How To Get Rid Of Bed Bugs From Travel Bags

Bed Bugs Are Attracted to Your Dirty Clothes, New Study Finds

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With the holidays fast approaching, you might find yourself frantically Googling “how to get rid of bed bugs in luggage,” after discovering you’ve brought home a colony of bed bugs. According to a new study, there’s a way you can reduce the chance a group of these blood-sucking pests hitches a ride in your suitcase.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Sheffield in England looked at whether or not leaving your dirty clothes out at a hotel had any effect on the spread of bed bugs. They created two simulations: One room contained clean clothes while the second contained dirty, soiled clothes. The researchers also pumped extra carbon dioxide into one room with clean clothes and one room with dirty clothes to simulate human breathing.

What they found was that in the absence of a human — in this case, the rooms without the added carbon dioxide — bed bugs were twice as likely to collect on the dirty laundry pile. When researchers added carbon dioxide to the room, bed bugs were more likely to leave their hiding spots and begin host-seeking behaviors.

So how can you prevent bed bugs from latching onto your dirty clothes and coming home with you? William Hentley, PhD, one of the lead researchers, writes that there’s a pretty simple solution: “Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations.”

You know those space-saving vacuum packs people use for their clothes? Maybe it’s time to stock up before you leave the state to see the family for Thanksgiving. The holidays are a stressful time, and you don’t want to be dealing with bed bugs if you have family staying with you.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Luggage

Let’s say you read this article after you got home, and you, unluckily, caught a case of bed bugs. How do you get rid of bed bugs in your luggage? Here’s your step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Empty our your suitcase.

If you haven’t already, you need to empty the contents of your luggage and place them in sealed bags until you can wash and or sanitize them. Your clothes will need to be washed at a high temperature — at least 120 degrees — to ensure that the bed bugs die.

Step 2: Take your luggage outside and thoroughly vacuum it.

With a stiff brush, you’re going to want to give your suitcase a good scrub to loosen up any dead bed bugs or bed bug eggs that may be clinging to the lining. Once you’ve done that, you need to vacuum the entire thing

Step 3: Mist it with a bed bug spray.

You can find these sprays at stores like Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and the like. If you are worried about the pesticide smell lingering, you can rent or purchase a steamer and steam the entire suitcase two or three times to ensure that you get all the bed bugs.

Step 4: Vacuum the suitcase again.

Now that you’ve killed and shaken loose all the bed bugs and egg clusters, you want to vacuum the entire thing again. Once you’re done, remove the vacuum bag and discard it, making sure the garbage bag that its in is knotted tightly so that no bugs can escape.

Step 5: Let your suitcase bake for a little while.

Now that the hard part is done, leave your suitcase out in the sun for a little bit. If you check back and notice that there are still bed bugs, you will have to repeat the process. If you’ve tried multiple times to clean your luggage and nothing has worked, you might want to consider biting the bullet and getting a new suitcase.

How to Get Rid of Bedbugs in Luggage

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Bedbugs occasionally stowaway in luggage. (Photo: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images )

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If you’ve stayed in a hotel, motel or other type of lodging that experienced a bedbug infestation during your stay, it’s possible your luggage is now infested. Unlike clothing and other washables, you can’t throw your luggage into the dryer to get rid of them. Before you call an exterminator or give up and buy new luggage, save some money and get rid of the bedbugs yourself.

Items you will need

  • Garbage bags
  • Stiff scrub brush
  • Pesticide
  • Vacuum
  • Steam cleaner

Step 1

Empty your luggage and place the contents in plastic bags; seal them until you can wash them. All clothing should be washed in hot water and dried at high temperatures, at least 120 degrees, to ensure that all the bedbugs die.

Step 2

Take the luggage outside and scrub every nook and cranny with a stiff scrub brush. This will dislodge any egg clusters and dead bedbugs. Vacuum the luggage thoroughly.

