How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs

So, you’ve just picked up a fantastic piece of furniture at a steal price.

It looks perfect in your home, but there’s a worry: what if it brought along some bed bugs?

These tiny critters are experts at stowing away in furniture, waiting for the chance to move into your home.

Here’s the thing about bed bugs: once they move in, they’re tough to kick out. Dealing with them can mean spending a lot of money on exterminators, losing sleep, and feeling stressed out.

It’s enough to make anyone pause before grabbing that vintage armchair.

But don’t worry, we’re here to guide you through a simple, step-by-step process to clean your used furniture.

We’ll help you make sure your new finds are bed bug-free and safe to bring into your home.

Understanding Bed Bugs and Their Hideouts

Getting to know your enemy is the first step to victory.

When it comes to bed bugs, knowledge is your greatest weapon. Let’s dive into where these pesky critters like to hide and how to spot them before they spot you.

High-Risk Furniture

Not all furniture is created equal in the eyes of a bed bug. Some pieces are like luxury resorts for these pests.

Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Upholstered Furniture: Sofas and armchairs, with their cozy crevices, are bed bug favorites.
  • Beds and Mattresses: It’s not just in the name; bed bugs truly love beds, especially the seams and tags of mattresses.
  • Storage Units: Dressers and nightstands, especially those with lots of nooks and crannies, can also be hotspots.

Bed Bug Travel Habits

Bed bugs are hitchhikers at heart. They don’t travel long distances on their own but are experts at catching rides with unsuspecting movers.

If you stay somewhere that has bed bugs, without even knowing, you could end up offering them a free ride right back to your place.

They’re sneaky and can hide in your clothes, bags, and even gadgets. When you get home, they come out and start making themselves comfortable.

Here’s the kicker: bed bugs can go a really long time without eating—we’re talking over a year!

So, they can just chill in your stuff, like used furniture or clothes, and wait it out until they’re in a new home with fresh food sources (aka us).

Once bed bugs are in, they don’t waste time. They can zip from one room to another super fast and start growing their family. A few bed bugs can turn into a big problem before you know it, because of their fast breeding.

Traveling and having folks over can up the chances of bed bugs spreading. High-traffic spots like hotels are perfect for them to find new people to hitch a ride with.

And because they’re pretty fast for their size, they can easily move to new hiding spots in your home before you even notice.

That’s why checking your furniture before bringing it into your home is a crucial step that shouldn’t be skipped.

Here’s a snapshot of the things you’ll do:

  • Get Up Close: Use a flashlight and magnifying glass to examine all the nooks and crannies.
  • Look for Signs: Tiny black spots (bed bug droppings), small white eggs, or the bugs themselves are red flags.
  • Don’t Rush: Take your time to inspect every part of the furniture, especially seams, folds, and hidden areas.

Remember, a little bit of caution can save you a ton of trouble. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to keeping your home bed bug-free.

In the next section, we’ll detail practical steps to make sure your new furniture are free from bed bugs

Initial Inspection and Quarantine

Inspecting Used Furniture

Before that new piece of furniture crosses your threshold, give it a thorough inspection:

  • Gear Up with Tools: Grab a flashlight and a magnifying glass. These tools are your best friends in spotting those tiny, sneaky bed bugs that might be hiding out of plain sight.
  • Dress Appropriately: Consider wearing gloves and light-colored clothing, so any hitchhiking bed bugs stand out against your outfit.
  • Check the Usual Suspects: Begin with the seams, folds, and crevices of the furniture. These spots offer bed bugs hideouts. Use your flashlight to illuminate these areas and the magnifying glass to take a closer look at any suspicious spots.
  • Look for Telltale Signs: Be on the lookout for tiny, rust-colored stains that could be bed bug droppings, small white or translucent eggshells, or even the bugs themselves. These signs can be subtle, so take your time and inspect every inch.
  • Don’t Forget the Underside: Many people overlook the bottom of furniture, but it’s a favorite spot for bed bugs to hide. Carefully flip the furniture over, ensuring you have a clear view of every nook and cranny.
  • Use Your Nose: Sometimes, a bed bug infestation gives off a sweet, musty odor. If you notice an unusual smell coming from the furniture, it could be a warning sign of an active infestation.

