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How To: Bed Bug Free Thrifting

by on Sep 29, 2010

Two months ago I got clean. I stopped buying used furniture and other cast-off household decor. Until last Friday. One little left hand turn off the road to Lowes and I was back at my favorite Goodwill store. Oh so what?  I’m not throwing my money away. I’m making charitable contributions. It was different this time. (I mostly bought slick surfaced goodies.)See, my new session of upholstery classes started Wednesday night and one of my favorite students, Nikkole, was back. While we were happily tearing down her grandma’s tufted chair, she asked me if I was afraid people would bring in furniture that may be contaminated with bed bugs. Yikes! What??? I don’t live in New York, what was she trying to plant in my mind? 

I dismissed the idea until Thursday when I decided I better read up on this. I read about the extermination of bed bugs, where they can be found (everywhere) and how hard it is to get rid of them. A September 1, 2010 New York Times article addressed my personal concern – how will bed bug jitters affect second hand shopping?  What about addicts like me who who just can’t stop? 

Thrift store owners reported many inquiries, but no apparent decrease in sales.

It turns out that bed bugs don’t care about old or new, clean or dirty, city or country or anything. They just want a comfy place to live and breed. YUK!

I’ve never seen a bed bug in one single piece of upholstered furniture I’ve touched. However, I’m aware of the little critters and I’m not taking any chances.

My advice to my fellow thrifting addicts:

  1. If you have any doubts, pass on it.
  2. If you can’ resist a piece and you know you’re going to reupholster it, leave it outside, tear off the old fabric and padding and clean the frame before taking it into the house. Take photos of how it came apart and throw that old stuff away.
  3. If you are absolutely positive there is no sign of a bed bug, then you can determine whether you want to bring it in your house. 
  4. If you’re shopping for a vintage sofa or large piece that will not be reupholstered, do a thorough examination at the store. DO NOT wait until it’s in your home to inspect it. By that time, they may have jumped over to your La-z-Boy and nestled under the fabric.

If you’re a vintage clothes shopper, it’s much easier. All you need to do is stick the garment in a sealable plastic bag and pop it in the freezer for three days and then take it to the dry cleaners. Also, a hot, hot dryer is supposed to kill the bugs and eggs.

A large and a small bed bug

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