If you like traveling, chances are that you’ll have to deal with bed bugs at some point. Especially, if you stay in cheaper hostels, hotels, and AirBnb’s.
Once you get them, there’s no need to throw all of your clothes out, because you can get rid of them fairly easy. You’ve even got a few choices to choose from – they can be killed with pesticides, steam, or hot/cold temperatures.
But getting rid of them is a must. If any of them escape to your house and start spreading, the problem will become much worse. You’ll have to call an insect brigade to deal with the epidemic, and not only will your house be filled with toxic chemicals, but you’ll also get a hefty bill.
That’s why in this article we’ll teach you how to get rid of bed bugs in luggage in six easy-to-follow steps.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Luggage
Step 1: Put Your Clothes in Sealed Plastic Bags
If you’re on a vacation and you just noticed that you’ve got bed bugs, the first thing you should do is isolate the problem to stop them from spreading. First of all, go to hotel management, let them know about the problem, and ask for a different room. Before switching rooms, try to shake off and remove most of the bed bugs from your luggage, clothes, and other items. Next, you should go to a local convenience store and get a few plastic bags and tape. Garbage bags will do just fine. Put all of your clothes inside the plastic bags, seal off the ends with tape, and place everything back in your suitcase. If you still have a few days of vacation left, separate your clean clothes from used ones, and try to keep your luggage on a shelf or inside a closet for the rest of your trip. The best option would be to put all of your items inside the plastic bags and buy new, fresh clothes for the rest of your trip.
Step 2: When You Come Home, Keep Your Suitcase in a Safe Place
When you finally arrive home, keep your suitcase in an isolated place, like on the porch, in a shed, or somewhere outside of your house. It’s also a good idea to take off all of your current clothes, put them straight inside the washing machine, and take a shower, to avoid getting any bed bugs inside your home.
Step 3: Start by Treating Your Clothes
First, you should get rid of all the bed bugs from your clothes. That’s fairly easy to do if you have a washing machine and a dryer. Open your plastic bags, place all of your clothes inside the washer, and get rid of the plastic bags by taking them to the dumpster outside of your house. Wash in the hottest possible temperature. This will kill most bed bugs, but not all. Next, dry your clothes in a medium or hot cycle for 20-30 minutes. This will be enough to kill off all the remaining bed bugs as well as all the eggs.
Step 4: Vacuum Your Suitcase Throughout
Once you’ve cleaned all of your clothes, some bed bugs and eggs will still remain in your luggage. To get rid of them, vacuum your suitcase throughout. Use the tiny adapter to get to all of the pockets and crevices, especially around the zippers.
Step 5: Get Rid of All the Remaining Bed Bugs
Vacuuming isn’t enough, because there’s still some bed bugs and their eggs left inside all the crevices that are harder to get to. You can kill them off with an insect pesticide or hot/cold treatments. If you’re fine with using pesticides, spray the whole suitcase with an aerosol spray meant for killing bed bugs and wait a few minutes for it to work. You can find these in most convenience stores.
If, however, you’d like to use something more natural, you could kill them off with hot/cold treatments. If it’s summer, and you have a greenhouse or a car that gets above 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, you could wrap your suitcase in a large plastic bag, seal it off with tape, and let it sit for a few hours in hot temperatures, which would kill them off. And if you have a large enough freezer, you could place your infested suitcase inside. That said, it takes a while to kill them off with cold treatments. They start to die at 32 degrees Fahrenheit but take weeks to do so. At 0 degrees Fahrenheit, they’ll take four days to freeze to death.
Another popular treatment is killing bed bugs with steam. At around 160 degrees Fahrenheit hot steam, bed bugs die off instantly. Not all steamers heat this high, so you may need to rent a professional steamer to do the trick. Steaming your whole suitcase slowly and carefully until the surface gets damp, but not completely wet, will kill off all the hidden bed bugs and their eggs.
Step 6: Vacuum All the Dead Bed Bugs, and Do a Final Inspection
Finally, when you’ve killed all the remaining bed bugs, vacuum your suitcase one last time to clean off all the killed bed bugs and their eggs. After vacuuming, inspect the suitcase throughout to check if you’ve removed everything. Once you’ve finished, make sure to get rid of the vacuum bag by throwing it in the dumpster outside of your house.
How to Protect Your Luggage from Bed Bugs in the Future
If you’re staying in budget accommodations, it may be a good idea to protect yourself from a potential bed bug infestation. You can do that by following a few guidelines.
Use Plastic Covers for Luggage
Usually, I keep a spare garbage bag inside my suitcase if I know I’ll be staying in budget accommodations. When I arrive, I take everything I need out of the suitcase and place it inside the large garbage bag, which ensures that no bed bugs will get inside. You can also find dedicated luggage covers for avoiding bedbugs, but I still haven’t found a good one, so I’m using regular garbage bags instead.
Keep Your Suitcase off the Ground
Bed bugs are most commonly found on the flood and in beds (Hence the name bed bugs.) So it’s a good idea to keep your suitcase off the bed and off the ground at all times. Instead, you should keep your luggage on some kind of a shelf or a closet, so no bed bugs can get inside. Also, you should try to keep all of your clothes inside your suitcase, instead of unpacking everything, to keep them inside an isolated place.
