Buying second-hand clothing and furniture has long been regarded a smart approach to shopping. Prices at thrift stores are often largely discounted, and the selection of items can be truly one-of-a kind. For seasoned thrift shoppers, the threat of bed bugs can be both frightening and disappointing. If you love to shop for second-hand goods, there are a number of measures you can take to protect your home from infestation.
The Bed Bug Registry is a public database of bedbug reports across the US and Canada. Before making a second-hand purchase, use this free tool to look up the store or home you’ll be buying from. If a record of bed bugs exists, you may want to consider taking your business elsewhere. The site can also be used to look up hotels before making travel arrangements.
2. Inspect Your Items Thoroughly
For second-hand shoppers, inspecting items before buying them is always a smart step. In this case, you’ll want to check not only for signs of damage, but also for signs of bed bugs. Bed bugs love to hide in nooks and crannies. Look in the pockets and cuffs of clothing, and along the cushions and seams of furniture, for small clusters of reddish, brownish, or blacking spots, which are tell-tale signs of bed bugs. If you see anything like this, pass on the item.
3. Bag Your Items
Before taking your items out of the store, have them bagged in plastic and knotted shut. If your items are carrying bed bugs, this measure will keep the pests contained until you can launder them. If you’re traveling by car, place these items in your trunk, and remember to vacuum your car thereafter.
4. Check Yourself
Before leaving the store, check for any bed bugs that may be hitching a ride on your clothes or body. Use a mirror, if one’s available, to do a thorough once-over. Don’t forget to shake out your pockets, look along and cuffs or seams, and check through any open bags or purses that you brought with you into the store.
5. Wash and Dry on High Heat—Immediately
High temperatures can kill bed bugs at all stages of their lifecycle. For this reason, immediately washing and drying your second-hand clothing purchases is a solid defense against introducing bed bugs into your home. Don’t wait to wash your items—do it immediately. Wash your items in hot water and dry them on high heat for 20 minutes or more. If you’ve bought any dry-clean-only items, at least consider placing them in the dryer—again, high heat for 20 minutes.