Protecting Your Home Against Bedbugs Brought in by Visitors

SEM Micrograph of bedbug on fabric
Cultura Science Rolf Ritter/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

The bedbug (Cimex lectulariusis) one of the most annoying and tenacious home pests there is. No larger than an apple seed, the bugs are very hard to see and once they are introduced to your home they can be very hard to eradicate. The bedbug is one of several blood-eating insects. Unlike mosquitoes, the bites often go unnoticed at the time, becoming evident only days later when welts, rashes, or allergic reactions set in. The bugs can go as long as a year without a meal, so they are not easily eradicated once they find a home in your home. They like to hide in warm, dark areas, which is why they are called bedbugs. They can also find hiding places in furniture and other areas. 

How Bedbugs Enter Your Home

Bedbugs very often find their initial entry into your home with human visitors who inadvertently bring these piggybackers into your house. There is a reason to be a little wary whenever you have visitors to your home, and even more so when you are hosting overnight guests who have been traveling recently and staying in hotels or apartments in warm-climate areas where bedbugs are known to thrive. You may even have close friends who are asking to stay with you for a few nights while their homes are being treated professionally for bedbug infestations. 

Minimizing the Risk

How do you minimize the risks of human visitors accidentally bringing in tiny and very unwelcome visitors? It takes a fair amount of diplomacy since some people will be offended by an open suggestion that you are worried about them carrying bedbugs. Of course, if they are very good friends or have openly shared their own experiences with bedbugs, some of these safeguards will be easier to enact. 

Tips for Keeping the Bedbugs Out

  • Do not put guests’ coats or bags on your beds. If there is even one bedbug on a coat or scarf, there is a danger of it migrating into your bedding. If space is limited, put a sheet or spare blanket over the bed, and launder it immediately after the visit. 
  • Clean the front closet of all other clothing and use it only for guest's coats and belongings. After the visit, thoroughly vacuum the closet and dispose of the vacuum bag immediately after cleaning. 
  • Ask guests to place their shoes on a mat by the door. After your guests leave, you can clean the mat thoroughly. 
  • Attractive slipcovers over furniture will protect your couches and they can be immediately laundered and dried at high heat after your guests leave.
  • If guests are bringing gifts, launder or clean anything that can be washed. Scarves, gloves, and jackets can be washed or dry cleaned as quickly as possible. Plastic or wood items should be wiped with a damp cloth. 
  • Packing boxes or wrapping paper should be bagged, sealed, and disposed of as soon as possible.
  • For sensitive overnight guests, you can offer to do all their laundry without explaining the full reason. You will be offering a favor to them and the temperatures of a warm-water wash and dryer will kill any bedbugs. 

Hosting Overnight Guests Who Are Experiencing Bedbugs

For guests who are asking for a place to stay while they are dealing with their own bedbug problems, you can be little more open about your bedbug prevention methods: 

  • Ask your visitor to change into clean clothes.
  • Launder all their clothing.
  • Place suitcase(s) and bags into a plastic box or large plastic bag that can be tied shut.
  • Wipe shoes with a damp cloth and hot water (not hotter than 120°F), or if possible place in a dryer. Some dryers have shoe racks designed for this purpose.
  • Use a mattress encasement on the guest bed(s).
  • If your guests will be sleeping on a couch, place a sheet over the couch. After the guests leave, launder the sheet and thoroughly vacuum the couch.