When you need to furnish your college dorm or first apartment, buying secondhand furniture from thrift stores or garage sales can help you stretch your budget. However, secondhand furniture could be harboring bed bugs, so if you're not careful, your frugal finds could come with some unwanted roommates. Here are three tips for inspecting secondhand furniture for bed bugs.
Use a magnifying glass and flashlight
Bed bugs and their eggs are quite small, so it's essential to inspect any furniture you're interested in purchasing with a magnifying glass and flashlight. Examine every inch of your potential purchase with these tools; reputable sellers won't have a problem with you doing this.
Bed bug eggs are only 2.5 millimeters (0.9 inches) long, so it's hard to see them without the help of a magnifying glass. They're also either white or semi-transparent, which lets them blend into white or light-colored furniture. Your flashlight will help you identify camouflaged eggs on light-colored items.
Adult bed bugs are only 4.5 millimeters (0.18 inches) long, which is about the same size as an apple seed. The adults are good at hiding, so they can wedge themselves into cracks in furniture or other small spaces. Since they're dark brown or black, they can be very hard to see on wooden furniture without the help of a flashlight and magnifying glass.
Inspect seams closely
Bed bugs are sneaky pests that like to hide, and on upholstered items like chairs, couches or cushions, the seams are the best hiding place. Before you buy any upholstered items, be sure to examine all of the seams closely, including the seams on the underside of the item. If the seams are deep, use your fingers to press the fabric out of the way to get a better look inside the seams.
During this inspection, you're not just looking for signs of adult bed bugs. While the presence of adult bed bugs is an obvious sign that you shouldn't buy that item, you need to look for more subtle clues as well. Look for brown or black smudges within the seams; these markings could be traces of bed bug feces. If you see these markings, assume that the chair has been infested in the past. Since bed bugs can live inside cushions and remain undetected, you shouldn't buy any item that has traces of feces in its seams.
Inspect cracks and corners
You may think that wooden furniture doesn't offer many hiding places for bed bugs, but this isn't true, and this furniture still needs to be inspected closely. Bed bugs can squeeze into gaps the width of a credit card, so it's easy for them to hide within the dresser, side table or coffee table that would look great in your new place.
Before you buy any wooden furniture, carefully inspect any crack that's wide enough to fit a credit card with your flashlight. The inner corners of drawers can also be harboring bed bugs, so remember to open the drawers to take a look inside.
It's also essential to remove the drawers to inspect the joints. The joints are the cracks in the outer corners of the drawer where the wood was joined, and bed bugs can squeeze into these areas. Look for bed bug eggs, adult bed bugs or signs of their feces, and if you see any of these things, don't buy the item.
Before you bring any secondhand furniture into your new dorm or apartment, inspect it carefully for signs of bed bugs. If your roommate is less diligent and brings bed bugs into your shared space, call a pest control company like Albemarle Termite & Pest Control right away before the infestation gets out of control.