Antique chair, mirror, and table.

How To Check A Couch And Other Furniture For Bed Bugs

Hanna Kielar4-minute read
October 11, 2022

More and more of us are embracing upcycling and repurposing used furniture. Some of us are motivated by the goal of keeping perfectly good furniture out of landfills, and others by decorating our home on a budget.

But before you buy or rescue a used piece of furniture, remember that just because it may look nice on the outside doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to bring it home. It’s a bad idea to do so without a thorough inspection and quarantine to make sure you’re not importing pests into your home.

By taking the right precautions when inspecting, you won’t have to miss out on buying inexpensive furniture and you’ll avoid the much bigger hassle of trying to eradicate pests from your home.

Let’s take a look at our best tips on where to look for hidden pests and how to identify them in secondhand furniture.

How To Shop For Used Furniture

Before you buy a piece of furniture at a yard sale or anywhere else, try to avoid choosing anything upholstered.

“The truth is, you probably won’t notice if your furniture is infected by bed bugs as the person selling it would have steam cleaned it most of the time,” says Amber Morris, pest control expert at 24/7 Pest Control. “But bed bugs are quite difficult to eradicate and with upholstered furniture, it is certain that they are still alive in there and it’s just a matter of time before you see the signs of infestation.”

So the next time you decide to buy used furniture, a good tip would be to choose a chair or barstool because bed bugs are most likely to set up fort on a bed or couch.

“If you want to be on the safe side, but still not 100% safe, that’s how adaptable bed bugs are, pick furniture made of solid materials and has a simple design,” says Morris. “Bed bugs are quite stealthy and indestructible, and can survive on the oddest of surfaces, such as pleats and seams of lampshades.”

Bed bugs are one problem, but when choosing wooden furniture, keep an eye out for termites. Signs of termites in your furniture include caved-in wood and visible mazes.

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How To Inspect Your Used Furniture

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance on how to inspect secondhand furniture for bed bugs. Here are our tips for making the job as safe and thorough as possible.

  • Gather your supplies: You’ll need white latex gloves, a flashlight and a white sheet with you when inspecting the furniture.
  • Prepare your workplace: Place your furniture on the white sheet to help you see any bed bugs you dislodge from the piece.
  • Inspect the furniture closely: Run the edge of a credit card or gloved finger over any creases or cracks on the furniture’s surface. Keep a close watch for signs of bed bugs, bed bug feces (dark red stains) or old skin on your gloves or the white sheet with the magnifying glass.
  • Shine a light: Use a flashlight to get the best view into any hidden or dark areas of the furniture. Bed bugs are usually hiding, so look in the creases where they aren’t visible.

Remember, bed bugs don’t only live in beds and couches. They can reside in the nails and screw holes on the backside of framed pictures. And even underneath loose paint on the frame!

“These are just a few places – bed bugs can hide in just about anything you can think of – shoes, rugs, bags, plush toys,” says Morris.

How To Avoid Bringing Bed Bugs Home

Furniture left on the side of the road is generally thrown away for good reason. While it may be hard to pass up a free couch or chair sitting on the side of the road (especially if you’re in need of one), it’s best not to risk it no matter how tempting it is.

When going to yard sales, don’t be afraid to ask the seller if the furniture has ever had a prior pest infestation.

How To Treat Used Furniture With Bed Bugs Or Other Pests

According to Galin Kolev of Fantastic Pest Control, if you realize that the furniture you brought home is infested with bed bugs – take it outside immediately.

“Seal every cushion cover in a plastic bag. Go to your dryer and empty the bag inside it,” says Kolev. “Run the covers on high heat for at least half an hour and dispose of the plastic bag in a trash bin outside.”

You should also vacuum the furniture along the seams, folds and other hidden areas. Once done, remove the vacuum bag and dispose of it.

If your furniture has a termite issue, spread some newspaper out on your basement or garage floor, put your furniture on top of it and shut all of the doors and windows. Next, you should either spray the furniture with a bug spray or use a bug bomb.

“Bug bombs are some of the best ways to get rid of any unwanted pests,” says Evan Harris, co-founder of SD Equity Partners – a real estate finance company that deals with secondhand furniture on almost every property flip.

“Essentially these are little devices that emit a poisonous gas that kills larvae and insects,” Harris says. “They can be purchased at most supermarkets or hardware stores.”

Also, hiring an exterminator is an effective option – but can be expensive. Hire one if you feel like you can’t control the issue and need help.

“Your last resort should be to contact a pest control company, which will inspect the item you’ve purchased and treat it,” says Kolev. “The downside here is that bed bug extermination services don’t come cheap; however, it’s the most efficient option you got.”

So, the next time you’re at a yard sale, make sure you do a thorough check for bed bugs and termites before bringing furniture or decor inside your home.

The Bottom Line: Keeping Bed Bugs Out Is Easier Than Getting Rid Of Them

If you just can’t resist a bargain, you can prevent a pest problem by thoroughly examining the upholstered items you’re interested in , and leave the furniture outside or in a garage before bringing it in.

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto℠, RocketHQ℠, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.