Avoiding a bed bugs infestation
December 10, 2009 10:14 PM   Subscribe

I just woke up from a night in my Amsterdam hotel room and realized my bed has bed bugs in it. How do I make dead certain these things don't return with me to the US? Also, what should I expect from the hotel?

I've spent the last two nights in a boutique hotel in Amsterdam.

Last night, I came back to my room and relaxed for a while reading on the bed. When I got up, I saw that there were bites down the back of one arm, but I didn't pay much attention; I thought an ant might have gotten into my jacket or something. I slept through the night, but when I woke up, I discovered another bite on my other arm. I suspected something was up, got up immediately, and inspected the sheets. I saw one dead bed bug, and several more live ones crawling around. (Ick.)

I'm downstairs in the lobby now, waiting for the hotel's housekeeping manager to arrive. I imagine I need to get all of my clothes laundered; they were on a seat touching the bed all night. What should I do with my luggage? How do I get into a set of uninfested clothes (I'm currently wearing the outfit I wore last night when I got in)? What other steps can I take?

Also, do you have any tips on interacting with hotel management about this? What should I expect from them? If they offer to launder my things, should I let them?

I had originally planned to transfer to another hotel today (this hotel was covered by the conference I was speaking at; I had previously reserved another room for myself at a place in a different part of town). Should I call them and explain the situation? Is there a chance I could get my things treated well enough today that bringing the infestation with me wouldn't be an issue?

Thanks much for your help with this. These things are so nasty.
posted by grrarrgh00 to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
My roommate and her SO successfully dealt with this problem by putting all their stuff in the trunk of the rental car and setting off a flea bomb in there. Their stuff was reportedly "infested" prior.
posted by fshgrl at 10:22 PM on December 10, 2009

Best answer: Vacuum everything - suitcases, shoes, anywhere you can stick a vacuum attachment. Wash as much of your clothing as possible in very, very hot water. I can't imagine that the little bastards can survive dry cleaning chemicals - mind you, I'm not sure - so that will hopefully, probably take care of the rest. I would rather just make them reimburse me for the cost of laundering my stuff, rather than let them use whatever hotel laundry service they use. The bedbugs have to come from somewhere, you don't know exactly where, and the laundry room might well be infested. Best not to take chances. Get yourself some calamine for the bites.

I've not had bedbugs, but I'm so terrified of an impending bedbug apocalypse that I've made a massive obsessive effort to learn how to prevent them. Good luck, and I'm sorry about this.
posted by honeybee413 at 10:22 PM on December 10, 2009

Best answer: If you Google around there are some good FAQs (1, 2) about what to do if you're exposed at a hotel. The gist of it is that you don't mess around in regards to bringing anything back with you -- and this involves throwing away as much as you can and basically trying to enter your private circle (car and house) with minimal clothing and almost no belongings. Anything else you can store "offsite" and inspect or launder, according to the guide above, until you're 100% assured the stuff is safe. I would take the published advice rigidly by the book because it's not the kind of poker game you want to lose. Good luck!
posted by crapmatic at 10:29 PM on December 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

We were in the middle of a road trip when we stayed in a place and discovered bugs in the morning. We drove to a local laundry and threw *everything* into the hottest wash & dry we could. Anything we couldn't do that with, we put into sealed bags for a stay in the freezer once we got home. Our suitcases & bags went into this big industrial dryer the place had - didn't harm them one bit and it got hot enough to kill them. The lady running the laundromat had had to do it before, apparently. She knew the routine.

You'll have to leave the hotel. The bugs are moving from one room to another. One more visit from housekeeping and you could be re-infested. I'd see if they can set you up at a sister property and plan to kill a few hours at a laundromat before you get there. Once there, place your bag on a non-fabric surface (table, etc) and do an inspection before you settle in.

Total pain in the ass, sorry you got hit with them.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:44 PM on December 10, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, folks. Crapmatic, that FAQ you linked is actually comforting, in the sense that it communicates these things aren't actually the Messiah. They can be killed, whatever they left behind can be disposed of, I don't have to undergo exorcism and/or ritual purification. (Still might.)

Everything of mine that's made of a soft material is being laundered or dry-cleaned. Suitcases are being vacuumed within an inch of their lives. I've asked them to use the hottest water available; if some clothes get ruined, it won't be the end of the world. After I get the clothes back, I'll put my current set of clothes in a plastic bag for laundering as well, wash, change into something new, and have the outfit laundered.

When I re-pack my luggage, I'll inspect everything by hand. I plan on going to a laundromat immediately on returning to the States, rewashing everything before I head to my place and putting it into plastic bags, and leaving the suitcases outside for a week or two to end all doubt. (I live in Minnesota, so I don't have to worry about consistently freezing temperatures.)

