How To Not Bring Bed Bugs Home From Hotel
Bedbugs: How to Avoid Bringing Them Home from Your Vacation
Make sure these blood-sucking stowaways stay out of your luggage
You’ve heard the saying: “Don’t let the bedbugs bite!” These days, with bedbug infestations rampant even in the nicer hotels, that’s easier said than done.
Bedbugs suck blood by night, leaving itchy, red welts behind on your skin and hiding in hard-to-see lairs by day. The flat, six-legged pests just about vanished in the 1940s and 50s with the use of heavy-duty insecticides like DDT, University of Kentucky bug experts report. ButCimex lectularius is roaring back across America, showing up in homes, apartments and hotels.
Want to enjoy your vacation bite-free and take home only the souvenirs you want in your luggage? Follow these tips when you travel.
Pack for protection. Bring a large plastic trash bag or two and store your suitcase in it to keep bedbugs out. Some experts even recommend bringing sealable plastic bags or containers to hold your clothing if you plan to store it in bureau drawers, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Also pack a small flashlight, which you’ll need for bedbug inspection. And print out the EPA’s handy, wallet-size bedbug ID card to help you recognize the critters.
Inspect your room.Don’t unpack immediately. Leave all of your luggage and outerwear in the bathroom (the tub’s the least likely place for bedbugs). Use the flashlight you packed to help you spot signs of bedbugs in their favorite, poorly lit hiding places. Here’s where to look:
- Pull back the bedding, including the mattress cover. Examine the seams, folds and crevices of the mattress and box spring for bugs, tiny and nearly translucent nymphs (baby bugs) and blackish-red excrement, University of Kentucky insect experts suggest.
- Remove all the pillowcases and check the pillows, especially the seams.
- Look behind and under the headboard. The headboard may be attached to a hanger on the wall. You can remove it by lifting it up.
Check the nightstand, behind framed pictures and the undersides of upholstered chairs and sofas. Look over the bureau and luggage rack, too. “Bedbugs maybe found on the luggage rack if they have come in on other travelers’ luggage,” notes the University of Minnesota in a release about bedbugs.
If you find any signs of bedbugs, call the front desk to alert them and ask to be moved to a room far from your current one, advise the University of Minnesota experts.
Store your belongings safely.Once you’re satisfied your room is bedbug-free, cut your risk for bringing home a stray by keeping your suitcase on the luggage rack and as far from the bed as possible. Don’t leave clothes, purses, computers or computer bags on upholstered furniture. Keep all bags closed when not in use. “Hyper-vigilant travelers may further opt to keep belongings in sealed plastic pouches and their suitcase in a zippered tote…each traveler must decide how cautious they wish to be,” note University of Kentucky entomologists.
Look before you repack.Before you pack your belongings to leave, double-check your bags and clothes for signs of bedbugs.
Kill ’em off at home.Bedbugs die at temperatures over 120 degrees F, so unpack dirty clothing directly into your washing machine, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests.Then be sure to put them in the dryer. “A loosely filled dryer set on “high” is capable of killing all bedbug life-stages and their eggs in 30 minutes. A dryer with a removable shelf is excellent for killing bedbugs on items that cannot be tumbled, like leather shoes [and] handbags,” notes Virginia Tech bug expert Dini M. Miller, PhD, in a Virginia Extension Service article.
Store your suitcases away from living areas. The basement and garage are good spots. If you think your bag has bugs, put it into a plastic bag and leave it in a hot car outdoors on a sunny day, Miller suggests in a publication from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Or, if you travel a lot, consider springing for a portable heating device designed to heat-treat luggage.
Sari Harrar is an award-winning health, medicine and science journalist whose work appears in Dr. Oz The Good Life magazine, Good Housekeeping, O–Oprah Magazine, Organic Gardening and other publications.
5 Tips to Avoid Bringing Home Bed Bugs From Your Hotel Stay
For the frequent hotel guest, the bed-bug scenario has taken on nightmare proportions: Tiny, roach-looking parasites lying in wait, biting you sleepless and welted and then, as if that weren’t enough, crawling en masse into your bag to infest your very home with some of the most notoriously difficult-to-eradicate pests you could find, were you to look.
The whole thing is a little surreal. Many of us only realized that bed bugs weren’t fictional in the last decade or so, when the incidence increased and these parasites made the news. Practically overnight, "Don’t let the bed bugs bite" went from harmless (if strange) goodnight rhyme to an actual warning.
