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Sand in the Vaseline, yes; Vaseline on your bedbugs?

Posted: October 13th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

True, disgusting story ahead! When I was a kid, we used to remove ticks by putting a smear of Vaseline or clear nail polish over them while they were embedded in the skin, happily supping. They would almost immediately back out, and we would pick them off and flush ’em, secure in the knowledge that the nasty little heads weren’t left attached to skin. The theory was that the Vaseline or nail polish would suffocate them, giving them no choice but to try to get away. This is probably not recommended by health experts the world over for some reason, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Plus we lived in a nest of ticks.

So we were wondering if it’s possible that a layer of some sort of goop or unguent would play hell with bedbugs too. We may have entertained the idea of people sleeping in a thin coat of Vaseline, protecting and moisturizing. This could end up being a public service! We’re not the only ones with this idea, as there is no original thought left in the world, as per usual.

But, as with all open relationship and bedbug-related matters, it turns out the answer is “It’s Complicated.” Vaseline on the bed legs is a messy endeavor, and while it reportedly does work as a barrier, there is some controversy on isolating the bed, and this may actually prolong your ultimate bedbug infestation. The bedbugs will steer clear of the bed, but you are more likely to get bitten at other times throughout the day. While largely nocturnal bed lovers, bedbugs still never met a Barcalounger they didn’t like if the need to follow the food presents itself. So you avoid bites in bed, which is certainly a noble interest, as who likes being a captive audience, but the bedbugs are likely to disperse beyond the area nearest the bed, so you’re looking at treating a larger area.

Some people swear by traps for the legs of beds, like the Climbup Insect Interceptor Bed Bug Trap, and if you want to use those, it’s important to let the trap functioned as designed and actually trap the bugs. Think about it: would you rather the bedbugs die a hideous death in a little cup of mineral or tea tree oil in one of these traps, or just shrug and retreat to the TV room? If preventing bites is extremely important because of a severe bite allergy, then it might be possible to add the vaseline as a fall-back method on the bed frame if you think the critters are doing something besides marching up from the floor.

Frankly, the Vaseline does nothing to kill the bedbugs and seems exceptionally messy. Imagine trying to use that if you also have pets? If I were going to be spreading something around, I’d be more inclined to try diatomaceous earth, which actually destroys the exoskeletons of insects. There are a lot of different brands, and you can get it in an easy  Diatomaceous Earth Shaker

Weekly Bedbug Link Rodeo, 10/10/10

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Bedbugs or no bedbugs, what’s ‘sleep tight’ mean?, [The Journal Gazette]

In short: no one really knows. Does it have something to do with a system of ropes? Making bedbug barriers out of your duvet? Your dumb idea is as good as a guy’s. The OED says “It seems that tight in this expression is the equivalent of the only surviving use of the adverb tightly, meaning soundly, properly, well, effectively.” That’s tight, yo.

Smitherman vows to eradicate bedugs, [Toronto Sun]

Are bedbugs the next war on drugs/terror/cankles? A Toronto mayoral candidate is gearing up to kick ass and take names, if elected. About $3 million dollars in Canada money will be required to do this. There will be protocols, people. It’s about time.

EPA-Registered Bed Bug Products: Product Search Tool,  [via EPA.gov]

Hmm, a way to find just the right pesticide to murtilize all your bedbugs? That sounds great! Their treatment location options include Mattress, Whole House, Whole Room, or Crack/Surface/Void. Let’s say I’ve got a crack that needs treating. It’s a nasty one. I have no idea which product I’m interested in, so I’ll leave the first search box blank. Do I know a specific ingredient? Well, no, I’m just a sap with bedbugs. Am I looking for a company name? Monsanto, they’re pretty evil, right? Oh, not there. Hmmm. OK, do I know the EPA registration number of my pesticide of choice? Well, no.  Fire it up anyway. Wow, only 32 pages of results to treat my crack problem!

Bedbugs make your trigger finger itch? [via WaPo]

A list of products and speculation on their varying levels of importance/efficacy from an entomologist. “Pillow protectors: Unnecessary. Bed bugs typically don’t chill out in pillows, where there are too many disturbances for their taste.” Picks include mattress covers, Ziploc bags, ClimbUp bed leg monitors, and portable heating units, among others.

