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The Hidden Danger of Buying Used Furniture

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Buying used furniture certainly is easy on the budget, but there's an unseen danger: bugs. Bedbugs, fleas, or roaches can hide in used furniture no matter where it comes from: second-hand furniture stores, yard sales, the sidewalk on trash night, auctions, or newspaper listings.

  • Bedbugs. Bedbugs are a growing scourge across the country. You should never ever pick up a mattress off the street, and it would be wiser to stay away from used mattresses altogether. (Even if you don't plan to sleep on a second-hand sofa bed, don't forget there's a mattress inside.) But bedbugs can also hide in nightstands, dressers, and other types of furniture — and they're very difficult to get rid of once they've invaded your home. In some cases the only solution is to throw out most of your stuff.

    Bedbugs are such a growing threat that these days you also need to be cautious when buying used clothing and used luggage, which carries clothing, as both can be a source of infestation.

  • Fleas. Fleas are a little easier to get rid of than bedbugs (though you probably will need a professional exterminator), but they can also be more embarrassing. Bedbugs come out only at night (usually in the wee hours of the morning) but fleas will attack any time, and if you have guests, they're just as good a source of food to a flea as you are. You could have a party that's really jumping — the fleas as well as your guests!

  • Roaches. Used furniture may not contain any live roaches, but if there were roaches in the home the furniture came from, there's a good chance there are tiny roach eggs in the furniture that will hatch in your house or apartment.

Thoroughly cleaning any item of furniture you bring home can help prevent infestation, but bedbugs burrow so deep into crevices that even the most powerful vacuum cleaner can't get at them. Spraying the furniture with insecticide could also help, but do it before you bring it into your home, or the bugs may just jump out to safety. Never use a pesticide or insecticide that's intended for outdoor use. These products are highly toxic.

Many insecticides are not effective against bedbugs, so your best bet is to hire a professional. If you don't have that option, check out the EPA-Registered Bed Bug Products tool.

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