So, it’s real, and it ain’t pretty. But you have tools at your disposal that can reduce your bed-bug risk. They’ll add some time to your travel process, but they may just end up saving you from the time-consuming, anxiety-triggering, financially draining horror of bringing them home with you from your trip.
The anti-bed-bug strategy starts there, at home, before the hotel is in view. It begins with the luggage you’ll be taking on your trip .
4 Ways to Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home from Vacation
An insect expert shares exactly what to do when you go away to ensure a stress-free (and pest-free) return home.
A little legwork before you lounge on the bed can keep your family safe.
When you finally take a well-deserved trip, the last thing you want to concern yourself is bed bugs. But even the finest hotels can have them. The hitchhiking pests travel to new places by way of both humans and their belongings. When they find a new home, they look for places to hide, such as mattresses, headboards, couches and chairs, where they’ll have access to a blood meal undisturbed. While bed bugs can be found in other public places such as libraries, public transportation, movie theaters, retail stores, professional office and schools, they are most notoriously encountered at hotels, and taken home with you after your stay. What can you do?
1. Put your luggage in a smart spot.When you arrive at your hotel, place your luggage on non-upholstered furniture away from the bed, such as on a desk. If you use a luggage rack, inspect it for bed bugs before plopping your suitcase down. Adult bed bugs are visible to the human eye and approximately 1/4-inch-long by 1/8-inch-wide and are typically brown or reddish-brown in color. Imagine them to be about the size of an apple seed. However, bed bug eggs are very challenging to spot with the naked eye as they can be as tiny as 1/32-inch.
2. Do a thorough inspection. After your belongings are settled, pull back the corners of the bedding and check the mattress and box spring for bed bugs or signs of bed bugs. Bed bugs will molt and shed their skin before each new life stage. Often you can find these pieces of shed skin, apple-seed size or smaller, tan to off-white in color and resembling the insects, but hollow, lying around areas of infestation such as in creases in the mattress. Bed bugs also leave fecal deposits after they consume their blood meal. You can spot these small dots that appear like black marker touching fabric, such as a mattress cover. Make sure to pay special attention to seams, where bed bugs like to hide.
3. Check your skin each morning during your vacation. Be mindful of any unexplained bites or welts that seem to appear overnight. Even with a watchful eye, bed bugs can be sneaky.
4. When you return home, treat your suitcase as if you already have bed bugs. Due to the high number of potential hiding places for bed bugs on a suitcase, take precautions as if bed bugs have hitched a ride home with you. Don’t put your suitcase on your bed, couch or other furniture to unpack. If you can swing it, remove the contents from the suitcase in an area such as your laundry room, kitchen, garage or foyer. Once unpacked, store your suitcase in a non-living space, if possible, such as an attic, basement or garage. If the suitcase must be stored under a bed or in a bedroom closet, then place it in a large trash bag first and tie the bag shut. When you pack for your next family vacation, bring the items you need to pack to the suitcase, rather than bringing the suitcase into the bedroom or on top of your bed. An easy way to do this is to put your clothes, toiletries, and other items into a laundry basket and carry them to your suitcase. Remember that bed bugs can live for several months or even up to a year without feeding, so keep the suitcase stored in the garbage bag if you use it once a year or more often than that.
How to Avoid Bringing Home Bedbugs
Expert exterminator tips for keeping the menaces at bay.
Dear CityLab: I stayed in a hotel and got bitten up by bedbugs. How do I avoid a full-blown infestation when I get home?
Yikes! If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone in your scratching. Two very disgruntled NYC tourists recently posted a gristly video to YouTube. (Gothamistcalled it “theBlair Witch Projectof bedbug videos.”) The chronicle showed how the couple’s arms and torsos had become a veritable feast for a horde of hungry bedbugs in a Manhattan hotel on Central Park West.
“It looked like black mud was jammed into the seam of the bed,” one of the guests explained to theNew York Daily News. His descriptions only got more colorful: “They looked like they could hurt horses. It was a colony, a breeding ground.”
After those retch-inducing quotes—not to mention your own itchy welts—you may be tempted to collapse into a heap on the floor and pick at your scabs while you weep. That’s fair. Even though bedbugs don’t carry transmittable diseases, they make us go a little crazy. Brooke Borel, author ofInfested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, explained it to me this way: The fact that the bugs nibble on us while we sleep dismantles the comforting idea that “our bedrooms are our sanctuaries." It makes us feel under siege in a place we want to associate with tranquility.
Try to keep it together long enough to take these steps to prevent the problem from getting worse. Here’s what you need to know next time you travel.
