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De-Bed-Bugging your Camino Gear

Santiago Photo Book

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
This post is now also available as a handy PDF in the resources section here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/resources/de-bed-bugging-your-camino-gear.483/

*************

As I just went again through the whole procedure, I thought I write it all together and post it here. Some of the methods here are also useful on the camino, to minimize the risk and help to reduce the bed bug population on the camino.

Why should you de-bed-bug your gear after the camino?

Bed bugs are a reality on the camino (more so on the Frances, but I have also seen bitten pilgrims on other caminos) and there is a good chance that some of them are hiding somewhere in your gear waiting to hitch a hike to your home and the last thing you want to have at home is a bed bug infestation! Even one 'pregnant' bed bug or a few eggs that hatch can be enough to cause huge problems and costs later on. Because of this I treat my whole gear as potentially bed buggy ;-) Here my step by step plan:

Before traveling back

Things like the Compostela and souvenirs I bought are getting immediately double packed in sealed plastic bags to avoid any bug attaching itself to them before bringing them back to the albergue/hotel and in contact with the rest of my gear.

I discard items that I don't need any longer/are not any longer useful. The less I take home, the less I have to decontaminate. These 'holey' socks that aren't useful anymore or the info sheet from the museum, all this kind of stuff goes into the rubbish bin before traveling home.

Packing for unpacking. The less you have to sort through things at home, the lesser the likelihood that you inadvertently spread bugs or eggs around. In the ideal case you should take everything only one time out of the backpack and then directly deal with it. So all that can be washed and dried at high temperatures is in one bag, all that needs to be frozen in another etc. And yes, all these are double packed. (Explanation later) Some things can't be packed that easily as they need to be at hand during travel (passport, boarding passes etc.) but the more organized your stuff is the easier is the job at home.

On arrival at home

Optional, but very advisable if you think there is the risk that there are bed bugs in your pack. Ask the person that picks you up at the airport or similar to bring two large rubbish bags and tape to double pack your back pack and all your other gear in to avoid that the car gets infested during the travel home.

Put all your gear and the clothes/shoes you are wearing in the bath tub. Alternatively, if you arrive late at night and/or can't deal with it immediately, leave outside/ in the garage well wrapped up in rubbish bags and sealed with tape.

Take a long hot shower and wash your hair and put on fresh 'non-pilgrim' clothes from home. Bed bugs don't stay on humans, so that one is a bit of an psychological step ;-) But do put the clothes that you are wearing in the bath tub or in a sealed bag in the garage or similar.

Before I come to my actual decontamination process, first one important question:

What kills bed bugs?

There are two main ways of killing bed bugs and their eggs in a non-toxic way: Heat and cold. The following numbers are from a German study done for/by the public health service in Berlin:

30min of 45C/113F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

72hours of -18C/-0.4F kill 100% of bed bugs and eggs

Obviously these temperatures have to be achieved first and then maintained continuously at least for these time periods. That is the reason I try to go over these minimum values whenever possible.

I use the highest possible washing/drying temperature for at least 1,5h and leave things for at least a week in the bottom of our chest freezer.

Why I am not using Permethrin

Or any other spray for that matter … First of all, permethrin is highly toxic to cats, we have a cat. So no permethrin allowed in our household.

Second, bed bugs worldwide are getting more and more resistant to permethrin and similar substances, so it is not a 100% foolproof method either.

When using low/high temperatures to kill bed bugs and eggs you can make sure that you achieve and exceed the necessary time and temperature (remember to allow for additional time until all is heated/frozen to the core). With chemicals you can't be sure that it really reached each corner.

So looking at all this I now open my rubbish bags and backpack and every item or prepared bundle goes straight into the washing machine or freezer. Those that go into the freezer keep obviously one of their sealed plastic bags on (only the second one gets removed) and those that go into the washing machine obviously without plastic ;-) Make sure when you handle things not to shake them wildly or do anything else that would scatter bed bugs or eggs in your home. Use a plastic bucket or similar for transportation and don't forget to rinse it thorougly with hot water after use.

