24 August 2011

Don't let the bedbugs bite

So while we’re on the topic of Chicago again – as I mentioned packing for it yesterday – maybe I should tell you a little story about bedbugs.

Yes. Bedbugs.

Even if you live in a rural area, you have probably heard that there is a bedbug crisis in New York City and other major cities. It’s been discussed everywhere from major news outlets to social media and even This American Life. So I admit it crossed my mind a few times as we planned our trip to Chicago, like when I had a moment of poor judgment and googled to discover that Chicago is the fifth-most infested city in the US.

And it continued to cross my mind the entire time we were there, understandably so because FIFTH-MOST INFESTED OH EM GEE. Mr. P and I stayed in a hotel that seemed nice enough – older, but clean – and then the conference was held in the Hyatt downtown which you know is nice. But bedbugs are like lice – it’s not like only the unwashed masses get them. You can be the most well-groomed, well-laundered traveler and then BOOM BEDBUGS. Thinking about that during the entire trip would send me into scratching fits over my psychosomatic bed bug welts while obsessively checking the bed for apple-seed-shaped invaders.

The “bites” I got while we traveled were, in fact, psychosomatic. The two bites on my arm that mysteriously appeared overnight, a few days after we returned to our own house? Those were real. And itchy.

The operators of the Paranoia Machine in my brain whispered, “Bedbugs! Bedbugs! You have bedbugs! Don't think about anything else except how you have bedbugs!” But the rational side of me patted them on the head and told them to shuddup already. Yeah, they were bites, but now we were at our own house. I didn’t say anything to Mr. P because just acknowledging the potential existence of bedbugs seemed imprudent.

A few days later? Three new bites across my back.


Step 1: Research

The undeniable proof (in my eyes) that we had a bedbug infestation appeared on a Saturday, fortunately, which meant I could obsessively research for a few hours before heading to work. In those hours I learned that our best course of action was to wash and dry all our bed linens in high heat, vacuum all around our bed including the mattress, keep the area around the bed clean, and then repeat those steps over and over for months. Perhaps unsurprisingly, because I am a shelter blog junkie, a lot of this information came from YHL.

Step 2: Pick a fight with husband

He was not freaking out OR researching enough to my satisfaction, apparently.

Step 3: Launder & replace linens

With Mr. P sufficiently angered into action thanks to my freakout, we stripped the bed and laundered everything we could: sheets, pillowcases, pillows, mattress pad, duvet cover, and duvet. It took three loads and approximately eighteen years to dry.

I also used this opportunity to deal with a secret shame of mine. See, I sleep on my side with my arm underneath my pillow. And the wear and tear of shoving my arm up under the pillow every night for five years caused this to happen:

I’d considered sewing it up because the crappy economy is making me feel all thrifty and Depression-era and “waste not, want not”, but thanks to the bedbugs I had absolutely no qualms about dealing with the pillowcase thusly:

Not that I had new pillowcases yet. So, I slept with one random black king-size pillowcase I own for some reason and one pillowcase-less pillow until I was able to buy replacements. That’s right. Check out how stylish our bed was:

That’s right, you guys! Home décor blog win!

Step 4: Vacuum

We hadn’t really cleaned the house since we returned, so a good vacuuming was in order anyway. You guys, I vacuumed the shiznit out of our bedroom. I moved all the furniture around. I used the attachment to vacuum back in corners. I vacuumed under the bed. I vacuumed the mattress (top and bottom). I vacuumed the walls. And the whole time I saw nary a bedbug, which just made me vacuum even more because WHERE ARE YOU HIDING?

Step 5: Declutter

My nightstand is a mess, I admit it. I straighten Mr. P’s from time to time because his is visible from the doorway, but mine isn’t and it has years of accumulated books and magazines and music. Gosh, all the dirty secrets are coming out in this post, aren’t they?

Well, I didn’t have time to totally declutter the nightstand, so instead I put some things away, vacuumed it, and moved it a foot away. And then I pulled the bed six inches away from the wall. And then trained my eye not to focus on the old landline outlet I'd just exposed.

I stopped short of vaselining the bed legs, but believe me, I came close.

So! Did the de-bedbugification work?

Well. Kinda. I mean, we had no more bites, so yes!

But also... um... I am not that sure we ever had bedbugs. In retrospect I think the bites may have actually come from these guys, which like to hang out in our house:

Creepy up close, but teensy in real life (that's the edge of two white shower tiles, for perspective). I've never been bitten by them, but then we don't usually let them take over the house like they could have while we were gone. Their homes and lives were likely destroyed in the massive vacuuming rampage, and that might be why I was bite-free.

Who knows what caused the bites, or if the freakout was necessary, or if the cleaning is even the reason that I wasn’t bitten anymore. And I feel especially silly for picking the fight with Mr. P. But. BUT! The important thing? No bedbugs, you guys! And that is something to be thankful for no matter what.

And now let’s talk about something else because... I’m getting a little... itchy... dang it, where’s the vacuum?


Rachel C said...

I love this post! And, it's funny because just yesterday I read John's bedbug post on YHL. And now, thanks to reading two bedbug blogs, I am feeling itchy and will probably go home and do a massive vacuum cleaning of my own. :)

Tina said...

did you empty the vacuum cleaner and get it out of the house? otherwise those dang pesky imaginary bedbugs are still lurking in your house... bwa-ha-ha-ha

Mechelle said...

OMgosh Sarah...I watched a stupid show on them...that will really freak you out. I laughed all the way through your post, only because it would be the same thing I would do and have thought. One little itchy spot and it's evident...your infested ;) Sleep tight...