There’s nothing like the feeling of finally arriving at your hotel after a long day of travel, swiping the key card, and getting into your room. But before you sprawl out on the bed or unpack your suitcase, you might want to do a quick sweep of the room to check for unwanted guests. Yes, we’re talking about bedbugs.
But where, exactly, should you look for them? Is it enough to look at the sheets and hope for the best? Lifehacker spoke with two experts to find out where to spot bedbugs in hotel rooms, and what to do with your luggage in the meantime.
Where you should check for bedbugs
Regardless of how fancy your hotel or motel is, you’re going to want to check your room for bedbugs. “When booking a trip, travellers should know that any hotel is at risk for a bed bug infestation, no matter the price or star rating,” Dr. Michael Bentley, an entomologist and director of training and education for the National Pest Management Association tells Lifehacker.
According to Bentley, there is a checklist of things travellers should do before settling into a hotel room. The first thing to do is to pull back the bed sheets to inspect the mattress seams and box springs, specifically at the corners, for ink-like stains, shed bed bug skins, bed bug eggs or even the insects themselves, he explains.
Next, thoroughly inspect the entire room for similar evidence, paying special attention to areas behind headboards and picture frames and inside dressers, Bentley adds. Mark Beavers, managing director of technical services for Orkin recommends looking along seams and around button holes of couches and chairs, noting that bedbugs love cracks and crevices in parts of the room where people spend a lot of time. Also, if you spot clusters of brown or black spots, it may be bedbugs’ dried excrement on infested surfaces, he tells Lifehacker.
If you suspect that your room is infested, you should notify management and request an immediate room change, Bentley explains. But you’re not in the clear just yet: make sure to check your new room, too. “Bed bugs can move and spread via housekeeping carts and even through wall sockets, so ensure the new room is not next to, above or below the suspected infestation,” he says.
Where you should store your luggage and clothing
First things first: you’re going to need to stash your luggage somewhere while you check for bedbugs. According to Beavers and Bentley, head to the bathroom, because it’s less likely to be infested with bedbugs.
“Tubs aren’t just for showering—they can also be the perfect place to put your suitcase while you inspect the room for bed bugs and other pests,” Beavers explains. “You should also leave it in there at night to avoid bed bugs as it’s the safest place in the hotel room.”
Once you’ve checked the room, it’s time to unpack. But where’s the safest spot for your travel wardrobe?
Avoid placing their luggage on upholstered surfaces and the bed, because bedbugs are typically found on mattresses, box springs, and in the crevices of furniture and inside upholstery, Bentley explains.
A luggage rack would also be better than the bed or a chair, but only after it has been thoroughly inspected for bed bugs. “Avoid using racks with hollow legs, since bed bugs can hide within the legs,” Bentley says. For added protection, you can place your suitcases in plastic trash bags during the duration of the trip—just make sure to tie the plastic bag when luggage is not in use to prevent bedbugs from getting in, he adds.
What to do if bedbugs get on your clothing
If bedbugs manage to get into your stuff, Beavers suggests taking immediate action. One option is to place the clothes that you believe are infested into plastic bags, and seal them until they’re ready to be placed in the wash. Then, once you’ve loaded the laundry, seal the bag you used in another bag and throw it in the trash.
You’re going to want to wash and dry your clothes on the highest possible temperature setting, Beavers says. “Washing will kill many of the bed bugs but it is the heat of the drying that will kill any that remain,” he explains. “For drying, run the dryer for at least 30 minutes. The longer clothes sit in a hamper or suitcase, the more time bed bugs have to spread out.”
Ideally it won’t come to that, though, and it’s much easier to do a bedbug check before getting settled in, so go with that strategy first.