An anonymous reader, let’s call her “Fiona,” asks via our contact form,

“I’m trying to find reliable information about buying secondhand teak furniture [online] and how concerned I should be about bedbugs, which precautions should I take (if any), etc. I’m specifically thinking of a teak coffee table (not too many places to hide, etc., but I know very little about bed bugs). Anyway, I’m not sure if you’re willing to do this, but I would love to hear your opinion on this. And if there are any steps you’d take in treating the furniture or whether it sounds like I should avoid buying it entirely.

“Many thanks for your time with this…”

Not being an expert myself, I asked some of the experts known to our Bedbugger forum users for their advice.

I consulted with some of our experts and got the following helpful responses:

David Cain, of Bed Bugs Ltd. suggests that,

It is actually safer to check and buy a secondhand piece of furniture than it is to assume that the new store-bought stuff is ‘going to be bedbug free because it’s new’– we all know a few stories of how that false sense of security has panned out for a few.

Therefore once the table has been picked it needs to be checked before the transaction is complete.  The easiest way to do this is as follows:

  • Start off in a well-lit environment and supplement that light with a bright flashlight, the LED types with the “bluer” light are best, the “yellow/orange” bulbs should be avoided.
  • Make sure you have access to example images to compare and contrast, use a magnifying loupe if needed or better still a microscope attachment for your phone.
  • Inspect all the cracks and crevices looking for:
    • Live samples
    • Cast skins
    • Faecal traces
  • If you find anything, take pictures, document and if needed confirm suspect marks with Bed Bug Blue* as it’s more accurate than visual confirmation alone.
  • Teak stain will be more translucent than faecal and is less likely to have a physically detectable relief when a finger is run over it.
  • Once you are happy it’s checked and clear then it’s time to start transporting to your own property. If the item is delivered to the home, check it before bringing it inside.

In most parts of the world it is illegal to sell/transact an infested item, and as such “it’s got bed bugs; here is the proof” is an acceptable reason to break the contract for the sale.

Now here is the flip side of this.  Aside from beds any item that does actually have bedbugs which is brought into the home will not usually remain as the nexus of the infestation for more than a few feeding cycles.  Therefore there is a viable logic that says: Inspecting items that come into your home is not as critical as having your home correctly set up to detect and eradicate.

After all this is a simple extension to the reality of a [detection] system protected hotel, the introduction method is less critical than the detection onsite.

Another expert, Paul Bello of PJB Pest Management Consulting offers the following advice for Fiona and others contemplating a used furniture purchase:

  • Do not bring any furniture items into your home or vehicle without conducting a thorough inspection thereof first.
  • Depending upon the individual item, the quantity of potential hiding places may vary from a relative few to many. Of course, the more there are the more time and possibly more difficult it would be to inspect. However, you still must be thorough.
  • In the event that you suspect the presence of bed bugs and/or eggs the following methodologies may be utilized to remediate/eliminate the bed bug threat:
    • Do not bring any suspect items into your home or vehicle, ever!!!
    • Conduct a thorough inspection of any such items.
    • If bed bugs and/or eggs are found, treat to kill bed bugs using steam, heat, vacuum, contact insecticides, combination method and/or prolonged isolation/storage of the item as needed.

Paul suggests the following treatment options:

  • Heat – heat may be used to treat the item in a variety of ways. Heat may be applied in a heat chamber** or by heat generating device.
  • Steam – steam kills bed bugs and eggs on contact. Steam*** may be applied using a suitable steam generating device.
  • Vacuum – bed bugs may be removed via vacuuming however, it may be possible for some bed bugs and eggs to elude removal by vacuum if hidden in inaccessible locations.
  • Contact insecticides – insecticides may be applied to potential bed bug hiding places such that any bed bugs and/or eggs which may be hidden in such areas are killed.
  • Pest strips**** – pest strips may be used to treat the furniture item in a sealed treatment space where the vapors from the strip will be contained therein to kill the bed bugs.
  • Combination – use of a combination of the above methods.
  • Isolation – the furniture item may be wrapped and/or sealed and stored for a prolonged period of time such that any bed bugs present will die of starvation.
  • Hire a Professional – hire a professional to treat your furniture item prior to taking possession of it.

