How Do Hotels Prevent Bed Bugs? Read Before Booking

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According to a US survey, nearly 80% of people fear that they might encounter bed bugs at hotels. No one can blame them as there is never a shortage of hotel horror stories about bed bugs posted on the internet.

The good news is that most hotels are doing their part in protecting their guests and their reputations, too. So, how do hotels prevent bed bugs?

In the US and other places on the planet, many hotels follow guidelines on dealing with a bed bug infestation. They include educating the staff about bed bugs, as well as preventing the spread of the infestation by properly handing infested items and contacting experts in pest management and extermination.

Continue reading if you are about to take a trip and stay in a hotel anytime soon.

Below you will come across some of the most important details about how hotels operate when it comes to preventing and controlling an infestation.

Hotels Execute the Policies of Bed Bug Action Plan

One of the fastest ways to taint a hotel’s reputation is to spread news about its bed bug infestation. It can be easy for a hotel to end up with bed bugs because of how the industry works.

Guests constantly get in and out, and some of those who check in could introduce bed bugs into their rooms.

This is why the National Pest Management Association or NPMA, which is a US-based non-profit organization with almost 5,000 members all over the planet, has developed guidelines on how hotels should prevent bed bugs.

According to the NPMA, hotels should show proactiveness in the fight against an infestation by:

  • Informing the staff members about some of the most important matters about bed bugs that they need to know. Some of them include what bed bugs are, what their life cycle and habits are, how they can be introduced into the premises, and how they can infest one room after the other.
  • Training the employees on looking for and identifying the telltale signs of bed bugs, as well as what to do in case they confirm the presence of an infestation.
  • Teaching everyone the necessary actions to keep the infestation contained, thus preventing the problem from spreading to the other rooms. Also to be taught are the steps to take in case guests complain about bed bugs, such as how to appease or satisfy them.

They Quickly Respond to the Bed Bugs Presence

Compared with many other insects, bed bugs reproduce at a much slower pace. This doesn’t mean, however, that the presence of a couple of bed bugs should not be taken seriously.

Adult female bed bugs can lay up to five eggs per day. The eggs hatch in about six to ten days, bringing forth into this world (or the hotel room that is infested) young bed bugs referred to as “nymphs”.

In a matter of five weeks, those nymphs reach full maturity and mate with each other, and the female ones start to lay eggs.

Given the scenario above, it’s plain to see why a few bed bugs can easily cause a full-scale infestation, albeit at a less-alarming rate than aphids, which are regarded as the fastest-multiplying insects on the planet.

This is why the NPMA recommends hotels to respond quickly to any bed bug incidence. Whether the issue is encountered in a hotel or at home, the importance of springing into action cannot be stressed enough.

Failure to do so can have unfavorable effects on a hotel’s status and profitability, and a home’s quality of living.

Here are the NPMA’s guidelines regarding this matter:

  • Respond kindly and sympathetically to a guest complaining of a bed bug-related problem. Consider the report as a top priority, and offer a new room to the guest.
  • Take the concerned room out of service. As soon as possible, arrange for an inspection by a pest management expert. It’s not enough that the room suspected to have bed bugs is inspected.

    The neighboring rooms as well as the rooms directly above and below it need to be inspected, too. The same should be done to the room where the affected guest has moved to. Any room that has a sign of an infestation should be taken out of service.
  • Contact professional bed bug exterminators right away. All rooms with a bed bug problem need to be treated and placed back in service only after successful treatment, as proven by an inspection.
  • Perform regular inspections to make sure that the affected rooms are bed bug-free. It is important to let a pest management expert carry out a re-inspection every two to three months. This helps ensure that the treatment did not miss the low-level bed bug population.

To help prevent the same problem from striking all over again or to keep a minor issue from ending up as a massive one, hotels need to take the necessary actions without delay.

Such is important whether the concern is due to the complaint of a guest or the report by a member of the housekeeping staff.

They Invest In Bed Bug Detection

Just like many business-related problems, hotels should take a bed bug incident seriously. Failure to do so, especially in this social media age, could result in viral horror stories shared by the guests online.

The good news is that it is fairly easy to deal with a bed bug infestation that has just begun. The bad news is that, more often than not, it is not that easy to spot a bed bug infestation at the onset.

