How many percentage points is one Bedbug Registry report worth?
April 20, 2013 9:01 AM   Subscribe

I Pricelined myself into a two nights at a hotel in downtown Chicago. A few seconds later, I thought to check the Bedbug Registry. DANT DANT DAH, it has bedbug reports. Given these reports, help me assess the risk of actually encountering bedbugs, so I can decide whether to just abandoned the money I just paid (~$300) and get another hotel.

We really do not want to get bedbugs. However, many hotels in the Loop also have bedbug reports, some of them fairly upscale, and I don't know how likely one is to encounter bedbugs in a building in which a few rooms have been reported to have bedbugs. We'll keep these precautions in mind, wherever we stay.
posted by ignignokt to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Don't worry too much about this.

This is what I would do:

Don't lean your suitcase against the bed. When you get home, don't put your suitcase on your bed/other furniture to unpack.

Wash all your clothes on HOT when you get home.

Shower regularly, as I'm sure you already do.

I once stayed in a youth hostel in Cusco, Peru, that actually had bed bugs, I actually got swarmed by them, and the above is most of what I did when I got home. (I also threw away a lot of things that couldn't go into a hot water washing machine.) It was fine.

You will be fine.
posted by Sara C. at 9:21 AM on April 20, 2013

many hotels in the Loop also have bedbug reports, some of them fairly upscale

That's not surprising, since the fact that a hotel is upscale is no guarantee that it won't have bedbugs. I don't know what the risk for you is, but don't make any assumptions based on a hotel being upscale.

At minimum, do a thorough visual inspection of the bed sheets/pillows before staying there.
posted by John Cohen at 9:22 AM on April 20, 2013

Best answer: Yeah, don't overthink this too much. I've had bedbugs, and I don't get too upset about hotels. Here's what I do:

-- either store my suitcase in the bathroom or seal up in one of these giant Ziploc bags as soon as I get in my room. (I also take along slightly smaller ziplocs for my carryon bag and purse -- they stay in those bags when they're in the hotel room)

-- don't have anything on the bed except for myself

--clothes either get hung up in the bathroom or otherwise as far away from the bed as possible (or I keep them in a compression bag or another Ziploc)

-- wash all washable clothes in hot, then dry, as soon as I get home. Coats and other non-washable things (sweaters, my everyday bag) go into the dryer separately for a full cycle.
posted by heurtebise at 9:28 AM on April 20, 2013 [5 favorites]

Don't assume the whole place has them. Do an inspection before taking the room. Check the baseboards, the mattress, you can google the instructions.

One report does not an infestation make.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:41 AM on April 20, 2013

This product, which I have seen at Home Depot, is supposed to tell you if a room has bedbugs.
posted by theuninvitedguest at 11:44 AM on April 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Inspect your room when you get there, but just because you can't spot any obvious signs of bedbugs doesn't mean that the room is bedbug free. During any hotel stay, you really need to take precautions to avoid bringing bedbugs or bedbug eggs home. Keep in mind that live bedbugs rarely hitch a ride on your body or the clothes you are wearing, because they hate light and movement; the real risk is that a bedbug will crawl into your luggage or other belongings, or that some of the tiny, near-invisible bedbug eggs might get on/in your luggage or clothes.

