Could You Get Bed Bugs from Buying Used Furniture?

Bed bugs are some of the worst pests around. So you might wonder if it is safe to buy used furniture, given the possibility that bed bugs could already be in the furniture. And it is a real possibility. The adult bed bugs are only the size of an apple seed, and their offspring are even smaller. So they can hide in cracks and crevices, and can be hard to find. They also can be found not just in beds, but in department stores, libraries, nursing homes, subways, fire stations -- basically anywhere people are, bed bugs can be. Buying used furniture could potentially bring bed bugs into your home All that being said, you may wonder if it is safe to buy used furniture. Generally speaking, the short answer is no if you want to be 100% safe. (And it is never a good idea to dumpster dive or grab furniture off the street. After all, the items could be getting thrown out precisely because of bed bugs!) After all, the furniture was in someone else's home, and could very well have been in a house filled with bed bugs. Even a bookshelf can be potentially unsafe, as bed bugs could have been burrowed in the books. Obviously, buying a used or reconditioned mattress is a huge no-no -- and is actually against the law to do in some states. Buying a used bed frame and/or headboard may also potentially bring a danger into your home as well -- bed bugs could be hiding in the furniture. Also, upholstered furniture -- especially couches that people may sleep on -- is more likely to be infested than furniture that is not upholstered. But what about other types of furniture, like a love seat, coffee table, or dining room set? And what about antiques -- after all, they are essentially used furniture, albeit higher end items? You are right to worry if these items could be infested. That being said, the New York Times did look into the subject a few years ago, and discussed the issue with some used furniture dealers. Both Goodwill and Housing Works said that they fumigate their warehouses, although the article did not say how often. Public radio's Marketplace show also looked into the subject, and talked with Jeffrey White, a bed bug expert. He pointed out that since high heat will kill bed bugs, any used furniture place that can "bake" the furniture can potentially make it safe. White also suggested heavily inspecting any item first before purchasing. It is important to look behind, say, couch cushions for the pests, so that you do not bring any unpleasant surprises home. While you may most likely not see the bugs themselves, even if they are in the furniture, you may see the evidence of the bed bugs, such as tiny bloodstains or specks that look like pepper. Things to consider before buying used furniture Of course, it is safest to buy new furniture. However, many people these days cannot afford the expense of doing so, especially young people starting on their own. Here are some things for you to consider: Look for reputable sellers with a long-standing reputation, rather than buying off a random person. You do not know with the individual whether he or she has a home infested with bed bugs. If you do decide to buy from a used furniture dealer, ask them what procedures they have in place to eliminate bed bugs. They should be able to answer your question with details -- they regularly fumigate or steam clean the furniture, they use bed bug heat treatment, etc. If the furniture dealer gets insulted by the question and refuses to answer, move on. Given the recent bed bug infestation epidemic, asking about bed bug treatment of used furniture is a perfectly reasonable question. In summary, while there is no 100% guarantee of safety when it comes to buying used furniture, you can attempt to do due diligence on the items before doing so. Good luck!