Q And Answer: Bed Bugs And Vintage Clothing

October 24, 2010

Q and Answer: Bed Bugs and Vintage Clothing

Zachary asks:  I live in New York, and you may have heard we’re having a bit of a bed bug infestation. This has prevented me from buying any sort of vintage clothing. Is there a simple treatment you can give clothing to ensure it doesn’t contain the critters (or any live ones at least)? I’ve heard steam works, and I’ve got a steamer.

Killing bed bugs in clothes is pretty straight-forward.  If the item is washable, wash it.  Be sure to leave it in the dryer for about ten minutes after it’s pretty much dry.  This will kill both bed bugs and their eggs.  They will die even at non-crazy temperatures – they croak at about 120 degrees – and that temperature isn’t harmful to most clothes.  You can even just throw clothes in the drier for ten minutes or so, and that’ll take care of the bad little critters if they happen to be present.

If your clothes are dry clean only, and you don’t want to dry them, then have them dry cleaned.  This will take care of both bugs and eggs.  (In researching this, I read that “environmentally friendly” non-PERC dry cleaning may be less effective, but was unable to confirm that assertion.  Using a traditional dry cleaner makes sense to me.)

You’re right that the pros use a type of dry steamer – but this is essentially a heat gun, and your best bet to match that at home is the drier.

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