Bed bugs expected in more schools [via WCSH6.com]

Some lucky, or unlucky, depending on your age and maturity level, kids in Maine got a few days off as pest control professionals treated their classrooms and busses after some students developed bite marks. Search dogs and heat treatment techniques were used. Bedbugs cropping up in schools will be an ongoing problem, and families will need to be vigilant to avoid a home infestation brought back from school. Schools need comprehensive plans for inspections and prevention and treatment. I wonder if faking bedbugs will be the next hot way to get sent home from school for the day? In my day, all we ever had was stomach cramps!

Iowa you one, Real Landlord of Genius

Posted: October 4th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Hot bedbugs in Sioux City!  Sioux City landlord Scott Mann claims that for $200 per room, he will bake your bedbugs at 140 degrees.

Bedbug ground zero was an abandoned apartment Mr. Mann called “the mother of all infested places.” His new heater system raised the temperatures to a deadly 140 degrees, high enough to kill bedbugs (anything over 120 degrees is thought to do the trick) but not to damage home furnishings.

Apparently this did the trick. After 4 hours, dead bedbugs littered the apartment. Imagine being the guy with the push broom cleaning that up. Do they crunch when you step on them? What does one do with bedbug corpses? Viking funeral? Do they make fertilizer? A nice addition to pet food? We don’t want to know, for once. What if one of the bedbugs was just faking, as you might find in your finer horror films? Bedbug commandeers garbage truck; rams blood mobile.

Heat treatment may be a desirable alternative to chemical pesticides, as pesticide application often fails to penetrate all areas of an apartment. Bedbugs are notorious for hiding in the tiniest nooks and crannies. There are also potential environmental and health concerns with any pesticide use, although some people swear by professional extermination.

Heat treatment of an entire apartment or home is often logistically difficult, so it will be interesting to see if Mr. Mann’s methods are feasible on a larger scale.  People mistakenly think that cranking up their apartment’s thermostat will do the job, but this is simply not accurate. The maximum high temperature on a typical thermostat is only about 90 degrees. At this writing, no one has done any studies on wearing all your clothes at once in a sauna, although this site’s writers wouldn’t shy away if someone gave us a grant.

Heat is often used in small, controlled environments to treat personal belongings like mattresses and furniture. The average household dryer is capable of reaching temps high enough to treat clothing.  A product for the home market, the Packtite, heats up a sealed chamber, allowing easy treatment of suitcases and other small personal items.

On a commercial scale, welcome the Insect Inferno, a portable trailer that will raise its inside temperature to appropriate but non-damaging levels. Apparently, it takes less than an hour to decontaminate a king size mattress. Paying for heat decontamination seems like a blessing compared to discarding all your worldly creepy-crawly goods. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of various extermination methods in more depth in the coming weeks. If you’ve used heat to beat your own bedbug problem, leave us a comment!

Thanks MTA!

Posted: October 3rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , | 3 Comments »

Do you live in a city where increased subway fares are commensurate with a decrease in services?  If your monthly pass will soon cost more than a hundred dollars, but every ride includes 15 minutes sitting in the tunnels between stations, or you frequently find yourself hunting for lengthy, alternate routes home at night because your usual line is not running, at least your MTA card is good for one thing- FINDING BEDBUGS!:

As soon as you arrive any new place you’re staying, Missy Henriksen, spokeswoman for the National Pest Management Association, suggests checking your bed and mattress for drops of dried (human) blood or (bug) excrement. Bedbugs — which are brown and about the size of lentils — love cracks and crevices so check mattress seams and joints and cracks in the bedframe..

Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, an urban entomologist with the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program at Cornell University, says the ideal tool is a transit fare card — a metro card in New York or Washington, a BART card in San Francisco, or any card thinner than a credit card. Just run it along the cracks and seams to reveal bugs.

Now you know.  And knowing is half the battle.

Diagnosis: Delicious – Are you being eaten up by bedbugs?

Posted: October 1st, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

A recent commenter on our post about healing bedbug bite scars brought up the difficulty in finding the true source of an insect bite. I asked her to send in a photo, and maybe some of our readers can weigh in on whether or not these look like bedbug bites.

