How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs: Effective Methods

Purchasing used furniture can be a great way to save money and give your living space a unique touch. However, with the potential risk of bed bugs, inspecting, cleaning, treating, and sanitizing these items is essential before bringing them into your home.

To start, it’s crucial to closely inspect the furniture, looking for signs of bed bug infestations such as shed exoskeletons, fecal spots, or live insects. Consider passing on the purchase if you notice any of these warning signs.

For furniture WITHOUT a visible infestation, proceed with our bed bug prevention methods listed below. REMEMBER: If the taking in the used piece of furniture is going to cause you bed bug anxiety, its just not worth the it.

How to Identify Bed Bugs – Learn What Signs to Look for

Understanding what to look for before you learn how to clean used furniture to prevent bed bugs is essential.

Physical Characteristics

Bed bugs are small, oval-shaped insects that are usually reddish-brown. Generally, their bodies are flat and about the size of an apple seed (1.5 – 6.5 mm long). Learn more: How big is a bed bug?

When they have not fed, they appear flattened, but after a blood meal, they become rounder and more engorged.

bed bug has striations across its body

Bed bugs have six legs, two antennae, and no wings. Notably, their bodies have a banded appearance. (see photo above) You can use a magnifying glass or the magnifying feature on your phone to examine suspected bed bugs closely.

Signs of Infestation

  • Fecal spots: Bed bugs leave small black or dark fecal spots (bed bug poop) on mattress covers, pillows, headboards, bed frames, sheets, or nearby areas. These fecal spots will smear when you wipe them with a wet Q-tip.

black ink spots can be signs of bed bugs

  • Shed skins and eggs: Bed bugs molt, leaving behind their exoskeletons (bed bug shells) and pearly white, oval eggs (bed bug eggs are approximately 1mm in size). You can find these on or around your furniture, bed frame, headboard, couch, or other areas where you spend time.

bed bug evidence on used furniture

  • Live insects: Although bed bugs hide well (Learn more: Where do bed bugs hide?), you might spot them in folds of mattresses, box springs, bed frames, or other hiding places. They tend to be more active at night, so checking these areas with a flashlight can increase your chance of spotting them.

  • Bite marks: If you notice red, itchy bite spots on your skin, this could be a sign of bed bugs. However, it’s important to note that not everyone reacts to bed bug bites similarly.

Did you know that many people don’t respond to bed bug bites? Check out this study: The Sensitivity Spectrum: Human Reactions to Bed Bug Bites.

Therefore, the absence of bite marks does not rule out an infestation. So if you see no signs of bed bugs but have bites, it could still be bed bugs, but it could also be something else.

To be sure you correctly identify bed bugs and avoid mistaking them for other insects like carpet beetles or bat bugs, consult a pest control professional or entomologist to confirm your findings.

Learn more about the difference between a bed bug vs a bat bug before jumping to conclusions.

How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs – Methods

The steps listed below are more for prevention if you don’t see live bed bugs or evidence on the item.

However, if you see concrete signs of an infestation on the used furniture, we suggest you get it fumigated on a truck, buy a portable enclosed heat chamber, or pass on it.

Vacuuming – #1 for How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs

Vacuuming is an effective method for removing potential bed bugs and their eggs from your used furniture. You’ll also remove all kinds of bugs like lice, fleas, booklice, or carpet beetle larvae.

Use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to thoroughly clean all surfaces, particularly seams, crevices, and folds.

Remember to empty the vacuum contents into a plastic bag, tie a knot, and dispose of it outside your home. Check out this article on vacuuming bed bugs with a bagless vacuum.

This article has Amazon affiliate links; we earn a small commission if you finalize a purchase.

Steam Cleaning

Steam cleaning can be an efficient way to kill bed bugs on your furniture.

Ideally, use a steam cleaner with low pressure that reaches temperatures above 120°F (49°C), as this is the minimum temperature required to kill bed bugs. We particularly like the Dupray NEAT steamer!

Be sure to treat all surfaces, including the upholstery, seams, and joints. You also eliminate other bugs like lice, fleas, or carpet beetle larvae.

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Vikane Fumigation Truck – Very Effective for: How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs

Vikane fumigation is a professional-grade bed bug treatment that can effectively eliminate all stages of bed bugs.

Consider hiring a pest control company with access to a Vikane fumigation truck to treat your used furniture. The company will seal the table in the car, and the treatment will typically take several hours.

Bed Bug Oven

Bed bug ovens, also known as heat chambers, are another professional method to treat used furniture for bed bugs. These bed bug heaters will heat the table to a high enough temperature (around 130°F or 54°C) to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

It’s essential to evenly distribute the heat throughout the furniture to ensure complete eradication.

Disposing of Infested Furniture

Sometimes, the furniture may be too infested with bed bugs to be salvageable. Here’s how to properly dispose of infested furniture to prevent bed bugs from spreading further.

Before disposing of the furniture, wrap it in heavy-duty plastic. You can use thick plastic sheeting or large garbage bags to cover the item securely.

Use duct tape to help contain the bed bugs and prevent them from spreading as you move the furniture.

Once you wrap the furniture, use a marker to clearly label it as “Infested with Bed Bugs.” The label will warn others who may come across the discarded furniture and deter them from taking it home, preventing the spread of the infestation to other homes.

When it comes to actually disposing of the furniture, check with your local waste management or sanitation department for guidelines.

Some areas have specific regulations and designated days for picking up more oversized items, such as furniture. Always try to schedule a pickup to ensure the infested item is removed from your property as soon as possible.

Preventive Measures – How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs

Inspecting Used Furniture

Before purchasing any used furniture, carefully inspect it for signs of bed bugs. Check for tiny dark ink-like stains, which could indicate their presence.

Examine all seams, folds, and crevices using a flashlight to spot live bugs or their eggs. If you find any signs of bed bugs, it’s best to avoid buying that furniture altogether.

Watch for Signs of Bed Bugs

Once the furniture is in your home, remain vigilant for any signs of bed bugs. Signs include bites on your skin, dark ink spots on your sheets, or bugs appearing.

Use interceptor cups on the used furniture for the first few months. Doing this will help trap a bug that is climbing down the legs. If you notice any of these signs, immediately take action to prevent a full-blown infestation.

Regular Cleaning

To further reduce the risk of bed bugs, establish a consistent cleaning routine:

  • Vacuum your furniture regularly, paying particular attention to seams, folds, and crevices.
  • Use a powerful vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to capture bed bugs and their eggs.

  • Wash removable cushion covers and fabric components with hot water and tumble dry on the highest heat setting.
  • Consider using a steam cleaner on all surfaces, as the high heat can kill bed bugs on contact.

By following these steps and taking a proactive approach to inspecting and cleaning used furniture, you can minimize your risk of bed bugs and enjoy your new-to-you pieces with peace of mind.

Final Thoughts on How to Clean Used Furniture to Prevent Bed Bugs

To prevent bed bugs in your used furniture, thoroughly cleaning and inspecting the pieces are crucial steps. Then, monitoring for bed bug activity regularly is imperative.

Remember, diligence is critical in maintaining a bed bug-free environment for your newly-cleaned used furniture. You can avoid bed bugs on used furniture by consistently practicing preventive measures.


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