Buying used furniture? Here’s how to check used furniture for bed bugs.

Mattresses bed bugsIn today’s economy, everyone wants to save money.  Buying used furniture or getting used furniture for free from a friend or relative can really save you serious bucks.  But, there’s a catch: bed bugs.

One of the single most common ways to get bed bugs in your home is through buying used furniture and bringing it into your home.  Given the average cost of a bed bug treatments by a professional often exceeds a thousand dollars, it’s definitely best to insure the furniture you’re buying does not have bed bugs.

To avoid having your home infested with bed bugs, it’s preferable to avoid buying used furniture or bringing used furniture in your home all together.

However, we understand that this isn’t always practical or realistic.  Therefore,  inspecting any used furniture for signs of bed bugs before you bring the furniture into your home is critically important.  Even bringing used furniture with bed bugs into your home for just a few minutes can be the beginning of a bed bug infestation that will cost you time, sleep, sanity, and money!

Inspect used furniture for bed bugs

Whenever you find or are offered used furniture, the very first you should do is thoroughly inspect it for bed bugs.  Be prepared, this could offend some people, but that is just the reality we live in today.  Here’s how to inspect used furniture for bed bugs:

  1. Bring some white latex gloves, a magnifying glass, flashlight, and an inexpensive white sheet with you to inspect the furniture.  
  2. Spread the white sheet on a flat surface, and place the furniture on the bed sheet.  The white sheet will help you see bed bugs or signs of bed-bugs if they fall on the ground.
  3. Use your fingers, or preferably a credit card, run the edge of the card over the furniture’s surface.  Then use your fingers or the edge of the card through any creases, cracks or grooves in the furniture.  Remember, bed bugs like to hid in small tight spaces, so running the card through these areas is critical to performing a thorough inspection.  Watch for signs of bed bugs on your gloves or on the white sheet.   Signs can include feces (which will be dark red stains), old skin, or bed bugs themselves.  Use the magnifying glass to inspect anything remotely questionable.
  4. Use the flashlight to highlight and inspect any hidden or dark areas of the furniture.  Again, these are the locations where bed bugs like to hide.  They are generally not out in the open where they are easily seen.

If you see any bed bugs or even signs of bed bugs, do not bring the furniture home.

Treating used furniture for bed bugs

Assuming you’ve done a thorough inspection, and haven’t found any signs of bed bugs, we still highly recommend treating the used furniture for bedbugs.  Here’s how:

  1. If the furniture is a couch or chair with removable cushion covers, go ahead and remove the covers and place them in sealed plastic bag.
  2. Bring the furniture home, but do not bring it inside your home yet.  Leave it outside.
  3. Go ahead and place the plastic bag in your dryer and rip it open.  Leave the covers in the dryer and dispose of the bag in an outside trashcan.  Run the covers in your dryer on high heat for at least 30-60 minutes.  We recommend doing this twice.
  4. Thoroughly vacuum the furniture, including all crevices, seams, folds and hidden areas.   Immediately remove the vacuum bag and place it in a tied plastic trash bag in an outside trashcan.
  5. Using a bed bug spray, spray down the furniture, insuring all areas are covered.  Be sure to follow the detailed instructions that come with the spray.  Allow the furniture to completely dry.  If you prefer not to use a spray, you can cover the couch with Diatomaceous earthsteam treat or heat treat the furniture too.  If you use Diatomaceous earth, allow the furniture to sit outside for a few days.

Used furniture bed bug tips

  • Don’t be afraid to ask the owners of the furniture directly if they currently have or have ever had a bed bug infestation.
  • Place any smaller furniture items in a black plastic trash bag, and leave it in the sun for a few hours.  The heat should  kill any bed bugs.  
  • Avoid taking used furniture from dumps or furniture left on the road side.  Furniture like this is generally thrown away for good reason, and bed bugs are often why.
  • Avoid bringing used furniture into your home from high risk bed bug areas of the country, such as New York city.
  • Avoid used mattresses and box springs all together.  They just aren’t worth the risk!

Interested in learning more about how to keep bed bugs out of your home?  Check out our Bed Bug Prevention page.

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