It’s because of this why doing regular preventive measures counts. This is especially true after a bed bug problem recently took place.

According to the NPMA, hotels can avoid damages and losses by observing the following steps:

  • Schedule regular bed bug inspections by industry experts. It’s not just the rooms that should be inspected, but also public areas because bed bugs present in them can easily wind up inside the rooms as they can cling to the clothes, shoes, and bags of the guests.
  • Look for evidence of the presence of bed bugs. The housekeeping staff should make it a habit to check whether or not there are bed bugs each time they carry out room service.
  • The maintenance staff, on the other hand, should regularly check behind headboards and under box springs. (Earlier in this article, it was mentioned that all hotel employees, from the front desk to the housekeeping, should be trained to look for and identify bed bug signs, as well as know how to prevent a bed bug infestation.)
  • Follow correct laundry handling practices. Clean and dirty laundry should be kept separated all the time. During room service, the cart should be left in the hallway.
  • Eliminate potential bed bug hiding places, if possible. Inside a hotel room or a bedroom, there are many places that can serve as bed bug sleeping and mating areas.

    Some examples are peeling wallpaper or paint, and holes and cracks in the floors and walls. The necessary repair or replacement should be carried out.
  • Vacuum thoroughly during room service or before a room is occupied. Aside from the floor, the housekeeping staff should also vacuum very well the drapes, underside of furnishings, backside of wall decors, etc.
  • Keep the room as clutter-free as possible. The use of fewer curtains, rugs, wall hangings, and others that can provide bud bugs with safe accommodation is recommended.

    In other words, hotels with recurring bed bug problems or those that want to avoid encountering them should consider redesigning the rooms.

They Handle Infected Furniture With Special Care


When facing a bed bug infestation at home, it is important that you practice caution when removing items or pieces of furniture from the affected room.

Taking them from an infested room to a non-infested room is a terrible idea as they could be harboring bed bugs. In other words, it could cause a problem to spread!

Caution is practiced by most hotels when it comes to handling potentially infested items and furnishings when a bed bug-related problem strikes. They do so to minimize the risk of getting the other rooms infested as well.

Here are some of the guidelines set by the NPMA regarding this matter:

  • Wrap furniture, mattress, box spring, and other items in plastic and seal with tape. The goal is to prevent dropping bed bugs and their eggs while they are being removed from the room and taken outside the building.
  • Members of the hotel housekeeping or maintenance staff who handled infested items should disinfest their clothes afterward as bed bugs are capable of latching on to them. This is exactly the reason why bed bugs are usually regarded as excellent hitchhikers.
  • Never store anything that’s infested in a non-infested room. Similarly, infested items should not be stored with others until they have been disinfested by the pros.
  • Stay away from secondhand, reconditioned, and antique pieces of furniture. That’s because there may be bed bugs hiding in the cracks, crevices, and corners, including especially those in areas that cannot be spotted easily.

    If their installation cannot be avoided, they should be thoroughly inspected and disinfested first.

Regarding the last guideline, it is also a good idea to avoid installing a garden set or patio furniture available at garage sales and secondhand stores if you don’t want to have an infestation at home.

The minute that bed bugs hiding in them get hungry, it’s not unlikely for them to start crawling inside your home.

They may not be able to jump or fly, but they can crawl — on most surfaces, bed bugs can cover three to four feet of distance a minute. They may also hitch a ride on pets and kids playing outside.

Once inside your home, bed bugs can easily find where you (or your loved ones, whoever is easier to access) sleep. It’s because they can detect the warmth and carbon dioxide that the body generates.

They Work With Guests To Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs

Here’s a shocking fact that every traveler should know: Budget and expensive hotels alike can have bed bugs. If truth be told, bed bugs do not care if the hotel room is cheap, pricey, big, small, old, new, clean, or dirty.

This does not mean, however, that there is no need for you to practice good judgment when booking with a hotel before you embark on a trip.

It is a good idea to go for a hotel with a budget for regularly having the rooms inspected by pest management experts as well as disinfested, if necessary, by professional bed bug exterminators.