Quarantine Methods

If you can’t clean the furniture right away, quarantine is your next best defense:

  • Use Protective Coverings: Consider wrapping the furniture in large plastic bags or protective coverings to seal off any bed bugs that might be lurking. Ensure the coverings are secure and check them regularly for any signs of bed bug activity.
  • Monitor: Place bed bug interceptors under the furniture legs during quarantine to check for bed bug activity. That way, you can eliminate bed bugs before they spread.
  • Choose a “clean zone”: Keep the furniture in a garage, shed, or an unused room away from your main living areas. This containment strategy prevents any potential bed bugs from spreading throughout your home.

Let’s delve into how you can do that properly.

Establishing Safe Zones

Creating a “clean zone” can be a game-changer in bed bug prevention:

  • Designate an Area: Choose an area, like a part of your garage, as the inspection and quarantine zone. This should be away from your main living areas.
  • Use Protective Coverings: Lay down plastic sheeting or tarps in this zone to prevent any potential bed bugs from escaping into your home.
  • Maintain the Zone: Keep the area well-organized and free from clutter to minimize hiding spots and make inspections easier.

By following these steps, you can enjoy your second-hand treasures without worry. A little diligence goes a long way in keeping your home safe and bed bug-free.

Cleaning and Treatment Methods

Once you’ve ensured your new furniture piece is a safe addition to your home, it’s time for a deep clean.

Here are some effective techniques to get rid of any bed bugs that might have slipped through the cracks.

Vacuuming Techniques for Bed Bug Removal

A good vacuuming can suck up bed bugs and their eggs from hidden corners. Here’s how to do it effectively:

  • Choosing the Right Vacuum Attachment: Opt for a vacuum cleaner with strong suction power and use a brush attachment. The bristles of the brush attachment agitate the fabric and crevices, dislodging bed bugs and eggs that cling onto the surfaces.
  • Methodical Vacuuming: Start from the top of the furniture and work your way down, ensuring you cover every square inch. Pay meticulous attention to seams, folds, tufts, and any hidden areas where bed bugs are likely to hide. Use the crevice tool for tight spots and edges where the brush attachment can’t reach.
  • Sealing and Disposal: Once you’ve finished vacuuming, carefully remove the vacuum bag while still outside to avoid any bed bugs escaping back into your home. Seal the bag tightly in a plastic bag—double bagging is recommended for added security. Dispose of it immediately in an outdoor trash bin.

These are simple but effective techniques to make sure that it is cleaned with vacuum.

Steam Cleaning

Steam can kill bed bugs and their eggs on contact. Here’s a step-by-step guide to steam cleaning:

  • Selecting the Appropriate Steamer: Your steamer should be capable of delivering steam at a minimum flow rate of 1 pound per minute. A dry vapor steam cleaner is particularly effective as it produces steam with low moisture content, reducing the risk of damaging the furniture and preventing mold growth.
  • Preparation: Remove any detachable fabric covers that can be laundered separately. Perform a thorough vacuuming of the area and the furniture to remove any loose debris and bed bugs, providing a clean slate for steam treatment.
  • Systematic Steaming: Begin steaming at one end of the furniture and slowly move the steamer across the surface, maintaining a steady pace of about 1 inch per second. This ensures the steam has enough time to penetrate the fabric and reach the bed bugs hidden deep within.
  • Targeted Steaming: Concentrate on the areas where bed bugs are most likely to hide, such as seams, folds, and edges. Use the steamer’s nozzle or a specific attachment designed for crevices to direct the steam into these hard-to-reach spots effectively.
  • Drying: After steaming, it’s essential to let the furniture dry completely before using it again. This might take several hours or even a day, depending on the furniture’s material and the ambient conditions. Ensure good ventilation to speed up the drying process and to prevent any moisture-related issues.

Non-toxic, DIY Treatments

For those who prefer natural methods, here are a couple of non-toxic treatments:

  • Essential Oil Sprays: Mix a few drops of bed bug-repelling essential oils like lavender, peppermint, or tea tree oil with water in a spray bottle. Lightly mist the furniture, focusing on potential hiding spots. However, test on a small area first to ensure it doesn’t stain or damage the fabric.
  • Diatomaceous Earth: This is a natural, non-toxic powder that dehydrates and kills bed bugs. Sprinkle a thin layer around the legs of the furniture and in any cracks or crevices. Leave it for a few days before vacuuming it up carefully.