Here's my routine if I'm travelling by car and I want to avoid any risk of bringing bedbugs back into it:
  • Walk into the room, put luggage in the (dry) bathtub, because it's the least likely place to harbor bedbugs or bedbug eggs
  • Don disposable gloves, pull back a corner of the bedding, and spot check the mattress seams for bedbugs or bedbug fecal stains. Also spot-check the bedframe, behind the headboard, and behind the night-stand, if accessible. If you notice any signs of bedbugs from such a cursory inspection, the room is badly infested and you should not stay there.
  • Wrap suitcase in a trash bag or large ziploc bag, and place it on the fold-out luggage stand, as far away from the bed as possible. I do this to avoid bedbugs crawling into the bag, or bedbug eggs getting picked up from the surface of the luggage stand.
  • If I need to open the bag fully, I cover a flat hard surface (e.g. table) with a clean trash bag, and open the bag on that surface. The main goal here is to avoid picking up any bedbug eggs. Even on this clean surface, I don't keep the bag open for an extended period, to avoid the possibility of bedbugs crawling in.
  • Anything that I have to keep outside of my suitcase, I seal in a plastic bag (or temporarily place on a clean-plastic-bag-covered surface). Anything that I can't protect in that way is assumed bedbug infested, and gets sealed into a plastic bag before it goes back in the suitcase, to be heat-treated when I get home (120 degrees F will kill bedbugs in minutes, so any kind of heat-treatment at home will do the trick)
If I'm travelling by air, I can be a little less paranoid. I still keep my bag as far away from the bed as possible, but mostly I just assume that I will have picked up bedbugs sometime during my trip, so I just strip out of all my clothes (while standing in a dry bathtub) as soon as I get home, seal everything I was wearing into a plastic bag, and then put both the plastic bag and the suitcase into a large portable heating chamber sold under the name Packtite Closet, and heat them up to 120 degrees for 6 hours.

If you don't have a convenient heating chamber that will allow you to reliably raise the internal temperature of all of your belongings to a bedbug-killing 120 degrees, then you can improvise by carefully separating your belongings into "washables", "dry-cleanables", and "others": run the washables through a wash and hot-dry cycle, take the dry-cleanables (in a sealed plastic bag) to the dry-cleaners, and put the hopefully very small number of "other" items in a 120-degree oven for 30 minutes (for a very small amount of non-flammable heat-resistant items only - do not burn your house down!). As less-reliable alternatives, you can take your non-washable items and use a steamer on them to kill any bedbugs/eggs that may be hiding in them (if it's a large object, or if it has sub-surface hiding places, this method is completely unreliable), or as a last resort, you can carefully vacuum the item (to try and vacuum off any bedbugs or their eggs) and then inspect the item for bedbugs or eggs (the eggs are around 1-mm in length and white). [Warning: it's very easy to ruin valuable items and/or start dangerous fires while performing the heat treatments described above; please use common sense.]

Remember: getting bitten by bedbugs in the hotel room is a one-night annoyance, but bringing bedbugs home is a months-long nightmare. Never assume a hotel room does not have bedbugs; always take precautions to avoid bringing them home.
posted by Dimpy at 11:52 AM on April 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

just because you can't spot any obvious signs of bedbugs doesn't mean that the room is bedbug free

Conversely, just because someone claims to have been bitten by a bedbug on the internet doesn't mean it ever actually happened.

Check the foot of the mattress if you must, but seriously I wouldn't go overboard unless there were dozens of reports against this hotel alleging SEVERE infestations.

Keep in mind, too, that in a big city you can encounter rogue bed bugs anywhere. Public transit, theaters, retail stores. It's very easy to become hysterical about this, when the reality is that you most likely won't bring home an infestation as a souvenir.
posted by Sara C. at 12:15 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sara C.: "Wash all your clothes on HOT when you get home."

Just a note, it's the dryer that will actually kill bedbugs. Washing on hot but hanging to dry will not work. Put your clothes in the dryer for at least 20 minutes to ensure you've exterminated those blood-sucking a-holes.
posted by vasi at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Unless the reports are numerous, I don't think a reputable hotel that has bed bug reports is more likely to have bed bugs in the future than one that doesn't have such reports. I say that because presumably a reputable hotel has addressed the issue by the time you read the report unless the report is quite recent.
posted by Dansaman at 9:10 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, guys! It's very helpful to get some sense of what travelers feel the likelihood of bed bug encounters are here. The precautionary techniques you guys gave should give get us the rest of the way to a reasonably minimal chance of taking home bed bugs and to peace of mind.
posted by ignignokt at 8:38 AM on April 21, 2013

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