I travel a lot for work and like many other people, if I have dirty laundry left at the end of the trip, it’s easier just to throw it all in my case and wash it when I get home. But I’ve been having second thoughts about whether I should do that or not. Bed Bugs are not a new concern; they have long been a problem, although in recent years the situation has been getting worse, not just in the US, but apparently worldwide.
Image: Flickr/Gilles San Martin
The UK’s University of Sheffield has carried out research on just how bed bugs get inside your home to begin with. And it seems as if the answer lies in your suitcase – that dirty or smelly bag of clothing which is quite irresistible to the tiny pests. The study used two laundry bags of clothing, otherwise identical other than one bag contained dirty and unwashed clothing, the other contained only clean clothes. The dirty clothing was twice as likely to attract bed bugs, and the presence of humans in the room made no difference to these test results. Bed bugs are attracted to the odor of humans, but not to the carbon dioxide we exhale, in the way that mosquitoes are.
What all of this means is that partly due to the increase in world travel, bed bugs are literally being transported in people’s dirty laundry, often just across the state but sometimes to the other side of the world. Researchers at a university in Sweden who studied the findings pointed out that rather than using a real hotel room and real luggage, an experimental room was used, which casts at least some doubt on the findings. However, the general consensus does seem to be that this is a very real problem, and the ease of transporting the bugs in luggage has played a big part in making the world wide bed bug problem a lot worse.
There are steps you can take to make sure you are playing your part in preventing the problem of bed bugs from becoming more serious, and some of these I do anyway. Of course, one obvious solution is to not take your dirty laundry home with you; rather you should make sure everything is washed and clean before packing it away in your luggage. But that isn’t always possible, as I know only too well when I’m on a tight schedule.
And some hotels are more likely than others to harbor bed bugs, although they can actually be found anywhere, in even the cleanest environment. Regardless of where you are staying, you should make a point of making it as difficult as possible for the pests to hitch a ride home with you. As bed bugs don’t like metal, place your luggage on that metal luggage rack, rather than on your bed or on the floor. Keep your bags as far away from the bed as you can, zipped tightly closed and preferably enclosed in a secure plastic bag, such as a large trash bag.