How to Check for Bed Bugs in Furniture: Step by Step Instructions

A bed bug infestation doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Usually, it is the result of introducing a few bed bugs into your home, such as by installing secondhand furniture pieces serving as hiding places for those blood-sucking pests.

Checking for bed bugs in furniture requires a keen eye for the signs of bed bugs, such as live bed bugs, molten skin, eggs, and fecal matter. A musty, berry-sweet smell may also give away their presence. With a credit card or toothpick, bed bugs can be dislodged from the furniture cracks and crevices.

While small, bed bugs are not at all invisible to the naked eye. Their reddish-brown bodies make them easy to spot, too, on light-colored fabrics or surfaces.

Before taking secondhand furniture inside your home, it pays to carefully inspect them first to make sure that you are not going to face a bed bug infestation sooner or later.

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After confirming the presence of bed bugs, it is completely up to you to decide which step to take next:

  • Eliminate those bed bugs using some tried and tested home remedies
  • Get in touch with a local pest control company to do the dirty work for you

No matter your preference, either the cheap route involving your own two hands or the costly approach entailing the help of the pros, it is a must that you first establish the presence of bed bugs.

Fortunately, it is fairly easy to check for bed bugs in furniture. All you have to do is arm yourself with a few tools already in the average home, and then add a dash of patience and determination.

It won’t take long before you are able to decide whether the furniture may be placed inside the home or should stay outside to get treated.

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Here’s How To Find Bed Bugs in Furniture

Buying secondhand furniture is easier on the pocket compared to buying brand new ones.

But if you’re not careful, you could wind up shelling out a lot of cash if a bed bug infestation breaks because of failure to inspect the secondhand furniture properly. Follow these steps to keep an infestation from striking:

Gather the Necessary Tools For Bed Bug Hunt

Just like when going to war, you should have the right weapons with you in your quest to uncover bed bugs hiding in furniture. Without the necessary tools, you may fail to find what you are looking for.

Here are the things that you should get your hands on before starting the hunt for some bed bugs:

  • Flashlight
  • Magnifying glass
  • White latex gloves
  • White sheet
  • Credit card
  • Toothpick
  • Tape
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Garbage bag

Once everything is within your easy reach, it’s time to spring into action to get some bed bugs out of hiding!

Spread the White Sheet

It is fully up to you where you want to inspect the furniture — on the driveway, in the garage, in the backyard.

However, it is a good idea to carry out the task in the garage if it’s a particularly windy day.

That’s because it is possible for the bed bugs to be spread by the wind, potentially ending up inside your neighbor’s home or somewhere in your property where they can easily crawl inside and find where you sleep.

Once you have chosen a spot, spread the white sheet. You may also go for any other color, but pick one that is light or bright. Otherwise, you may have a hard time spotting bed bugs and molten skin dislodged from the furniture.

Wear a Pair of White Latex Gloves

There are a couple of reasons why you should put on a pair of white latex gloves beforehand:

  1. To get your fingers protected from coming into contact with blood and fecal matter. Accidentally crushing bed bugs while looking for them in their hiding places will cause the blood they drank to ooze out of their tiny bodies.

    While there is no evidence that bed bugs can spread blood-borne diseases, there is nothing wrong with being careful. Wearing white latex gloves also helps create a barrier against bed bugs’ feces.
  2. To make it easy for you to see if you have bed bugs on your hands. An infestation in your bedroom can start from something as simple as touching your clothes with your hands with a couple of bed bugs on it without your knowledge.

    Those creepy crawlers can cling to your clothes, making it easy for them to get inside your home uninvited. A pair of white latex gloves during the inspection can keep that from happening.

The right time to wear white latex gloves is before you carry the furniture and place it on the white sheet.

Place the Furniture on the Sheet

A clean white sheet is a major role player in the hunt for bed bugs in the grooves, cracks, and crevices of secondhand furniture. It makes it easy for you to see bed bugs that fall from the furniture to the ground.

Once again, it is a good idea to use a white sheet. Something that has any other light color will do, too.