Before you reserve a hotel:
Try to figure out if your prospective hotel has had trouble with bedbugs in the past. The Bed Bug Registry has collected thousands of reports from across North America and the U.K. Many cities maintain their own records of complaints, too. And then there’s Yelp. Chances are good that if someone left a hotel scratching, they took to the Internet to pen an enraged account of it. But pay attention to the date stamp; a years-old review won’t necessarily tell you much about the current state of things.
Once you get there:
First, ferry your luggage directly into the bathroom. Don Clark, owner of Alleycat Exterminating in Brooklyn, says that the cold tile makes it a place where bedbugs are unlikely to hang out.
Then, launch an investigation into the nooks and crannies around the bed. (Clark recommends Bed Bug TV for a short tutorial.) Yes, the inspection is tedious, but bedbug infestations are quite common and cut across locations and socio-economic markers: you can get chomped on whether you’re in a hovel or luxe digs. (“I get about three panicked voicemails around 11 p.m. each night,” Clark says.) In 2015, 99.6 percent of pest-control specialists battled bed bug infestations, according to a survey conducted by the University of Kentucky and the National Pest Management Association. Most cases were sniffed out in apartments or condos, followed by single-family homes and hotels.
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Throughout your stay, keep your luggage off of the floor—“bedbugs like to crawl around on the floor and walls,” Clark says. And keep your dirty clothes separate from your clean ones by putting them in a plastic bag. (Don’t toss them on a fabric armchair, either—bedbugs love those.)
When you get home:
The first thing to do is dump your laundry straight from your bag into the washing machine or dryer (a 20-minute heat cycle should do the trick).
Then, to kill anything that may have hitched a ride, Clark suggests placing your luggage into a garbage bag with a Nuvan pest strip and letting it work for three days. You can also spritz your luggage with a spray designed to kill any bugs that may have sneaked in. Heat chambers are a slightly larger investment, but “let it cook, and that will kill everything,” Clark says. (He uses a ZappBug model.)
Try not to freak out, Clark adds. “It is just a bug, at the end of the day.”
About the Author
Jessica Leigh Hester
Jessica Leigh Hester is a former senior associate editor at CityLab, covering environment and culture. Her work also appears in theNew Yorker, The Atlantic,New York Times,Modern Farmer,Village Voice,Slate,BBC, NPR, and other outlets.
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Preventing a Bed Bug Infestation When You Return Home From Traveling
Bed bug infestations continue to increase every year, and this can pose a stressful problem if your home becomes infected. Bed bug bites can cause rashes, itchiness, and possible severe allergic reactions depending on how your body reacts to a bite. Unfortunately, humans can not feel a bed bug biting them, so you can be resting peacefully, but wake up covered in rashes!
It is very common for bed bugs to invade your home after they latch onto your luggage while you are on vacation. Here is a step-by-step guide to make sure you do not take bed bugs home when you return from travelling!
Inspect Hotel Room for Bed Bugs
- Always place your luggage bag on a rack with steel legs in your hotel room. Steel is too slick for bed bugs to climb.
- Temporarily remove the sheets from the bed and inspect the piping on the mattress for bed bugs and insects.
- After you have inspected the mattress, inspect the bed’s headboard and the nightstands.
With these steps, you can prevent bringing home bedbugs from vacation.
Preventing Bed Bugs When You Return Home
In case you may have not seen bed bugs in your hotel room, here is another process to make sure there are none on your luggage when you do return home. Remember,never unpack your bags in a bed room or living room of any kind.
- Take your luggage bags with everything inside of it into your garage. If you do not have a garage, take it into the kitchen or an outside parking lot.
- Take all of the clothing you took for travelling, including the clothes you are wearing once you get home, and place it all inside a plastic bag.
- Take the bag directly to the washer and wash all clothes, even if they were unused. If the clothing travelled,WASH IT. Use the highest temperature water and drier setting that you can use without ruining your clothing.
- Go back to your empty suitcase and vacuum it both inside and out to remove bed bugs.
- Dispose the vacuum bag in a trash can that isoutside. If the vacuum is bagless, dump the contents of the vacuum in a trash canoutside.
- For further precautions, put alcohol on a cotton ball, and rub the cotton ball on narrow crevices of your luggage that your vacuum could not go in between.
For anything you can’t wash (ex. shoes), place it in a bag and leave the bag in a garage or out in the sun for a minimum of one day in order to kill the bed bugs. High temperatures kill bed bugs. If you can’t find a high temperature location to place the bag, carefully inspect the items for bed bugs before you place them in your home.
Never place luggage or clothes on your bed.
For a visual demonstration, here is a video: