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Used Furniture Can Hide Bed Bugs

By Chris Williams on September 24, 2015.

My sister has a friend who is moving and is giving away her entire bedroom set. I’m definitely interested but I am a little worried about bed bugs. Is there some way to be sure that the bed, especially, is not infested?

C. G., Manchester, NH

It is definitely NOT a good idea to pick up second-hand furniture unless you know who owned it previously and know for sure that that person did not have bed bugs. Whether you are picking up discards by a dumpster or purchasing a used piece at a thrift shop, there is always the chance that your find could be infested with bed bugs, or even other pests such as cockroaches, carpet beetles, wood borers, or silverfish. Believe me, the thrill of finding a great deal is just not worth the incredible hassle (and expense) that goes along with getting rid of a bed bug infestation in your home.

You can inspect the furniture for bed bugs before you claim it, but the average person does not really know what they’re looking for. Bed bugs are hard enough to see, but their eggs are very tiny and hidden away in obscure cracks and crevices. Even trained exterminators can have a hard time finding all of the bed bugs in an account. For that reason, I don’t think you could find an exterminator willing to inspect that furniture as is and certify it “bed bug-free.” You could have the furniture sprayed or fumigated before you take it home, but I think the expense might be prohibitive and your free furniture would no longer be such a bargain.

 

Beware Also of Rental Furniture and Renovated Mattresses

Two other situations to be cautious about are rental furniture or rent-to-own furniture, and renovated mattresses sold by retail stores. Rental furniture can be infested with bed bugs while it sits in the home of a customer, or as it sits in the warehouse or a delivery truck (if not handled properly). When it is delivered to a new customer, bed bugs may be delivered as well. This is rare, but it happens.

Most people are unaware that old mattresses (and box springs) can be reconditioned by a bedding renovator and then resold, often to unsuspecting customers. Renovated mattresses may comprise up to 35% of new mattress sales. The renovation process can include replacing the ticking or batting, stripping a mattress to its springs and heat-treating it, rebuilding the mattress, or replacing components with new or recycled materials. If this is done properly, there will be no bed bugs remaining. Often though, unscrupulous renovators simply put a new cover on top of an old bed bug-infested mattress that is then resold.

You should be both savvy and wary. Used furniture is always a gamble. The fact that this person is giving away all of her bedroom furniture, rather than selling it, could be a clue that it’s no real bargain.

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