Live bedbug invasion - AGH!
April 2, 2014 10:06 PM   Subscribe

I am staying in a motel and just found bedbugs in my room...unfortunately, literally crawling on me by the time I noticed! I called the manager and he promptly moved me to a new room, which I will be checking thoroughly in hopes that I can maybe achieve sufficient comfort to sleep tonight (HA). What else should I do, especially to prevent bringing an invasion home with me?

I have never had experience with bedbugs before, but these guys seemed pretty much textbook. I felt something crawling on me, squished it to find it left a small drop of blood, then looked a little closer at the pillow I was leaning against and saw more. They match the online pictures of adult bedbugs and were all happily swollen with blood. (Mine? EUGH.) I had been sprawling on the bed for a good couple hours before I noticed anything amiss.

So my question: what do I do now? I am in a new room (only several doors down, but the motel is kind of full). Do I take a super hot shower? Quarantine (or junk) the clothes I'm wearing? Any way to inspect my stuff and see if I have any unwelcome hitchhikers?

I am only in this motel for one night and am moving on to a new city tomorrow, and eventually home at the end of this week. Any advice you have is welcome!
posted by sigmagalator to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Oh God I took off the shirt I was wearing and there are some in there. Help!
posted by sigmagalator at 10:11 PM on April 2, 2014 Traveling
When traveling, think of the acronym S.L.E.E.P. to remember the following action steps to help avoid bringing bed bugs home with you.

Survey surfaces for signs of an infestation, such as tiny rust-colored spots on bed sheets, mattress tags and seams, and bed skirts.
Lift and look for all bed bug hiding spots, including underneath the mattress, bed frame, headboard and furniture. Typically, they come out at night to feed, but during the day they are most likely found within a 1.5 meter radius of the bed.
Elevate your luggage on a luggage rack away from the bed and wall, since bed bugs can often hide behind headboards, artwork, picture frames and electrical outlet panels.
Examine your luggage carefully while repacking and when you return home. Always keep luggage off the bed and store it in a closet or other area, far away from your bedroom.
Place all your clothing from your luggage immediately in the dryer for at least 15 minutes at the highest setting upon returning home from travel.
posted by blob at 10:19 PM on April 2, 2014

(One more comment, then I'll do my best not to thread-sit!)

Thank you, blob - I guess I should mention for clarification that I have managed some frantic Googling and seen a couple lists like that. They mostly seem to cover either how to spot an infestation before you land in it (which I am doing right now as best I can in this new room) or what to do after you get home. I was kind of wondering whether there was anything special to do right in this in-between time, to minimize transfer when the things were literally crawling right on me. But maybe not? Maybe the best I can do is the standard post-exposure stuff? There is a washer and dryer for the guests in this motel, maybe I'll go throw all the clothes I was wearing in it for a good hot run. They're already tied up in a plastic grocery bag separate from all my other stuff. And I was fortunately already keeping my luggage on the rack and/or far from the bed in the first room, so hopefully that helped?

Anyway, I'll shut up now. Thank you!
posted by sigmagalator at 11:04 PM on April 2, 2014

I think the most important thing you need to do is quarantine any and all of your clothes before you get in your car, or before you walk in your front door at home.

If the damn things are already in your shirt, chances are they have laid eggs in your suitcase on in the pockets of your clothes or something.

So you are going to have to figure out how to avoid "infecting" your car if you have one.

I would go out and buy some cheap clothes myself, and bag up your belongings at the hotel, including your purse or backpack.

When you get home, leave your clothes and belongings outside. If this isn't an option (you live in an apartment building), leave them in a coin locker or something. Go home, get a garbage bag, and put your new clothes in the garbage bag. Do this in the bathtub.

Have a shower and change into some clean clothes, ideally old clothes.

Go get your belongings and wash them and dry them, preferably off-site.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:14 PM on April 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Can you leave there, tonight? I wouldn't spend the night in that motel. You'll save so much more money in avoiding an infestation than paying for an extra night at another place.
posted by 3491again at 11:20 PM on April 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

I like to use diatomaceous earth on my luggage when I've been staying somewhere iffy. I've always used a bit in pet beds to prevent flees etc. It is a white powder (that you don't want to inhale) so it can make your luggage look a little dusty. I get it at pet supply stores. There is some good info here, but I'm not as paranoid as they are about inhaling it.
posted by tigeri at 12:34 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Before you check into the hotel in the next city, I'd go to a laundromat and run all your clothing through a dryer set to the highest heat setting for about thirty minutes. If you have things that can handle a hot wash cycle, I'd do that, as well. Things that can't be treated with either of these options should be dry cleaned. (Source.)