Before you book with a hotel and take your flight, follow these tips:

Log on the web and check hotel reviews on various business directories. However, just because a customer encountered bed bugs once upon a time doesn’t mean that the concerned hotel still has an infestation these days.

Just like other reviews on the internet, take everything that you will read with a grain of salt. Anyone in cyberspace can make up stories to enjoy 15 minutes of fame.

Get the recommendations of your family and friends who love to travel. They will be more than happy to tell you in which hotels they encountered bed bugs and in which ones they encountered none.

Ask the hotel about its bed bug action plan. A single bed bug incident, which can easily go viral on the web, can instantly ruin a hotel’s reputation.

This is why, these days, many hotels have a bed bug action plan, which a lot of them are willing to disclose to the public to prove that they do not welcome bed bugs.

Stash your belongings in a hard shell suitcase. Bed bugs can cross oceans without trouble once they are inside the safety of a traveler’s suitcase.

To lower the risk of some hotel bed bugs hitchhiking a ride to your home via your luggage, opt for a suitcase with a smooth and hard shell.

You can further lower the risk of that happening by placing your clothes and other items in individual Ziploc bags.

If having a bed bug infestation at home is the least of your wants, it pays to include a proactive approach to keeping bed bugs at bay when planning your trip, be it for business or pleasure.

Once you arrive at the hotel, there are a few helpful steps that you may take:

  1. Bring your suitcase in the room only after making an inspection. Upon arrival, head straight to the bed and check for live bed bugs on the mattress and box spring.

    You don’t have to spot actual bed bugs to know that there is an infestation.

    Sometimes, it is enough to tell that there is a problem when you come across small reddish or rusty spots, or the molted skins of bed bugs that almost look like bugs but are empty and semi-transparent.
  2. Don’t be too embarrassed to insist on getting a different room if you find something suspicious.

    As mentioned earlier, one of the guidelines released by the NPMA is for hotels to respond considerately to a guest complaining about bed bugs.

    Ask for a room that is as far away as possible from the questionable one as it is likely for the neighboring rooms to be infested, too.

    To be sure, demand a room on a different floor — a room a couple of floors above or below is best. You may also ask for a refund and stay elsewhere.
  3. Place your suitcase in the bathroom. Just because the coast seems clear doesn’t necessarily mean that the hotel room is 100% bed bug-free.

    It’s possible that the bed bugs present are just too cautious to leave telltale signs of their presence.

    Although there are places in the bathroom that bed bugs may hide in (between the tiles, under the rugs, etc.), it is unlikely that they will prefer the bathroom over the bed and furnishings in the hotel room.

Your vigilance against bed bugs does not end the minute that you check out from the hotel. It’s still a must that you take the necessary precautions the moment that you arrive at your property and just before you step foot inside.

Aside from a hotel room, did you know that your clothes, shoes, purse, and suitcase may also pick up some bed bugs on an infested bus or airplane?

Because bed bugs are practically anywhere, you should do everything necessary to keep the risk of having an infestation at home to a bare minimum.

These are some of the things that you should do once you get back home:

  • Never take your suitcase inside your home. What you need to do instead is immediately wash launderable items in hot water as high temperatures can kill bed bugs.

    To be sure, stash them in the dryer afterward. It is a good idea to immediately wash, too, the clothes that you are wearing.
  • Spray non-launderable items with bed bug spray. Place the rest of your belongings and the suitcase itself in a large garbage bag. Spray it with bug spray and seal. Allow it to stay in the garage for at least a day.
  • You may also steam clean items that cannot be washed in hot water. Those that cannot be steam cleaned may be vacuumed thoroughly.

    Make sure that you dispose of the vacuum’s dust bag properly (sealing it in a plastic bag) to keep bed bugs from crawling into your house and on your bed.

It may sound like a lot of hard work, but following the steps above can spell the difference between having a memorable trip overall and ending up with an infestation in case there are bed bugs on your clothes or in your suitcase.

Just Before You Book With a Hotel

Budget and expensive hotels alike are at risk of having a bed bug infestation.

The good news is that many of them are taking the necessary precautions to protect not only their guests from having bed bug bites and bringing home some of those creepy crawlers, but also themselves from having a bad image and facing lawsuits.

Photo credit: ©canva.com/vetkit, ©canva.com/RyanKing999

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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