Last Updated on January 5, 2023 by Alene Schill
Thrift stores and second-hand shops are the go-to places of most people who love to score quality goods at low prices. However, can you get bed bugs from thrift store clothes?
Bed bug infestation is hard to handle, so here’s everything you need to know about thrift store clothes and bed bugs.
Thrift Store Clothes & Bed Bugs
Bed bugs are tiny insects that rely on blood meal to survive, but unlike other parasites, they do not live on their hosts but their things. Bed bugs typically live in dark places like bedside tables, lamps, upholstered furniture, mattresses, chairs, bedding, and other bedroom furniture.
However, if you are into thrift shopping, clothes and other furniture are high-risk items and prone to bed bug infestation. Thrift shopping is a big contributor to bug infestation, so carefully examine every item for signs of bed bugs before purchasing.
Live bed bugs can be hard to spot because they are tiny but visible to the naked eye. They can hitchhike on thrift store clothes and put your house at risk for infestation.
Do Thrift & Charity Stores Treat Clothes Before Selling?
Unfortunately, thrift and charity stores do not treat clothes before selling them. Thrift and charity stores do not take specific steps to treat clothes and prevent bed bugs from infesting used clothing. They sell clothes way cheaper than new items, but they still need to earn, so they cannot afford to spend much on treatment.
Pesticides, high heat treatment, and pest control special equipment are not used on used clothes from thrift and charity shop to save money. Some stores launder clothes to kill bed bugs and bed bug eggs, but that rarely happens.
How About Furniture?
Bed bugs live on furniture, so there’s a big chance that you can find bed bugs in furniture from thrift shops. What’s worst is that the owner could have thrown the furniture because of a bed bug infestation, and then you bought it without getting treated.
Some thrift shops will boast that their items are thoroughly inspected and cleaned before selling. However, like clothes from thrift shops, it is not cost-effective for the thrift and charity shops to treat and inspect every crack and crevice of furniture. They may get rid of some bed bug feces and the bed bug odor in some, but that can be a rare case.
Why Don’t Thrift Shops Treat Bed Bugs?
Thrift shops do not treat bed bugs for a few reasons: costs, procedure, and smell. To effectively and quickly kill bed bugs, you may need professional exterminators, costing hundreds of dollars per session. Charity shops and thrift stores are like any business, and they cannot afford to sell their products at a low cost if they shoulder the cost of treatment, too.
The procedure may also take a while to get rid of bed bugs on their items. Procedures like using a washing machine dryer or mild pesticides can take a while, which can be a profit loss for them.
Also, they don’t spray pesticides on clothes because the smell is too strong.
Is Thrift Store Clothing Safe From Bed Bugs?
No, thrift store clothing is not safe from bed bugs. Given that different stores have different policies when it comes to selling used stuff, even washed clothing does not guarantee that it is bed bug-free.
If you frequently come to thrift stores, we are sure that you have an idea of the volume of clothes they store, so there is always a risk that you can bring home bed bugs with you.
If thrift shopping is unavoidable, it would be best to have a preventive plan for bed bugs. Below are some helpful tips to prevent bed bugs from spreading and having your home infested.
How Can You Avoid Bed Bugs When Shopping At Thrift Stores?
Inspect Your Purchases
It is important to take steps when buying used clothes, so start with inspecting everything you buy from thrift and charity shops to prevent infestation. When
You do not need special equipment to inspect any items, but you can look for the following: (1) Live bed bugs that are brown, oval-shaped, and about the size of an apple seed. (2) Bed bug egg shells that are about the size of a pinhead (3) Bed bug feces or dark spots from the blood that they consumed.
Avoid Buying Risky Items
If you think you can save a few bucks with second-hand items, think again because you will waste money, time, and effort once there’s an infestation. If possible, avoid buying risky items like divans, mattresses, a box spring, bed frames, wardrobes, bed side tables, lamps, and lampshades.
You will only need one infested piece of furniture to start a massive infestation, so if you don’t want to bring bed bugs home, don’t buy risky items.
Wash Secondhand Clothing
While bed bugs don’t live in clothing, there’s a big chance that they use it as a mode of transportation to get your home infested. Since thrift stores do not dry cleaned second-hand clothing, doing it yourself will help avoid bed bugs from spreading.
A washing machine with a clothes dryer can help kill bed bugs, so make it a habit to wash secondhand clothing with hot water and detergent before using. Once you dry clean the clothing, take it one by one to check for any dead bugs. But will dry cleaning kill bed bugs?
Can you get bed bugs from Goodwill?
Yes, there’s a high chance you can get bed bugs from Goodwill because they do not launder clothes or use bed bug spray to kill bed bugs. Clothes are a potential transmission vector for bed bugs, and since they do not take preventive methods for bed bugs, you can take them home with you.
Goodwill doesn’t wash their clothes; instead, they recommend washing clothes before donation. They throw unwashed clothes but there’s a big chance of contamination
Can you get bed bugs from Salvation Army?
Yes, you can get bed bugs from Salvation Army. Salvation Army picks up items and checks for signs of bed bugs; however, since a bed bug is tiny, it can go unnoticed.
Bed bugs infestation on people’s donated possessions is common in every charity shop, and Salvation Army is not exempted. If you are still interested in getting the used furniture from Salvation Army, make sure to inspect any signs of bed bugs.
How long do bed bugs live on clothes?
Bed bugs can live on clothes from one to four months without a blood meal at room temperature. Also, it can live longer and multiply on your clothes if you regularly use it because they have easy access to food. However, that can be a rare case because bed bugs prefer to hide on furniture like mattresses, sofas, and chairs because they have a survival instinct. But can you get bed bugs from a laundromat?
Can bed bugs live in stored clothes?
Yes, bed bugs can live in stored clothes, especially if they can crawl back and forth in the storage. Also, bed bugs go out when feeding, so if they can access blood from their host, they can live longer on your stored clothes.
These parasites can live for months up to a year without food , so there’s a strong possibility for a single bed bug to cause massive infestation when not detected.
How can you tell if bed bugs are in your clothes?
To tell if bedbugs are in your clothes, look for rusty and dark spots that can be bed bug fecal matter. Bed bugs’ excrement on clothes is digested blood, and when they release it, the fabric will absorb it and leave stains. Moreso, an offensive odor from bed bugs’ scent glands can be an indicator that there are bed bugs in your clothes.
Do bed bugs lay eggs on clothes?
Yes, bed bugs can lay eggs on your clothes, but they will unlikely do that, especially when wearing them. Bed bugs crawl on humans at night to feed on blood and return to their hiding spots to populate.
Bed bugs most commonly lay eggs on bed frames, mattresses, upholstered chairs, wall cracks, and floorboards, but they can lay eggs on your clothes inside your wardrobe cabinets!
You can get bed bugs from thrift store clothes, but you can prevent bringing them into your own home. Help get rid of these tiny bloodsuckers by thoroughly inspecting your purchases, avoiding risky items, and washing second-hand clothes.
Most thrift and charity stores around Ohio do not take any anti-pest measures, so make sure to take charge of your purchases.
Alene Schill is a property manager from Columbus, Ohio, who has dealt with numerous pest control agencies. She helps families find the perfect homes and knows very well that bed bugs are an ultimate deal-breaker. She enjoys cycling around Scioto Mile during her spare time.