Refrain from using a dirty sheet. That’s because aside from live bed bugs, you may also cause fecal matter to get dislodged from the furniture. A dirty sheet can keep you from seeing the poop of bed bugs.

Similarly, while you are engrossed in checking out some of the hard-to-reach potential hiding places, you may accidentally crush bed bugs that are already on the sheet.

If the sheet is dirty, you may fail to spot the tiny dots of blood created. Because of this, you might think that the coast is clear and take the furniture inside your home to be of service.

Use a flashlight when inspecting dark corners and fissures. A magnifying glass can help you take a closer look at areas where you cannot poke your head into.

Use Credit Card Or Toothpick To Uncover Bed Bugs

Bed bugs have flat, oval-shaped bodies that allow them to easily squeeze into cracks as thin as a credit card. This is why you may use a credit card to drive them out or move them out of place.

Slide your credit card through cracks like you are swiping it through the payment terminal at a retail shop.

A toothpick can come in handy on irregularly shaped cracks or holes in the furniture where a credit card won’t fit in.

Don’t forget to waggle the toothpick each time to dislodge bed bugs, including especially the eggs. When female bed bugs lay their eggs, they secrete a sticky substance to make them stick to the surface.

Failure to remove bed bug eggs from secondhand furniture is a rookie mistake.

When those eggs hatch, they can survive even if their mothers are no longer around.

That’s because baby bed bugs (referred to as “nymphs”) drink human blood and not the breast milk of their moms. In about five weeks, they will mature and be all set to mate and multiply.

Observe the Sheet for Signs Of Molten Skin

While you are trying to dislodge bed bugs and their eggs, too, regularly take a quick look at the white sheet on the ground. Because of its color, you will surely catch a glimpse of any bed bug or egg that fell from the furniture.

You may also spot bed bugs that are seemingly dead and semi-transparent — those are molten skin!

As young bed bugs grow, their bodies become too big to be accommodated by their skin. They have to shed their old skin to make way for a new one, which is large enough to contain their grown bodies.

Before reaching full maturity, bed bugs molt five times. Adult bed bugs do not molt as they no longer grow.

Other than molten skin, it’s not unlikely for you to also notice tiny dark spots on the sheet that can stain like a marker when you press and drag them across it. Those are the feces of bed bugs.

Dispose of Bed Bugs Properly

The minute that you see some bed bugs on the white sheet on the ground, catch them with tape and throw them in a garbage bag. You should do the same when you spot some eggs.

Bed bug eggs are white to pearly white in color. They are the size of a grain of salt. When you look at them using a magnifying glass, you will see that they are barrel-like in shape. Newly hatched eggs will have a sticky substance around them, while eggs that are a few days old will have visible eyespots.

If there are many bed bugs crawling on the sheet or hiding in areas that you checked, it’s a great idea to grab your vacuum cleaner, plug it in, and suck those bloodsuckers in!

There are a few important things to remember when it comes to using a vacuum cleaner against bed bugs:

  1. Go for a bagged instead of a bagless unit. A bagged vacuum cleaner makes it easy to stash the bed bug-filled disposable dust bag in a garbage bag.
  2. Avoid using the brush attachment as its stiff bristles can toss bed bugs that they come into contact with everywhere, thus allowing them to escape and crawl to safety, such as in your bedroom.
  3. Vacuum the furniture as slowly as you possibly can. To be sure that the machine gets to suck in most of the hiding bed bugs, go over every area twice or thrice.

Once you are happy, immediately dispose of the disposable dust bag. Place it in a garbage bag and tie.

Since bed bugs can live for more than a year, even without drinking blood, spray the garbage bag with bug spray that you can easily buy at a hardware or home improvement store before tying it.

Bed Bugs are Sneaky and Stubborn Creatures

Just because you followed the steps above doesn’t necessarily mean that your secondhand piece of furniture would be totally rid of bed bugs.

Those creepy crawlers are very good at hiding, and missing a potential hiding spot while searching for them can spell the difference between owning bed bug-free furniture and having a massive infestation.

