Friend, I cannot make this more clear: DO NOT BUY USED STUFF ! There is just no other way to put it. There is just no better, more precise set of words in the English language and I have been preaching them for years.
Here’s the thing… Bed Bugs can travel in ANY thing. The name Bed Bug is totally misleading. They care called Bed Bugs because people generally interact with them when they are in bed. That’s where the bites occur. And certainly in an infested home there is usually a lot of evidence on the bedding, particularly the mattress. But that’s just the symptom. That’s just the cough, but it is not the disease! When we inspect an infested home we take pictures off the walls and look behind them, and even between the cardboard back of the frame and the photo. Young Bed Bugs are incredibly tiny and can wedge themselves into places you would not believe. Some studies show that as many as 70 percent of the individuals in a give infestation DO NOT live on or in the bed! Instead they are in the night stand, the baseboard moldings, the light switch covers and yes, the pictures on the walls.
What this means is that Bed Bugs can be in any object you pick up in a home and will hide in any tiny crack or groove in that object. Anything with an opening such as a shoe box is a perfect harborage place for Bed Bugs.
The problem, then, is that if you buy something that has been in a house with Bed Bugs you can very easily take the bugs home and infest your own home! This applies not only to yard sales but also to any kind of establishment that sells used clothing. All are susceptible! Sxlvxtion Axxy, Sxvers, your church clothing drive or rummage sale, your neighbor’s yard sale, the local resale or consignment place… all can receive or sell goods infested with Bed Bugs with no knowledge on their part. Trash picking is also a huge no no. How do you know the person didn’t dispose of the item at the curb BECAUSE it was infested with Bed Bugs?
One other danger zone is furniture delivery. When you buy a new mattress you have it delivered, right? And the store hauls away your old bedding, right? Do they send a separate truck to pick up the old bedding? NO! So when people who have Bed Bug infestations replace their mattresses, those old mattresses ride in the same truck as your brand new one! I even had one client who found bed Bugs inside the heavy plastic zippered cover of a BRAND NEW duvet cover from the store… Obviously someone else had bought and returned it, along with bed Bugs!
This includes not only furnishings like beds and couches and chairs, but also desks and picture frames and appliances. It also includes clothing. Used clothing is notorious for carrying Bed Bugs. Why? Because pest control companies require every stitch of clothing in the house to be washed when we treat. Well meaning people pack up all their clothes when they have their houses treated for Bed Bugs and in the process realize they have a lot of stuff they don’t wear anymore. So they donate the items. This also happens when people pass away and their family donates all their furnishings to charity, not realizing the furnishings are infested. Along with the donated items they are passing along their pest problems.
Washing doesn’t help. Contrary to popular belief, washing and drying clothing in hot water / air does NOT kill all Bed Bugs inside. These insects are born extremely tiny and can be in cracks you can hardly see or tucked into the most remote portion of a garment. The garments themselves can insulate the insects well enough for them to survive the laundering process. And you simply cannot wash an end table or a lamp.
The only real and effective solution for Bed Bugs is insecticide.
So the bottom line is, and for the foreseeable future will be: Unless it is brand new, or you have had it thoroughly treated with pesticide, don’t bring it into your house. Don’t buy used. And check new items thoroughly with a strong flashlight… because bed Bugs can hide ANYWHERE!