Clothing that can't be washed at temperatures higher than 45C/113F gets frozen for a week and then washed at lower temperatures.

We don't have a tumble dryer at home, but on the camino I use one at every possibility.

Books, papers and anything else that can be frozen goes straight into the chest freezer, removing the outer bag of the two plastic bags first.

Clothes that can be washed at higher temperatures get washed at them at a cycle that lasts at least 1,5 hours.

Rubbish bags and other things that need to be discarded (tape, bags etc.) get taken straight to the bin outside.

Shoes – can be frozen.

Tummy bags, money belts and similar can be both frozen and washed.

Backpack, walking sticks, rain gear – get hand washed/soaked at high temperature in the bath tub and dried outside in the sun if there is any.

Basically I sort everything out in the bath tub and it ends up directly in the freezer or in the washing machine.

Rinse bath tub thoroughly after you are done.

Which leaves, in my case, the electronics. Over the years I have had many conversations with travellers and other bed bug experts and the general consensus is that electronics are not typical hiding places for bed bugs. But I do freeze and/or wash their cases and give phone etc. a good wipe. For really desperate cases, see below.

The other two methods that kill bed bugs are Diatomaceous Earth and CO2. DE works only if the bugs get in direct contact with it as it 'scratches' their 'skin' and leads so to their death by dehydration. So it is not really useful for de-bed-bugging your camino gear. Just mentioned for completeness ;-) or if you have a book or souvenir you can't freeze or wash/heat. Then place item with a bit of DE in a transparent, double sealed plastic bag, shake well and leave for at least 2 weeks.

CO2 is a gas that can be used (only by professionals!) to de-bug electronics. Normally electronics are not a typical hiding spot of bed bugs but if you want to be 110% sure you could double-pack them in strong plastic bags and seal them and give them to a professional exterminator to be treated. Do not try CO2 treatment at home as it is a) toxic in higher concentrations and b) you can't monitor the necessary level easily. Leave CO2 and other gases / chemicals to the professionals, please!

So far, with this methods used, I have successfully avoided to introduce any bed bugs to our home, despite having been bitten several times on various caminos.

Buen Camino sin chinches, SY
 
Last edited:

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
Thanks for that SYates!
I did same (except for the electronics bit) and - so far - have kept my home bb free.
I did find a dead one in ...my hat when I took it out of the
freezer :eek::eek::eek: Yuk!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
Thanks for that SYates!
I did same (except for the electronics bit) and - so far - have kept my home bb free.
I did find a dead one in ...my hat when I took it out of the
freezer :eek::eek::eek: Yuk!
Were you bitten on the Camino?
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
An excellent summary! This should be posted in the resources section.

If you follow this procedure, then you can relax, because you have done your best and this is not ebola virus.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
I am happy to convert it to a PDF tomorrow and upload it to resources, but I wonder how many people are looking their for bed bug info :confused:

SY
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route.
I am happy to convert it to a PDF tomorrow and upload it to resources, but I wonder how many people are looking their for bed bug info :confused:

SY
Yates, do you mind if I cut and paste this into my Pilgrims Helping Pilgrims Facebook group?
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Not at all, but add a link to this thread to it as the source please. Thanks, SY
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Do you have friends or family with a proper freezer? To heat things up (sorry for the pun!) you can place all things that can stand the heat in black rubbish bags and place that against a nice reflecting white wall in plain sun light (you should have a lot of that, correct?). Alternatively you could just go back to ye'ole times and boil or washing on a stove/in a pot over a fire. Or use a cauldron over an open fire (sorry for that joke!).

Can you get Diatomaceous Earth in Costa Rica?