Paul notes that “Whichever methodology you decide is best for you, you will be best served to be thorough and conservative in your approach such that you avoid ‘purchasing’ a bed bug problem due to used furniture.”

So the big takeaway here is: inspect secondhand furniture before it comes into the home, and treat if needed. And don’t assume new items are never a problem– inspect those too if possible.

Many thanks to David and Paul for their helpful responses and to Fiona for asking this question!

Some products and product types referenced above:

*David references Bed Bug Blue, a test for bed bug feces.  You can read more about Bed Bug Blue, and presumptive blood tests which may also be helpful, in our useful tools page.

**Paul references heat chambers.  Some PCOs have such chambers. You can read about various consumer-oriented products which heat items to kill bed bugs in the useful tools page– one of which, the Zappbugg Room, is actually large enough to contain larger pieces of used furniture such as a table.

***Paul references steam; you can read our FAQ about killing bed bugs with steam or view dry vapor steamers in our useful tools page.

****Paul references pest strips, available in the US under the brand name Nuvan (outside NY and CT) or Hot Shot (in NY and CT and elsewhere). You can read about DDVP pest strips in our useful tools page.

Disclosure: Bedbugger runs affiliate ads for the products above (among others) and if you shop through the links in Useful Tools or the banner ads, it helps support the continued running of this site at no additional cost to you.  More details in our disclosure policy.

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This is an update from our story last night on the bed bug treatment-related fire in Detroit.

The tenant who accidentally started the fire in Detroit on Tuesday has now spoken to journalists, offering a heartbreaking apology for her actions:

According to Fox 2 News, the tenant had bed bugs for a whole year, and desperation when the bed bug problem persisted after professionals treated the home led her to take matters into her own hands:

“They had sent exterminators over, but it didn’t work, and these things just kept at me, they just kept at me,” she says. “I went in there with clear skin, now my skin is all bitten up and looking like leather. I just want to get rid of these bed bug tormentors.”

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, says she killed some of the bedbugs a few weeks ago by turning up the heat in her west side apartment, which is near Outer Drive and Rouge Park. So, she says she did the same Tuesday and doused her floors with alcohol, which is often used to kill bedbugs. But, she also had her oven on and she did not know the fumes are flammable.

“When I was standing in the front room, the whole floor just ignited. The whole floor just ignited! I couldn’t get the fire extinguisher,” she says.

As we noted in our previous post, Fox 2 reported yesterday that officials had confirmed the fire was started after the tenant used a smoke bomb and then tried to put it out with a pillow.

It’s not clear from this report whether that is correct, but the tenant here reports that a floor sprayed with alcohol ignited from the lit oven.

Alcohol is a contact killer for bed bugs but is highly flammable and if used at all, should be used with great caution.

This is a tragic situation and the woman’s story of living with bed bugs for a year makes the desperate nature of her actions more understandable.

Her phone call on the news report is quite heartbreaking. I really hope she can forgive herself and move on.

No one should be in the position of living with bed bugs for so long. This story highlights the need both for education about how to kill bed bugs safely, what to expect during treatment, and how to resolve bed bug problems in apartment buildings.

If bed bug treatments fail, there will be reasons why (which might include attached neighbors with untreated infestations, or the methods being used, among other things).

If you are in this situation, there are safer options. Ask landlord to provide more treatment, and ask if they have professionally inspected attached units.

Don’t assume treatments can’t work. In this case, it isn’t clear whether the tenant had given up on professional treatments too soon, whether the landlord stopped providing them, or what other factors were involved.

Self-treatment can be done if professional treatment truly isn’t an option, but you need to educate yourself about safe and effective methods.

If you must self-treat, seek out good information from sources like the Comprehensive Guides to Bed Bugs and Treatment in our resources page, which offer treatment advice.

Above all else, please be careful.

