Garage sales – like pool parties and backyard barbecues – are a sure sigh that summer is here. As the days grow longer and temperatures start to climb car-ports and garages fill up with bargains.
It’s a good opportunity for people to clear out their houses, get rid of some of the clutter, and make a little spare cash in the process. It’s also a great opportunity for the rest of us to pick up some bargains and score some treasures on the cheap.
But those neighborhood garages sales aren’t always full of sunshine and smiles. Sometimes there can be trouble hiding amongst the treasure. If you’re not careful you might end up bringing home more than a bargain. You could be bringing home bed bugs.
Separating the Bargains from the Bed Bugs
If you’re heading out for a weekend of bargain hunting you need to take steps to avoid picking up any bed bugs in the process. Fortunately there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself from any unwanted surprises.
First, if you know the people having the garage sale you can always pull them aside and ask if they’ve had any issues with bed bugs in the past. Hopefully they’ll be comfortable enough with you to answer honestly.
If you don’t know the people bed bugs can be an awkward topic to bring up. In which case you’ll have to be extra vigilant when looking over the merchandise. But there are some tell-tale signs to look for before you buy anything.
What to Watch Out For
If you feel uncomfortable asking sellers about past bed bug infestations there are still some things you can do to avoid bringing any unwanted pests home with you. Before you purchase anything there are some tell-tale signs to watch out for. The most obvious are black spots or smears on the items you’re considering. These may be bed bug feces or dried blood stains. This is one of the easiest identifiers when looking for signs of bed bugs.
There are also some items that are more likely to carry bed bugs than others. Some of the most obvious offenders include:
Stuffed Animals and other Plush Toys – Stuffed animals are always tempting. Some vintage plush toys can be collectible and valuable. But they have a high danger level when it comes to bed bugs.
Bedding (Pillows, Linens, Duvets, etc) – Second hand bedding is always an iffy purchase when it comes to bed bugs. Best to leave these be. But if you simply have to have them be careful. Put them straight into a hot wash before bringing them into your home.
Bags and Luggage – Suitcases and backpacks are major hot spots for bed bug activity. Even purses, briefcases and camera bags are likely hiding places for pests. It’s probably best to give them a pass. But, again, if the deal is too good to refuse make sure you carefully inspect them before purchasing and clean them thoroughly before bringing them into your home.
While these are some of the more common hiding spots for garage sale bed bugs they aren’t the only hazardous items. Books, clothes, and even electronics can harbor stray bed bugs looking for a new home and a hotblooded meal. Before you buy anything inspect it carefully.
How to Minimize Your Bed Bug Risk
If you’ve thoroughly checked over your garage sale finds and feel comfortable taking them home then you’re in good shape. But if you still have a nagging worry in the back of your mind there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of bringing bed bugs into your home.
First and foremost any blankets, linens or clothing should be washed and dries at the hottest possible settings. Do this immediately and before you put anything away. The same thing goes for teddy bears or other plush toys.
Anything that can’t be thrown into a hot wash will be more difficult to deal with. You’ll need to inspect every item carefully. Take your time and then thoroughly clean the items. Bags and suitcases should be cleaned inside and out. Wooden furniture (shelves, nightstands, etc) should be inspected and cleaned with special attention given to any cracks or crevices where bed bugs may be hiding. Plastic articles, books and electronics should also be inspected and cleaned.
What to Do if Bed Bugs Get into Your Home
Garage sales are a great way to save some money and pick up some hidden treasures. But even the most careful bargain hunter can make a regrettable purchase.
If you suspect you may have brought bed bugs into your home you should immediately take steps to address the problem. Contact a professional bed bug inspection and removal service at the earliest opportunity. The sooner you act the sooner you can eliminate the growing infestation.
Published by Scott Palatnik
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