Avoiding bed bugs when thrift shopping

How can I avoid getting bed bugs when buying used clothing or furniture?

A lot of people don’t even think about bedbugs when they see a cute piece of clothing in a secondhand shop, or a cool looking piece of furniture on the side of the road. But, people who have experienced bedbugs first hand tend to avoid these like the plague. It is possible to bring bed bugs back from thrift shops and secondhand stores – if you’re not careful. So, how do you avoid bed bugs when thrift shopping?

First, a bit of background on bed bugs. Bed bugs are very small, so you’ll only usually see one or a couple of them at a time. They’re also good at hiding, and tend to live in dark places. However, it’s easy to spot them if you know what you’re looking for. Bed bugs have flat, oval-shaped bodies that are reddish-brown in colour, with paddle-shaped legs.. However, they can also be a lighter red, yellow, or tan colour. If they’re crushed, they turn a rusty red colour. Their bodies are flat, and they have no wings or antennae. They usually measure around 5mm to 7mm long. Their bodies are oval shaped, Bed bugs are nocturnal, so they’re more active at night and in the early hours of the morning – hence the name ‘bed bug’.

However, they are not only found in beds – They feed on human blood, and the bed just happens to be an easy place to get a blood meal. This is why they’re often found in mattress seams and bed frames. However, they may also choose to hide in cracks and crevices, so they can also be found in chairs and sofas, in carpets and rugs, in electrical sockets, and in books, pillows, and duvets.

bedbugs from thrifting

Bed bugs tend to be found in hotels and motels, but also in people’s homes, public transportation, and yes, even thrift shops. While it is possible to bring a live bed bug home from a secondhand store, what usually happens is that people track home the eggs, which later hatch. The female lays her eggs in dark, warm places. They are very sticky, so they can remain on a piece of furniture or an article of clothing. You can even get them attached to you after brushing up against them. After a few days, the eggs hatch, and the nymphs grow to adulthood. Before progressing into the next stage of their lifecycle, the nymphs must feed by sucking blood from humans or animals. They are able to mate with other bedbugs from this batch of eggs, so a small problem can quickly turn into a full-blown infestation.

Here’s why you should be concerned about getting bedbugs from secondhand items. Anyone who has had a bedbug problem can attest that:

  • Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, and they breed very quickly.
  • Bed bugs usually need blood meals in order to grow, and females need blood in order to produce eggs. So, they are very persistent about finding someone to bite.
  • Bed bug bites are itchy, red, and swollen, and they tend to appear in rows or clusters. Bed bugs usually bite around the face, neck, hands, and arms. They may take up to 10-14 days to appear.
  • Bed bugs can survive for up to a year without feeding.

How to avoid bed bugs when thrift shopping

When you’ve bought secondhand items, always inspect them for signs of bed bugs before you bring them into your home. Make sure you check all of the clothing, bedding, and linens for eggs, discarded casing, blood spots, and dark spots that might indicate bedbug feces. Here is an article on how to identify a bedbug. If you see signs of bed bugs, avoid buying the item, or throw it away. If you already have brought an item home, and you are concerned that you may have brought bedbugs home with you, here is a guide on how to get a free bedbug inspection

Make sure you store all secondhand items inside sealed bags, then immediately wash all clothes, linen, and bedding on a hot cycle in the washing machine and dry them on high heat for an hour. If the item is not something that is able to be washed, you can store it in a durable plastic bag and put in a few small puffs of a desiccant such as CimeXa or Diatomaceous Earth. These are non-toxic powders that will dry out bed bugs and kill them. They are very inexpensive (under $15 on Amazon), and a single bottle will last you a long time. When handled properly, they are minimally dangerous to humans and can just be vacuumed off of the item. Here is a comparison of CimeXa vs. Diatomaceous Earth, and the benefits and disadvantages of each option. Both, however, are considered much safer than other chemical-based or poison bed bug treatments.

If you don’t want to launder an item and you don’t want to put a powder on it you can kill bedbugs in the freezer if the settings are cold enough, and you leave the item in for a long enough time. Make sure that the item is safe to put in the freezer before treating it this way (for example, certain electronics such as those containing LCD screens should never be frozen).

If you live in an area with a known bedbug problem, it is advisable to avoid buying anything secondhand that is upholstered that doesn’t have a removable cover. It is also a good idea for anyone who is concerned about bed bugs to have inexpensive bed post interceptors to isolate their bed from the ground, and a bedbug-proof mattress cover.

Even after you’ve followed these instructions, try not to put secondhand items near your bed for a while. Don’t put secondhand items into storage, until you’ve washed or dry cleaned them. Always keep secondhand items covered with durable plastic trash bags when in storage. And as a general rule, keep your home clean and tidy, and vacuum regularly. While garbage does not attract bed bugs (they feed on blood, not discarded food, like cockroaches do), it is easier to spot them if your home is free of clutter.

bed bugs from thrift shop

Bed bugs are notoriously difficult to get rid of, so if you think you may have brought some back from a secondhand store, it’s probably best to call an exterminator, or read this guide on treating for bedbugs yourself.

Conclusion: It can be a lot of fun to go secondhand shopping for clothes or furniture. However, they can carry home bedbugs. In many cities such as New York City, bedbugs are a big problem – and only getting worse. The New York City board of health reports having seen a huge increase in bedbugs in the past few years. But, the problem is not just relegated to major metropolitan areas – bed bugs have spread around the globe and are a problem in many suburban and rural areas as well.

Bed bugs are tiny, wingless creatures that can spread very easily. While bed bugs usually don’t spread diseases, they are a major inconvenience to rid yourself of, and in rare cases, bites can cause allergic reactions. It is far better to avoid getting bed bugs from places like thrift stores and secondhand shops before you have to deal with the issue in your own home.

By following the guidelines in this article, you can greatly reduce your risk of tracking bed bugs home from the thrift store. So, while you don’t have to avoid it entirely – please thrift carefully!

Thank you for reading about avoiding bed bugs while secondhand shopping! Please refer to all manufacturer instructions and warnings when using a bed bug control product. This website is an independent resource. This site receives compensation from the Amazon Affiliates program, which allows us to run this site at no cost to you. Your purchase price and this review are NOT affected. This website receives NO compensation directly from the manufacturers of any product. We do not necessarily endorse any bed bug products that may appear on the 3rd party ads on this site, which will be clearly marked as such. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies or omissions, or any new information that has been released since the time of publication, or your actions taken as a result of any of these things. Content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for consulting with a professional. If you have any doubts about your ability to safely utilize any of these pest control methods, please consult a professional bed bug exterminator before attempting them. You can find a trusted local exterminator online. Read more about us here.

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