Sure, it's a sweet deal in theory, but scoring a sidewalk sofa isn't necessarily a harmless act anymore -- at least not as long as bedbugs are as serious an issue as they are right now. It's a big deal, at least here in NYC, where even the U.N. isn't safe. Bug-infested furniture, clothing, rugs and more are emerging for sale in the secondhand market. That means savvy savers like you are now more susceptible to bedbugs than ever.

Read on for my tips on how to avoid bringing bedbugs into your home when shopping thrift, scoring curbside or scouring yard sales and swap events.


High Risk: Curbside Furniture


That awesome leather couch is probably curbside because its previous owners are dealing with the little critters themselves. Red flags should wave if it's on the sidewalk instead of donated to a secondhand store.

Still, take heed against thrift store furniture, too -- especially if it's wooden or porous, like wicker furniture. Bed bugs can hide in wooden cracks and wicker crannies unseen to the human eye.

Lower Your Risk: If you want free furniture, ask family members if they have anything to give.


High Risk: Luggage

No matter what that sweet vintage suitcase's price tag is, don't pay for bedbugs' one-way ticket into your home. The apple-seed-shaped bugs run about the size of a tick, and their flat bodies can easily hide in zippers, seams and luggage lining.

Lower Your Risk: Discount chain stores sell stylish luggage for less. Add a bow to the handle for extra personality -- minus the extra bugs.


Moderate Risk: Purses



Purses are a lot like luggage, with itty-bitty crevices and corners where bedbugs can hide and lay their eggs. Empty each thrift store purse upside-down before buying. Check the seams and pockets for black or brown pin-sized spots that are actually bedbug droppings. (Gross!)

Lower Your Risk:
Give each purse a serious once-over and if you choose to buy it, immediately throw it in your dryer on high heat to kill any live bugs or their eggs.


Moderate Risk: Clothing

Bedbugs can find their way into the pockets, inseams, cuffs and more of clothing. They love settling into dark, humid places, like the hood of a fur jacket or the lining of a wool sweater.

Before buying, give your thrift store find a 360-degree look to determine bedbug risk. Stretch knitting between your fingers to expose any resting critters, and look along the inner lining of a winter jacket. If it seems suspicious, pass it over.

Lower Your Risk: Keep thrift store buys tied tight in a plastic bag until you can wash and dry all contents on high heat. The sooner you do this, the better; a high-heat wash and dry will kill all bugs and eggs from articles of clothing.

Low-to-Moderate Risk: Paintings


Bedbugs aren't just mattress-dwellers -- old picture frames are also their breeding grounds. They'll hide in that antique portrait of your great-great-grandmother by day, only to emerge onto the walls and crawl toward your bed at night.

Lower Your Risk: Examine the back of a used painting or picture frame before buying, taking note of black or brown spots. Don't buy it if the frame is porous, either. If it's solid wood and mark-free, you're probably safe.

Low-to-Moderate Risk: Books


Bedbugs can be bookworms, too.

Buried deep in their hiding places, adults can go up to a year without feeding. Used-book shoppers can accidentally pick up a book and awake the hibernating bedbugs from within.

Lower Your Risk: Bust a move with that used book: Shake, flap and turn it upside-down. Spot a few holes in the pages or a tiny insect -- alive or dead -- resembling an apple seed? Then it's time to buy new.


At Your Discretion: Swap Parties and Yard Sales



Young bedbugs are less than 1/16th of an inch long and nearly colorless when first born. So how do you know that your best-friend's-cousin's-aunt's-neighbor doesn't have bedbugs and her awesome vintage-'60s dress isn't harboring an unborn nest ready to hatch in your closet?

Lower Your Risk:
Whether at a swap party or yard sale, shop the closets of others with discretion. Wash anything you buy immediately in hot water and dry on high heat. Like thrift store buys, keep your finds encased in a plastic bag until washed, dried and cleared of bed bug risk.


sammy davis Sammy Davis spends her days doing what any thrift nut loves most: blogging about her totally vintage life on her site, Sammy Davis Vintage, and shooting video that inspires you to pursue your passions on her YouTube channel. Have a question about fashion or just want to say hi? Drop her a line here, and she'll hit you back with some Sammy D Sunshine ASAP.