Bed bugs are a major hazard of city living, and can be extremely difficult to eradicate from a multi-family dwelling, as they can easily travel from person to person, bag to bag, article of clothing to article of clothing. Fumigating your home to eliminate bed bugs is a task that deals with serious toxins and the actual fumigation itself should be left to the professionals.
However, there are preparations and post-fumigation activities that homeowners and/or renters need to know in order to ensure that the fumigation is successful and all bed bugs are eliminated from their home.
Preparing For Fumigation
- Learn about what is going to happen. Whether the bed bug fumigation involves a multi-unit building (such as an apartment building, condominium, dormitory, etc.), or a single-family home, the adults living in the building need to be educated on what the fumigation will entail, and what needs to happen in order to make it successful. For a multi-unit building, have meetings for residents to go over what they need to do to prepare for fumigation, what the fumigation will entail, and whether they will need to do anything following the fumigation to ensure its success, as well as to ask any questions they might have. Similarly, adults in a single-family home should make sure they are clear on what they are responsible for in regards to the fumigation process, and to get any questions for the exterminators out of the way.
- Make a short packing list. Write a very brief list of items to take with you during the fumigation. This list should consist only of the bare essentials; bed bugs are "hitchhikers" that spread by jumping from one person's clothing, bags, etc. to another's. If in a multi-unit residence, these lists should be checked and compared with luggage taken by residents on their way out.
- Pack items to be taken during the fumigation in clear, plastic containers. Do not use luggage or bags in the units to be fumigated, as these items could be infested with bed bugs. Instead, pack items in clear, plastic containers that have been thoroughly cleaned and checked for bugs and eggs before leaving the building.
- Check residents on their way out. Exterminators should check residents' bags and packing lists for any visible bed bugs or eggs, and to make sure residents aren't bringing too much with them or taking items that were not previously on their packing lists.
- Wash all packed items ASAP: Once out of the building, wash all the clothing and other fabric items in hot water and dry the items in high heat. Repeat this process before returning to the residence post-fumigation.
The Fumigation Process
- Seal off and fumigate the building: Fumigating for bed bugs requires an enormous amount of chemical gas (often Vikane) that is usually used on termites, though experts estimate that fumigators should use three times the Vikane they use on termites to get rid of bed bugs. The plus side of Vikane is that it does not smell or stain, so fumigation can be a fairly painless process. However, Vikane can only be handled by a professional exterminator, so fumigating with it can be expensive, and exterminators will also have to seal the entire building structure before starting the fumigation process, which is time-consuming.
- Distribute residual pesticides: After fumigation, experts from the Bugs In My Bed website recommend a room-by-room process during which the fumigation team will distribute residual pesticides to take care of any bed bugs that might find a way to re-enter the building once residents return. This post-fumigation pesticide stage should be meticulous, and therefore can be quite expensive.
- Test the air in the building: After the fumigation, the exterminator will need to air out the building and then test the interior air to make sure that any dangerous levels of gas have been aired out of the building. Only after the exterminator has given the okay can residents return to their homes. The entire process can last weeks, depending on how many fumigations are necessary and how long the residual pesticide distribution takes.
Please note that mattresses completely covered with plastic cases cannot be fumigated, and so should either be removed from the residence prior to fumigation or replaced entirely.