Akos Nagy/ShutterstockNobody wants to give much thought to the question of where bed bugs come from, but it’s important to know how to keep them out of our homes. It’s not just our bedding they love—according to new research from the University of Sheffield, UK, they’re pretty keen on our dirty, sweaty laundry too. (Here’s how to tell if you have bed bugs.)
The study, led by Dr. William Hentley from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Animal and Plant Sciences and published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that leaving dirty clothes on the floor or otherwise exposed in sleeping areas when traveling may lead to some of the critters coming home with you. (Here’s how to spot bed bugs in your hotel room.) Yes, it’s not only humans who have been enjoying an increase in low-cost international travel—scientists believe this is partly to blame for the recent global resurgence of these pests.
Hentley and his team carried out experiments in two identical, temperature-controlled, infested rooms. Four tote bags of clothes were placed in each room, two containing soiled clothes and two with clean clothes. Each time the experiment was carried out, one of the rooms received an increase in the concentration of CO² to simulate human breathing. They found that when there was no human in the room, critters were twice as likely to accumulate on the bags containing dirty clothes than on the bags containing clean clothes. The scientists also discovered that in the room with increased concentrations of CO², bed bugs were more likely to leave their refuge and look for a host—which may well be dirty laundry left in an open suitcase, or on the floor of an infested room.
“Bed bugs are a huge problem for hotel and homeowners, particularly in some of the world’s biggest and busiest cities,” says Hentley, as reported on ScienceDaily. “Once a room is infested with bed bugs, they can be very difficult to get rid of, which can result in people having to dispose of clothes and furniture that can be really costly.”
According to Hentley, keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag when staying in a hotel could reduce the chances of taking bugs home with you, which may then reduce the spread of infestations. Of course, you could always wash your clothes as soon as they are dirty—but what kind of vacation is that?
Here are the best tips for getting rid of bed bugs.