Step 3

Purchase a pesticide specially formulated for bedbugs — pyrethroid chemicals, such as pyrethrin, permethrin and phenothrin are the most common active ingredients found in pesticides for bedbugs. Spray the luggage thoroughly to kill off any remaining bedbugs. Alternatively, you can rent a steam cleaner and clean the luggage two or three times to kill the bedbugs if you are concerned about the pesticide smell lingering.

Step 4

Vacuum the luggage again to suck up the dead bedbugs, then discard the vacuum bag immediately. Wrap the vacuum bag in garbage bags and tie tight knots to make sure the bedbugs can’t escape.

Step 5

Leave the luggage to dry in the sun. Inspect it thoroughly for bedbugs. If any are still lingering, steam clean the luggage again. Repeat the process until you are certain that no bedbugs remain.

  • If you are experiencing extreme hot or cold weather, you have a natural solution to your problem. Place the luggage in garbage bags, then set it outside if it is below freezing. Alternatively, if your car’s trunk gets up to 120 degrees while sitting in the sun, you can place the sealed luggage inside it to kill the bedbugs. Leave the luggage in either condition overnight to ensure that all the bedbugs die. Vacuum the luggage the following day.


Leaf Group is a USA TODAY content partner providing general travel information. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.



About the Author

Jarrett Melendez is a journalist, playwright and novelist who has been writing for more than seven years. His first published work was a play titled, "Oh, Grow Up!" which he wrote and performed with a group of his classmates in 2002.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs: A DIY Guide

Bed bugs have been pestering humanity for thousands of years, but in the 1950s they finally met their match: the pesticide DDT. Then DDT was banned, but for most of the 40 years since, bed bugs have not been a major problem. Now, however, these blood-sucking vermin are back with a vengeance. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, unlike mosquitoes and ticks, bed bugs don’t spread disease, and there are practical steps you can take to prevent an infestation. And if you do get bed bugs, you can get rid of them yourself. We’ll show you what to look for, how do you get rid of bed bugs if you find them, and how to keep them out!

What Do Bed Bugs Look Like

A fully fed adult bed bug is about the size and shape of an apple seed. An unfed bed bug is more round and flat like a tick. Newly hatched bed bugs are the size of a poppy seed and are golden in color. Their eggs look like small grains of white rice, about 1 mm in length (sorry for all the food references).

If you find what you think might be a bed bug, take it to the entomology department of the nearest university or to a pest control company for official identification.

What Does a Bed Bug Bite Look Like?

Bed bugs love fast food. They like to feed and then scurry back to their hiding places. They try to avoid crawling all over their food for fear of waking it/us. They usually bite the bare skin they find closest to the mattress. That’s why it’s common to see two or three bite marks in a line along the skin that was in contact with the mattress or pillow. When this happens it’s time to learn how to get rid of bug beds fast.

Everyone reacts differently to a bed bug bite. Some will develop small itchy bumps like mosquito bites; others will suffer from large, puffy red lesions the size of a quarter. A lucky few will have no reaction at all. Other signs of bed bugs are bloodstains on your sheets, pillows and blankets. Are you scratching yet?

How to Check for Bed Bugs

Bed bugs don’t like being jostled, so they avoid hanging out in your hair or clothes, but they do like to stay close to their food source, namely you. The mattress is the first place you should inspect if you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of bed bugs fast. Bed bugs love to hang out in cracks and crevices. They can fit into any gap the thickness of a business card. One of their favorite spots is the piping along the edge of a mattress. Look for the bugs themselves, their dark droppings, your dried blood, eggs and gold-colored shells that have been left behind after molting.

Perform a quick inspection of the upper piping every time you change your sheets. Make a more thorough examination by folding the piping over and closely inspecting both sides all the way around, top and bottom. Do this a couple times a year or every time you flip or rotate your mattress. If you spot any signs, keep reading to learn how to get rid of bed bugs.

Bed Bugs in a Mattress: Isolate the Bed

What’s the best way to get rid of bed bugs? Stop feeding them. To prevent those unwanted dinner guests, isolate your mattress from the rest of the room. Start by pulling the bed away from the wall and away from other furniture like nightstands and chairs. Remove box spring skirting that hangs down to the floor. Oversize blankets that drape to the floor can also act as a ladder for the little buggers.

