How to Check for Bed Bugs in Secondhand Furniture

Contrary to popular belief, bed bugs can thrive in places other than your bed, so don’t let their name deceive you. Some of the most common ways to get bed bugs into your home is through secondhand furniture.

Secondhand furniture is great. You can get quality pieces for cheap. But don’t be complacent. Secondhand furniture can sometimes look okay on the outside, even though they are rotten from the inside.

Common secondhand furniture with bed bugs

Here are the common furniture pieces where bed bugs like to stay. If you are looking to buy some secondhand furniture, be particularly wary of these pieces.

  • Secondhand mattress. Bed bugs tend to be nocturnal and they want to be near their food source – you. This is the reason why they like staying in mattresses. You are in bed at night when they are awake and you are basically a free meal.
  • Secondhand sofa. These pests also like being in sofas, as sofas have cracks and crevices where they can hide efficiently. The cracks and crevices are also the perfect spots for their eggs.
  • Secondhand chair. These pests thrive in soft-cushioned furniture, and that’s why they like mattresses and sofas so much. Some chairs are also soft-cushioned, so it’s not surprising that bed bugs tend to stay there as well.
  • Secondhand wooden furniture. Cabinets, drawers, nightstands – you name it. These pests can thrive in there too. No, they don’t eat wood. They just creep into its cracks and holes and settle there. They also like to put their eggs on the underside of these wooden furniture pieces, especially on the corners of the furniture’s legs.
Bed bugs, their exoskeletons, and their fecal matters can be found in mattresses.
Image source: National Center for Biotechnology Information

Signs of bed bugs in secondhand furniture

Whenever you are in thrift shops, don’t just buy stuff just because it looks like a good deal. There might be a catch. These items may be infested by bed bugs. Before buying secondhand furniture, look for the common signs of a bed bug infestation.

  • Live bed bugs. The most obvious sign of a bed bug infestation is, well, bed bugs themselves. They are light brown to rust red in color, and they have a flat oval-shaped body. If you see a few live bed bugs on the secondhand furniture, there may actually be more in hiding.
  • Bed bug carcass. Bed bugs shed. If you see some molted exoskeletons on the secondhand furniture, it is definitely suffering from a bed bug infestation. Give particular attention to the corners of mattresses and the cracks and crevices of sofas and chairs.
  • Bed bug eggs. Bed bug eggs look like milky white capsules. They are only about one millimeter small. Their size is one of the reasons why they can be very hard to spot. But the good thing is, they are often found in clusters. That will make up for their small size. Aside from the corners, cracks, and crevices, look at the underside of the secondhand furniture, especially the corners of the furniture’s legs.
  • Bed bug fecal matters and blood stains. Brown or black stains on the secondhand furniture may be the fecal matters of bed bugs. Red stains can be the blood of previous owners of the furniture, splattered mostly at the main surface of the furniture where you can lie down or sit.

Tips for checking secondhand furniture for these signs

Live bed bugs and the other signs of these pests in secondhand furniture can be hard to spot. Make sure to check the secondhand furniture thoroughly before even considering to buy it.

  • Check the hot spots. Check the corners of the mattresses, cracks and crevices of soft-cushioned furniture, and the underside of any furniture. These are hot spots for bed bugs, so it’s easier to diagnose a bed bug problem if you look at these spots in particular.
  • Use a flashlight. Bed bugs tend to be nocturnal and they don’t want to be seen. This is the reason why you are more likely to find them in secondhand furniture that has the same color as them. This is also the reason why they are very good at hiding in dark places. Use a flashlight when inspecting secondhand furniture, especially when you are looking under big furniture pieces like mattresses and sofas.
  • Use a magnifying glass. Yes, it can be a little weird to bring a magnifying glass in a thrift shop. But it’s better to be safe than sorry. Remember that bed bugs are only 5-7 millimeters long and their eggs are only 1 millimeter small. A magnifying glass becomes more effective if you partner it with a flashlight.
  • Run a card across the creases. One common way other thrift shoppers inspect secondhand furniture is by running the edge of a credit card across the creases of the furniture. Bed bugs are small enough to settle inside these creases. Disturbing the creases may bring them out.

Make sure to wear gloves when you are checking secondhand furniture for signs of a bed bug infestation.

Wear latex gloves when inspecting secondhand furniture for bed bugs.

Tips to reduce the risk of getting bed bugs from thrift shops

  • Avoid bringing home secondhand furniture without inspecting them. It’s easy to be blinded by a good deal. But don’t take your chances. Don’t bring home the secondhand furniture without checking it first for the signs of a bed bug infestation.
  • Clean or heat treat secondhand furniture upon arriving home. Vacuum the secondhand furniture thoroughly. Throw the contents of the vacuum bag in a trash bin outside your home. Also consider heat treating the secondhand furniture. Heat can kill bed bugs, but it can be more complicated than you think. You will need a consistent heat source that can produce at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit for multiple hours. Consider getting a professional if you think you can’t do it.
  • Remember that bed bugs can be found in fabrics too. Secondhand furniture pieces are not the only items in thrift shops that can house bed bugs. Fabrics, especially those that are not often disturbed by customers, can be great spots too. Carpets, curtains, and secondhand clothes are your likely candidates.
  • Ask about the sanitation practices of the thrift shop. As the owners or employees of a store that deal with cheap and secondhand items, they should be aware of the dangers of passing pests like bed bugs to their customers. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their sanitation practices in their facility.


You can find bed bugs in secondhand furniture. Before you buy secondhand furniture from thrift shops, look for the common signs of a bed bug infestation. Don’t hesitate to bring flashlights and magnifying glasses so you can inspect the secondhand furniture effectively.

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