Your suitcase could be full of bed bugs—here's how to protect it

That hotel room isn't as clean as you'd think...

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No matter how much fun your annual beach vacation was or how incredible your trip to Paris, there's no better feeling than walking through your front door after a long day of traveling. But according to recent studies, you could be bringing home more than just a tan and a pile of laundry—you could be bringing home bed bugs, too.

While trying to determine how bed bugs have been spreading so quickly, researchers found that the unwelcome insects are about twice as likely to be attracted to dirty clothes than clean ones. And for travelers who often toss their laundry in their luggage at the end of the day, that could be bad news.

To help keep you (and your suitcase) safe from bedbugs, here's everything you need to know, from what increases your risk of getting bed bugs to the best way to sanitize your belongings when you get home from a trip.

How bed bugs get into your luggage

Luggage
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A luggage rack is a safer (albeit not perfect) option.

"Bed bugs are like mosquitos," Jon Chan, our senior lab technician, explains. "They are attracted to warmth, carbon dioxide, and blood. The major way they are going to probably get to your luggage is transferring from you to your clothes, and finally into your luggage."

And bed bugs can sense that same carbon dioxide on your dirty clothes even after you've taken them off. So if you toss them into your suitcase, guess where the critters will crawl into?

How you can keep your luggage safe

When you first check into your hotel, do a thorough scan of your room for signs of a possible infestation. "You should always check unfamiliar beds for small yellow eggs, dark spots of crushed bed bugs, and movement," Chan advises.

You should also take extra precautions to keep your laundry sealed up (like in the airtight plastic bag that many hotels provide in the room) rather than in an open suitcase or piled on the floor. Another expert tip is to keep your suitcase on a luggage rack as bed bugs can't climb up slippery legs. However, be aware that they can hook onto the straps of the rack and get into your luggage that way.

What to do if you think you have bed bugs

If you suspect you may have brought pests home with you, the best thing to do is put everything into the laundry immediately. "After a trip, toss your clothes into a hot water cycle," Chan recommends. "Bed bugs will die if exposed to temperatures of 118°F or more for 20 minutes. Most homes have their water boiler set at 120°F."

Even if everything seems fine, it's smart to sanitize your belongings when you get home. Experts note that bed bugs can live for up to several months on clothing or fabrics without you even realizing it. Yikes.

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