Don't Let Bedbugs Take a Bite Out of Your Next Thrift Store Deal
Bedbugs are not only gross, causing nasty itchy bites, they're also insanely expensive to treat once you have them. And perhaps the scariest part about bedbugs is they are difficult to discover until you have an infestation. With the recent surge in bedbugs across the U.S., anyone who buys used furniture has to be especially careful. (See also: Unexpected Roommates: How to Get Rid of Roaches)
It's probably a given that bedbugs are residing in a used mattress you find on the street corner (uhh, just leave it), but bedbugs can also be found in a couch you buy on Craigslist or under that pillow you slept on at the hotel.
So whether you are trying to bring home used furniture (but not bedbugs) or trying to prevent bedbugs from traveling home with you, follow this guide to help you spot those pests before it's too late.
General Tips for Preventing Bedbugs
The first step in preventing a bedbug infestation is to take precautions and be aware before you even start inspecting furniture.
1. Be on Alert in Thrift Stores
When shopping in thrift stores, if you see bedbug evidence anywhere in the store, buy nothing. I'm a huge fan of thrift store shopping, but you don't want to contaminate your house just to save a few bucks.
2. With Craigslist, Ask in an Email First
If you're shopping on Craigslist, ask in an email why the sellers are selling. If their answer seems a little off, follow up and ask directly — "Just wanted to be sure, but have you had any problems with with bedbugs? I just read an article about them in used furniture so I wanted to check." Some folks may be a little put off by this question, but asking directly will give the seller the opportunity to assure you. And if there is a problem, they probably just won't answer your email.
3. Know Your City
Bedbugs can infest anywhere, but some cities have had larger problems than others. Read your local newspaper and talk to your friends. If you hear about a lot going on, it might be best to be extra cautious.
4. Trust Your Gut
If something doesn't feel right — whether the item, the price, the situation, or the people — walk away. Even if you've already purchased an item, you don't have to bring it into your house. Store it in the garage wrapped in plastic until you've had a chance to inspect it.
5. Beware of Overly Cheap Prices
Watch out for ridiculously good prices; if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it's not clear why someone is selling something for such a good price, it may be that they are just trying to unload an item infested with bedbugs.
How to Search for Bedbugs
Once you're actually in front of a purchase, you want to do a good job inspecting the item. Bring a flashlight and magnifying glass and look carefully.
1. Pull Up Cushions and Turn Over Mattresses
If you are buying a couch or chair, pull up the cushions and carefully examine the the piece of furniture. Similarly, turn over mattresses and box springs. Bedbugs don't typically crawl on the outside of furniture — they bury themselves in it.
2. Look Around Seams and Buttons
Again, you are going to have to do some serious inspecting to search out and discover bedbugs. Seams and buttons are good places to check for either the bugs themselves or droppings.
3. Look for Droppings
Old bedbug droppings look sort of like moldy spots. (At least to me.) Black/brown spots that are clustered together could be bedbug droppings. They are frequently found on the corners of box springs and in the crevices and corners of couches. BedBug Central has some good pictures.
4. Look for Bugs and/or the Eggs or Cast Skins
This is pretty obvious, but look for bedbugs themselves. They will be tiny, but you may also notice the bug eggs or cast skins. Bedbugger.com has some really good (and by "good" I mean disgusting) photos of bedbug eggs and skins. (Just don't look while you're eating!)
Next time you go used furniture shopping, be sure to be on the watch for bedbugs. Do a thorough search and you should be fine. (If you're not thorough, then you better sleep with your shoes on and get your bug killing practice tips from the "Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite" rhyme!)