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Fry, bed bugs, fry! Why this infrared thermometer gun is your best new laundry friend

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One of the first things people with bed bugs are instructed to do is launder everything they possibly can at the hottest possible temperature. And that has brought the city’s war on bed bugs from the bedroom down to the laundry room--and laundromat.

Some simple precautions can prevent cross-contamination, but only if your machines get hot enough to destroy live bugs and their even tougher eggs.  Dryers need to be able to bring the core of your belongings to 140 degrees for at least 30 minutes, according to BrickUnderground's pest management guru, Gil Bloom.

Unfortunately, not every dryer is currently primed to pump out that kind of heat...hence the utility of the infrared thermometer gun (pictured), which enables you to take your dryer's temp. Just open the door after the machine has been running for a few minutes, point and shoot.  (Note: Most dryers that fail the test can get a temperature boost from a pro, says Bloom, an entomologist who is also the president of Standard Pest Management in Queens.)

Bloom's crew uses the thermometer gun pictured here, the sturdy Mastercool MSC52224A Infrared Thermometer ($48 on Amazon). But he suggests that the slimmer Kintrex IRT0401 Compact Waterproof Infrared Thermometer ($21 on Amazon) may be a better  choice “for the urbanite on the go who may also feel the need to be discreet."

(As Bloom helpfully points out, you can use your new gadget to check the temp of almost anything, like radiators and bottles of wine.)

We're not the only ones turning our paranoia on the laundry room.  At a City Council hearing last week, the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs began exploring ways to limit cross-contamination at laundromats and dry cleaners.

“Some laundromats are working on and with protocols, and some aren’t,” says Bloom, who attended and testified at the hearing.

Recommended ‘protocols’ might include switching from canvas carts to metal baskets, limiting overnight storage of items in some facilities, and implementing isolation practices.

As far as dry cleaners, says Bloom, the chemicals in traditional dry cleaning have been proven to kill bed bugs when used properly. No study has been done or published about the effectiveness of newer ‘green’ solvents.

Cross-contamination-wise, the danger point at a dry cleaner occurs when infested clothes are brought into the facility.

“If the dry cleaner throws all clothes together in a canvas bin, a stray bed bug could possibly crawl out, say onto outgoing clothing,” says Bloom. “If they put the clothes in a separate, sealed bag, that’s a better system. Even if the bag isn’t completely sealed, the bed bugs don’t say ‘Oh my God, we’re in a bag, let’s get out of here.’ They’re comfortable, it’s a dark place to hang out, and the clothes are usually cleaned within the day.”

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