Bed bugs. The general public agrees that they’re hard to get and even harder to get rid of. But with most cases residing in foreign countries and foreign NYC apartments, it’s safe to say that the rest of the country has little to worry about …. right?
Wrong. According to experts, bed bugs aren’t just risks at hostels, dirty motels or crowded NYC apartment buildings. Recently, national clothing stores, media companies and prestigious opera houses have fallen victim to bed bug invasion. And then there’s those cases in wealthy South Florida motels, suburban Los Angeles homes and even in college dorms. Looks like bed bugs are leaving urban mattresses in search of greener pastures.
No matter where they come from or where they’re going, between the hours of 1AM and 5AM these creepy crawly critters want to snuggle with you in the warmth of your bed for a quick bite to eat and an even quicker scamper back to their dark, secret hiding places. They’re spreading their blood-sucking selves into the beds of warm human bodies nationwide, and if you aren’t careful with your thrifty shopping habits, you may be welcoming an exterminator along with those new bedmates of yours.
The thrifty finds may cost less than a week of groceries, but that friendly neighborhood exterminator? He’ll need your AmEx, please … swiped to the tune of $1,000 and plus per chemical-spraying session.
Read on for the second part in my “how to avoid bed bugs when thrifting” series. Click here to read part I on how to avoid bed bugs when shopping in thrift stores. Hesitant to thrift? Part II gives you the information you need to make the decision for yourself.
Be gone to bed bugs and bed bugs to bygones!
HIGH RISK // CURBSIDE FURNITURE
Admittingly, I have a history of pulling new-to-me furniture from the curb in elated glee — but with the recent resurgence in bed bugs, you never know if something is curbside because its previous owners are dealing with the little critters themselves. Step away from the leather couch, my friend — unless you want some pretty uncomfortable bites with that comfortable cushion.
Low Risk Advice: If you want free furniture, ask family members if they have anything to give.
HIGH RISK // LUGGAGE
Bed bugs enjoy traveling just as much as your newly retired Aunt Paula & Uncle Dave like using their 20 years of cumulative frequent flyer miles to travel the globe. Like a bona fide nomad, bed bugs aren’t attached to their last warm body — they just follow the food wherever it goes. And sorry to say it … but that food is you.
If you’re eyeing up a piece of vintage or thrift luggage at your local Salvation Army, close your eyes and just slowly walk away. Bed bugs emerge in the nighttime because they like the dark. And what is more dark than the shadows of a suitcase? No matter its price tag, don’t pay for your bed bugs’ one-way ticket into your home.
Low-Risk Advice: Discount stores like Marshals & TJ Maxx have semi-stylish luggage for less. Add a bow for some extra personality, minus the extra baggage of bed bugs.
MODERATE RISK // THRIFT STORE CLOTHING
The first part of this series was devoted entirely to avoiding bed bugs at thrift stores. To throw some water on that fire [and so my thrift store lovers can suffer less], keep in mind that not all thrift store pieces are at risk equally.
Bed bugs will nestle and lay eggs in sweaters and coats over jeans or shoes. Second to note is that a difference in materials influences where a bug is more likely to hang. Sequins, linen and starchy materials are safe alternatives to wool, cashmere or other soft, bury-friendly threads.
Low-Risk Advice: See swap parties & yard sales below
MODERATE RISK // THRIFT STORE PURSES
Unlike luggage, thrift store purses are a lower risk because you usually don’t throw clothing items into purses. Still, there have been isolated reports of bed bugs hiding in cell phones, so the risk is worth a rating.
My best advice? Dump out each thrift store purse before buying. Check the seams and pockets for brown splotches, or “bed bug droppings.”
Low-Risk Advice: Give each purse a serious once-over and if you choose to buy it, immediately throw it in your dryer on high heat to kill any live bugs or their eggs.
LOW RISK // THRIFT STORE PAINTINGS
Old picture frames and painting frames make perfect hiding places for bed bugs, especially when said frames are hanging on a wall and give the insects leverage to travel to and from various rooms of your home.
Low-Risk Advice: If a vintage painting is just too good to be true [see examples above, classic!] and you have to buy it, turn it around and make sure that it’s mark free [no black or brown spots] and that the frame doesn’t contain porous holes where bed bugs could hide. If it’s solid wood and mark-free, you’re probably more safe than screwed.
LOW RISK // USED BOOKS
The most serious of bed bug cases report that the pages of books found in untouched, for-display-only book shelves shelter bed bugs. They burrow into disintegrating pages of ancient books that your human eye has neither desire to read nor chance of seeing.
Low-Risk Advice: Don’t just pick up a used book and buy it. Bust a move and shake it, flap it and turn it upside down. Spot a few holes in the pages or a tiny insect resembling an apple seed? Then it’s time to buy new on Amazon.
AT YOUR DISCRETION // YARD SALE PURCHASES & SWAP PARTIES
I’m a huge proponent of swap parties and yard sales for their “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” platform of sustainable style and material possession consciousness.
The issue? Like when shopping thrift stores, you’re shopping in slippery territory with swap parties and yard sales, too. How do you know that your best-friends’-cousins’-aunts’-neighbor doesn’t have bed bugs, and her awesome vintage 60s dress isn’t only going to impress your friends, but is going to bring home some new friends, too?
Low-Risk Advice: Shop sanely, but wash safely and quickly. Everything that you acquire at a swap event, yard sale or thrift store is going to be washed eventually, right? Instead of throwing new swap finds into your hamper, throw them into a washing machine and clean immediately. You’ll kill the risk with hot water, without actually getting yourself into a hot water situation of bed bug infestation.
Have a question about how to avoid bed bugs and other issues when thrifting or saving money? Drop me a line [[email protected]] with your question, or leave a comment below!