My Hotel Room Has Bedbugs — What Do I Do?

Rick woke up in his hotel bed to find he’d been joined by several unwanted strangers for some dirty exchanging of bodily fluids. That’s right, he’s got bedbugs. He’s freaked out and doesn’t know what to do.

He writes:

It’s just past 4 a.m. And I am awake on a hotel because of bedbugs. I felt them crawl on me and jumped up to see them on my bed, by the headboard, and on my arm. I killed one, placed it in tissue, and went to the front desk. The clerk was apologetic and gave me a new room. I will speak to the manager in the morning

My question is now what? I will be gone from here in a few hours, but what about the next person? How do I help to make sure that there is follow up? This hotel is in a small town in rural Oklahoma, not an urban area that has had experience with bed bugs. I doubt there is an exterminator locally. Who do you report bedbugs to when traveling to protect your fellow travelers?

If it were me, I’d snap some pictures for evidence, then gather up my stuff — combing through everything to make sure no creepy little stowaways came with me — and ask for an un-infested room as well as a refund. The next day I’d check into a different hotel and file a complaint with the county health department.

How would you handle a late-night bed bug assault?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Marlin says:

    Yep contact the local health department. Also make sure to leave a sign on the door that says “Do not enter: Bedbugs: and also leave a review online.

  2. A. B. Itch says:

    Aieeeeeeeeee! As someone who frequently overnights in small town rural Okalhoma I must know WHERE.

  3. humphrmi says:

    Send the report here…

  4. shepd says:

    Burn all your luggage, or at least dump it before you come home. Seriously, the value of your stuff isn’t higher than the value of a bed bug free home. You can consider sending the bill to the hotel, but it’s pointless to do so, IMHO.

    • denros says:

      or, find a place that has cold storage (not an ordinary home freezer), seal the stuff in garbage bags and keep it there for 2 weeks. These places are usually kept at least -10 which should easily kill any and all bugs / eggs.

    • ninabi says:

      Heat kills them, too. I know someone who put their suspect travel gear in their car on a hot summer day and ran the heater and got the temp over 130, which is supposed to kill them after a certain amount of time has passed.

    • Julia789 says:

      If you are sure you’ve been in a room with bedbugs:

      Keep the luggage outside and sealed in a lawn/leaf sized trash bag while you call an exterminator. Those that specialize in bedbugs can blast your luggage with either a freezing spray, or a heat device that will kill all the bugs without pesticide on your items. Put your shoes in there too, and as many of the clothes you wore home as possible.

      The clothes you could not take off outside and seal in the trash bag go immediately in a very hot dryer (highest setting) for about 20 minutes. Walk directly to the shower butt naked if possible. Scrub!

      If you drove your own car home (rather than taxi or train) ask the exterminator to freeze or heat treat the interior of your car too, also the trunk where your luggage was. Otherwise you’ll just “re-infest” when you drive again.

      Yes it’s a lot, but cheaper to have an exterminator treat your luggage (and possibly car) rather than your entire home!

  5. FCBLComish says:

    You may want to discard whatever you were wearing at the time.

  6. Macgyver says:

    You told the clerk, they gave you a new room. What else do you want?
    The only thing they can do is get an exterminator, there’s not mush else that can be done.

    • yasth says:

      He needs to launder everything, and run everything that can be heated through heat. (A dryer is the best weapon for bed bugs). Also given that his sleep was almost certainly seriously disturbed they should at the least comp the night (you go to a hotel to have a place to sleep, if you can’t get a full night’s sleep the hotel has failed in the service it was to provide)

    • MerlynNY says:

      Are you kidding me? How about a full refund, and also to have all his belongings either inspected or cleaned for bedbugs or the monetary value of all his belongings.

      • haggis for the soul says:

        Yeah, bedbugs are a gift that keeps on giving. You can’t just move away from it. They go where you go. Silkwood shower and killing your belongings with fire sound reasonable to me.

    • Doubts42 says:

      Obvious troll gets more and more obvious

  7. yasth says:

    Gather evidence, call the night manager. Ask for:
    a) a new room
    b) that every stitch of clothing you have be laundered.
    c) have them run your luggage and shoes in the dryer for about 20 minutes on hot.
    d) upon entering the new room shower and inspect the bedding. Thoroughly
    e) have the night manager leave a note for the hotel manager to contact you for actual recompense (the above is just the minimal anti proliferation stuff)

    All hotels will deal with bedbugs seriously, but if they give you any concerns just contact the health department.