I wouldn't check in anywhere else without doing this to literally everything you have with you--go buy some crappy clothes, get to the laundromat, go into the bathroom and put on the new clothes, then wash what you were wearing. I would definitely, definitely not go back to my home without doing this, because bringing bedbugs home is basically my worst nightmare, and, from the sounds of it, is probably on your list, too.
posted by MeghanC at 1:00 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would wash (in hot water) and dry (at high temps) all clothing and linens you brought with you (even those in your suitcase). Place all of your newly-washed cloth items in a sealable plastic bag and add your other items (toiletries, etc.) after carefully inspecting them. Frankly I would be tempted to ditch your suitcase altogether, but if it was expensive, I recommend you seal it in a large plastic bag before departing this hotel and plan not to take it out for months (when I had an infestation a few years ago, I sealed up the items I could not wash and didn't take them out of their bags for 6-12 months. Yes, I was a bit paranoid...but it worked.)

Finally, when you're home, I encourage you to report this hotel at the Bed Bug Registry (and check out future hotels on there, too). Having my apartment infested was easily one of the most traumatic things I've had to deal with, and if you can help even one person avoid that I think the five minutes it takes to post to the BBR will be well spent.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:51 AM on April 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would get rid of all of the clothes that you have with you that you don't absolutely need, and do a hot wash on the rest of them. And definitely do not stay there tonight again.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:31 AM on April 3, 2014

Everything everyone said plus:

Vaccuum your suitcase inside & out, tightly wrap your clothes in plastic bags before you get to a laundromat.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:38 AM on April 3, 2014

I have read that you have to put *dry* clothes in the commercial dryer for 60 minutes on high heat. If you do it with wet clothes, it's not as effective. Something to research.

Possibly you could get the same effect by washing and then drying, but continuing to run in the dryer for 60 minutes after clothes are dry.
posted by valeries at 6:33 AM on April 3, 2014

No self respecting Laundromat or hotel will accept your bedbug infested clothes and luggage - the solution is not to make your problem someone else's. Please.

You must quarantine both your luggage and your clothes. That means, you have to buy new clothes and leave your luggage in the trunk of your car.

No exceptions.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:04 AM on April 3, 2014

Most of the measures mentioned above are insufficient in my mind. The insidious and undetectable nature of bedbugs, and the immense horror and expense associated with a home infestation, make any half-measures too risky by half. Whatever else you have going on (vacation plans, business meetings, whatever) should now take a back seat to thoroughly disassociating yourself with any object that was in that motel with you and decontaminating yourself. This is a serious life crisis and must be treated as such.

In your shoes I would completely abandon any and all clothing and luggage on the spot. Take your cash, vital id and documents, and credit cards (after examining each item for contamination) and leave the rest, including your wallet. Shake out your current outfit, walk or take public transport to a thrift store. Buy two outfits, change into one, abandoning your current outfit in the trash on the way out. Wrap the second outfit tightly in plastic bags and keep it separate from your person. Walk or take public transport to a different motel, strip in the tub and eject the discarded clothes from your room immediately. Shower and wash thoroughly, put on the second thrift shop outfit, and go ensure your first thrift shop outfit is disposed of in public trash outdoors.

Buy new cheap luggage and clothing for the remainder of your trip as needed. When you get home repeat the whole process, discarding everything from the trip again before entering your home, and wash thoroughly immediately and burn the last outfit you wore into the house, without letting it touch the floor inside. Thoroughness is key, here. Bedbugs will travel in anything that has pores, fabric, or crevices. Make sure nothing that fits those categories now in your possession ever enters your home. If you think ditching all your clothes is expensive, try effectively exterminating a fullblown bedbug outbreak.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:29 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

So my question: what do I do now? I am in a new room (only several doors down, but the motel is kind of full). Do I take a super hot shower? Quarantine (or junk) the clothes I'm wearing?

You mean you're not starting a fire in the parking lot with your luggage right now?

Demand payment for your clothing and luggage, and a refund of your room.
posted by fontophilic at 7:37 AM on April 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah, if you have any mobile electronics they need to be wrapped in two or three sealed Ziploc baggies or discarded outright. Again, you'll wish you had invested $400 in a new phone if you find bedbugs in your house.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:45 AM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh my goodness, I'd probably just bin everything and start again! Unless it's a super expensive suit / luggage or something!

But if that's truly not an option, very good advice above re: hot washes, hot tumble drying etc.

I am SO sorry you are going through this!
posted by JenThePro at 8:37 AM on April 3, 2014

I don't think I'd go to some of these extremes. I would probably check out of the motel (not paying of course), stop at a store en route to my next place of lodging. There, I would buy some large ziploc bags and rubbing alcohol.

I would throw pretty much all of my clothing into a dryer at the new hotel, and dry on its highest setting for quite a while. At the same time, I would wipe down all of my luggage, personal effects, and electronics with rubbing alcohol, which purportedly destroys bedbug eggs. I would bag up all my clothing in whatever configuration made sense to me (the clothing should be bedbug-free at this point, but just to be safe I would do this). Then I would take a shower in my new hotel room and have a beer.

