Q. I think I know what you’re supposed to do when you check into a hotel to keep from getting bed bugs, checking the bed and all that. But I heard something about some steps you’re supposed to take when you get home to keep from bringing bed bugs into your house. Could you go over those please?
A. Sure can and you’re right. Too many people come home from travel not suspecting that they have brought bed bugs home. They bring their suitcases into the bedroom, unpack, and a few weeks later they are being bitten. It’s important to isolate your suitcases and belongings until you can check them thoroughly and take precautions. The degree of precautions that you should take depends on the likelihood that you could be bringing bed bugs home.
If you know or suspect that you have been staying in a place with bed bugs, you should take precautions even before you get home. Place your suitcases and any other items like garment bags, backpacks, tote bags, in large, heavy-duty plastic bags and tie them off, before you place them in your car (you can infest your car just as easily as your home). If you have more overnight stays before you get home, leave the suitcases in the plastic bags while you retrieve items and keep the bag sealed when not using your suitcase. If you’re flying, leave large plastic bags in your car parked at the airport, then bag your suitcases before you place them in the car for the ride home.
Once you get home, if you believe you have brought bed bugs home with you, call a pest control professional first. Leave the suitcases in the plastic bags in your garage. Avoid bringing them into your home. Do not open the bags, if you can avoid it, until you get the all clear from the pest control professional.
If you don’t have strong reason to believe that you have brought bed bugs home, take the following steps yourself:
- If possible unpack your luggage in the garage or basement. If inside, do not unpack in the bedroom; use an open space in another room. First, remove the plastic bag from the suitcase and discard it in an outside trashcan. Center the suitcase on a plastic tarp or bed sheet on the floor (not on the bed!) so that you can see any escaping bed bugs.
- Separate dryable items from non-dryable items. By “dryable,” we mean clothes or other items that can withstand a hot dryer (whether they have gone through the washer or not) because it’s the dry heat that kills bed bugs. Keep these clothes in a sealed plastic bag until you empty them into the machine. Don’t place them in a laundry hamper or mix them with other non-trip family laundry.
- Wash clothes at the hottest washer setting for a full cycle. Dry them on the hottest possible cycle for at least 30 minutes. Don’t skip the machine drying since this is the step that kills bed bugs.
- Clothes that have to be dry-cleaned should be sealed in a new, clean plastic bag until they can be taken to the dry cleaner. Non-clothing items such as shoes, electronics, and toiletries should be carefully inspected.
- Place the now empty (and inspected) suitcase in a new, clean, sealed plastic bag and store it away from the bedroom.
If you see a bed bug at any time during the unpacking and washing/drying process, stop the process, reseal everything in plastic bags, and call a pest control professional.