Dear Readers: Bedbugs — the tiny, biting, reddish insects — feed on people and animals while they sleep. They can live several months without a blood meal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are not known to transmit disease, but they can cause itching, and when bites are scratched secondary infections can occur. The minute that you see these invaders, you need to act. Take these three steps right away.

1. Search the affected areas closely to see where they are coming in and where they are in the room. Then clean, disinfect and get rid of them. Closely examine your bed and bedroom. Wash linens, bedding, curtains and clothing in the hottest water safe for the fabric and dry at a high temperature.

2. Vacuum everything — the bed area, floors, carpets, baseboards, furniture and bed frame. These nasty insects hide and nest in the tiniest places, such as seams, tufts and folds or in piles of clutter in the bedroom. To flush them out, point a hair dryer set on hot toward the area where you have seen them. Then you can kill them.

3. If the infestation is overwhelming, call a professional to get rid of them. Your mattress should be steam-cleaned, or you might have to throw it out. And pesticides might have to be used for total bedbug removal.

4. To prevent this problem, get rid of the clutter in your bedroom and elsewhere, so they won’t have a place to hide and thrive.

Dear Heloise: Regarding the letter about keeping copies of credit cards, etc., safe, I took photos of both sides of my driver's license, credit/debit cards and passport. Then I discovered that photos on your phone are not safe, and that if you are keeping them on your phone, they should be in a secure folder. (A simple Internet search will tell you how to do that on your phone.) It's also a good idea to have paper copies filed somewhere in case your phone is lost or stolen.

— Cheryl Benson, via email

Cheryl Benson: Keeping our documents safe is important. Thanks for this information.

Dear Readers: When you bring vegetables or fruits home from the supermarket, it’s best to eat them within a couple of days. But if you can’t, here’s how to keep them as fresh as possible. Store them properly in the refrigerator. Place veggies in the fridge in perforated plastic bags. Use the crisper drawers to keep them moist. Adjust the humidity controls in the drawer. Store fruits and veggies separately. Potatoes, onions and tomatoes shouldn’t be kept in the fridge.

Dear Readers: Plastic baby toys need to be sanitized often, depending on use. As we know, they most likely will end up in your baby’s mouth, so you want them to be clean. Here’s how:

First, wash plastic toys in hot, soapy water. Then allow them to soak in a mixture of ¼ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water for about 5 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and air-dry.

But don’t use the solution on toys that have metal parts, because the bleach may cause them to corrode.

Dear Readers: Our clay pots might have become bleached out and look white and awful. This might be because of hard water, lime or calcium. You can clean them up to make them look better. Here’s how. First, scrub the clay with a plastic brush and white vinegar. Then wipe off the pot with water and dry. Wipe the pot with a light coat of mineral oil.

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or email it to

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