Keep bed bugs from moving in after travel

Follow these important steps if you encounter bed bugs in your travels.

When traveling for spring break, summer vacation or business, it’s important to check for bed bugs anytime you stay in a hotel, motel, resort or other place that has lots of visitors. If you find bed bugs or signs of bed bugs after conducting an inspection or after sleeping in the room, let the management know. Ask for another room – One that doesn’t share a wall with the room you just vacated.

If you encounter bed bugs while traveling, then you will need to take some immediate precautions to avoid potentially bringing them home with you. It is a good idea to put all of your belongings into sealed plastic bags. It is possible that bed bugs may have crawled into your belongings or luggage if they were stored near the bed; placing the items in bags will keep the bed bugs from dropping out where you don’t want them. If you can, place items that can be laundered through a dryer on medium or high-heat for at least 30 minutes. This will kill any bugs or eggs in those items. Place them back in clean, sealed plastic bags.

When arriving home, unpack your bags in some location other than the bedroom, such as the garage, mud room, laundry room, or foyer, for example. Any non-clothing items that may have come in contact with bed bugs should not be brought into the house at all. Depending on the item, it can be treated with heat or cold. You may be tempted to throw away your luggage and/or clothing after discovering a bed bug infestation, but that isn’t necessary. Heat treatments are effective at killing bed bugs. More information about heat treatments is included later in this article.

Unpack suitcases on a hard surface under bright light so you can see any bed bugs. Clothing should be placed directly from the sealed plastic bags into the laundry. Wash on the highest heat setting that the clothing can handle. Ideally the water temperature should be 100 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry on medium or high heat as well, and keep the items in the dryer at that setting for at least 30 minutes. Items that can’t be laundered can be put directly into the dryer at medium to high heat for 30 minutes.

If you have items that need to be dry cleaned, put them in a sealed plastic bag, and tell your dry cleaner that the items may have bed bugs. The items can be kept in the plastic bags until just before being loaded into the dry cleaning machines.

Once the items inside your suitcase have been taken care of, it’s time to inspect your luggage. Use a flashlight to check seams, folds and pockets for bugs or eggs. Vacuum the suitcase using a brush and crevice tool attachment. Once finished, enclose the vacuum bag or the dirt into a plastic bag sealed with tape. The suitcase can then be washed with hot soapy water or other common household cleaners. Use a scrub brush along the seams and folds. You may also wish to use a household or industrial steamer to heat-treat the luggage. Commercial products are also available for frequent travelers that heat-treat the luggage and contents.

If you encounter bed bugs in your travels there is no need to panic! Just follow these steps to keep them from moving in to your home with you when you return.

Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health to address the bed bug issue. For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website,

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