Antique Chairs on a table at flea market

Before you buy a used piece of furniture, remember that just because it may look nice on the outside, doesn’t mean it is on the inside.

It’s best to inspect used furniture before buying to avoid pest infestation in your home. By taking the right precautions when inspecting, you won’t have to miss out on buying inexpensive furniture and avoid calling an exterminator.

To help you save money on furniture costs and keep your house pest-free, we have tips on where to look for hidden pests and how to identify them in second hand furniture.

How to Choose 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 times,” said 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,” said 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. According to Orkin, signs of termites in your furniture include caved-in wood and visible mazes.

Inspect Your Used Furniture

The Bed Bug Treatment Site provides steps on how to inspect second hand furniture for bed bugs:

  1. You’ll need white latex gloves, a flashlight and a white sheet with you when inspecting the furniture.
  2. Place your furniture on the white sheet to help see bed bugs if they fall on the sheet.
  3. Using a credit card or gloved hand, run the edge of your card or finger over any creases or cracks on the furniture’s surface. Keep watching for signs of bed bugs on your gloves or the white sheet with the magnifying glass. Signs will either be the actual bed bugs, feces (which will be dark red stains) or old skin.
  4. Use your flashlight to thoroughly inspect 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,” said Morris.

Don’t Collect Furniture from the Curb

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. Not only for sanitary purposes, but for termites, bed bugs and other pests.

The Bed Bug Treatment Site indicates that furniture left on the side of the road is generally thrown away for good reason. When going to yard sales, don’t be afraid to ask the seller if the furniture has ever had a prior pest infestation.

Treatment of Furniture

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,” said 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 out newspaper 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,” said Evan Harris, co-founder of SD Equity Partners – a real estate finance company that deals with second hand furniture on almost every property flip.

“Essentially these are little devices that emit a poisonous gas that kills larvae and insects. 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,” said 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.

Do you have any tips on checking furniture for pests? Share in the comments below!

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Museums use a different kind of poison-free bug treatment. Basically they put textile objects inside a big bag and flood it with carbon dioxide. If memory serves, things have to stay in that environment for a week or two, but then any and all pests are killed whether they be adults, larvae, or eggs. We did this with a carpet years ago, and the price was reasonable, something like $200.

  2. Great post! There is one thing I would like to mention. I wouldn’t use a bug bomb for furniture as it can leave residue on upholstery.

  3. Oh this reminds me of that episode of The Big Bang Theory when Penny gets a chair someone was throwing away and it turns out to have a squirrel in it. Was it a squirrel?

    1. I happen to be a huge fan of The Big Bang Theory. You’re referring to “The Infestation Hypothesis” episode. They never actually show what’s crawling around in there, but I certainly wouldn’t want it in my furniture.

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