How to Inspect for Bedbugs

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Learn how to spot these critters to ensure that you won’t bring any home.

When you’re heading to the airport or packing up the car to go on a trip, there’s always a moment of excitement. But arriving at your hotel and wondering whether there are bedbugs can certainly kill that buzz. Unfortunately, bedbugs are on the rise, particularly in hotels. They can cause bites that lead to severe itching, and it’s difficult and expensive to get rid of them if you accidentally bring them home with you! Luckily, there are easy ways to reduce your odds of making these creepy crawlers your traveling companions.

Store Suitcases in the Bathroom. This one is bound to surprise you. Store your luggage in the bathroom as soon as you arrive at your hotel room. Baggage is the main way that bedbugs are taken home from hotels, and the loo has the fewest places for them to hide. It’s also the room that tends to be cleaned the most. The best place to store your bags is actually the bathtub. Never put your luggage on the floor or on the bed—those are the places that are most susceptible. Even if bedbugs aren’t in your room, they could travel from next door and get inside your luggage. If you don’t want to store bags in the bathtub, the next best options are on top of a desk, dresser, or luggage rack. (Remember not to leave clothing lying out either.)

Do a Bed Check. Search the bed for a bedbug infestation. First, take off the linens and look all around the mattress, headboard, and frame. You're looking for either bedbugs, themselves, (each one is roughly the size and shape of an apple seed) or signs that they're around, such as blood stains or droppings, which look like small black dots of mold or ground pepper. Bedbugs typically hide in the corners or seams of the bedding, so be thorough.

Perform a Room Scan. Check out the rest of the room. Start with the area around the bed, including nightstands, under the alarm clock, and around the telephone. Most bedbugs are found inside the bed or within 15 feet of it, but it’s always better to be on the safe side, so also take a careful look at couches and chairs (including their cushions and seams), as well as the closet.

Grab Garbage Bags. For an extra layer of protection, keep your suitcases wrapped in plastic. You can buy zip-up bags made specifically for luggage, but in a pinch, plastic garbage bags work. This strategy can also help protect your luggage while you're outside the hotel, since bedbugs can lurk in airplanes, trains, and taxis, too.

Play It Safe.If you see anything suspicious in your hotel room, leave immediately, alert the hotel staff, and insist on moving to a different room (or a different hotel, if you must). Make sure that the new room is at least two floors away from the first one, since bedbugs can easily spread from room to room.

Wash/Dry Clothes. When you come home from vacation, wash all of your clothing—including things that you didn’t wear—in hot water or at least dry them in high heat, since any temperature above 122 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bedbugs. Inspect your luggage and vacuum it before you put it away. If you have plastic casing for your luggage, store your bag in that until your next trip.

P.S. Bedbugs can infest your home even if you haven't stayed at a hotel recently. They can hitch a ride on a used mattress or a piece of furniture that you bought off Craigslist, for example. So you can use the tips above to search your own personal living space, as well.