We all know that the airplane`s toilet door handle is a breeding ground for bacteria, but have you ever thought that similar germs could end up in your suitcase? Before your inner germaphobe seeks out a bag of airsickness, a dose of reality is good. “There are really very few diseases that you can get from germs on a lifeless object,” says Dr. Ronald A. Primas, MD, of TravelMD.com. “Whenever you`ve crammed a lot of people into a small place like a plane, bus or subway, your risk of getting sick is slightly higher, but most of the illnesses people get while traveling come directly from contact with other people — not indirectly.” Yet, as any germaphobe knows, the fact that dirty luggage probably won`t make you sick offers little comfort. Also, what about the very real possibility of picking up bed bugs or grease stains? Five experts give insider advice on how to deal with the most common suitcase disasters – including when to tackle the chaos yourself, when to call on the pros, and the easiest way to protect yourself in the future. What lives on my suitcase? Do I need to clean it after travelling? Bacteria and germs are everywhere. Since you never know who lifted your luggage handles backstage (not to mention what`s at the bottom of that carry-on bag – E. coli, for example), it`s a good idea to have a plan of attack after the trip. “Every time you used your luggage, I would take a damp cloth with Lysol and quickly put the bottom of the bag and handles back on,” advises Chuck Horst, president of Margaret`s Cleaner`s San Diego, a dry cleaner that specializes in sewing clothing care, leather cleaning, and handbag and shoe repair.
In addition, Horst advises to keep luggage away from the room and especially from the bed when unpacking after a trip. CLEAN IT 1. Buy Lysol disinfectant wipes. 2. Test your suitcase in an unobtrusive place to make sure it doesn`t damage the fabric. 3. Wipe the bottom of the bag (including wheels) and handles with Lysol cloths. Pressing Purell into a cloth is just as effective in eliminating germs. 4.
If you want to completely disinfect your suitcase, you can also spend $45 on professional ozone treatment: a process that uses an ozone generator to oxidize bacteria. Leather, vinyl and plastic bags should be dry cleaned by hand (costs vary depending on the size and extent of the damage). AVOID nested suitcases that can be stored inside each other may seem convenient, but since the outside of a suitcase is the dirtiest place, it`s a bad idea to store them that way, Horst says. If you do, be sure to cover luggage with a plastic garbage bag before putting it in another suitcase. A bottle of red wine went in my bag! How can I clean up this mess? “If red wine gets spilled in your luggage, it`s not a good day,” Horst says, explaining that it`s one of the hardest places to go out. And while spilled alcohol of the clear variety doesn`t necessarily cause discoloration, a breakage in your luggage can mean broken glass in crevices and residual odors that evoke “frat house water” everywhere. CLEAN IT 1. Empty your suitcase of its contents and use a vacuum cleaner with a splitting tool to suck up any broken glass from the inside (be sure to check the bags of the suitcase before vacuuming). 2.Newspapers are hygroscopic (meaning they can easily absorb moisture), Horst says, and can be used to absorb some of the moisture from spilled liquids.
Roll a few sheets of newspaper and place them in your closed bag for two to three days. 3. Canvas and nylon bags can be rubbed with adequate force using a toothbrush and a product such as liquid laundry detergent, according to author Barbara DesChamps, whose book It`s in the Bag: Your Custom Business and Travel Wardrobe includes a chapter on cleaning and caring for fabrics. 4. To combat strong odors, Horst suggests buying carbon used in aquariums at a pet store and placing it in a sock in your empty luggage. Spraying Febreze Auto inside the suitcase is another way to refresh odor-damaging bags. 5. Wine Away, Horst says, is a product that can help dissolve red wine stains (evergreenlabs.com, $21 for two 12-ounce bottles). 6. If the outside of your bag is still stained, you should contact a professional like Horst. Leather can be post-finished at a cost of $120 to $250, depending on the size, level of detail and color of the bag. Canvas and nylon bags can be recolored for $60 to $120.
AVOID Pack bottles in multiple Ziploc bags before placing them in your luggage to prevent leakage in case of breakage. Commercial airline pilot Omar Amin swears by the VinniBag, a reusable bag with inflatable inner tubes that protects bottles from breakage ($vinnibag.com, $28). How can I prevent bed bugs from making a ride in my carry-on luggage? With even five-star hotels making news for bed bugs these days, you should think about how to protect your luggage. “The outside of luggage is usually like bed bugs going to someone`s house,” says Jeffrey White, a research entomologist at BedBug Central, a comprehensive online resource that shares information (from bed bug identification literature to research and development news) and sells products (from traps that go under furniture to luggage sprayers) designed to keep critters at bay. When it comes to their favorite luggage hangouts, White says, bed bugs like to hide on zippers, seams and next to rubber ribs on the outside of a suitcase. CLEAN IT 1. If you suspect bed bugs in your hotel, first inform the hotel management and immediately request another room. 2.
Even if you change rooms, you should pack all your clothes for transportation home. It never hurts to have soluble laundry bags on hand when traveling – you can put them directly in the laundry, meaning anything living on (and in) the bags will be killed. 3. Once you get home, immediately throw everything washable in the laundry for a hot wash and drying cycle. 4. If a visual inspection of the outside of your suitcase shows the animals are there, wipe or spray the bag with 91% isopropyl alcohol, which kills them on contact, White says. 5. Before storing luggage, use a seal cleaner to vacuum the entire suitcase. Then wrap it in plastic bags for storage. 6.
If all else fails, using a product like Nuvan Prostrips is a bold step in the fight against bed bugs. Just put your empty suitcase in a trash bag with one of the bands – the tape releases an odorless gas that kills unwanted bloodsuckers ($50 for a pack of 12). AVOID IT While the chances of your hotel room having bed bugs remain slim, you can take preventative measures by using a spray like Pronto Plus (prontoplus.com, $6.75 for a 10-ounce can) before your trip and covering the inside and outside of your luggage to keep bed bugs away, says Michael Colongione. President of GotchA! Inspectors of bedbugs. Yuck, my bag is covered with black grease. And now? Airport baggage systems consist of all types of moving parts lubricated with grease to ensure smooth operation. So it`s no surprise that many frequent travelers saw his suitcase appear, as if he had taken a ride around a race track and not around the baggage carousel. If you have a hard case or nylon bag, chances are you`ll remove the stains yourself. Leather and canvas bags require professional processing.