Your mom was right: You really shouldn’t leave your dirty clothes in a pile. That’s because bedbugs really like hanging out on used clothing, according to new research published in Scientific Reports.
In the study, researchers put tote bags filled with clean clothes and ones packed with worn clothes in a room with bedbugs. After five days, they checked to see which bags the suckers preferred. They discovered that bedbugs were twice as likely to hang out on bags with dirty clothes as they were to be on bags with clean clothes.
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So if you’re in a place where bedbugs are already lurking, leaving dirty clothes uncovered can attract the bugs. And then they can hitch a ride home with you, possibly causing an infestation in your own house. (This is what a bedbug infestation really looks like. We’re warning you: It’s gross.)
Human odor is a cue for host-seeking bedbugs, and if they can’t find a human to feast on, they’ll likely head to something that smells of them instead, the researchers write.
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So they conducted another part of the experiment: They pumped the room with carbon dioxide to simulate a person breathing, to see if that affected the results. That didn’t change which bag the bugs were more likely to prefer, but the presence of the breathing gas did make the little suckers more likely to venture out of their refuge.
These findings show that the presence of a person in the room can spur bedbugs into motion. If you’re not there, they’ll likely search out the next best thing: your dirty clothes.
Bottom line: Bedbugs are already sneaky little creatures, and you don’t want to give them any more opportunity to hitch a ride back to your home when you’re at a hotel or other place. So don’t leave your dirty clothes piled up.
But don’t worry, you don’t need to do your laundry right away when you’re traveling. Just bring an extra bag with an airtight seal, and make that your designated dirty clothes bag.
“Our study suggests that keeping dirty laundry in a sealed bag, particularly when staying in a hotel, could reduce the chances of people taking bed bugs home with them, which may reduce the spread of infestations,” study author William Hentley, PhD, said in a statement.