It’s the most wonderful time of the year… until a bed bug infestation ruins it.
With Black Friday quickly approaching, we know that many of you will be braving the crowds to snag great deals for the loved ones on your list. Sure, you know about the “dangers” of Black Friday such as car accidents due to traffic and weather, possible car break-ins, and even conflicts with fellow shoppers but there’s one danger you may not have thought of: Bed bugs.
Yep, this year’s Black Friday deals could include a free bed bug infestation… no purchase necessary. And while a bed bug infestation at any time of the year is costly and frustrating, it can be particularly upsetting around the holidays when budgets are tight and you’re going to be traveling or having company at your home.
Although it’s not as common as getting bed bugs from someone’s home or a hotel, it is possible to get bed bugs from non-residential areas, including shopping malls and movie theaters—and with Cincinnati ranked among the worst cities in the country for bed bugs, the odds are good that it can happen to you.
So how do bed bugs infest a retail store? And how can you avoid bringing them into your house?
Because bed bugs and their eggs can hitch a ride on furniture and personal belongings, they can wind up in any store, from your neighborhood thrift shop to the most upscale boutique.
Thrift, secondhand, and antique stores may get donations that include bed bug-infested furniture and other items. Some thrift stores inspect and wash items before selling them; others do not, usually because they don’t have the time or resources to do so.
Unfortunately, even the stores that have bed bug-prevention policies in place may not be able to avoid accepting bed bug-ridden items due to the fact that many donation centers are attached to the store itself. (This means bed bugs may get into the store before the item is disposed of.) In addition, items like upholstered furniture have lots of cracks and crevices where tiny bugs and eggs can hide, and thrift store employees may not have the training to spot all the signs of bed bugs.
If you’re getting your Black Friday deals at a thrift or antique store this year, we have some tips to help you avoid bed bugs:
1. Ask the store manager about their pest prevention and treatment policies. What precautions (if any) do they take to avoid spreading bed bugs?
2. Inspect any furniture or items that you’re interested in with a flashlight. This is particularly important if the piece is upholstered or made of wood. (Metal is less attractive to bed bugs but should still be inspected.) Check the surface and frame, remove any cushions, and look at the underside. If you see any evidence of bed bugs, skip it.
Tip: After purchasing a piece of furniture, wipe down any hard surface and thoroughly vacuum the upholstery, preferably in a garage or somewhere outside your home.
3. Mattresses should be inspected and then covered with a bed bug-rated mattress encasement after purchase. A bed bug protector, when free of rips or tears, can keep bed bugs/eggs from escaping and infesting your home until they die of starvation (which takes at least a year).
Note: Used mattresses must be sanitized by law, but some dishonest stores have been caught skipping this step.
4. You’re more likely to find bed bugs on used furniture than used clothing, but clothing should be checked nonetheless. Turn the garment inside out and check the seams for eggs or signs of bed bugs.
Tip: To be completely safe, you can wash and dry the garment on high heat—but if the item will be ruined in the wash, it may be best to skip it. Keep the item in a sealed plastic bag in your garage until you can wash it.
Bed bugs don’t discriminate, so don’t assume that a fancy store must be pest-free. Bed bugs can end up in department stores by hitching a ride on personal belongings like purses, backpacks, clothes, and shoes. If a customer who has bed bugs at home brings an infested purse into a fitting room, hitchhiking bugs may make a new home in the store. A customer may also bring bed bugs into a store by returning or exchanging an item. Similarly, employees of the store may bring bed bugs from home to work after hanging their jackets in the employee locker room.
If your holiday shopping list includes stops at retail stores, follow the tips below:
1. Keep your purse, bags, and clothing off of the fitting room floor. Hang them on wall hooks instead of laying them on the cushioned stools provided in many fitting rooms. You may also want to check the mirror and room itself for signs of bed bugs. If you see signs, do not try on clothing there, and wash and dry the clothing you were wearing on hot as soon as you get home.
2. Check clothing and clothing racks for signs of bed bugs, inspecting each garment inside and out. After purchase, to be safe, wash and dry all purchased clothing on high heat immediately. Delicate fabrics can be dry cleaned.
3. Inspect furniture, particularly the wooden and upholstered kind, thoroughly. Most people sit in sofas and chairs to gauge their comfort level, so brand-new furniture could still have bed bugs even though they’ve never been inside someone’s home.
Tip: Wipe down hard surfaces and vacuum the upholstery of new furniture, preferably before bringing it into your home.
Don’t let this year’s Black Friday shopping spree ruin your holidays. Check out our guide to identifying bed bugs so that you know exactly what to look for when purchasing new and used items.
Concerned you might have a bed bug infestation on your hands? Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.