Bed Bugs Twice As Likely to Infest Dirty Clothes Compared To Clean Clothes

An increase in global travel and resistance to modern pesticides is believed to be behind the unprecedented surge in bed bug populations across the world, but recent research suggests there may be a simple way to limit the spread of these bloodsucking parasites.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, basic cleanliness appears to be an effective way to discourage the unwelcome bugs from hitching a ride home on your clothing or in your luggage.


A team of researchers from the University of Sheffield, led by behavioral ecologist Dr. William Hentley, has been experimenting to discover why bed bugs have spread so rapidly in recent years. Their research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that dirty laundry may be partly to blame for the proliferation.


“In this experiment we used a large room, we put bed bugs in an established refuge and we then introduced clothes that were either clean or dirty,” said Hentley. “What we found was that after a period of time there was twice as many bed bugs found on bags containing dirty clothes compared to those clean clothes.”


The researchers originally expected the volume of CO2 in a room would affect the results, since bugs are attracted to human breath, but that was shown not to be the case. In fact, Hentley’s study indicates that bed bugs don’t need a human host to travel, as was once believed. The results convinced Hentley that bed bugs could easily catch a ride in bags and suitcases containing dirty clothes.


Bed bugs are experts at hiding in the seams and pockets of overnight bags and folded clothing, so Hentley’s recommendation for travellers is not to delay doing the laundry until you get home. If you’re staying in hotels or unfamiliar accommodation, make sure to wash your clothes regularly, or seal dirty clothes in airtight bags immediately after you’ve worn them.


As soon as you check in to your hotel room, inspect the folds and stitches of the mattresses, behind picture frames, and in any other cracks or crevices where bed bugs might hide. Bed bugs have difficulty climbing smooth surfaces, so it’s a smart idea to store luggage on a table or in the bathtub. Some hotels even offer dedicated metal frames to keep your luggage on.


There are two main species of bed bugs, Cimex Lectularius and Cimex Hemipterus, and both can survive for six months without feeding. So even if your clothes have been in storage for a long time, it’s still wise to wash them carefully before wearing, just in case some of the creatures have been lying dormant awaiting your return. If you discover even a single bug, then make sure to wash or heat-treat all nearby clothing and soft furnishings.

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