Alcohol is flammable, smoke bombs and other bug bombs and foggers have their own dangers and don’t work well on bed bugs anyway, and heating your home to treat bed bugs isn’t a do it yourself job and can be dangerous.


A Detroit apartment building burned for five hours in a 3-alarm fire and five people were injured due to a tenant’s attempt to treat bed bugs with a smoke bomb (which the tenant then attempted to put out with a pillow, causing the fire), according to Fox News Detroit.

According to the Fox News report,

A fire raged for hours injuring five including three firefighters. One suffered burns to the face, another burns to an ear, after the roof collapsed on them. All three firefighters are home from the hospital, expected to recover.

Investigators have confirmed that a tenant set off a smoke bomb in an attempt to kill bed bugs then tried to smother it with a pillow.

Two dozen families have been displaced in this incident.

Ironically, the fire appears to have been going at the very same time Gwen Pearson published an article in Wired reminding everyone of the stupidity of killing bed bugs with fire.

Sure, this tenant wasn’t trying to kill bed bugs with fire (as officials originally thought was the case), but fire is how the attempt ended.

Unfortunately, this bed bug treatment attempt was likely doomed to fail even if the product was used according to label instructions — experts tell us bug bombs are not effective for killing bed bugs. It’s understandable that consumers would think they are effective, since at least one bug bomb or fogger product (Hot Shot Bedbug and Flea Fogger) is labeled specifically for that purpose.

So I ask you again, “Why are bug bombs and foggers still being sold to treat bed bugs?”

This practice should be ended immediately.

Update (11/5):

Here’s an update to this story. The tenant tells her story, offers an apology, and describes watching her alcohol-sprayed floor go up in flames.


Bed bugs have apparently been hanging out at City Hall in Saratoga Springs, New York. Some local politicians are using them in a mudslinging match as the local election season heats up.

According to The Saratogian News on Friday,

… the issue of bedbugs was hurled at incumbent Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco by his challenger, Bill McTygue.

McTygue sent out a press release Oct. 29 to alert the public to the presence of bedbugs in City Hall, alleging that Scirocco had swept the problem under the rug for several months and had failed to tell the public.

“It is most troubling that the commissioner of public works has known for more than five months, since spring, about the infestation of sewer flies in City Hall,” McTygue wrote. “He sat on this information until recently when it was discovered that City Hall is also infested by bedbugs. Numerous ‘hot spots,’ including the City Council meeting chambers, have been discovered by the local exterminating company Ehrlich Pest Control.”

While there was apparently a fly issue for five months, Scirocco tells the Saratogian that the bed bugs were only a known issue since October 26.

On the other hand, The Albany Times-Union cites comments from Scirocco suggesting that the problem may be extensive:

The bedbugs were found “all over,” but there was no infestation, Scirocco said in a phone interview. “If we didn’t do anything about it, it would have been much worse,” he said. Scirocco, a Republican, slammed McTygue, a Democrat who is challenging him in next Tuesday’s election, as “desperate” for making the bedbugs an issue.

[Emphasis mine.]

Now the building is getting some kind of heat related treatment. I assume the pest control company has ruled out closely-related species bat bugs, since according to the Albany Times-Union, City Hall also has a history of bats.

I am not sure what Scirocco means by saying bed bugs were found “all over” but it doesn’t sound like a small problem if that is accurate.

And, by the way, how many bed bugs in how many places constitutes an “infestation”?

For those concerned they’re at risk, education is important, but panic is not warranted or helpful.

Remember that you can be exposed to bed bugs in lots of kinds of public places, but even if a place has some bed bugs, everyone who enters won’t be exposed, let alone bring them home. The danger increases if more bed bugs are present, and if you’re where the bed bugs are in the building.

Anyone in Saratoga Springs who is concerned about exposure should learn what bed bugs and their signs look like, and then either learn to inspect their home, or hire a professional to do a careful inspection for signs of bed bugs.