If you need more help/tips I am happy to brainstorm solutions, SY
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
At least you have the hot sun at your disposal! I have to admit that in my impatience, I have occasionally used my oven. But that obviously needs to be done with great care and only for selected items! My oven is quite new and I trust its thermostat. I preheat it at the lowest temperature, which is 170F (77C), put things in, turn off the oven after a few minutes, and leave for an hour until it has cooled down.
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Oh, uh, monitoring that is a wee bit tricky, isn't it? As you have to keep things (heated to the core) at >45C for at least 30 min. But if anything else fails, why not? And there is always the microwave, but please be very, very careful what you put in that one! SY
 

C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
Oh, uh, monitoring that is a wee bit tricky, isn't it? As you have to keep things (heated to the core) at >45C for at least 30 min. But if anything else fails, why not? And there is always the microwave, but please be very, very careful what you put in that one! SY
You are absolutely right. At 70C, less time would be required, but I tend to repeat the process to be sure. And I don't really recommend this method.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
See signature
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
Are there any self-service launderettes, you know, with big dryers you could use?
(Sorry if it's a dumb question, I've never been to Costa-Rica...)
 

SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

Now: http://egeria.house/
Or chemical dryers? BTW how do people wash things that need to be washed on hot (fabric diapers or kitchen towels) in Costa Rica? SY
 

Joodle

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF May 10th- June 21st 2016
VDLP March-April 2017
CF coming up April-May
I am happy to convert it to a PDF tomorrow and upload it to resources, but I wonder how many people are looking their for bed bug info :confused:

SY
Add it to your great Book SYates!! I just finished reading your book again, to make sure I am well prepared. It is full of excellent ideas and packing lists.
 

Latecomer

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
VDLP (Sept 2015)

CF SJPDP-SdC+
(Sept/Oct 2018)
Despite not having any bites or other direct evidence of infestation, I did something similar.

I put EVERYTHING (except my phone) in heavy duty garbage bags in the garage when I got home. I immediately took a hot shower. I removed my phone case, inspected the phone, and washed the (plastic and rubber) case in hot water. The next day I hot washed and dried all my clothes and sleeping bag.

Then, while I understand this might be controversial.. I left all remaining items (pack, hat, poles, rain gear, headlamp, first aid stuff, etc.) in the heavy duty garbage bags (still in the well ventilated garage) and added Dry Ice.
I used about 4 lbs of Dry Ice that I bought at the local grocery store (for about 75 cents a pound). I have since noticed that many of the big stores in California have it near the check out stands in small locked freezer.

The safety warning I would be most sensitive to would be not carrying a large amount of Dry Ice in the passenger compartment of a car with the windows rolled up. If you have never handled Dry Ice or are nervous about it, then you may not want to use this procedure (but then also don't use it to create spooky effects on Halloween).

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23025189
http://www.mypmp.net/2013/09/12/how-to-kill-bed-bugs-in-luggage-backpacks-purses-and-more/
https://www.continentalcarbonic.com/dry-ice-safety.html

The treatments gave me an extra level of comfort that I was not bringing bedbugs into the house..
 

annakappa

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Part frances jun 07/rest frances may- jun 2008/Frances sept-oct 2009/ Sanabres Oct 2010/Frances sept-oct 2011/Aragones Sept-Oct 2012. Hospitalero Sept 2010, Amiga in Pilgrim's Office Oct 2013. Part Primitivo Oct 2013. Portugues from Porto June 2015.
Do you have friends or family with a proper freezer? To heat things up (sorry for the pun!) you can place all things that can stand the heat in black rubbish bags and place that against a nice reflecting white wall in plain sun light (you should have a lot of that, correct?). Alternatively you could just go back to ye'ole times and boil or washing on a stove/in a pot over a fire. Or use a cauldron over an open fire (sorry for that joke!).

Can you get Diatomaceous Earth in Costa Rica?

