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Bed Bugs Are Attracted to Your Dirty Clothes, New Study Finds

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With the holidays fast approaching, you might find yourself frantically Googling "how to get rid of bed bugs in luggage," after discovering you've brought home a colony of bed bugs. According to a new study, there's a way you can reduce the chance a group of these blood-sucking pests hitches a ride in your suitcase.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Sheffield in England looked at whether or not leaving your dirty clothes out at a hotel had any effect on the spread of bed bugs. They created two simulations: One room contained clean clothes while the second contained dirty, soiled clothes. The researchers also pumped extra carbon dioxide into one room with clean clothes and one room with dirty clothes to simulate human breathing.

What they found was that in the absence of a human — in this case, the rooms without the added carbon dioxide — bed bugs were twice as likely to collect on the dirty laundry pile. When researchers added carbon dioxide to the room, bed bugs were more likely to leave their hiding spots and begin host-seeking behaviors.

So how can you prevent bed bugs from latching onto your dirty clothes and coming home with you? William Hentley, PhD, one of the lead researchers, writes that there's a pretty simple solution: "Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations."

You know those space-saving vacuum packs people use for their clothes? Maybe it's time to stock up before you leave the state to see the family for Thanksgiving. The holidays are a stressful time, and you don't want to be dealing with bed bugs if you have family staying with you.

How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Luggage

Let's say you read this article after you got home, and you, unluckily, caught a case of bed bugs. How do you get rid of bed bugs in your luggage? Here's your step-by-step guide.

Step 1: Empty our your suitcase.

If you haven't already, you need to empty the contents of your luggage and place them in sealed bags until you can wash and or sanitize them. Your clothes will need to be washed at a high temperature — at least 120 degrees — to ensure that the bed bugs die.

Step 2: Take your luggage outside and thoroughly vacuum it.

With a stiff brush, you're going to want to give your suitcase a good scrub to loosen up any dead bed bugs or bed bug eggs that may be clinging to the lining. Once you've done that, you need to vacuum the entire thing

Step 3: Mist it with a bed bug spray.

You can find these sprays at stores like Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and the like. If you are worried about the pesticide smell lingering, you can rent or purchase a steamer and steam the entire suitcase two or three times to ensure that you get all the bed bugs.

Step 4: Vacuum the suitcase again.

Now that you've killed and shaken loose all the bed bugs and egg clusters, you want to vacuum the entire thing again. Once you're done, remove the vacuum bag and discard it, making sure the garbage bag that its in is knotted tightly so that no bugs can escape.

Step 5: Let your suitcase bake for a little while.

Now that the hard part is done, leave your suitcase out in the sun for a little bit. If you check back and notice that there are still bed bugs, you will have to repeat the process. If you've tried multiple times to clean your luggage and nothing has worked, you might want to consider biting the bullet and getting a new suitcase.

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