  8. jshier says:

    First, send an email to Consumerist. Job done!

  9. dulcinea47 says:

    Aaand this is how bedbugs get spread. If you just got up and went to a different room, you probably took some with you. If they weren’t already there.

  10. jim says:

    you need to take extreme precautions not to bring them home. if you bring them home it will destroy your home and your belongings.

  11. Rose says:

    My God yes! Please call the Health Department! I’m from Oklahoma and I’d really prefer not to be New York, thanks.

  12. fundelman says:

    Throw out everything you had in the room with you, strip nake before entering your own home and burn your clothes and run to the shower as soon as you get in, praying that you’ve run fast enough that none of them jump off of you.

    • TheRealDeal says:

      I know it sounds extreme, but this was exactly what I did in my case. I had a very similar experience and the hotel ended up comping my stay as well as paying for new luggage.

      I basically got home, took every single bit of clothing I had and put it into garbage bags for the dry cleaner. I stripped naked and took the hottest shower I could physically withstand, then I went out and torched my luggage in the driveway.

      If they get into your house, you may have to replace everything you have, so don’t take it lightly at all.

    • dohtem says:

      He can have his wife spray him down with raid while standing naked outside. Him naked, not his wife. I guess she can be naked too but that’s just weird.

  13. Silverhawk says:

    Report it to Bed Bug tracking websites. That’s what people use to find out what hotels have them before booking. Like the aforementioned, but also

    Sorry the OP had to experience them, but reporting it to such sites will help others.

    Also, I would be interested in knowing which hotel this was – I will be traveling soon and will probably end up spending the night in a rural Oklahoma hotel.

  14. ChuckECheese says:

    “Rick woke up in his hotel bed to find he’d been joined by several unwanted strangers for some dirty exchanging of bodily fluids.”

    When I read this I thought perhaps Rick had forgotten about the Craiglist post he made before he left on his trip.

  15. Skeptic says:

    I don’t know if putting stuff in a dryer will kill the bugs or not. An alternate is to put your stuff in a truly hermetically sealed container for half a year. Bed bugs can live for up to 140 days without a host to feed on.

    • MrEvil says:

      The heat of the dryer will cook the little bastards. Few multi-celled organisms can survive in temperatures in excess of 120 degrees for periods longer than a couple minutes.

      Botulism is the only organism I know of that can readily survive temperatures over 212. If you want to can meats or anything non-acidic you have to use a pressure cooker to raise the boiling point of water in order to kill it off.

  16. satoru says:

    Putting bedbugs in a freezer doesn’t help. Unless you live in Antarctica, it’s going to be hard to find the -32C necessary to kill them. Even -10C is a bit hard to find unless you own a meat shop maybe to throw you stuff in for at least a week.

    On the heat side you need around 45C to kill them outright. So unless you have a vat large enough to boil the crap out of your luggage that’s going to be hard too.

  17. Mom says:

    I have a brother who works for a large hotel in NYC, and I know that their procedure for bedbugs is to immediately move the people to a new room, and the next morning completely strip the room, practically down to the studs. They also bring in the bedbug dog to check all the surrounding rooms, and don’t use any room that has bedbugs until it has clearance from the dog. I would assume other chains are similar. What some little place in podunk Oklahoma would do? I have no idea.

  18. crabbygeek says:

    I’d do what you suggest, but probably leave most of my stuff as it would be next to impossible to ensure no bed bugs traveled with you home….

  19. JGB says:

    A couple years ago, my wife and I checked into a fairly nice hotel in Ft Lauderdale (I was being recruited for a job there). The hotel, which I will not name (but, the granddaughter of the founder is apparently something of a media whore) only had a room with two beds. We took it. Next morning, my wife walks into the bathroom and when she turned around, my toothbrush literally fell out of my mouth. She was covered in bites. She has always been sensitive to bug bites anyway, but with this many, I finally had to take her to the ER. That’s where I got the call from the hotel manager asking how she was. When I told him “not too good..the ER doctor is starting a steroid IV to try to stop the swelling.” I could hear him suck in his breath. He said he was going to have to call me back..Which he did not…a lawyer did.

    Except for trying to throw a fast one past us (he suggested that he would send me a check for a “few hundred” dollars for “immediate expenses”. I asked him if cashing that check would constitute a settlement and he said ‘no’, but the check was never mentioned again or sent), the whole thing was fairly simple. They gave us a check for several thousand and paid the medical bills. My wife called it her bed bug money.

