09/15/2010 03:12 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Bed Bug Etiquette

Remember, "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite?" It's no secret; a lot of people aren't sleeping tight because bed bugs are biting. Once blamed on the poor, bed bugs have become an equal opportunity annoyance of big proportion and expense.

This is not the time to be secretive, classicist and dishonest. We three close friends who've had bed bugs and we're proud to say, they handled it honestly, i.e., beautifully despite the great expense, inconvenience and angst.

Here's what you have to do:

  • As soon as you're sure that you have bed bugs, you must alert your building's management office, coop and condo board and definitely your neighbors (One friend's neighbors were miffed that he brought up such an unpleasant subject and made snide remarks as if they were his problem solely, he also learned that neighbors had had an insect problem and brought in their own exterminator. Obviously not a good one, our friend went through two battles of the bugs.) Sometimes management will absorb some of the costs because they're responsible especially when they've kept it a secret for fear of lowering property values or rental possibilities.
  • This is not the time to be thrifty. It's important to get a professional on the case; this could mean visits from the bed bug dog before and after treatment. Puppy love of this sort could cost a few hundred. Make sure he/she is the real thing.
  • Alert people who have been recent guests. If you've been invited to someone's house for a dinner or weekend, let them know. Find a way to make them feel comfortable by declining the invitation before they have to rescind it. "I don't think it's a good idea that I visit you at this time. When I'm sure the problem has been solved, I'll let you know and we can reschedule." Don't make it their problem.
  • Dry cleaning and hot air apparently can kill the bugs, but you have to let your dry cleaner know, they may not want to handle infested clothing for fear of passing it on to other customers. When clothes do come back keep them in tightly closed plastic bags.
  • A professional exterminator will provide a special steamer like canvas trunk for you to literally cook your clothes and items such as briefcases.
  • Refrain from giving friends vintage items if you're not sure they were properly cleaned. If you're a thrift shop shopper, carefully inspect all items before you leave the store and still whisk them off to a dry cleaner.

Do the right thing and the bed bugs won't bite. We hope.