Using these methods can help ensure your used furniture is not only a great addition to your home but also safe and bed bug-free.

Preventive Measures After Cleaning

Great job on cleaning and treating your new furniture!

Now, let’s make sure those bed bugs don’t come back. Here are some preventive measures to keep your furniture safe and sound.

Applying Bed Bug Proof Covers

Bed bug proof covers are a fantastic way to protect your mattresses and box springs. Here’s how to use them:

  • Choose the Right Size: Make sure the cover fits snugly around your mattress or box spring.
  • Seal It Tight: Zip up the cover all the way. These covers are designed with special zippers that bed bugs can’t penetrate.
  • Leave It On: Keep the cover on for at least a year. This ensures that any bed bugs trapped inside will die off without access to food (aka you!).

Regular Maintenance Checks

  • Monthly Inspections: Take a few minutes each month to check your furniture, especially around seams and crevices, for any signs of bed bugs.
  • Vacuum Regularly: A routine vacuum can pick up any stray bed bugs before they settle in.
  • Be Mindful with New Items: Give any new (or new-to-you) furniture the same thorough inspection and cleaning treatment before bringing it inside.

Innovative Storage Solutions

How you store things can also make a difference. Try these ideas:

  • Bed Bug-Resistant Containers: Store off-season clothes and linens in airtight containers to keep bed bugs out.
  • Declutter: Less clutter means fewer hiding spots for bed bugs. Keep your space tidy, especially around your furniture.
  • Elevate Your Storage: Avoid storing items under the bed unless they’re in bed bug-proof containers. Instead, go for storage solutions that keep items off the floor and away from potential bed bug zones.

By following these preventive measures, you can enjoy your furniture without the worry of unwanted guests.

When to Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, bed bugs can get the upper hand.

Knowing when to call in the professionals can save you time, money, and stress in the long run. Let’s look at when it’s time to get help, what to expect, and how to choose the right pest control service.

Signs That Professional Extermination Is Needed

It might be time to call in the experts if:

  • The Infestation Persists: Despite your cleaning and preventive efforts, you’re still spotting bed bugs or getting bitten.
  • The Infestation Spreads: If bed bugs are moving to other areas of your home, professional intervention is crucial to contain and eliminate them.
  • DIY Treatments Fail: Sometimes, over-the-counter solutions just don’t cut it, especially with severe infestations.

Overview of the Professional Bed Bug Treatment Process

Professional exterminators have the tools and expertise to tackle bed bug problems more thoroughly. Here’s what to expect:

  • Inspection: A professional will start with a thorough inspection of your home to determine the extent of the infestation.
  • Treatment Plan: Based on the inspection, they’ll recommend a treatment plan. This may include chemical treatments, heat treatments, or a combination of methods.
  • Preparation: You’ll likely need to prepare your home for treatment, which could involve cleaning, decluttering, and more.
  • Treatment: The extermination process may take several visits to ensure all bed bugs, including eggs, are eliminated.
  • Follow-Up: A good service will include follow-up visits to make sure the treatment was successful.

Choosing a Reputable Pest Control Service

Selecting the right pest control service is crucial. Here’s what to ask before making your decision:

  • Experience: How long have they been dealing with bed bugs? Specific experience matters.
  • References: Can they provide references from satisfied customers?
  • Treatment Methods: What treatment methods do they use, and why do they recommend them for your situation?
  • Guarantee: Do they offer a guarantee on their services? What does it cover?
  • License and Insurance: Ensure they are licensed and insured to work in your area.

By knowing when to seek professional help and what questions to ask, you can confidently tackle even the most stubborn bed bug infestations.

Remember, there’s no shame in calling in the pros—it’s about protecting your home and your peace of mind.


Sam Everett is the Founder of Evolved Agents–a real estate mastermind that helps agents sell more homes using online ads and a virtual assistant. He provides free training through his YouTube channel, TikTok, and Facebook Page.