A woman has been awarded $100,000 in a bed bug lawsuit she filed after allegedly encountering the bugs in a Maryland Red Roof Inn, according to the Washington Post:

Stacey Belle, of Winston Salem, N.C., said she stayed for one night in January 2014 at one of the chain’s hotels in the 6100 block of Oxon Hill Road. She woke up itching. When she turned on her lights, she saw welts covering her arms and hands, lifted her pillow and found bedbugs crawling.

“She was completely disgusted,” said her lawyer Daniel Whitney, of Towson.

In the lawsuit, Belle claimed that the Oxon Hill motel had previously found bedbugs in guest rooms and treated infestations. But the hotel did not check that Belle’s room was free of bedbugs before it rented it out to her, the lawsuit claimed.

The Post also notes that Belle’s lawyer — Towson, Maryland attorney Daniel Whitney, who has filed many cases related to bed bugs — has become known as the “bed bug attorney”.

We’ve mentioned some of his previous bed bug lawsuit wins — in 2013 for a Maryland tenant who lived with bed bugs for eight months while her landlord allegedly mishandled the situation, in 2011 for a tenant whose landlord allegedly waited 48 days before treating her apartment for bed bugs, and in 2012 for a mother who allegedly bought bed frames which gave her family bed bugs.

I’m not a big fan of the litigious culture we have in the US. However, bed bug lawsuits are useful if they can change the ways hotels (landlords, furniture sales and rental places, etc.) deal with bed bugs. And that could help everyone.

You can read about more bed bug lawsuits here.


It’s not unusual to see “curb alerts” on Craigslist, where a poster lets others know of something laying on the curbside to be freecycled.

However, today we have a Craigslist poster warning others not to take the items outside a particular address in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which the poster claims has bed bugs:

Pawtucket Craigslist warning about bed bugs

The ad (here as of this writing) reads:

“108 bishop st pawtucket just letting yous all know don’t pick up anything from this address has bed bugs really bad !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Of course, we don’t know whether there are bed bugs at this address or in the items on the curb there.

However, you should be very careful when freecycling or re-purposing anything, whether it’s your cousin’s sofa, a box of old vinyl on the curb, or a table from a thrift store.

All may be perfectly good and usable, or any of them could potentially contain bed bugs. And the person who gave them to you may not even realize it.

At the very minimum, carefully inspect any finds. Learn what bed bugs and their signs look like from this gallery of bed bug photos.

If it’s a hard surface with no hidden areas, you may be able to safely spray with 91% isopropyl alcohol or wash in hot soapy water (dish soap containing grease cutters — Dawn is an example — or containing or d-Limomene or linalool components, diluted in the normal way, are good contact killers, we are told, as is 91% rubbing alcohol, not diluted; but be careful as alcohol is flammable and has fumes).

Updated to add this:
I originally noted above that “dish detergent” is a good contact killer but all dish detergents may not be helpful in this regard. Entomologist Lou Sorkin notes in an email as to recommended types of detergents:

“Citrus oil component helpful. d-Limonene and linalool components. Dish detergents with grease cutters good. Dawn is one.”

Also for items where it’s appropriate (e.g. wood furniture): “Murphy’s oil soap also has been used with good results.”

(end of update)

If an item is upholstered or has hidden areas (bed bugs love tight little spaces!) — be wary.  A contact kill spray isn’t likely to do it in such cases. If you can’t treat items thoroughly, then you can’t be sure there aren’t bed bugs inside. (There are some suggestions for methods in our FAQ on How to get bed bugs out of your clothing, furniture, and other stuff.)

And sometimes it’s best to just skip it– because, ultimately, no curbside or Craigslist find, no matter how fantastic, is worth getting bed bugs.

Certainly not this:

curb appeal

Image credit: “curb appeal” by paul stumpr on flickr; photo used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Be sure and check out our other posts on about Craigslist.


Since summer is a big time for bed bugs (which multiply more quickly in the warmer months), you may be wondering what you should do if you encounter bed bugs in hotels.

Two coaches for a high school dance team traveling to the Wisconsin Dells (Wisconsin Dells in Wikipedia) for a dance camp recently encountered bed bugs in their room at the Chula Vista hotel, according to WISN12 news:

NBC15 reports that the two dance coaches contacted the local health department:

NBC15 claims the South Central Environment Health Consortium followed up on the complaint, finding the hotel was already heat treating the room.

