how to prevent bed bugs in your airbnb

How to Prevent Bed Bugs in Your Airbnb (Complete Guide)

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How do you prevent bed bugs in your Airbnb rental?

Bed bugs are an Airbnb host’s worst nightmare.

They’re the hitchhikers of the insect world. Bed bugs can travel in your guests’ clothing, suitcases, shoes, and more. If your rental develops an infestation, you’re in trouble.

According to Pest World, once bed bugs find their way into a home, they can hide in a number of places: “behind baseboards and in cracks, crevices, and folded areas of beds, bedding and adjacent furniture, especially mattresses and box springs.” They can even take cover inside of electrical outlets. They’re unusually tricky pests to eradicate. Adult bed bugs can go months without feeding, so it isn’t a problem that’s likely to go away on its own.

Before you know it, Airbnb will shut down your rental, refund your customers, and force you to hire a professional exterminator before you can put your place back on the market. Then, even if you do manage to get re-listed, you’ll have to work even harder to recover from a negative review.

Thus, the best way to get rid of bed bugs is to prevent an infestation from ever developing in the first place.

In our “Complete Guide on How to Prevent Bed Bugs in Airbnb,” we’ve got you covered. Follow this guide and you’ll probably never have to deal with an actual bed bug infestation. 

What are bed bugs?

Adult bed bugs, Cimex lectularius, are not unlike mosquitoes: they cause itchy bites by feeding on the blood of other animals. The biggest difference, luckily, is that bed bugs don’t fly.

Still, they’re considered a public health nuisance – and for good reason. If found in hotels, nursing homes, public transportation, or other similar places (like your Airbnb rental), they must be reported to a local county health department or state health department. 

bed bug airbnb

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, bed bugs are:

  • about the size of an apple seed (5-7 mm or 3/16 – 1/4 inch long);
  • long and brown, with a flat, oval-shaped body (if not fed recently);
  • balloon-like, reddish-brown, and more elongated (if fed recently);
  • a “true bug” (characteristics of true bugs include a beak with three segments; antenna that have four parts; wings that are not used for flying; and short, golden-colored hairs); and
  • smelly, with a “musty-sweetish” odor produced through glands on the lower side of the body.

As we mentioned before, bed bugs can go months without feeding – although, in warmer conditions, they’ll typically look for blood every five to seven days. They’re reddish-brown, but they appear bright red after feeding.

Now that you know what they look like, how can you tell if your Airbnb is infested?

How can I tell if we have bed bugs?

There are two ways you can tell if you have bed bugs: 1) looking for bed bug bites, and 2) examining your living space for signs of bed bugs.

What do bed bug bites look like?

what bed bug bites look like

Bed bugs feed at night, while you or your guests are asleep. They’ll pop out for from their hiding space for anywhere from three to ten minutes and suck away until they’re fully engorged.

How can you tell the difference between bed bug bites and say, mosquito or flea bites? Here are some indications that specific to bed bug bites:

  1. Red, itchy bumps, typically in a straight line.
  2. Bed bug bites occur on any area of the skin that’s exposed while you’re asleep (hands, neck, face, shoulders, arms), while flea bites mostly occur around the ankles.
  3. Bed bugs will feed on your cat or dog, but fleas will do so almost exclusively. If your pet is itching more than you are, it’s probably fleas.

What does a bed bug infestation look like?

Before becoming fully matured, a bed bug molts five times, which means – just like a snake – it sheds its skin to make way for new growth. Naturally, that means:

  1. There will be a lot of dead skin on your mattress. If you have dark splotches on your mattress or box spring, that’s a dead giveaway that you have bed bugs.
  2. Bloodstains on sheets, couches, and pillowcases.
  3. Musty odor from the glands.

How do I keep bed bugs away?

How do you make sure you never develop a bed bug infestation?

Keep these guys away from your guests – and keep your Airbnb rental safe and operational.

6 Ways to Prevent Bed Bugs in Airbnb

If you regularly monitor signs for a bed bug infestation and equip yourself with the best anti-bed bug products and practices, you’ll probably never have to worry about an actual infestation:

  1. Purchase a mattress encasement cover.
    • In order to ensure that bed bugs don’t make their way inside your mattress, protect it with a cover. Some people have reported that this actually got rid of their bed bug infestation – but at the very least, it can keep the bed bugs from spreading to your actual bed.
  2. Use a foam sealant to cover any cracks.
    • In case an Airbnb guest brings bed bugs with them, you want to make sure they don’t get into your walls or bed frame. Cover any cracks with foam sealant to keep it all under control. Alternatively, instead of a wooden bed frame, you could go with…
  3. Install a metal bed frame.
    • Bed bugs don’t burrow in wood, but they hide in the cracks and crevices that wood affords them. If you use a metal bed frame, there are way fewer cracks and crevices (in this case, with this bed frame, probably none). What’s more: bed bugs hate crawling on metal surfaces.
  4. Buy bed bug traps.
    • Most bed bug traps are designed with walls that make it nearly impossible for bed bugs to climb up. If you buy bed bug traps, bed bugs will have a particularly tough time getting to you while you’re asleep.
  5. If you catch bed bugs early, spray pesticide.
    • As we’ve mentioned, bed bugs are notoriously sneaky. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to take care of them completely on your own, but if your or one of your guests suspects that he or she has bed bugs – and you take the other steps we listed to equip yourself against them – then you should be able to stop the spread.
  6. Get luggage racks for the room
    • One of the most common ways that bed bugs sneak into hotels and Airbnbs is on luggage or bags. By getting luggage racks, you’ll hopefully prevent your guests from tossing their infested suitcase on the bed.

What if my Airbnb guest brought bed bugs?

Unfortunately, Airbnb doesn’t have a clear policy on bed bugs.

As a responsible Airbnb owner, if you want to keep your rating high (and avoid any lawsuits), if an Airbnb guest brings bed bugs, you’ll probably have to shut down your rental and hire an exterminator.

If you can prove that your Airbnb guest brought the bed bugs with them, document everything, and then you can contact support and likely be fully reimbursed for the costs — just like this guy did.

Goodbye bed bugs

Whether you’re a host or guest, no one wants bed bugs.

By making sure you have all the necessary equipment to fend off bed bugs, you’ll also be making sure you’re protected. As a host, that’s what your guests like to see.

Hopefully now you’ll know exactly how to prevent bed bugs in your Airbnb. And, if you do have an issue, be sure to take care of it immediately!

About the Author Kevin Kelsey

Originally from Connecticut, Kevin moved to Los Angeles in 2013 and worked his way up to becoming an editor on award-winning reality TV shows. Kevin owns 4 short term rentals in Southern California and founded AirHost Academy to help other hosts improve their business.