How to Avoid Bed Bugs and Other Pests at Second-Hand Shops
Don’t celebrate scoring that vintage sofa just yet. Take a closer look to make sure you haven’t gotten more than you bargained for. Second-hand goods from thrift shops, garage sales and “free bins” could be riddled with bed bugs and other menacing creatures. While infestations run rampant among used clothing and other items, only 16 percent of respondents in the 2013 Bugs Without Borders Survey, conducted by the National Pest Management Association, say they inspect second-hand furniture before bringing it into their homes. You can still shop curbside and scour yard sales without bringing home unexpected visitors.
How to Spot Bed Bugs
Inspect second-hand items thoroughly for signs of parasites. Bed bugs and lice lay eggs and leave waste products that can be evident in the creases and seams of used goods. Look for small black spots or streaks of red on fabrics. Check the undersides and backs of shelves, tables, headboards and other furnishings for living bugs or molted skins. Parasites can hide in even the smallest cracks and crevices, including screw and nail holes. Check for concealed bugs behind peeled paint, behind the paper backing on framed prints and on bedding, shoes and handbags.
Bed Bugs Like Upholstered Furniture
Bed bugs and other critters can thrive on upholstered furniture and once inside, can be nearly impossible to detect. Vacuuming, steam cleaning and even over-the-counter pesticides may not be enough to kill bed bugs. To avoid bringing home an infestation, steer clear of upholstered items. Opt for hard, cleanable surfaces that contain few seams or crevices, such as nightstands, bookshelves and dressers. Inspect your purchases carefully before bringing them indoors. Adult bed bugs are wingless, reddish-brown in color and are about the size of an apple seed. Newly hatched bugs are yellowish to white and are about the size of a pinhead, often found in clusters in crevices.
Prevent Bugs in Clothing
Bed bugs and other pests can also plague clothing and accessories. Immediately place any second-hand clothing items into a Ziploc bag and seal tightly to cut off air supply. When you get home, immediately wash the clothing in hot water (removing it from the plastic bag, of course) and dry on the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes … or take the clothing directly to the dry cleaner.
Books and Knickknacks
Insects bury deep into the pages of old books, under lamp shades and in picture frames. Check all second-hand items you purchase. Shake and turn used books upside down to see if critters fall out. Small holes in the pages could indicate an insect has made its home there. If you frequent thrift shops or yard sales, consider investing in a portable luggage heater, such as the PackTite. These suitcase-sized devices heat the contents of the bag to a temperature that bed bugs can’t survive.
Use Common Sense
According to a survey of pest control professionals, 99.6 percent have encountered bed bugs within the past year. Before 2000, that rate was only 25 percent. Common sense best practices for thrift store shoppers will help keep those pests out of your home.