According to this report, the hotel comped the coaches’ rooms and agreed to pay for “any additional expenses” — which we might assume would cover inspections or treatment at home if they end up being needed (and hopefully they won’t).

One of the coaches recommends consumers ask hotel staff to inspect their room for bed bugs when they check in. I have not actually heard anyone suggest this before, and I am not sure how helpful it would be.

I am not an expert, but in my opinion, all hotels should have staff routinely — daily — check for bed bugs. However, consumers should also learn to inspect a hotel room for bed bugs, and should do it every time they are going to sleep in a new location.

(You can learn to search a hotel room for bed bugs and watch a video demonstrating how to do it in this FAQ: How to avoid bed bugs while traveling.)
According to NBC15,

“The environment health manager says this year there have been three complaints for Chula Vista in regards to bed bugs. He says for a resort that large, it is a low number.”

While this will no doubt cause many to be anxious, you have to remember that it’s not unusual for there to be bed bugs in hotels– even good ones. Bed bugs can be brought into any hotel at any time.

The important thing is whether and how the hotel tries to detect the problem early, by doing their own routine inspections and monitoring, how they respond once they discover a problem, and also whether you as a consumer do your part by inspecting your own room before getting comfortable in it.

NBC15 also noted that a local health department official said that consumers who do encounter bed bugs in hotels should not simply post complaints about bed bugs in social media, but should contact the local health department directly because “it’s the only way that something will get done”.

I can’t agree enough. Finding out the local health department for a particular area can usually be done in minutes on Google, and filing a complaint is as easy as filling out a form online, sending an email, or calling the number listed. If you encounter bed bugs, please do take this small action which can really make a difference.

The other thing to do is to take actions to make sure you don’t carry bed bugs to your next location and ultimately to your car and home. (It sounds like these Wisconsin Dells visitors took some steps in this regard– they mentioned having clothing dry cleaned, for example.)

Our FAQs on How to avoid bed bugs while traveling and What should I do if I have been exposed to bed bugs? should help also.


Residents of a housing complex in Memphis for elderly and disabled people are dealing with what sounds like a serious bed bug problem, as reports:

(You can also view the video on the Local Memphis website if it doesn’t load here.)

First, this sounds like a bed bug problem which has been growing for some time. One resident reports being told by pest management professionals to throw out her two-year old living room furniture, and reports having found 1000 bed bugs in her husband’s wheelchair. [click to continue…]


Bed bug death match film from Paul Bello

May 27, 2015

People who are dealing with bed bugs sometimes find this stuff encouraging, and maybe you will too. Bedbugger Forums participant and pest management professional Paul Bello (credited as P.J. Bello) and an accomplice (N.P. Bello) re-enact an ancient Roman-style Christian vs. Lion death match with the lion played by a jumping spider (Salticidae) on Wikipedia, […]

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Bed bugs attack Wausau & a tricked out bed bug vacuum

May 6, 2015

West Business Services in Wausau, Wisconsin has bed bugs, as Fox News Wausau reports. As is often true, the news story raises as many questions as it answers. For starters, the WFXS news segment first notes that corporate office told the county health department officials that a single bed bug was found a week and […]

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Bed bugs are a problem in Govanhill, Glasgow

January 26, 2015

Glasgow’s Evening Times reports that a woman was told by her doctor to flee her bed bug-infested rented flat in the city’s Govanhill neighborhood, and was as a result homeless due to bed bugs: The woman, who asked not to be named, was bitten from head to foot by the parasites and sought medical attention. Doctors […]

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Bed bug aggregation pheromone breakthrough

December 23, 2014

A new study by researchers at Simon Fraser University details the identification of all six components of bed bug aggregation pheromone. This is exciting news, as it may lead to the development of more effective active bed bug monitors. The study, led by Regine Gries, Gerhard J. Gries, and Robert Britton, is forthcoming in the […]

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