    I suspect that, if this happened today, they probably would not have paid anything given the higher profile of bedbugs in the news.

  20. Mike says:

    You are going to have to throw out almost everything you had with you in the room. No matter how attached you are to it, throw it out. Clothes, suitcases, briefcases, all these things can carry bed bugs and you DO NOT want to risk bringing any of them home with you.

    Before you go home, go get a haircut that includes shampoo and blow dry. Then buy some new clothes and change in the bathroom at the store, then throw out the clothes you were wearing. Essentially the only thing you want to go home with are your laptop and cell phone. Seriously, it is NOT worth the risk of bringing bed bugs home.

    If you absolutely must keep some item of clothing, wash it in hot water and stick it in a hot dryer for at least an hour, maybe even two before you bring it home.

    It may seem extreme, but it is well worth the price because if you bring them home you will be in a world of pain trying to get rid of them. There is plenty of help on the web too:

    • Portlandia says:

      I think “throw everything away” is a little extreme don’t you?

      In fact, the article you link to even says “Don’t start throwing your bed and other furniture out.”

      Standard consumer dryers get over the 45 degrees C / 115 degrees F needed to kill bedbugs. Sustained temperatures for 20 minutes will kill them. Leave it in for twice as long if it makes you feel better. Better yet, go to a laundrymat and do this before you get home.

      There are plenty of ways of dealing with bedbugs short of “pitch it all” technique you describe.

      • dolemite says:

        I don’t believe it’s worth the risk however. There are little nooks and crannies they can hide in, and once you get them in your house, you are in for some very expensive exterminator fees.

      • Mike says:

        “I think “throw everything away” is a little extreme don’t you?”

        I have relatives in NYC and Vancouver, I have seen firsthand how bad bedbug infestation can be. In some cases you would rather be too extreme than not extreme enough. In all seriousness, is a few hundred dollars in clothing worth the risk of an infestation in your home? Maybe if you have an Armani suit and a Gucci briefcase worth a couple of thousand. But that $20 shirt you bought at Target is just not worth the risk.

      • MsFab says:

        Not extreme at all. My mother had someone bring bedbugs into her home and it was a NIGHTMARE. She eventually had to move out of our family home, get all new furniture, and have all of her clothing laundered several times.

        Bedbugs are nasty critters & they can live for a ridiculously long time without a host. Better to be safe than sorry.

  21. Mysterry says:

    If you discover bedbugs in your room in a hotel, they will try their damnest to make you stay put so you don’t spread it around. No matter how fine you combe your things of them, they could of already laid an egg or w/e on your crap and then you will be spreading it to another room, to your home, on the bus, train, etc…

    On a consumer level, it sucks ass but it makes sense to do this so they can eliminate the bedbugs in one centralized area.

    In any case, good luck.

  22. Portlandia says:

    I just got back from three weeks in Europe. I checked every hotel room I stayed in thuroughly before I put my stuff away. The extra 5-10 minutes at check-in was well worth the piece of mind of not having to wake up to this horror.

    I feel for the OP. Everything in your possession that was in that room needs to be washed in hot water and run through the dryer. All your shoes, put them on that dryer rack for shoes and run the dryer on high for 20 minutes. The suitcase, unless it’s an expensive one, toss it. Things that can’t be washed should be brought to the dry cleaners. Anything that can’t be washed or fumigated or put in the dryer should be tossed.

    You don’t want these puppies in your house!

  23. dolemite says:

    I’d probably throw that luggage/clothing away. You’ll end up saving money if you save yourself from bringing a few home with you and having to hire an exterminator to get rid of them. Apparently they are VERY tenacious, and will require quite a bit of time/effort to get rid of if you bring them home.

    • Mike says:

      Agreed. Not worth the risk at all. Losing a couple of hundred bucks in the possessions you travel with is FAR cheaper than bringing bedbugs into your house and having to get rid of them there.

  24. tjytiedt says:

    I would respond to this situation similarly to any other contact with vermin: ask for another accommodation, make sure that my belongings were vermin free, and let others know of the problem. A refund would be nice. My understanding of bedbugs it that they are no more of a nuisance than lice, roaches or mosquitoes. I don’t believe that bedbugs are equal to the Black Death.