If you need more help/tips I am happy to brainstorm solutions, SY
DON'T know of Any friends with a big freezer
I DO know a bit about removing bed bugs after my stint as hospitalero in Rabanal. We dealt with, if remember well, 12 cases in 2 weeks. We had a strict protocol to adhere to. I won't go through it all here (Guacelmo had both a washing machine and dryer, obviously with temperatures up to, well I guess nearly boiling point - can't remember
exactly to what temp European washing machines reach).
The back packs were put in black plastic bags and left in the field in the sun fir as long as possible.
Are there any self-service launderettes, you know, with big dryers you could use?
(Sorry if it's a dumb question, I've never been to Costa-Rica...)
Never seen a self service launderette so here.☹
Or chemical dryers? BTW how do people wash things that need to be washed on hot (fabric diapers or kitchen towels) in Costa Rica? SY
No idea how someone deals with their nappies (diapers) here, should they have cloth ones. All my 5 Costa Rican born grandchildren were not bought up very ecologically and used disposables!
Kitchen towels get washed with everything else in a cold wash. Horror of horrors? That's how it's done here!
Diatomaceous earth? Not sure.
Don't have a cauldron, nor place to make an open fire☹( thinking of Asterix here)!
Well, so far, I've walked the Camino ( various Caminos) 8 times and have been lucky. No bed bugs, neither for me nor for Adriaan!
Anyway, after my experience at Guacelmo, I was idly checking out bed bugs on the Internet and came across a quiz 'do you know your bed bug' - or words to that effect.
Did the quiz and got 17 out of 20, so was quite pleased with myself!
SY - your post was fantastic! Really!
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I have a little problem here......washing machine only does a cold wash, as with all washing machines in Costa Rica, have no dryer ( the sun dries my wash ) and only have the small freezer compartment above the frig! Ah yes....we don't have a bath tub in our house
Oven? With a meat thermometer and the oven door open, as you would if drying herbs? Or boiling clothes like you would very stained items?
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
Post Camino I will either be staying in a hotel in Madrid or possibly with a friend of a friend there, or elsewhere in Spain. I certainly don't want to spread bed bugs to any of those places. What would be the best protocol for me?
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
Post Camino I will either be staying in a hotel in Madrid or possibly with a friend of a friend there, or elsewhere in Spain. I certainly don't want to spread bed bugs to any of those places. What would be the best protocol for me?
Well, you may not bring to pick up bbugs in hotels, and even the private home. My first encounter with them was in Hong Kong, speding a week in a lovely elegant flat in Happy Valley o_O.

But what you can do is as suggest above when you get to the friend of a friend's, and launder your clothes there, if possible, or pack it all up in a plastic garbage bag you will be carrying with you, in another bag you will leave putside the door, and take your clothes to be laundered. Shoes get wrapped up in a plastic bag from the flat, etc.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
I will be bringing a suitcase with me that I will leave in Madrid while I'm on the Camino. I should have everything that I need in there for my post Camino days, so I could leave my backpack outside the flat.
 
A

Anemone del Camino

Guest
I will be bringing a suitcase with me that I will leave in Madrid while I'm on the Camino. I should have everything that I need in there for my post Camino days, so I could leave my backpack outside the flat.
In a platic bag you will buy at the local grocery store. Perfect solution. And with your walking boots.
 

Pruden

Pilgrim of life
Camino(s) past & future
October 2012 Camino Francés Sarria /Santiago.
November 2013 Camino Francés
León to Sarria
June 2014 Camino Francés San Juan Pie de Port to Logroño.
November 2016 Camino Frances ,Logroño to León.
Last time after my Caminos I put everything on a big plastic bug , then leave it for 2 days in the trunk of my car on the hot sun in middle Spain !!
It really get very high temperatures and every leaving creature or egg get kill or destroyed life on them.
Of course it have to be sealed very well ,( even I put some anti bugs spray on it).
 

Laura Olsen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Planning a trip in september 2016
Thank you. This is very helpful. Just what I needed. And good advice not only for the camino but for traveling lots of places.
 
Thread starter OLDER threads on this topic Forum Replies Date
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