I Beat Bedbugs in Philly

Here, four tips from a survivor.

They are vile, blood-sucking parasites, proof that the Lord of the Underworld indeed exists. They are bedbugs, and Philadelphia is full of them; it was recently reported that we took New York’s title of bedbug capital of the country—not exactly a title worth bragging about. For those of you who have bedbugs, I know how miserable you are. I’ve been there. Three years ago, we had them, and they almost drove my wife and I off the edge.

The culprit was a wicker chair that we had picked up off the side of the road. Bedbug Rule #1: Do NOT grab wicker furniture off the side of the road. We had placed it in our backyard, and even though bedbugs typically like dark areas, they seemed to do just fine outdoors. They eventually made their way into our house, and made our lives a living hell.

Admitting this isn’t easy. It’s not only a disaster to get bedbugs, but it’s also damn embarrassing. It’s the not kind of thing you joke about at cocktail parties. It’s the kind of misery you keep to yourself, which makes it even more frustrating. I would have just kept it to myself, but we were able to beat those insidious creatures from hell, and I wanted to share a few things that worked for us, and some that didn’t.

Rule #2: Throw away your bed, then sleep on an air mattress until you know you’ve gotten rid of them. No point in buying a new bed if you don’t know they’re gone for good.  And no matter how much you love your old bed, it’s gotta go. In fact, the more furniture you can get rid of the better. Also, be prepared to throw away plenty of clothes. And if you have carpet for some reason, the carpeting all has to go. Yeah, it’s harsh, but trust me, these little bastards don’t go away easily. They’re like Penn kids with popped collars. You have to keep kicking their asses, or they’ll never leave.

Rule #3: Wash every article of clothing you own in hot water. We decided to make a day of it. We took every article of clothing we owned to the laundromat right down the street from a bar, and spent the whole day getting wasted while we washed all of our clothes. If anyone deserves to get trashed, it’s a couple of people who have been living with bedbugs.

Rule #4: Orkin is worth calling to confirm that you have bedbugs, but do not hire them to solve the problem. Orkin’s price for getting rid of bedbugs is absolutely insane. When an Orkin man came to our house, he quoted us $1,800. That is absurd. You can probably hire a smaller company to spray for around $500. I guess those white hardhats and tan khaki pants the Orkin guys wear cost the company a fortune.

Rule #5: Contact Honest Lou’s Exterminating. They turned us on to a chemical that costs $30, and they told us it was what most of the companies use anyway to get rid of bedbugs. If you do decide to use that spray, be forewarned: I think this stuff is what the Germans used at the Battle of Ypres. It is vile, nasty stuff. Get a high-quality respirator and goggles, wear long sleeves, keep all windows open, and throw away whatever clothes you wear on the day you spray. And spray every crack in the floor, ever picture on your wall, essentially every inch of your house. You’ve got to adopt the psyche of a crazed killer, and decide that no one escapes alive. We sprayed right before leaving town for a few days, so as to let the poison dissipate. This is straight-up poison. We don’t have kids. If we did I doubt we would have used it. It’s just that nasty. But it was effective, and we finally eliminated the problem.

I’ve already come up with a game plan to deal with bedbugs if they infect my house again: I’m jumping off the Franklin. I simply can’t go through it a second time.

If you’ve got bedbugs, there is no good news. You are in for a brutal summer. But if you follow these rules, hire a professional that isn’t trying to rip you off, and drink the pain away, it can be bearable, and beatable.