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Monday, January 10, 2011

Cleaning specialists' tips for evading bedbugs

I had to publish this article By Kitty Bean Yancey of USA TODAY.

I am asked this question all the time and this is some great advise.

New year, new travels.
Bedbugs can hide in seams of mattresses and in luggage in hotel rooms.
Among travelers, bedbugs are a growing concern, since the hitchhiking, blood-sucking critters have proliferated (whether because certain strong pesticides have been banned or because more of us are on the move is a matter of debate).

You don't want to get bitten in a hotel room, even though bites are not lethal. And you certainly don't want to bring bedbugs home, where eradication can cost thousands of dollars, and bedbugs can lie dormant before reappearing to feed.

Here are some travelers' tips from The Maids, a franchise cleaning company in the USA and Canada.

•First, put your luggage in the bathtub or on the toilet seat while you inspect a hotel room. "Apparently bedbugs can't get a decent grip on porcelain" and climb up, says Tamara Moller of The Maids.

•Keep luggage on the luggage rack, off the floor. Hard-sided luggage kept closed also makes it harder for bedbugs to hide in your bags. Safest of all is to keep your luggage inside tightly closed plastic bags. Trash bags or giant zippered bags are used by some travelers, including Moller.

• Check the mattress and bed frame and wall behind the bed for black spots (fecal material) or blood stains that indicate bedbugs have been present. Pull back sheets, inspect the mattress and seams, plus upholstered furniture and nightstand and dresser. Bedbugs are large enough to see, but they often hide and are active in the dark.

• When leaving, place luggage in plastic bags and seal securely. Once home, wash clothing on the hottest temperature setting you can. Bedbugs die at high heat. Dry on high for at least 30 minutes. (Some travelers store their bags in sealed plastic to be sure no hitchhikers came back home.)

Doing all this "can be tedious," Moller admits. Bedbug "bites can be bothersome. And it's hard to get rid of (bedbugs) when you get them home. They don't respond to typical household chemicals. You need a professional" exterminator. Treatment often means tossing mattresses and furnishings.

Those who haven't encountered bedbugs may scoff (I haven't seen one yet, but itch every time I write about them). However, I know people who went through horrible times trying to eliminate them and lost treasured possessions in the process.

The Bedbug Registry is a useful tool to see whether a hotel you plan to visit may have been infested. It contains more than 20,000 reports on hotels and apartment buildings in the USA and Canada. You can post anonymously, which can invite false reports, but it's an interesting tool. Hotels can respond, and some do. What surprised me was that a few luxury properties that I've stayed at in New York City have reports of bedbugs. New York is a hive of bedbug activity.

I also have learned that big hotels and major hotel chains are likely these days to use regular detection and extermination services, which lessens the chance of meeting up with one of the little pests. Readers, have any of you encountered bedbugs and how did you get rid of them? I have never heard much about bedbugs on planes or trains; anyone know anything about this?

Posted Jan 10 2011 4:30AM

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