If you’re on a tight budget, purchasing used furniture or even getting some for free from your family or friends might seem like a pretty good idea. There’s only one catch: bed bugs!
Bed bugs can enter your home in many different ways, but one of the most common is through the used furniture that you bring into your home.
Given the cost of hiring a professional pest control service (which, in the worst cases, can cost thousands of dollars), what seemed like a good economic decision at the time can end up being anything but. That’s why you should take the proper steps to carefully inspect any used furniture that you intend to bring into your home. Avoid any future headaches by following our advice on how to check your used furniture for bed bugs. Read on to learn more.
About Bed Bugs
First, let’s start with a primer on bed bugs. These small, flightless, reddish-brown creatures count us (and our blood) as one of their favorite food sources. This is why human dwellings have attracted them from time immemorial.
As nocturnal insects, bed bugs prefer to come out after dark. This is when they bite their victims’ exposed skin while the victim remains asleep, unaware and defenseless. Found all over the world, bed bugs seemed to be on the decline in the United States for many years. This was largely due to the introduction of synthetic pesticides after World War II. In recent years, however, they’ve been making a comeback. This is thanks to the removal of many barriers that previously impeded the movement of people and goods between countries.
You can find bed bugs anywhere in your home. They’re perfectly happy in any place where humans live and sleep such as hotels, airports, and the like. But, as their name implies, you’re most likely to find them in your bed, especially the mattress, frame, and the springs. (Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs don’t generally live in your sheets or bed linens.) They lurk also in the cracks and other small, narrow spaces around your home including under the carpets, behind the curtains, beneath the wallpaper, and so on. Another key place you can find bed bugs is in furniture.
How to Check for Bed Bugs in Furniture
Since they hide and lay their eggs in furniture, a home that was previously bedbug-free can quickly become infested if contaminated items are brought in. That’s why it’s so important to properly inspect any used couches, chairs, etc. before you bring them into your home. Here’s how to do just that.
Prepare your equipment
To do a proper visual inspection of your used furniture for bed bugs, you’ll need special equipment. The things you’ll need include:
- a flashlight (torch);
- a magnifying glass;
- gloves (latex, vinyl, or even as simple as a plastic bag over your hand);
- container for collecting bugs for identification;
- tweezers or tape to pick up bugs;
- index card, credit card, or knife;
- trash bags in case of small infested items like pillows;
- a clean white sheet;
- and a vacuum cleaner in case of heavy infestation.
Place the furniture on the sheet
Spread the white sheet on the ground and place the items you want to inspect on top of it.
Do not bring the used furniture into your home until you’ve inspected it.
The reason for having a white sheet is that it will make it easier for you to spot bed bugs – or traces of bed bugs – if they fall to the ground while you’re inspecting the furniture.
Use your credit card
You can simply run your fingers over the surface of the items, but a credit card, index card, or knife work a lot better. Run it through any cracks, crevices, creases, or grooves in the surface of the furniture. This is where bed bugs are most likely to be hiding. Watch carefully for any signs of bed bugs that might appear on the white sheet or on your gloves. These signs include not just the bed bugs themselves but also their eggs and feces, which will look like brown or red stains. Use your magnifying glass to get a closer look at anything that appears questionable.
Illuminate dark or hidden areas
Using your flashlight, illuminate any dark spots, nooks, and crannies in your furniture. Once again, these are the places where bed bugs are most likely to be hiding. You don’t often see bed bugs roaming around out in the open where they are easily spotted.
Aside from a thorough visual inspection, another way to know whether a piece of furniture might contain bed bugs is to simply ask. Politely ask the current owners if they have bed bugs now or if they have had them in the past. If their answer is yes, then it would probably be wise to steer clear of those particular items of furniture.
Even if they have treated their home for bed bugs, removing all the living insects, some of the eggs could still remain. Those eggs are all that’s required for a new infestation to occur. In fact, you should always try to find out exactly why someone is getting rid of a piece of furniture that’s still in reasonable shape. That reason often turns out to be bed bugs! This is especially true of furniture left on the side of the road.
Another good way to determine whether bed bugs are in used furniture is to look at where the furniture comes from. Certain areas of the country are at higher risk for bed bugs than others. New York City, Washington, D.C., and other areas that see a lot of travelers come to mind as prime examples. Minimize the possibility of bringing bed bugs into your home by avoiding used furniture that comes from those places. You should avoid used mattresses and box springs altogether. Regardless of the source, they simply aren’t worth the risk!
If you notice any signs of bed bugs in your used furniture, don’t bring it into your home. That is, at least until you’ve treated it for bed bugs. How you do that is the subject of an entirely different article.
All that’s left for now is to say that you should be very wary about bringing any used items of furniture into your home. This may seem like an easy way to save some money, but bed bug-infested furniture could give you a little more than you bargained for!