Bed bugs are a perennial problem for businesses that deal with people’s donated possessions. Goodwill stores, charity shops, and thrift stores accept pre-owned clothes and furniture from members of the public. Sadly, they don’t always perform adequate checks to ensure that these items aren’t infested with bed bugs. The onus is placed on others to perform the necessary checks.
You can get bed bugs from any thrift store that doesn’t take anti-pest measures. Goodwill doesn’t launder clothes to kill bed bugs, or use bed bug spray. You’re most likely to get bed bugs from bedroom furniture. Clothes are also a potential bed bug transmission vector.
But there are steps you can take when in a charity shop or thrift store to avoid bed bugs. Basic prevention methods can be used to prevent bed bugs from finding a way into your home.
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Can You Get Bed Bugs from Goodwill?
Bed bugs are a unique kind of pest. They don’t live on people like other pests do, let alone live inside you. They also can’t travel far on their own because they’re small, vulnerable, and don’t have a way to defend themselves from potential threats.
They have evolved to spread in a unique way. They find their way into your belongings. When you move your belongings, the bed bug comes with you. That’s how bed bugs end up in homes.
You have to be careful when using other people’s belongings. Even more so when you’re buying something that used to belong to somebody else. You can get bed bugs from Goodwill.
Does Goodwill Treat Clothes for Bed Bugs?
Goodwill doesn’t take specific steps to treat their clothes for bed bugs. They certainly don’t spray their clothes with bed bug sprays. They also don’t use heat treatment to kill bed bugs, either.
One easy way in which a thrift store could easily prevent bed bugs in clothes would be through washing them. Laundering clothes is an easy way to kill both bed bugs and eggs.
However, Goodwill doesn’t even do this. They don’t wash their clothes before they put them on the floor. Instead, they recommend that you wash the clothes you’re donating before you donate them.
They claim that they recycle or throw away clothes that aren’t washed. But it’s unclear how they can tell for sure which clothes are washed and which ones aren’t.
Here’s a guide on how to launder your clothes and kill bed bugs.
Why Don’t Goodwill Treat Bed Bugs?
The issue with bed bug treatment is that it costs money. Exterminators cost hundreds of dollars per session. Goodwill would need a pest controller working full time at each store if they wanted to treat every single item they process.
Goodwill may be a charity, but they aren’t a non-profit. They make billions of dollars in revenue every year. Like any business, they look to keep costs down. One of the ways they do that is by not performing pesticide treatments.
Another reason why they don’t spray their clothes with pesticide is that it smells bad. When you buy something from their store, you don’t want it to smell like chemicals.
Are Thrift Store Clothes Bed Bug Safe?
Goodwill isn’t the only thrift store out there. There are lots of other chains and independent stores you can visit.
Different stores have alternative policies on laundering their clothes. Many smaller stores do wash clothing because they work with a smaller volume of stock. If you’re unsure, ask the store what their policy on laundering clothes is.
You might think this prevents the issue of bed bugs entirely, but that’s still not the case. It’s possible that the clothes could become infested from furniture in the store.
If it’s an independent store, the owner could have taken them home for laundering. They could have infested the clothes with their own bed bugs.
Does Goodwill Furniture Have Bed Bugs?
The most obvious kind of furniture that contains bed bugs are bed frames and mattresses. We would recommend against ever buying bedding or bedroom furniture of any kind from a thrift store.
Goodwill can’t afford to treat all of their furniture for bed bugs. Even if they did, one missed bed bug could precipitate an entirely new infestation.
There is a chance that furniture you buy from any thrift store will contain bed bugs.
Why Does Goodwill Furniture Have Bed Bugs?
You have to consider what kind of furniture Goodwill are receiving. Anything they receive is likely to be quite old because few people would want to donate new furniture.
People also frequently get rid of their furniture when they move. Given that people often move because of bed bugs, put two and two together, and it’s likely the furniture has bed bugs in it.
The problem would be better if Goodwill took active measures to kill any bed bugs that may be in their furniture. However, even if they did, they wouldn’t have much success. That’s because:
- Pesticide treatments take weeks to kill every bed bug
- Furniture could be re-infested by other furniture
- Furniture offers lots of places for the bed bugs to hide
Even if Goodwill took extra steps to stop bed bugs, they wouldn’t have complete success. And with bed bugs, incomplete success is a complete failure: you have to kill them all.
How to Avoid Getting Bed Bugs from Goodwill
If you need to buy used furniture and clothing, you may not have many other options. If you do have to shop there, there are basic steps to avoid bed bugs.
Inspect Your Items Thoroughly
Take steps to inspect everything you buy from Goodwill. By properly looking over any furniture or clothing you buy, you can prevent most infestations.
You don’t need any special equipment. You don’t even need to take much time. But what you do need is to know the signs of bed bugs. These are:
- The bed bugs themselves. These are small and brown, the size of an apple seed. Here’s some information on how to recognize bed bugs.
- Old bed bug shells. These will be curled up and won’t move.
- Bed bug feces. Bed bugs leave behind droppings like any other animal. When ‘fresh’ it’s liquid, but it dries into a dark, round spot. It also stains fabric black like ink.
- Bed bug eggs and egg shells. Eggs are around the size of a pinhead and the shape of a grain of rice. They’re visible to the naked eye and are laid in clusters.
- Bed bug odor. The odor varies, but smells sweet, musty, or like berries.
If you spot these signs, it’s best to avoid the buying the item. You could choose to look for others, as others in the shop may be bed bug-free. Or, you could go to another Goodwill outlet entirely.
Avoid High-Risk Items
Avoid buying certain things from Goodwill, and this will make it less likely you’ll catch an infestation. The most obvious things to avoid are bedroom furniture items such as:
- Bed frames and divans
- Wardrobes and bedside tables
- Lamps and lampshades
The bedroom is the room that bed bugs are most likely to infest. Furniture is something you should avoid, although furniture for other rooms is at least as less likely to contain bed bugs. It’s hard to treat. It offers lots of hiding places where the bed bugs can avoid pesticide spray.
Launder Clothes when You Take Them Home
Something else you can do is to launder any clothes you buy from Goodwill.
It’s unlikely that clothing will contain bed bugs. But even so, there is still a chance. And because Goodwill doesn’t launder or treat their clothes in any way, you have to do it yourself.
Bed bugs can’t survive in water. Detergent is also toxic to them, and heat kills them too. That’s why the washing machine is the perfect place to kill bed bugs. It’s impossible for a bed bug to survive a trip inside one.
Once your clothes are finished washing, take them from the machine one by one. Check each to see if there are any dead bed bugs or eggs you can spot.
After they’ve dried, store them in a sealed box. This will stop any bed bugs that may already be in your home from infesting them when they’re stored away.
How to Stop Bed Bugs Infesting Your Bed
The first thing you should do is fit a mattress encasement. These are like a big, zippered bag that fits around your mattress. They stop bed bugs from getting in, or getting out. With a mattress encasement, no new bed bugs can infest your mattress.
Bed bug interceptors are a similar tool. They fit around the legs of your bed. They’re made from rough plastic on the outside and smooth plastic on the inside.
The bed bug can climb in, in their attempt to climb up to reach you. But they can’t climb out. You can fill the interceptor with a small amount of water. This will kill any bed bugs that fall in.