To be sure, there is something that you may count on. It’s none other than rubbing alcohol.

Bed bugs will die upon coming into contact with rubbing alcohol. Similarly, bed bug eggs will get destroyed as soon as they are doused with it. No matter the life cycle bed bugs are in, rubbing alcohol can eradicate them instantly!

It’s because of this why, when looking for DIY solutions for a bed bug infestation on the internet, chances are that you will encounter rubbing alcohol all the time.

Having rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle can help save you from both viruses and bed bugs.

While highly effective against bed bugs, unfortunately, there are a few downsides to the use of rubbing alcohol:

  • It is a highly flammable substance. Dealing with bed bugs with rubbing alcohol is a complete no-no if there is an open flame nearby.

    That’s because you are risking burning down the house! It’s because of this exactly why it is recommended to use rubbing alcohol sparingly and without any person smoking or lighted candle around.
  • It can leave a nasty stain on wooden furniture. Rubbing alcohol is a solvent that can quickly destroy wooden furniture finish on contact.

    Even a tiny drop of it can leave a gigantic mess on the appearance of anything that is out of wood. When trying to eliminate bed bugs in wooden furniture, stay away from rubbing alcohol.

Here are some of the things that can help you with removing bed bugs from wooden furniture:

  • Certain essential oils (lavender, neem, cinnamon, thyme, tea tree, clove, lemongrass, and eucalyptus)
  • Diatomaceous earth
  • Steam cleaner
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Double-sided tape (it can trap bed bugs going to and fro infested furniture)

Many Furniture Can Serve as Hiding Places

A lot of people think that bed bugs live in beds only, from the mattress, box spring to the headboard. Many of those who are aware that those nocturnal creatures can thrive outside the bed, too, believe that they are limited to upholstered furniture.

Sadly, bed bugs can live on any type of furniture.

For instance, believe it or not, bed bugs can also hide in leather couches while it’s not yet time to feed.

In fact, bed bugs can take cover in practically any piece of furniture that has leather in it. However, you will rarely see bed bugs staying on the leather itself. That’s because their legs are not designed to cling to smooth surfaces.

Those creepy crawlers in furniture with leather or out of leather can be found in tight corners, along the piping, around decorative elements and tags, and where the legs and the main body of the furniture meet.

And if there is a hole or tear in the leather, some bed bugs may end up inside and mate, thus infesting the interiors.

It’s because bed bugs have no trouble thriving in leather furniture why they can also infest offices — leather office chairs, whether genuine or fake, can serve as fantastic hiding areas for them.

However, it’s not just in leather office chairs where bed bugs can thrive in offices, but also many places, such as:

  • Under the carpet
  • Behind curtains and drapes
  • Cracks in wooden desks
  • Holes and openings in electronics
  • Behind wall decors
  • In electric sockets and switch plates
  • Around lighting fixtures

In an office setting, it is a much better idea to seek the help of a professional pest control company that specializes in dealing with bed bugs in offices and commercial establishments. Going for the DIY route may not work because the different steps need to be carried out regularly, and it can get in the way of everyone’s productivity.

Just Before You Check for Bed Bugs in Furniture

One of the easiest ways for bed bugs to get inside a home and start an infestation is by hitchhiking. They can enjoy free rides by clinging on clothes, shoes, luggage, and furniture.

Secondhand furniture may help you save lots of money alright. However, if any one of them is infested with bed bugs, it can cost you top dollar for having to get in touch with a professional pest control company in your area.

Needless to say, you should try to avoid heading to yard sales, used furniture shops, and antique stores to get your hands on secondhand furniture.

You should also refrain from accepting hand-me-downs from family members and friends known to have a bed bug infestation. Definitely, you should never take home any furniture on the side of the road!

If you cannot avoid welcoming secondhand furniture to your home, see to it that you carefully follow the above-mentioned steps to checking for bed bugs in furniture.

It is only after you are 100% sure that the bed bugs are wiped out (whether through some DIY solutions or with the help of the pros) when you may install them.

Photo credit: ©canva.com/vladimir_n

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