  25. feralparakeet says:

    My last house was infested with bedbugs, and it took an attorney to get me the hell out of there and get my deposits back.

    What I learned is that you CAN launder everything and spray all your mattresses and furniture with bleach and water after vacuuming it down to kill off whatever eggs remain. It’s been five months and I haven’t had a single bite since.

    I also learned that the health department will do NOTHING.

    The same landlord immediately rented the place back out, without treating the problem, although he was fully aware of it.

    • floridarob says:

      I use to manage hotels in Florida, the 1st thing I do when checking into a new room, is lift the sheets on both beds, check the mattress and pad near the foot of the bed, where your legs would be for tiny brown spots (dried blood). I have only found 1 instance of this before I unpacked, and left the hotel. I don’t want to be a carrier of “cooties” to an airplane, movie theatre, my house, etc…

  26. daemonaquila says:

    All the responses about burning luggage/clothes/etc. are a huge overreaction. Heat kills bedbugs. You only need as much as in a standard clothes dryer. Wash everything, relax, and contact the health department if you’re concerned about followup. However, it’s unlikely that the hotel won’t act once you contact management – bedbugs are the new rage for bad PR.

  27. Geekybiker says:

    I’d leave, go buy a new outfit at store, put all my clothes I had with me in plastic bags and deliver them to a cleaners with the note about bedbugs. Let them clean them appropriately.

  28. Outrun1986 says:

    Well first of all before entering any hotel room I would check behind the bed and lift the sheets and basically inspect the room. Put the suitcase in the middle of the room not near a wall or bed so they will be less likely to get in there if you find bugs before you open the bag, or better yet have someone else stand with your bag outside the room or in the lobby while you inspect the room before bringing the bag in if you are with more than one person. You should do this BEFORE opening your luggage, since if you find them while the luggage is open, your stuff is probably already infested. If I found bugs, I would run out of there as fast as I could.

    Bringing bedbugs home is a SERIOUS problem, and you don’t want it to happen, because its true if they get into your house you could lose everything in your house. I would take the suggestion of buying new clothes at a store, changing in the store, and going home in the new clothes. I have long hair so perhaps a visit to the barber would be in order for a good shampoo and a trim. I can’t exactly change on my porch since I live across from a school, so the change clothes in a store would probably be my only option.

    If you can find them before you open your bag then the contents are probably going to be safe, but you may have to throw out your suitcase since that is the part that will have come into contact with the room.

  29. El Matarife says:

    Throw your stuff out and buy new clothes. Not worth the hassle of possibly bringing one back.

  30. Augie says:
  31. zzyzzx says:

    I leave the luggage in the car while I inspect the hotel room. If that fails I suspect I’d leave everything behind and drive home naked.

  32. AngryK9 says:

    This reminds me of why I always check the room out before I bring any of my stuff (other than the clothes on my back) into a hotel room! I tear the bed and any other furnishings apart (not literally) and look them over thoroughly before I settle in. You can never be too careful with hotel rooms, in my opinion.

  33. jim says:

    bedbugs are a nightmare for people that have gotten them. plenty of stories out there about people that have to throw away everything because they cannot get rid of them. extermination is not effective against them.

  34. JTG says:

    You want a story dealing with bed bugs? Here’s mine:

    I have the misfortune being a graduate student in an Ohio college town, which you may or may not know has been having problems with bed bugs, especially in places like this with a high throughput of students. Last September ’09 they got into my apartment, or more specifically under my bed. I believe that they get in with the new roommate who used my room temporarily in the first half of September.

    In any case, I started getting bites once I moved back into my room, but had no idea what was causing it. At first, I thought it was spider bites, but they kept happening and the number of bites was increasing. It wasn’t until late October that I was able to catch a couple as proof and we were able to get the management to bring in the exterminators. (We had them come in to check once in mid-October, but they couldn’t find the bugs.) By then my arms and legs were covered in bites. As soon as one set of bites disappeared more would show up to replace them. I think near the end I counted as many as 3 dozen individual bites.

    My reaction to the bites was as follows: I would be bitten in the early morning hours, and my skin would redden with a welt forming by the evening. The actual size of the welt varied, probably depending on the size/age of the bug that bit me. It would become highly itchy and remain so for at least two days. The bite would remain noticeable for another 3 days, however, the itchiness would recede and the welt would begin to disappear over that time. As you might guess from how well I remember things, it was not fun.