S. B. writes in: “A couple of these, I am sure are mosquito bites.  I often get lots of them.  But these have lasted weirdly long.  The bite on the bottom left of the picture, below my left knee, is brand new.  It is a large red area with a yellowish center.  Like it was instantly kinda infecty.  That happened at work today.”

S.B., I understand the worry. Are they or aren’t they? Many workplaces are infested with bedbugs, including Google and Sirius Radio. It’s not anyone’s fault, exactly. The bedbugs stick out a figurative thumb and ride in on someone who is unlucky enough to have a home infestation, and then they will spread like carnies until systematically eliminated. It’s easy to experience anxiety. Just this morning, I woke up and found an itchy spot on my hip and immediately entertained thoughts of combing over my mattress with a magnifying glass and calling in sniffer beagles. The spot turned out to be a healing cut from a few weeks back. Oops. I am going to sue myself if I develop delusional parasitosis from this gig.

Bedbug bites are tough to distinguish from the bites of mosquitos, fleas, mites, and biting flies. However, they typically feed at night, in the pre-dawn hours, and you would likely see greater distribution over the body, including on the torso and arms. This WebMD slideshow on bedbug bites points out that the bites often occur in a haphazard line (Slide 5). Since the bugs shoot you up with a topical anesthesia when they bite, they often move from spot to spot without you even noticing. They might as well queue up for a tiny conga line: you won’t feel a thing at the time.

Other bite patterns may present, though. It depends on the individual situation to some degree. Another common pattern is known as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” or b-l-d. This refers to a cluster of 3 bites close together. You can find gallery after gallery of bedbug bite photos on Flickr, and you will notice they all look somewhat different. It’s tempting to agonize over the appearance of bites, but searching the environment is more productive. Even dermatologists and entomologists can have trouble determining the source of bites.

Given that your bites occurred during daylight and are confined to one area of the body with seemingly random distribution, I’d wager that those are not bedbug bites, or at least not the product of you bringing them in from home. Mosquitos are a possibility. Fleas go for the ankles and lower legs. The poor little creatures can’t jump much higher!  If you feel an actual sting/bite sensation, I’d be even more inclined to think of another insect besides bedbugs.

Of course you’ll want to check your chair, desk, other furniture, and your general work area for bedbug signs: shed casings, dead bedbugs, dark black or rusty spots (feces), or very rarely you might see a live bedbug. You should perform this same inspection in your own bedroom, paying special attention to mattress creases and cracks and crevices in headboards and night stands, including recessed holes for screws.

Are others in your office also suffering from bites? It’s worth reporting that you are being bitten to an office manager or building services just so they can keep track in the event that others have the same issue. It is certainly embarrassing to even entertain the speculation, but if more people are forthcoming, workplace situations might be sooner taken in hand.

So pending the finding of actual bedbug signs besides bites, I’m going to guess you are in the clear, but you should maintain diligence with inspecting your surroundings. If you find nothing but are still concerned, there are commercial bedbug detector products on the market, which we will be discussing soon. What think you, gentle readers?

How to Prepare for Extermination

Posted: September 30th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

1.  Confirm that you have bedbugs. The f@#$ers are biting.  Have an exterminator come to inspect before you do any crazy cleaning or vacuuming, to make it easier for them to find evidence of your problem.  After all, it could be fleas or mites, or a raging case of paranoia that has you scratching.  In the case of bedbugs, you will be tempted to flee to your sweetheart/friend/parent’s basement, but keep in mind that you run the risk of taking your unwanted guests with you.  And no one wants that.  Gird your loins to stand your ground and fight the good fight in your own insect flophouse.  Once you have been inspected by an exterminator, and even your fortune cookie reads “sorry, you have bedbugs”, then you can prepare your apartment for the treatment.  The exterminator should provide you with very specific instructions. At this point you should begin treating your clothes and bedding.

