Twice recently while I have been thrifting in NYC, once on 23rd Street and once on lower 2nd Avenue, I have discovered an insect crawling on an item of clothing I was examining. In the most recent incident, it looked an awful lot like a bedbug. Clearly, importing a bedbug into the home would not have been worth it.
Although some people don’t know the difference between bed bugs and carpet beetles or cockroaches, bed bugs are likely to be a problem in second-hand clothing stores, flea markets, and thrift stores of all kinds.
Since conservative estimates based on calls to 311 (a poor indicator, in my opinion, of the vastness of this epidemic) say the problem has increased 10x since last year, imagine how much more likely bed bugs are to be found in second hand shops and garage sales (and freecyclers’ and craigslisters’ stuff) now.
Remember, if you buy a used item of clothing you can take it to the cleaners. You might be unknowingly infesting them, though, and by extension, yourself and your neighborhood. You can also take the item straight to a washing machine for a hot wash, and a long, hot dry. Be careful of your bags–do not put the item in with your stuff, and don’t put it on a couch or chair next to you. Deal with it right away, or don’t buy it at all.
This may sound paranoid to those who have not met Cimex Lectularius yet, but trust us. It’s not worth it.
And by the way, a relative saw a definite bed bug in the changing rooms of a high-end children’s clothing retailer (and it was not in NYC, but in the heartland, a popular outlet mall near Chicago). Be wary of everything you buy. People buy and return stuff every day. You pick it up and it may have been in their closets. Take care.