Store Your Dirty Clothes Inside a Sealed Plastic Bag
Bed bugs are drawn to body heat, sweat, carbon dioxide that you breathe out, and other biological factors. Your dirty clothes are filled with smells that are very attractive for bed bugs, so it’s a good idea to keep your dirty clothes inside a sealed plastic bag. This way, the bed bugs won’t be drawn to the smells inside your suitcase.
Other Commonly Asked Questions About Bed Bugs
In this section, we’ll answer all the other important questions about bed bugs and how to deal with them.
How Do Bed Bugs Look Like?
In the picture above, you can see a quite large bed bug. Grown adults will look similar to the picture above, but their younger peers are much smaller. Still, they’re larger than ticks and fleas. Bed bugs have large bellies, six legs, and two front antennas. Their head is separated from the main body. The two front legs are connected to the front part, and the remaining four legs are connected to the large belly. They usually are in brown/yellowish color, and along with bed bugs, you’ll also find black droppings everywhere, and white/transparent eggs that look similar to tiny rice grains.
Can Bed Bugs Get Inside Closed, Zippered Luggage?
Unfortunately, bed bugs can get through most zippers, even if they’re closed. Of course, having a closed suitcase will significantly lower the chances of bed bugs getting inside, but they still will be able to get through the small gaps between the zipper teeth.
P.S. Most zipperless hard-shell suitcases, with tight aluminum zipperless sections, are bed-bug-proof. You can check out our comparison of the best zipperless suitcases over here.
How to Know If You’ve Bought Bed Bugs Home
If you’ve had any bites during your vacation that resemble bed bug or flea bites, it’s best to do a throughout inspection of your luggage before you go home. Look at all the tiny crevices of your suitcase (especially around the zippers) and your clothes, especially the dirty ones because bed bugs are drawn to dirty clothes. If you find their droppings, eggs, or bed bugs themselves, you should do a full bed bug removal treatment on all of your clothes and luggage. If you can’t find any, that still doesn’t mean that you’re bed-bug-free. It’s best to do a full treatment anyway if you have any bites that resemble bed bug bites because dealing with a bed bug house infestation is hundred times worse than doing a full treatment on your clothes and luggage.
Which Bed Bug Sprays Work on Luggage?
When selecting a bed bug spray, you must select it carefully, because not all sprays will be effective. Also, you should apply them carefully and try to spray all the crevices of your suitcase. Low toxicity sprays like SteriFab™ or Bedlam® are only effective when you apply them directly and throughout. Alcohol and soap-based sprays are only party-effective because they don’t kill the eggs. Most bed bugs are somewhat resilient to Pyrethroid sprays. EcoRaider™ and Bed Bug Patrol™ are two plant oil-based pesticides that have recently been proven as really effective against killing bed bugs. You can find more info about pesticides for bed bugs over here.
Do Handheld Steamers Kill Bed Bugs?
Bedbugs are instantly killed by steam in 160 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Most handheld steamers will reach these temperatures, but professional ones will get even better results. If you’re using a cheaper handheld steamer, make sure that it has a constant flow of steam. If the steam flow is consistent and thick, you should be able to kill all the bed bugs from your luggage. But to be completely sure, you’ll have to use a handheld thermometer to see if the steam reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
To remove any bed bugs from your suitcase, remove any brush attachments from the steamer, and start steaming your suitcase. Steam in slow movements, and make sure to cover each place for at least 30-60 seconds, so that the fabric becomes damp and hot, but not completely wet. Once you’ve finished the whole suitcase, let it dry. To make sure that the treatment is effective, repeat the process one more time.
What Temperature Kills Bed Bugs?
Bed bugs are killed in really hot and extremely cold temperatures. Heat treatments are usually more effective in treating bed bugs. Bed bugs start to die at 117-123 degrees Fahrenheit. A washer in hot cycles is enough to kill off most bed bugs, but for a throughout treatment, it’s advised to use a dryer in the hottest setting for at least 20 minutes. Heat boxes and saunas above 120 degrees are also effective. Freezers with temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit are also effective but require around four days for all the bed bugs and their eggs to die. Although bed bugs start to die below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it may take weeks for them to die, and eggs die off at lower temperatures, so it’s advised to use cold treatments only below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
How Long Can Bed Bugs Survive Inside Luggage?
Nymphs (a newly hatched bed bug) can survive a few weeks without eating anything. Full-grown bed bugs can survive up to five months without feeding. This means, that, potentially, you could wrap up your suitcase in a plastic bag, seal it off completely, and let it sit for about six months until all the bed bugs die off hunger.
Do Bed Bugs Survive in a Washing Machine?
Hot settings of washing machines are usually at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Because bed bugs die off at around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, washing them in 130 degrees is enough to kill off most of them. That said, it won’t kill all of the bed bugs, because water cools off quickly, and the eggs are harder to kill. So using just a washing machine on a hot setting isn’t enough to kill bed bugs. After washing, you should continue by placing your clothes in a dryer on a hot setting for at least 20 minutes, which will be enough to kill all the remaining bed bugs.
Do Bed Bugs Suffocate Inside a Sealed Plastic Bag?
It’s impossible to kill bed bugs inside sealed bags, even inside vacuum-sealed ones. Although bed bugs die off without oxygen, even vacuum-sealed bags have some air left in them, and bed bugs don’t need much, so they’ll survive. The only way they’ll die, is if you leave the bag completely sealed for at least six months because during that time they’ll die of hunger.