The phrase spring break has an attractive and inviting sound. In just about anyone’s mind, it automatically coincides with the time throughout the months of March and April that means time off from studying, warmth, waves, and increased travel for college students, families, and educators across the United States. After the long awaited break from the gloom of an extremely long and cold winter, we can bet hardly anyone is thinking or imagining the possibility of being exposed to horrid bed bugs.
Traveling, especially overseas, automatically increases your chance to bed bug exposure as they take residence in hotels and may cling to your clothes or hide in luggage. While bed bugs should not prevent people from traveling, it is important to be aware of the bed bug issue as their populations have exploded over the years. The safest approach is always preventative maintenance and inspection upon arrival to your accommodation. A few minutes of inspecting the accommodation can be valuable in recognizing any issues (before they become your issue!), preventing painful itchy bits, and transporting the bed bugs into your home.
The following are 10 tips for bed bugs before settling your hotel or rental home for the week…
- Check the reviews… If your plans include a hotel stay or any rental that includes reviews, such as Airbnb or VBRO, check for recent reviews for bed bug complaints by previous guests. Consider looking up hotel accommodations in the Bed Bug Registry as well. The Bed Bug Registry is an online site where hotel guests can report bed bug infestations. Look for patterns in complaints, date of complaints and whether or not actual bed bugs were reported versus bites. Since the guest reports and hotel responses are not verified, understand the limitations of the information posted.
- Stash your luggage… After checking in at your selected hotel, the first order of business should be to check for bed bugs in your room. Immediately after entering the room store your luggage away from the bed. Hint — While it is a good idea to keep your luggage on a luggage rack vs the floor, storing luggage in the bathroom in the middle of the tile floor or even in the bathtub is actually your safest bet. Ceramic surfaces are too smooth and slick for bed bugs to climb and crawl on!
- Check the mattress… At the very minimum, at least check the mattress. Before you even think of laying your head down, perform a preliminary check of the mattress, bedding, and headboard. If possible, consider lifting the headboard off the wall to check behind it. A good flashlight can be helpful when inspecting for these pests. Check under the sheets, the bed skirt, in the mattress seams, and the box spring. Some signs pointing to bed bugs would be live insects, shed bed bug skins, peppery fecal spots, and rust color stains.
- Inspect behind furniture… If you want to be extra safe, don’t stop at the mattress. Despite their name, bed bugs will congregate in more places than just a bed. They may also conceal themselves in sofas, wood furniture, behind picture frames, baseboards, and even behind wallpaper. Use a small flashlight to do a quick visual inspection of these items throughout your accommodation.
- Change rooms immediately… If bed bugs or any signs of them are found, ask to be moved to another room. Preferably also avoid rooms adjacent or directly above or below your first room as bed bugs can easily travel by housekeeping carts or even through wall sockets. If an infestation is spreading, it typically does so in the rooms closest to the origin. If you find bed bugs or signs of them in your second assigned room, ask for a refund and to be moved to another hotel.
- Avoid the dresser… Even if no bed bugs are found during your initial look over, it is a good idea not to move clothes into dresser drawers. As bed bugs can easily scale wood surfaces, moving your clothes will only increase your chance of being infested with bed bugs.
- Bag up clothes… Protect everything inside your suitcase with Ziploc bags. Keep dirty clothes in sealed bags so they can be easily transported and cleaned immediately once you arrive home. In addition, items that cannot be washed, such as electronics, books, and toiletries, should be kept as concealed as possible.
- Inspect your suitcase… Upon returning from your trip, consider keeping your suitcase in a garage until it can be emptied and thoroughly inspected. Take the time to inspect all suitcases for signs of bed bugs, such as live bugs or eggs, before bringing bags into your house.
- High heat cycle… Unpacking your luggage right away and loading clothes directly into the dryer for a precautionary heat treatment is the safest way to avoid bringing those hitchhiking bed bugs into your home. The high heat of a clothes dryer is effective at killing bed bugs in all life stages from egg to adult. Bed bugs cannot survive the heat of a dryer for a minimum of 20 minutes on the highest heat setting. If you wash the clothes first (we suggest just throwing all clothes straight into the dryer though!) then be sure to keep the clothing in the washer for an additional 20 minutes past the clothes being completely dry.
- If all else fails… If, in spite of your best efforts, you do return home and have a bed bug infestation appear in your home, call a professional pest control company to treat and perform follow-up inspections until you are bed bug free. Bed bugs are elusive and cannot be controlled effectively with DIY methods. Black Diamond, however, can develop a treatment and control strategy to rid you of a bed bug infestation!