Finally, place all the legs into insect interceptors like these made by ClimbUp. They allow bugs to climb into the outer pitfall area, but the slick plastic coated with talcum powder keeps them from climbing out or reaching the center well and climbing up your bed frame leg.

Bed Bugs in a Mattress: Bag Your Mattress

Once you’ve vacuumed and chemically treated your mattress and box spring, enclose them in encasement bags. If the bed bugs found a way inside the mattress, the odds are that the spray chemicals did not kill them. Encasement bags have special zippers that trap the bed bugs and prevent them from escaping. Keep these bags on for at least a year because a fully fed bed bug can live more than 10 months between meals.

If the idea of sleeping on a tiny bed bug cemetery is too much to bear, the only alternative is to toss the mattress and box spring and buy new ones. Just be sure to wrap up the infested one before hauling it through your house, and don’t buy a used mattress!

How to Clean Bed Bugs

Now that all the stuff is out of the bedroom, it’s time to treat the room itself. The first step is to vacuum every surface in the room, the baseboards, all the furniture, the mattress, box spring, bed frame, everything. Use a small wand to get into all the corners and crevices.

When you finish, throw out the vacuum bag to avoid spreading the bugs. If you use a shop vacuum or bagless vacuum, dump the contents you’ve collected into a bag, tie it up, and throw it out. And treat the filter and the inside of the canister with contact spray insecticide. Flat surfaces like walls and dresser tops can be wiped with alcohol. Wipe a small inconspicuous area first to see if the alcohol will damage the paint or finish.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Clothes and Bedding

The first thing to do after confirming an infestation is to bag up all your clothes, towels, bedding and curtains in plastic bags. Tie tight knots to seal the bags and keep them tied until they reach the washing machine. Wash with hot water and dry thoroughly. Temperatures over 120 degrees F will kill bed bugs and any eggs they’ve left behind.

Store clean clothes in another room until you’ve finished treating the infested room. If you plan to take laundry to a professional cleaner or public laundry, treat it chemically first to avoid spreading the bugs.

5 Ways to Kill Bed Bugs in Your Home

Hiring a pro to wipe out bed bugs isn’t cheap. Expect to pay about $200 per room to kill bed bugs, and you’ll likely need a few chemical treatments in order to eradicate bed bugs. Professional heat treatments will cost even more. And even if you hire a pro, you’ll still have to do lots of work yourself (moving furniture, washing all clothes, etc.). So consider declaring a DIY war on bed bugs. If you’re willing to spend $100 to $200 and do things right, your chances of success are excellent.

When working with chemicals, always read the directions. You should be able to stay in the room during the treatment process. Room treatments entail thorough cleaning and applying chemicals. The process needs to be repeated three times, two weeks apart.

1. Create a Kill Chamber

OK, you’ve dealt with your room, clothes and bedding—now it’s time to deal with your stuff. Everything in the bedroom needs to be treated: every book, shoe, lamp, photo, power strip, alarm clock, magazine, every knickknack and bric-a-brac…everything! If you don’t treat it, bag it, tie it up and throw it out.

Flat surfaces can be wiped with alcohol or sprayed with a bed bug—killing contact pesticide, but all items that have a small nook or cranny where bed bugs could hide (which is most stuff) need to be treated with penetrating fumes. Build yourself a kill chamber out of a large storage bin. Tape a pesticide strip to the side or lid of the bin, and seal your stuff inside for a couple days or however long the manufacturer recommends. Seal the lid of the bin with duct tape.

You can treat all your belongings by reusing the same bins; just make sure to keep your other stuff that’s waiting to be treated bagged up in the meantime. Always wear gloves when handling pesticides and be sure to follow all safety instructions. The pesticide strips shown here are Nuvan ProStrips.

2. Bed Bug Sprays

Spray insecticide on all the areas where you’ve seen signs of the bugs or the bugs themselves. And spray all the areas where they’re likely to hide, like the furniture near the bed, the entire bed itself and the perimeter of the walls near the baseboard.

Most sprays are contact killers, which means they kill only the bugs and eggs they touch directly, so there’s no reason to spray all the walls, ceiling and the entire floor. Spray pesticides are available online and at home centers and hardware and discount stores. Many brands kill other insects, like fleas and roaches, as well.

3. Bed Bug Traps

Traps aren’t an effective way to wipe out a bed bug infestation, but they’re an excellent way to determine whether you have them. Set traps in areas where they may hide or travel, like near baseboard trim or under nightstands. If they aren’t living in your mattress or other parts of your bed, that means they need to travel up the legs of the bed frame to get to you, so place traps there as well.

If you confirm you have bed bugs in one bedroom of the house, one of the ways to get rid of bed bugs is you’ll have to treat that entire room, but you won’t necessarily need to treat the entire house. Set up traps to monitor other bedrooms and living areas to make sure they stay bug free. These Hot Shot traps are available at The Home Depot.

4. Spreading a Residual Powder

It’s not likely that you’ll kill all the bed bugs with a bed bug spray. That’s where a residual powder insecticide comes into play. It kills any bugs that wander through the powder. Some powders can kill bugs for many years if left undisturbed. Skip the open areas and spray the powder in those places where you think they’ll be traveling to and from, like near bed legs and under baseboard trim.

If at all possible, pull up the carpet where it meets the wall and puff powder around the whole perimeter of the room. Inside outlet boxes is a great place to use powders because sprays and electricity don’t mix. Bellow dusters work great for spreading residual insecticide powder. An old makeup brush is a good tool to spread the dust around on hard surfaces. Bed bug powders are available the same places you’ll find the spray pesticides.

5. Use Heat Instead of Chemicals

Insecticides are an effective way to eradicate bed bugs, but not the only way. If you or someone in your house is highly sensitive to chemicals, or you’re just not crazy about the idea of spraying chemicals where you sleep, kill the little blood suckers with heat. Temperatures above 120 degrees F kill all stages of bed bugs. Steamers can be used to treat all the same areas where you would have sprayed contact killers. Steamers like the one shown at (top) cost about $150 and are good for many other projects like removing wallpaper, cleaning tile, removing labels, cleaning engine parts and removing wrinkles from fabric.

Heat chambers like this one (bottom) can be used to heat personal belongings and kill any hidden bed bugs without chemicals. They come in various sizes, and prices start at less than $200. In the summer, you could let Mother Nature do the dirty work. Bag up your belongings and set them on the driveway. On a day when the temp tops 95 degrees, a bag placed in the sun should easily reach 120 degrees F inside.

Bottom photo: ZAPPBUG

Whole House Heat Treatment

Professional heat treatment is one of the least invasive ways to get rid of bed bugs. Large heaters are used to heat entire rooms up to more than 120 degrees F for a few hours. Unfortunately, these large heaters are expensive, and whole-house treatments can cost thousands of dollars.

Bed Bugs and House Guests

Telling Aunt Harriet not to come for Christmas is probably not going to work (though it might be worth a shot), but you can still boss your kids around. Send your kids off to college with the information they need to inspect for bed bugs in their dorm room. And include as a parting gift a package of a few detection traps.

Instruct those returning scholars to bag up their mountains of dirty laundry and leave the bags in the garage until transporting them directly to the washing machine. Wash clothes in hot water and dry thoroughly.

Bed Bugs in Apartments

Bed Bugs in the Hotel

Hotels are a common source of bed bugs, and even the best hotels can have infestations. Here’s how to avoid bringing them home:

  • Inspect mattresses when you arrive in your hotel room.
  • Ask for a new room if you find them.
  • Keep clothes and luggage off the bedspread and floor.
  • Hang up clothes and keep other clothes in your suitcase, not dresser drawers.
  • Keep suitcases in large bags tied off or in store-bought luggage bags.
  • Bag up daily items like shoes and wallets.
  • Bag up dirty clothes and transport them directly to the washing machine upon return.
  • Wash clothes in hot water and dry thoroughly.
  • Inspect luggage and store away from living/sleeping areas.
  • Wipe luggage down with alcohol or spray with insecticide if you find bed bugs.

How to Protect Your Luggage from Bed bugs While Travelling?

Bedbugs could just as well be called suitcase bugs, clothing bugs, or simply – nightmare bugs. They are natural born hitch-hikers, and they don’t mind a thousand mile trip back home with you.

They’ve terrorized travellers for years, infesting hotels, air planes and trains. If you’ve had the misfortune to come across an infestation on your trip, there’s a chance you got bed bugs in your suitcase, backpack and clothes.

Check also:

Table of Contents

How to check for bed bugs in luggage

To inspect whether your baggage has been contaminated with bed bugs first:

  • Choose a place with a non-carpeted surface.
  • Wipe the floor with a wet cloth. These two simple tips will ensure that bed bugs escaping the luggage will have a hard time finding a hiding spot.
  • Look for signs of bed bugs: young bed bugs (size: 1/16” [1.6 mm] ), adult bed bugs (size: 1/4″ to 3/8″ long [5-9 mm] ), cast skins, faecal spots.

How to get rid of bed bugs in luggage

The things you’ll need are plastic liner bags, a washing machine, a vacuum cleaner and a freezer. Unconventional, huh? Here’s what to do.

  • Put all clothes and washable belongingsinto plastic bags.
  • Seal and put them aside until ready to launder.
  • Set the washing machine to the highest temperaturesetting (mind the fabric).
  • To get rid of bed bugs, put what cannot be washed in a freezer at a minimum of-5°C for no less than 5 days. If you have an opportunity, you can also heat these items to 45°C for the same effect.
  • After the washing and temperature treatments,vacuum clean your belongingsincluding all clothes, bag and suitcase. A thorough vacuum cleaning will remove all dead or remaining bed bugs.
  • Remove the vacuum bag immediately, wrap it in another plastic liner bag and dispose of it.
  • Leave the luggage to dry in the sun.

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How to prevent bed bugs from getting in your luggage

It’s a bed bug’s natural instinct to find a hiding spot, away from light and intruders, such as cracks and crevices. That’s why your luggage in a hotel or on a train may provide ideal conditions for these pests. Show us a happy bed bug and we’ll show you a desperate traveler!

As a response to the pest’s merciless invasion, travelers have invented quite a few myths on how to avoid and get rid of them. Time to tell fact from fiction!

  1. Bed bugs can’t get into hardshell suitcases! Not true – bed bugs will find their way into zippers and seams of any bag or suitcase.
  2. Sleeping bag liners prevent bed bug infestations! Nope, they don’t play a role at all.
  3. High-class hotels don’t have bed bug infestations! The class of the hotel doesn’t matter, what matters is how the owners treat the bed bug issue.
  1. Packing your clothes in plastic bags inside your luggage stops the bed bug infestation from spreading! Yes, it’s a relatively good preventative measure.
  2. You can also get bed bug on your clothes if you place it in hotel drawers and wooden hangers! Unfortunately, yes.
  3. Spreading diatomaceous earth inside your suitcase will repel bed bugs! Yes, it plays a role.

You can check if your hotel has been reported for bed bugs in the Bed Bug Registry, yet it is a misconception that bed bugs only frequent unhygienic places.

Image source: kwanchai.c/

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Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.

Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.

Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.

Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.

Where Bed Bugs Hide

Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.

Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.

Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.

When Bedbugs Bite

Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.

Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.

People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.


Signs of Infestation

If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:

  • Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
  • Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
  • Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
  • An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands

If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.

Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.

If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.

Bedbug Treatments

Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:

  • Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
  • Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
  • Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
  • Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
  • Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
  • Get rid of clutter around the bed.

If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.


Bedbug Extermination

While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.

Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.


University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: "Bed Bugs."

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: "Bed Bugs."

The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: "Stop Bed Bugs Safely."

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: "Managing Bed Bugs."

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