I'll try to remember to report back on whether all of this successfully eliminated whatever tried to hitchhike home with me.

New lessons learned: inspect the bed carefully before sleeping in it. And don't put luggage on it.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:46 PM on December 10, 2009

My husband was in this exact situation a couple of months ago, also in Amsterdam. He moved to another room in the same hotel for the last couple of nights, which didn't seem to be infested. While still there he washed all of his clothes at a laundrette on the hottest wash. There wasn't much else he could do while he was still there. The most important thing is to avoid bringing them back into your home, as crapmatic says. When husband returned home, he left all of his luggage outside our apartment and stripped completely naked outside, and hopped into the shower (which is luckily right next to the front door). We took the clothes to the laundrette in bin liners, washed on the highest temperature, and threw away his rucksack which was too big to fit in the machine. FWIW he came home in our car, and that didn't get infested. Neither did his computer - the only thing that couldn't be cleaned or trashed (although we did vacuum it just in case).

good luck.
posted by hibbersk at 11:51 PM on December 10, 2009

New lessons learned: inspect the bed carefully before sleeping in it

Judging from this video, inspecting for bedbugs is not that easy...
posted by bluefrog at 5:57 AM on December 11, 2009

Forget the previous post. Looks like a regular infestation shouldn't be that hard to spot.....
posted by bluefrog at 5:59 AM on December 11, 2009

Best answer: Don't worry about washing things in hot water. The water does not kill the little bastards; what kills them is the dryer. You can take clean dry clothes and put them through a hot dryer for 40 minutes to an hour and the bugs will all be dead. They are far more sensitive to heat than cold - the freezer idea mentioned above will not work, either, unless you're prepared to leave your stuff there for a month or more. Yes, dry cleaning will kill them. Rubbing alcohol, directly applied, will kill them. Flea bombs, as mentioned in the first answer, will not.

I have had them in my house. They are godawful but they are bugs, not the apocalypse and they are not really all that bright. They aren't like superspys looking around for places to get into - they don't have little control rooms and blueprints, even though you may feel like they do. Try not to freak out too much. I did - but since then I have calmed down a bit. Make this your mantra: if they were THAT easy to catch, everyone on earth would already have them.

Go to a drugstore and buy some rubbing alcohol. Go to a laundromat and run your clothes and, if possible, your suitcase, through a hot dryer. When you get to the new hotel, take off your clothes as soon as you walk into the room, put them into a plastic bag and seal them up. Put on new clothes. Wipe down your shoes, inside and out, with the rubbing alcohol. If you have a hard suitcase, wipe it down too. Take the clothes in the plastic bag and run them through a dryer. There. You are almost certainly bug free and if you repeat these steps when you get back home, my guess is you will be totally fine.
posted by mygothlaundry at 6:46 AM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

I would be most worried about the suitcase. Consider double-bagging it, and keeping it in a freezing place for a month or 3. I had a suspicious mattress and stored it in the attic for a year, so it got very hot in summer and very cold in winter. Bedbugs are quite good at finidng and hiding in tiny crevices.
posted by theora55 at 7:26 AM on December 11, 2009

Judging from this video, inspecting for bedbugs is not that easy...

Thank you for ruining all hotel stays for me, forever. Blech.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:49 AM on December 11, 2009

Mygothlaundry's advice is very good. You don't actually have to wash your textiles, but you do need to put them in the drier on the highest heat for at least 40 minutes. Flea bombs won't kill them at all, and freezing will only work if the temperature is consistently below 30 degrees for around a week. Your suitcases-in-Minnesota idea will probably work -- we had a rug that we were uncertain about, and we wrapped it in sealed plastic and left it on our back porch for a couple of weeks (it got covered in snow!). But honestly, if you can at all countenance tossing the luggage, I would ... it sucks, but having bedbugs sucks way worse.

You'll probably be OK in any case since you're taking lots of precautions, but this is not something to half-ass. You definitely do not want these critters in your own home.
posted by alleycat01 at 12:20 PM on December 11, 2009

If anyone wants to use freezing for pest eradication consult Tom Strang's chart for total pest mortality. . I am a museum professional - we use routinely use freezing for preventive pest management.
posted by krikany at 8:25 PM on December 11, 2009

If clothes are put in the dryer that are already dry, will it shrink them?

I have a bunch of clothes I need to put in the dryer to kill off bed bugs, but don't want them to shrink.
posted by JohnBlaze at 4:49 PM on March 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Um, what hotel was this?
posted by Capri at 2:38 PM on March 30, 2010

« Older I just heard about alibaba.com: now what?   |   How can I fix an aborted iPhone restore? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.