2. Treating the bedding. Remove all bedding from mattresses, gather all linens, and clothing from your living area. This includes all textile materials that are machine washable – pillows, mattress covers, anything – and those that must be dry cleaned. Even fabric that is in storage should be collected. Wash bedding and any clothing/fabrics that may have come in contact with bedbugs in hot water, and dry in the dryer if possible. Wash all other linens and fabrics as directed.  After washing, place items in storage bins or bags, such as Ziploc Big Bags (Large, XL, XXL) or clear contractor bags. Seal to prevent bugs from entering and hiding in the clean fabrics.  Maintain your belongings in their sealed compartments until you feel it is safe to unpack them, wait at least a month until after there have been no signs of bedbugs.  Take out very little at a time to prevent having to repeat the whole process, if you need further treatment.  Do not start bagging up all of your stuff, without washing and drying first, unless you plan on storing them, sealed, for more than 18 months, as that is how long it will take to kill any bedbugs sealed inside. Empty out any plague areas closets in rooms where bugs have been found, or closets in which fabrics, linens, towels, etc. have been stored, so that the exterminator can get to these areas.  If you live in New York City, this will not be a problem, since you don’t have any closets.

3. Clear the area. Vacuum floors and carpets, in particular hard to reach areas where bedbugs are likely to hide. Steam cleaning rugs and couch cushions is also a good idea. Reposition your furniture and other belongings away from the walls and toward the center of the room so that the exterminator can treat the perimeters, and you can vacuum these areas as well.

4.  My stuff, my precious stuff. Bedbugs love wood almost as much as they love beds.  Empty wooden bookshelves, desks, dressers, etc., and remove the drawers. You may find them between the boards of your furniture, and even smaller items like picture frames.  Your exterminator can consult with you on whether items need to be disposed of or not.  Throwing away all of your furniture is a drastic and expensive step that may not prevent a recurrence.  It might be better to attempt to treat what you have. You can buy an encasement for your mattress that will trap bedbugs inside and prevent any re-infestation after treatment.  Put the encasement on the mattress after the exterminator is finished so that they may treat the mattress as well.  Anything that you do dispose of should have a scarlet B painted across it to prevent anyone else from taking it.

As an alternative to bagging and sealing items that can’t be washed, such as books and shoes and your collection of creepy doll heads, you might want to consider one of the new fangled devices on the market that comprise a container you can put non-washable belongings into, that will heat them over 120 degrees for a few hours.

Scarred for Life: Healing Embarrassing Bedbug Scars

Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

BedBug bites both arms (24 May 2009)

As if bedbug bites aren’t itchy and uncomfortable enough, they also serve as very public advertisements that you are suffering from an infestation. Although actually being infested says nothing about your health or hygiene status, people still don’t want to take any chances. You may find yourself a victim of social isolation, shunned by friends and romantic partners.

Definitely forget the romance. A recent highly unscientific but probably passably realistic poll stated “56% of responders would leave their date if they noticed bed bug bites on his/her skin.

“They’re just mosquito bites,” you say gamely. “I must have gotten eaten alive in the Catskills.” But people just aren’t having it. Even once you get rid of the bugs in your life, you may find yourself with lingering scars.

People have sued hotels over receiving scarring bites.

“According to DeRoche’s attorney, Steven Igou, the bedbug bites have left DeRoche with approximately 35 permanent scares, mostly on her legs and midsection. He says the scars and damage are so bad that DeRoche no longer wears shorts.”

The scars are a reminder of a very traumatic experience and can forever link you in some people’s minds to a nasty problem. You are even worse off if you work in a profession with emphasis on appearance, such as modeling, acting, magazines, sales, or, oh, hell, most everything you could possibly do. Our face is our fortune!

The catch-22 is that the best way to be free of scars is never to get bitten at all. See our advice about avoiding bedbugs in a hotel. You must keep your eye trained on potential threats, since they can pop up in offices, schools, and even on park benches.

Let’s say you get noshed on one night.  The initial bites may go unnoticed at first because the sneaky little buggers inject an anesthetic as they feed. But you will suffer a:

“localized allergic reaction to antigens/proteins that the bed bug releases into the skin. This is mediated through IgE antibody pathway, causing a wheal-flare response. The bites vary greatly between people, as there are differences in the immune status in individuals. The more bed bug bites you get through your life, the stronger the reaction/redness of the bite.”

That wheal-flare response accounts for the unsightly swelling and redness. That part about reactions getting stronger is bad news, and it underscores the importance of preventing or rapidly treating an infestation.

