Avoid an Infestation When Shopping Second-Hand

Man checking on items

Any time you shop secondhand, such as at a thrift store, you’re taking the risk that the previous owner of the item may not have been as particular about keeping things clean as you are. And even if the previous owner kept them clean, thrifted items could cross paths with infested items on their way to you.

If you buy a previously owned item, you risk brining home tiny hitchhikers. Here’s how to avoid pest infestations when thrift shopping.

1. Know the Risk

While most thrifted items are unlikely to hide large stowaways such as rodents, bugs are a much more likely problem. In some cases, you could buy an item that has no visible bugs but carries eggs, which could hatch later and develop into a moth problem or a bed bug problem.

Some items at risk for insects include:

  • Electronics: cockroaches love to live in their warm insides
  • Wood items: termites and other wood destroying insects could hitch a ride
  • Any natural fiber (feathers, fur, leather, wool, silk, mohair, etc.): these could carry moths or carpet beetles
  • Furniture, linens, and clothing (along with other porous items): bed bugs could hide inside

This information will help you calculate the risk of bringing each item home. You’ll also be able to focus your preventive efforts on the items that are most likely to cause trouble.

2. Inspect Everything

You probably inspect each item for holes and stains before buying anyway. Just take this a step further to inspect for any signs of insect damage. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Holes or damaged spots in clothing that may indicate moths
  • Moth cases or webbing on the item
  • Frass, or tiny insect droppings, left by moths, carpet beetles, or termites
  • Black specks, dirty-looking spots, or rusty-looking specks or streaks from bed bug droppings
  • Visible bugs of any kind, even if they don’t look like bed bugs, moths, or termites

If you see any signs that the item ever had pests, assume the infestation is current and don’t buy the item.

3. Quarantine

To be safe, you should always quarantine items as soon as possible. If you bought clothes, put them into a large trash bag in your car with the top tied shut. Leave them in the bag until you’re ready to treat them.

Some items, such as furniture, won’t fit into black trash bags. You’ll need to do a careful risk versus reward assessment if you buy any of these larger items. Remember, if it has a porous surface (such as wicker), it could hide bugs from sight. On the other hand, a solid wood item is relatively easy to check over for bugs.

4. Heat Treat

You’ve probably heard that you should wash all clothing items in hot water and dry them on the High setting after bringing them home. If you have a sweater that isn’t washable, consider an alternative (agitation-free) heat treatment.

For a single delicate item, try this method: Heat a large pot of water on the stove to around 125–130 degrees and place the item in the water until it’s totally submerged. Leave the water at this temperature (turn the burner down to the lowest setting) for a half hour, monitoring constantly to keep temperature steady. Let cool, press water out of the item gently, and let it dry flat.

Raising the temperature of any item over 122 degrees Fahrenheit will kill any bedbugs and bedbug eggs almost instantly, but you need to keep items over 120 for a half hour to kill any clothing moth eggs.

These steps can help you protect yourself and your home from picking up insect infestations at the thrift store. For more information on the types of insects you can pick up this way or if you suspect you may already have an infestation, get in touch with A-Alert Exterminating Service Inc today.

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