The Best Bed Bug Sprays to Pack — and How to Do a Thorough Room Check
Just reading the dreaded words “bed bugs” is enough to send shivers and sympathetic itching along the skin of most travelers. Even staying at a five-star establishment can’t guarantee your safety; bed bugs don’t discriminate by room rate or sheet quality.
“Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers, able to sneak inside suitcases and then make themselves at home once travelers return from their trip,” said Brittany Campbell, Ph.D., Staff Entomologist for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). “As bed bugs are extremely elusive creatures, the only surefire way to avoid bringing them home with you is to be extremely vigilant while traveling.”
The best, and cheapest, way to manage your bed bug risk is to do an immediate room check. Once you get into your hotel room or rental, put your luggage in the bathroom or on an elevated hard rack. Break out a small flashlight or use the one on your phone, then pull back the sheets and look for any tiny dark spots that could be droppings or bloodstains. Untuck the corners of the sheets from under the mattress and lift up the mattress cover while mentally apologizing to the hotel staff. You'll want to look around the edges of the mattress, particularly within the seams, for tiny dark spots that will look a bit like mold or blood, eggs (which look like grains of rice, roughly the size of a pinhead), the pale yellow remnants of shed exoskeletons, or actual bugs. Fully grown adults will be roughly the size of an apple seed.
Once you’ve checked the mattress, make sure to check the headboard, nightstands, and any other textiles in the room. Bed bugs can be sneaky and defy their name, living in couch cushions, inside electrical fixtures, on curtains, and under loose wallpaper or wall hangings.
You can also set your suitcase up for self-defense. Make sure you keep it off the floor, ideally on a non-wood surface. You can spread diatomaceous earth (amazon.com, $6) in your bag, keep your clothes in plastic bags to isolate them, or stash the whole suitcase inside a garbage bag or sealed stuff sack to keep out any hitchhikers.
Once you arrive home, and you’ve noticed what could be bed bug bites or feel you may have been at risk, do your unpacking outside. Vacuum and hand-steam your luggage and wash and dry all your clothes on high heat cycles to make sure any stowaways are dealt with. Clothes that can’t be washed can be steamed, blasted with a hair dryer, or quarantined.
Bed bugs are known for being especially resilient, so prevention is the best cure, and there’s no one product that will completely get rid of them. If you’ve taken all these steps and found no evidence, but still want to sleep a little easier, try out one of these bed bug sprays to help keep your sheets invader-free.
Travel Safe Bed Bug Natural Eradicator Spray
Jordan Foster of Fantastic Pest Control in London recommends a non-toxic spray. He travels with the Travel Safe spray for its low price tag, small size, and all-natural ingredients that are both human- and pet-safe.
To buy: amazon.com, $11
EcoRaider Natural Bed Bug Killer
Bed Bug Patrol Natural Bed Bug Killer
The Journal of Economic Entomology’s other choice for best natural spray had a mortality rate of 83% within the first 30 minutes after application and 98% after four hours.
To buy: amazon.com, $10
Hygea Natural Exterminator Spray
Avenger Organics Natural Bed Bug Killer
This organic spray also recommended by Parmenter breaks down bed bug exoskeletons using peppermint and clove oil.
To buy: vitaminshoppe.com, $8
Proof Natural Bed Bug Spray
Proof’s spray uses cold-pressed neem oil, which is one of the only natural treatments confirmed to work against bed bugs by the EPA.
To buy: amazon.com, $16
Eco Defense Natural Bed Bug Killer
Rest Easy Natural Bed Bug Spray
Rest Easy is The Spruce’s pick for best travel bed bug spray and received praise for its pleasant cinnamon smell.
To buy: amazon.com, $22
JT Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Plus
“The most efficient non-natural bed bug sprays will be ones that contain some type of Pyrethroid,” said Kripena. Though many of those have to be mixed with water and sprayed, there are some products that can be used directly, such as the Permethrin JT Eaton spray.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
Ortho Home Defense
Ortho’s popular Home Defense spray also contains chemical ingredients that are designed to work on bed bugs that have built up immunities to some of the more common treatment methods.
To buy: amazon.com, $8
Harris Bed Bug Killer
Harris’s EPA-approved spray is also designed to overcome chemical resistance in its targets.
To buy: amazon.com, $20