Audrey Kunin, M.D., points out that “Scratching can easily be complicated by a secondary bacterial infection, particularly in less than sanitary environments.” Cut nails short and frequently wash hands to prevent damage during scratching. Some people wear gloves to bed to avoid scratching unconsciously. Keep any open sores clean to avoid infection.

Most bites can be initially treated by:

  • Washing the area with soap & water, then applying ice
  • Internal itch relief products like Zyrtec
  • External relief products like Caladryl, Aveeno, and baking soda baths
  • Prescription medications in severe cases, including topical steroids and antihistamines, oral antihistamines, and very rarely, systemic steroids
  • See your doctor if you feel a bite is infected. Further treatment may be required

Properly cleaning and treating the bite’s itch is your best chance to prevent scarring. There are a number of natural bite treatments out there as well. While they may not reduce scarring that has already occurred, they may be able to prevent it by treating the bite so you don’t claw yourself to pieces.

If you have suffered scars already, your options include:

  • Scar treatment ointment or cream such as Mederma, which can be purchased at a drugstore
  • Vitamin E application can be helpful
  • Silicone scar treatment sheets, which can be purchased at a drugstore
  • Massage the scar with a circular motion several times a day to promote healing

In extreme cases, seeing a dermatologist may be in order. A dermatologist can supervise methods like

  • Skin bleaching
  • Chemical peels
  • Laser treatments

Obviously some of these methods are potentially painful and very costly. One scar-specific natural treatment involves applying a paste of turmeric and coconut oil to a cleaned area, then letting the paste sit for 8 hours.

Phew. I think I’ll just start wearing a full body suit. That looks comfy.

Disclaimer: always consult your own doctor as part of your health decision-making process. The authors of this site are not doctors, although they sometimes play one with the consent of an informed partner.

Hotel Illness: Bedbugs in Your Bag

Posted: September 23rd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Chris Robinson, best known as the illustrious hirsute poet of the 90’s and ex-husband to A-Rod’s girlfriend, sang the troubling lyric “This room smells like hotel illness/The scars I hide are now your business.”  How prescient, given the newfound horror of hotel rooms infested with bedbugs.

Frankly, the entire track listing for the album bearing this ditty is akin to a “Nostradamus Wuz Here: Bedbugs Ahoy” scrawl on an alley wall: “Sting Me,” “Remedy,” “Thorn in My Pride,” “Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye,” “Time Will Tell?”  Anyone who travels far and wide for pleasure or business, or even just books the occasional local room for whipping tired businessmen or stringing up truckers, needs to be vigilant to avoid her own bad luck. Time will indeed tell if you’ve brought back a little stowaway  in your valise. Worst case scenario depicted below:

What can we do to protect ourself and our extensive Vuitton collections when we travel?

Before you travel: check hotel reviews online if possible. Our go-to source is TripAdvisor.com. People are vocal about any negative situations, including bedbugs or other pest or cleanliness issues. Pack a flashlight for room inspection purposes. Pack gallon-size Ziploc bags and even a trash bag with twist tie, in the event that you need to quarantine any contaminated clothing or personal items prior to returning home. Double-sided tape may also come in handy.

1. Set your luggage and other belongings down on the luggage rack or on top of a dresser as soon as you enter the room, after giving those places a once-over, of course. Some folks favor the tub for containment.  Consider skipping the carpet-floored luggage carts you may find in larger hotels. Consider not letting the staff touch anything you own and perhaps screaming “Ahhh! Get away!” depending on the establishment you’ve chosen.

2. Immediately inspect the mattress, box spring, and bedding on the bed. Check behind the headboard and on the floor under the bed. You are looking for little, flat reddish-brown bugs. Think the size of an apple seed or smaller. Want pictures? Here, we warned you. You are also looking for any unusual reddish or black pinprick-sized spots or streaks, which are bedbug feces. The seams of the mattress are especially a good catching ground for these pests and their droppings.

You should apply your normal black light inspection to comforters, as bedbugs are only a part of your worries. Luminol optional. OK, just take the comforter off completely. It’s disgusting on many levels. You do travel with your own linens and power steamer, right? Kidding. Sort of.

