything into the house. I put it all in my car, parked in the sun in the tropics. Tomorrow, when I have more energy, I'll empty my suitcase and toss the contents around in the car, and leave it another 2 days (until I go back to work, and need my car). 120F or 45C is apparently the magic number.

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  43. More bedbug lore: From what I've read in the past couple of years here, where we only get tropical temps for a short time every year, you can wrap something up for 6 months and the bedbugs can survive under average temperatures.

    The most interesting thing ever is the way to catch them that some ladies in Europe revived. It's an old folk remedy. They spread the leaves of runner bean plants all over the floor and furniture of a room that had bedbugs. The tops of the leaves feel fuzzy to humans. To bedbugs, they're minefields of spiked hooks that impale them if they try to walk on them. The remedy is: spread fresh leaves, leave overnight, scoop up and burn in the morning. Repeat. Apparently it was field tested by scientists looking for a non-toxic way to kill bedbugs and it works. The problem: where does a person get that many runner bean leaves when they're needed?

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  44. nononononono! I've known people who had bedbugs and they are a huge headache to deal with (plus afterward you basically have a form of PTSD — not worth it!). I will pay you to throw that out.

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  45. Yup. Bedbug survivor here. Not worth the risk. Either heat-dry that shiz or get rid of it. Even the balcony wouldn't be far enough away for me. Not. Worth. It. And Suzanne is right about the PTSD. I'm two years out from my infestation, and I still have issues with everything surrounding that whole jive.

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  46. Just wash and dry, not much to loose. With pets in the house I would not have a throw on the sofa that could not be washed!

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  47. I had a faux fur throw and I washed and dried it a million times. It was the dog's favorite so I had to wash it often. It was fine.

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  48. I have a fake fur throw, and two small children who love it, and not gently, either. It survives washing and drying on a regular basis. So I'm voting to go with washing and drying. If it doesn't work you've lost $6; if it works, you've got peace of mind!

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  49. Let me just say, I had an infestation about six years ago, had an exterminator in twice, turfed my couch and box spring, and they still came back UNTIL... I sprinkled baby powder around my bed. Messy, but they never returned. Compulsive cleaning (which is what you feel like doing) actually provides a nice clear environment for the very fragile babies, who hatch out of eggs in floorboards, etc..the places that usually get missed. Baby powder killed them all.

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  50. I recently had a bed bug problem myself recently, and I have read about a wide variety of ways that you can get rid of bed bugs. I have found out that the best way to do it is to get some bed bug spray because that way, you can be sure that all of them have been eradicated. I then wash my sheets so that they can be fresh after doing so.

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  52. I have two faux fur blankets. I wash them on a 40 degree synthetic wash using bio liquid and conditioner and then hang them up to dry naturally. It's what the care label on the blankets states to do.

    From
    Cee Jay/Leigh on Sea, Essex, England, Britian

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