All of your luggage should always go in the hotel bathroom, imo. I always leave my suitcase in the bathtub when it's not in use. I don't even use those little luggage racks, but I am paranoid.

Upon arriving home, I would repeat all of these steps, maybe even leaving the luggage outside for a week or two.

This really really sucks, but just remind yourself that this has happened to many people. You are going to be okay. Do whatever you need to do to avoid bringing the bedbugs home. And even if that happens, you can get rid of them.

I think the last thing I'd want in your position is a bunch of people on the internet telling me that I need to immediately fly into a total panic.

I think those best practices lists for spotting possible bedbug activity in hotel rooms can be useful, but they can also drive you crazy. How many times have you stayed in a hotel where there's a "headboard" attached to the wall, with a narrow gap perfectly sized for bedbugs? It's not like you can easily look behind that.
posted by bennett being thrown at 4:17 PM on April 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Last year we had an infestation at one of my workplaces. Long story.

Anyway, I don't know how sensitive you are to allergies and insect bites, but if you are, go to an urgent care immediately and receive treatment. They will probably put you on prednisone or something similar and tell you to buy a metric shitton of calamine lotion. Also, ibuprofen for the inflammation.

I am highly allergic to insect bites/stings, and my face, neck, and body swelled until the steroids that were prescribed to me took affect. I missed almost a week of work from sickness. For weeks I had weeping bites that caused a lot of laundry and itching, not to mention the months I couldn't sleep because I was convinced BUGS WERE CRAWLING ON ME. I spent over $200 on mattress covers and had a pest technician inspect my house (the department paid for inspections for anyone who had been bitten). I don't really stay in hotels anymore, and every time I come home from anywhere, I change in my garage and my clothes go straight into the dryer for an hour.

Good luck; I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 8:12 PM on April 3, 2014

Update: I stayed in that motel the other night, in the new room. It was late and I was exhausted from the day even before getting sent into bedbug terror. There was nothing suspicious-looking in the new room - but mostly, I figured the damage had pretty much already been done, and any fixes were going to have to happen the next day anyway, so why expose some other hotel. I did go cook the bedbuggy shirt and the other clothes I'd been wearing in the dryer for an hour on hot, though.

Rather predictably, I woke up this morning with a bunch of itchy welts. They're about like what my body does with mosquito bites - obnoxious but not life threatening. From placement vs. the clothes I was wearing at different times, I think maybe all the bites were from the initial discovery before I changed rooms and clothes, but there's no way to be sure.

Acting on the plurality of your recommendations, today I took all my clothes to the laundromat, washed them all on the hottest setting, dried them all on the hottest setting for an hour, and then promptly sealed them in plastic bags and put the plastic bags in a brand new duffle bag. Wearing new cheap clothes in the next city new motel room right now. Planning on throwing everything I want to keep in the dryer again when I get home, and junking any of the new cheap stuff I don't want.

I sacrificed my backpack, which was on its last legs anyway, but I'm loathe to get rid of the bigger nicer suitcases I brought. I've got them sequestered from the rest of my stuff and I'm thinking about taking them home empty. Hopefully an alcohol wipedown will work on them, and maybe it will also get hot enough to make the trunk of my rental car an oven before I have to transfer the suitcases out. They are definitely not going inside my apartment when I get home, though, until I'm sure some combination of alcohol/heat/extended bagging if necessary has taken care of the fuckers.

All the non-clothes things I have are Ziploc-bagged for containment and inspection, will be going home in new clean duffle or backpack, and are not coming out when I get home until they get an alcohol wipedown or a session in the freezer.

Thank you particularly to MeghanC for the scientific resource, and to bennett being thrown for your calm words! I really absolutely do not want an infestation of my stuff or to spread the bugs to other people, but at the same time I do have to live my life, and while I'm traveling I have to work with the resources I've got. Hopefully I'll be able to nip this in the bud!
posted by sigmagalator at 11:03 PM on April 3, 2014

Another update: Two weeks later, and no new bites after that first night. I'm extremely hopeful that I managed to keep the bastards from coming home with me. All my clothes and my new soft bags went through the dryer before they went through the door of my apartment. My suitcases are triple-wrapped in plastic bags and quarantined in my car trunk. Planning on baking them out in the sun as the weather gets hotter before they're allowed inside.

I did also put an entry for the motel on the Bed Bug Registry website. They weren't on there before, but you can bet I'll be checking if any future places I'm planning to stay at are on there anyway!

Went through and marked some best answers that contained steps I actually took. Thank you for helping me get my peace of mind back! (And of course, knock on wood, for helping me prevent an infestation of my home.)
posted by sigmagalator at 12:18 AM on April 17, 2014

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