3. Check the rest of the furniture and textiles in the room. Curtains, sofas, chairs, and carpets are also harboring places. This is where the flashlight may come in handy. Between the wall and carpet edge is a good place to check. Remove chair and couch cushions and pillows and really check the crevices for bedbugs or bedbug signs.

4. If you discover any signs of bedbug life on initial inspection or wake up with bites or an unfortunate later find, toss your stuff in a trash bag and get thee to the front desk. A good manager will move you to a new room or refund your money, no questions asked. If you feel the need, you can snap photos of the insect defects in the room and any bites or use your sticky tape to pick up any visible bug for evidence in the event of resistance.

If you meet with resistance on your first request, try to escalate by asking for a supervisor, a manager, even the owner. Mention you can dispute any charges via your credit card company and report your experience on numerous hotel review sites. Remain calm but firm and persistent. Note the name of everyone you must talk to in the process. If all that fails, get the hell out of there and dispute any amount billed to your card. Any evidence may come in handy.

5. While you are happily snuggled in the room, keep clothing and possessions off the floors and furniture when possible. Keep suitcases, purses, and laptop and camera bags zipped shut when not in use. For added peace of mind, keep those items sealed within a trash bag while in the room. Some people swear by putting sticky tape around the legs of the bed to trap anything attempting to climb, but bear in mind bugs may already be deep in the mattress and have been known to drop from the ceiling. Your best bet is vigilance in advance, in terms of reading reviews and your own inspections.

6. When you return home, thoroughly vacuum your suitcase and other bags, paying special attention to creases. Do not mix clothing with your regular laundry. Bag it up until it can be washed, or at least throw it in the dryer on medium-high heat for at least 10 minutes if it has already been laundered on your trip. If you can’t use the dryer on your suitcase, considering sunning it outside or leaving it in sub-freezing temps or a hot car for a few days.

Ahhhhh!!! What else can I do?

Check out this list of the 15 Most Bedbug Infested US Cities from CBS News, and keep that in mind as you make travel plans. Don’t avoid any particular area, just up your vigilance as needed. Realistically, the majority of hotel rooms you’ll visit will likely be bedbug free, but it never hurts to be vigilant, and the relative status or cleanliness of the hotel is not necessarily an indicator on its own without eyewitness reviews of actual infestation.

Yours truly encountered bedbugs in a hotel in Baltimore (shocking, right?) about 5 years ago before the problem was widely discussed, but I had no idea what the bites were until I read other reviews of the hotel later. I was storing my luggage on the rack and my clothes in the dresser, so perhaps this was the deciding factor in being lucky enough not to carry any of the little Paris Hiltons home with me. There but for the grace of Baltimore went I.

Does Anna Wintour have bedbugs?

Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: | | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Probably not, for even the littlest creatures of nature can be scolded out of existence or implode within her withering stare.  However, she meets the criteria of many a less formidable person: living in New York City, traveling, and being fond of clothes.  Bedbugs are a horror for anyone who has them, but they are particularly virulent for the clothes-horse.  When I hear of friends bagging up and having all of their clothes cleaned, I feel faint when considering the effort and price tag implied by my ponderous collection that struggles to be contained within two wardrobes, a large closet, and several dressers.

Bedbugs have hit the fashion world, having been found at many retail outlets including Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch (“fashion” does not always mean “good fashion”), Victoria’s Secret and Niketown.  Some, like Bergdorf Goodman, have employed bedbug sniffing beagles as a precaution and preventative measure.  After all, if you wait until you can see them to call the exterminator, then you really have a Problem.  Unlike most hotels, many shops are not doing this, as even the appearance of concern is enough to set tongues wagging, garnering negative press.  The plague house emblem on your door.  Retailers have been tight lipped about any strategies they may or may not have to protect their customers.

We recommend a healthy inspection along the seams of any garment you plan to buy.  Keep your new duds sealed in a bag in the freezer for several days or throw in the dryer (about 10-20 minutes set on medium to high heat ought to do it: you want at least 120°F) before integrating with the rest of your clothes. This goes for shoes and some bags too, and it should be reasonably safe for dry-clean only clothing items as long as they were not wet in the first place.  This is all especially important if you are shopping second-hand.  Avoid “dollar-a-pound” clothing dumps altogether.  It is a new era, and lord knows what could be crawling around in there.