    The exterminators found the bugs in my wooden bed frame (It was actually a big sheet of plywood with a set of wooden supports. It was a cheap set up that I could easily throw away when I left school.) I really wish I had known more about the bugs earlier, because then I would have known where to look and gotten rid of them quicker. In any case, I had to throw away my bed frame setup. Later on I ended up buying a metal frame that lifted the mattress about a foot off the floor in a similar manner to my original setup.

    Fortunately, the infestation was young and the bugs were well fed (Ugh!) and hadn’t spread much. The actual process of getting rid of them was annoying, but relatively simple, if work intensive. We, meaning all of us in the apartment, had to do the following:

    1) Bag ALL of our clothing and launder it (or at the minimum put through the dryer). As others have stated, heat kills the bugs. Hence Medium heat or higher in a dryer should do. Although, hotter is always better if the clothing can stand it.

    2) If possible get rid of cardboard boxes. It seems the bugs like them as much as they like luggage and wood. I now own several plastic storage containers.

    3) Leave the bed alone. The pest control people often like to examine the bedding when they come. After the fumigation, launder the bedding.

    4) Purchase a bed bug proof mattress case. (Or throw away the mattress and buy a new one. However, you’ll still need the case).

    When the pest control people came we had to leave the apartment for several hours. They fumigated and sprayed chemicals, treated my mattress, and covered it with the case I bought. When I got back, I went and did the necessary laundry.

    This whole process was then repeated two more times, with two weeks separating each run. (This ensured all the bugs and eggs were eliminated.) Fortunately for me, I went home during the break (we’re on the quarter system here so we’re on break from Thanksgiving to New Years) so I wasn’t around for the last two treatments. However, it goes without saying that I made sure every scrap of clothing and the other belongings I brought home with me were free of bed bugs.

    Since then, our apartment has been clean of bed bugs. But I can say with certainty that they’ve left scars in my psyche. Every once in a while I still find myself checking for bites or looking around my bed for bugs.

  35. dush says:

    Get your clothes burned too. You do not want to take anything home with you that might infest your own closet and bed.

  36. Peggee is deeply offended by impetulant, pernicious little snots disrespecting her and violating her personal space at Best Buy. says:

    This happened to me last summer; I checked in, did an errand, then came back, watched TV for a while…and tried to get into bed.

    First of all, there was a pair of USED, STAINED underwear shoved under one of the pillows. Obviously the sheets hadn’t been changed after the last checkout. Second, the bugs. It was one in the morning, but I packed up my stuff and checked out (I had to dispute the charge with my CC co, of course, since they thought I was lying. I really had incentive to go looking for a new hotel in the middle of the night for fun).

    I found a similar complaint on and complained to the health inspector just like that poster said s/he’d done (and s/he even linked to the website with the contact info).

    Health inspector emailed back a few days later and said he’d checked the bed and found no bedbugs, and that “no complaints have ever come in for this hotel before.”

    Except, you know, that one on ROR, which I emailed him a link to. Never heard back.

  37. Not Given says:

    State Health Department

  38. ben_marko says:

    The Super 8 motel in Dumfries, Virginia is also infested with bedbugs. I had to move from it last week because of this and am now in a motel in Alexandria. In one night I was bitten on my both arms, ankles, face, neck, and butt! Ow. Now I have some red welts all over the place and for a couple of days I was covered in Calamine lotion just to keep myself from scratching my skin off.

    And wouldn’t you know it…? Two days after I checked out, Super 8 headquarters send me a customer satisfaction survey. I pretty much went to town with that one.

  39. dyskinetic says:

    In a room in Vietnam with a friend. Wake up in the morning, look over to his bed, and see something run across the sheets and disappear.

    Me: “#$%^!!!! Something just ran across your bed!”
    Him: “Was it a bedbug?”
    Me: “No, too big. A mouse, maybe?”
    Him: “Oh, that’s fine, then.”

  40. consumerd says:

    Get some diatomaceous earth and dust everything with it, the dust is harmless to humans but deadly to bedbugs. I bought a 50lb bag from MFA (a farm supply store) for like $20 and take a 5 gal. bucket with me just in case it happens.

    From what I have learned you can (with DE as it’s called) start seeing them die in as little as 20 minutes to a whole room cleared (only dehydrated bodies left) within 12 hours. The stuff even attacks the eggs they lay as well.

    So yep… I am armed…. :)