Bed Bugs: The First Hand Freak Out Account

Move to the big city, they said. You'll love Chicago, they said. Housing is affordable and there's always something to do, they said. All was well and good until that dreaded night when we first saw them. Bed bugs. Big ones, small ones — it was like an instant infestation. After a mildly embarrassing freak out, I'm here to take advice and give it back to our readers who might do battle with them some day.

We've covered the topic of bed bug infestations many times over here at Apartment Therapy. In fact, you can check out this great roundup of ideas and solutions. When they're in your apartment, however, that's just not enough words. The next 48 hours were spent scratching false bites and researching ridiculously gross images of big bed bugs, small bed bugs, larvae, skin that had been shed and more.

I have little to no tolerance for bugs that think they own the place. The problem with bed bugs is that there is no magic cure. You can't walk into the home depot and pick up the product everyone suggests on the internet and leave fairly certain you might get a decent night's sleep ever again.

Instead, bed bugs are battled differently by almost everyone, and even though there's no concrete answer on how to fight them, here are the first few steps we've taken here at ground zero. If it helps to picture me with war paint, knock yourself out. I'm not far off at this point.

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TO START:
1. Laundry: Luckily I'm not one of those girls with 6 closets' worth of clothes. So I was able to bag up everything I own in a few trash bags. I also took all my linens and the (thankfully) washable covers to the sofas to the local laundromat. Everything was washed on hot and dried until I thought it would light on fire. The fresh laundry was then packed inside contractor grade trash bags, twisted off, doubled over and secured with thick rubber bands. The goal is to keep the clean bug and egg free clothes in that state, so they need to be air tight.

2. Plugs & Caulking: The next step was to pull out beds and sofas away from the wall and add small childproof caps or plugs to our outlets and run a thin bead of clear silicone caulking around the baseboards where there is a small gap. Remember, bed bugs are as thin as a credit card, so seal it up!

3. 91% Rubbing Alcohol: We have a landlord who has proven to be clueless about exterminators of bed bugs, so while he gets his stuff together we've been trying to keep the creepy crawlies at bay. To do so we've picked up several bottles of rubbing alcohol. It kills live bugs on contact and it dries quickly from surfaces, so we're secure in spraying down our bed, frame, night stands, dressers and things of that sort. We're doing it daily and it seems like a small price to pay until the next round of bugs hatch.

4. Bag The Bed: We spent some rather big bucks on a bag for our mattresses and box springs at the local big box retailer. They run around $50 each for a queen size bed. They're a must and make you feel like a toddler on a plastic sheet, but it's worth it!

We're still working with the landlord to get a reputable exterminator in the door. So for now, that's what we're taking care of. Have you battled the bugs on a budget? Tell me what I should try in the comments below!

(Image: Flickr member Gilles San Martin licensed for use by Creative Commons)