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prevent bed bugs

As an Airbnb host, maximizing occupancy is one of your top priorities. Unfortunately, not every guest will be welcome. I’m talking, of course, about those invasive, creepy crawlers that once they arrive, are seemingly impossible to evict: bed bugs. 

I know, I know…you’re probably getting itchy as you read this. But as squeamish as it may make us, it’s a topic all vacation hosts must consider – especially short term rental hosts. The last thing you want is to come home to an infestation. And while it’s not possible to completely prevent guests from bringing along unwanted hitch-hikers, there are things you can do to minimize your risk. 

Here’s what I recommend to prevent bed bugs. 

Eliminate the Attraction

Researchers in England recently discovered that bed bugs are more attracted to dirty laundry than anything else. What does this mean for an Airbnb host? Obviously, you won’t be leaving piles of your own dirty clothes behind, but your guests will inevitably be generating some, so give them a safe and convenient place to stash it. 

I recommend using hampers with covers and interior lining, and storing them either in the bathroom or right outside the bedroom(s). Be sure to let guests know about the hampers and encourage their use.

Protect Your Mattresses

When it comes to short term rentals, a good night sleep often = a 5 star review, which is why investing in a quality mattress is a good idea. I have a Casper Hybrid Mattress and have gotten a lot of compliments about how comfortable it is. Protect your investment, as well as your guests and yourself, by using mattress covers that are designed to both prevent stains and also prevent bed bugs. Here are a few pointers for this:

  • Look for mattress covers made from bite-proof fabric.
  • Avoid vinyl, which can do the trick but is awful in terms of guest experience.
  • Try polyurethane-lined covers, which offer the same protection as vinyl but are quieter and more comfortable.
  • Choose covers with small, tight zippers. (Alternatively, you can rub some candle wax over the zipper and opening to seal from bed bugs.)

Use Metal Luggage Racks

Because bed bugs don’t have wings, they rely on people and their frequently used items to travel from place to place. One of the most common items for bed bugs to stow away in is a suitcase. And if an infected bag is placed on your bed or carpet, the chances of infestation go up exponentially. 

The good news is, bed bugs don’t like to climb on metal surfaces, which is why offering your guests luggage racks with metal legs is ideal. To improve the likelihood of guests utilizing these racks, and prevent bed bugs, I recommend placing one in each guest room. Personally, I have a wooden luggage rack, because I like the look of the wooden ones better, and is still better than luggage being stored on a bed or on the carpet. 

How to Tell if Your Airbnb Has Bed Bugs

The most obvious way to spot a bed bug problem is being bitten – or worse – having a guest complain about such. To minimize risk, I always thoroughly check my property (or have my cleaning service do so in the event that I’m not going to be home in between guest stays). 

The most important places to look include your bedsheets, the seams of any fabric-based pieces of furniture, in the corners of your drawers, in loose wallpaper seams and pretty much any crack or crevice you can find.

Tell-tale signs of bed bugs include reddish brown or rust-colored stains on mattresses or bedsheets, dark dots, eggs and, of course, live bugs.

If, by chance, you do spot the presence of bed bugs, don’t panic. Contact a qualified exterminator right away (preferably one who specializes in the treatment of bed bug infestations). 

If you have upcoming bookings, work with the Airbnb Resolution Center to inform guests and help them arrange alternative accommodations. It’s always better to lose a few bookings than to risk permanent damage to your position as a trusted short term rental host.

There’s no doubt about it. Bed bugs are disgusting. But they’re an unfortunate risk when opening up your home as an Airbnb. Knowing what steps to take to prevent an infestation and how to respond in the rare event of a problem can help keep your reputation and your side-business intact.

Here are some other ways to keep your Airbnb clean, after you’ve tackled how to prevent bed bugs.