Bed bugs are a scourge that are difficult to spot before it is too late. Bring one home with you from a hotel or someone’s home and you could be facing thousands of dollars to eradicate them. People have gone to great lengths to avoid them, including toasting luggage in a heating chamber. Science says there’s a simpler solution, though: just wash your dirty clothes ASAP.
The best protection regarding bed bugs is still prevention, of course, and that’s why you should always inspect your accommodations before unpacking. A new study out of the University of Sheffield says you can take another precaution that is effective, too: don’t leave dirty clothes exposed in your room. As it turns out, the tiny pests can sniff out a human’s scent and are attracted to it, making unwashed clothes a prime target.
Researchers drew this conclusion after studying bed bug infestation patterns in a mock hotel room containing bags of both clean and dirty clothes. Double the amount of bed bugs were observed on bags with dirty clothes versus just clean clothes, indicating that even in the absence of an actual human in the room, bed bugs can still detect a human’s smell and will move toward it.
Simply tucking dirty clothes into one’s luggage isn’t enough to keep them at bay. The bags themselves must be kept somewhere that the bed bugs can’t or won’t travel to, namely on top of the metal luggage rack that most hotel rooms provide.
Someone particularly paranoid about bed bugs could even take the extra step of sealing used clothing in a plastic bag and then washing it at a laundromat before taking it home. Storing the entire suitcase within a plastic bag is another method, though there is yet another option if you forget to: a heat chamber that super-heats your bag for a certain period of time to kill off any potential pests that hitched a ride home.