Avoiding Bedbugs While Thrift Shopping
Have bedbugs impacted your favorite pastime of rummaging through used items? We love a great thrift store find as much as the next person. The thrill of the hunt, the rush of adrenaline when you find that “perfect” item, the insanely low prices — thrifting is definitely the sport of choice for many DIY’ers.
However, thrifting does come with its pitfalls. If you’re looking for something specific, it could take a lot of perseverance and patience to find it. Perusing sites like Ebay and Craigslist can become scarily competitive, not to mention time-consuming, while keeping your eyes peeled for those signature pieces. And now, with a bedbug epidemic sweeping the nation, you have more to worry about than whether or not to paint that solid wood hutch you scored for $20.
Blogger Sammy Davis (yes, that’s really her name) recounts her tips for avoiding bringing home unwanted house guests in all sorts of second hand items, but we’d like to point out the risk factors and detection strategies (as well as our own tips) for purchases closer to the DIY’ers heart.
High Risk: Curbside Furniture
Sammy suggests instead of picking up questionable pieces from your neighbors’ trash, asking family members if they have furniture they’d like to pass your way, assuming those family members aren’t dealing with an infestation themselves. We’d also suggest making sure furniture at thrift stores have been sterilized according to your local health code standards — usually they’re labeled as such. Sammy warns to “take heed if it’s wooden or porous, like wicker furniture. Bed bugs can hide in wooden cracks and wicker crannies unseen to the human eye.”
High Risk: Luggage
“No matter what that sweet vintage suitcase’s price tag is, don’t pay for bedbugs’ one-way ticket into your home. The apple-seed-shaped bugs run about the size of a tick, and their flat bodies can easily hide in zippers, seams and luggage lining,” says Sammy. So if you’re looking to create a charming vignette or create some creative storage solutions, try looking at discount or craft stores for reproductions.
Low-to-Moderate Risk: Paintings
Sammy states “Bedbugs aren’t just mattress-dwellers — old picture frames are also their breeding grounds. They’ll hide in that antique portrait of your great-great-grandmother by day, only to emerge onto the walls and crawl toward your bed at night. Examine the back of a used painting or picture frame before buying, taking note of black or brown spots. Don’t buy it if the frame is porous, either. If it’s solid wood and mark-free, you’re probably safe.”
Low-to-Moderate Risk: Books
“Bedbugs can be bookworms, too. Buried deep in their hiding places, adults can go up to a year without feeding. Used-book shoppers can accidentally pick up a book and awake the hibernating bedbugs from within,” warns Sammy. She suggests shaking books vigorously, while keeping an eye out for tiny spots or apple-seed shaped bugs alive or dead. If you see them, put the book down and back away slowly. Old books may have a certain je ne sais quoi about them, but bedbugs certainly don’t.
At Your Discretion: Swap Parties and Yard Sales
Finally, these opportunities for great finds bear this advice from Sammy: “Young bedbugs are less than 1/16th of an inch long and nearly colorless when first born. So how do you know that your best-friend’s-cousin’s-aunt’s-neighbor doesn’t have bedbugs and her awesome vintage-’60s dress isn’t harboring an unborn nest ready to hatch in your closet?”
To counteract any risk, she advises, “Whether at a swap party or yard sale, shop the closets of others with discretion. Wash anything you buy immediately in hot water and dry on high heat. Like thrift store buys, keep your finds encased in a plastic bag until washed, dried and cleared of bed bug risk.”
Of course, after following these precautions, sometimes the bedbugs get the best of us — but you can always be your own exterminator if the situation calls for it.
How do you advise avoiding the dreaded bedbug while trying to salvage vintage finds? Let us know your methods in the comments below!
Photo 1: pixeljones
Photo 2: jeffk