Most second hand furniture sellers are completely honest, but that doesn't mean you should believe everything they tell you -- especially when they claim their goods are bed bug free. It's very hard to be sure used furniture items are free of bed bugs. That's the reality. Even concerted, honest efforts to make sure furnishings are safe can fail because consumers and resellers underestimate how stealthy, adaptable and indestructible these pests really are. Here are a few examples:
- Heat will kill bed bugs -- It has to be a continuous temperature of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of three hours or more. This can be a tall order. Small items can be sanitized on hot days inside a sealed, dark plastic bag. (Be sure to test the interior temperature with an instant read thermometer.)
- Cold will kill bed bugs -- As an eradication option, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends exposing bed bugs to cold temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or less for at least a week. Yikes.
- You can't starve them out -- The average adult bed bug can survive more than a year (and maybe as long as 18 months) without feeding. It's possible for a piece of furniture to sit in a storage facility, garage or warehouse for many months and still harbor healthy, hungry bedbugs waiting for their next meal.
- Bedbugs are masters at concealment -- An adult bedbug is less than a quarter of an inch long, and immature specimens (nymphs) are even smaller. They and their eggs can fit into very tiny cracks and joints in furnishings where they are almost undetectable.