How to Check Used Furniture for Bed Bugs

Secondhand or used furniture can be a great bargain -- unless it brings bedbugs into your home. Treatments to remove a bedbug infestation cost an average of $750, according to Cornell University. Ideally, it’s best to simply avoid bringing home used furniture, but this is not always practical. It’s essential, therefore, to inspect all used furniture items for signs of bedbugs.

Avoid buying used mattresses.

Step 1

Bring a magnifying glass, flashlight, disposable latex gloves and a credit card or index card to the seller of used furniture. Put on the gloves before touching the items. If space and the seller permits, move the items for sale over to a flat, pale-colored surface such as a cement floor or sidewalk. If bedbugs fall off, they will be easier to see against the pale surface.

Step 2

Perform the card test. Run a credit card or index card through any crack, groove, joint or seam in the furniture. If the card fits, check grooves in the heads of screws. Bedbugs hide in very narrow spaces. The card dislodges them and sweeps them out. Run the card edge through the gloved fingers to check for any bedbugs, dried molted skins or feces. Feces appear as dark red stains. Use a magnifying glass to inspect anything produced using the card test.

Step 3

Use the flashlight to shine on any dark areas in the furniture such as grooves or to shine on a dark floor after performing the card test. Bedbugs resemble tiny, six-legged ovals. They are mahogany red after they have eaten.

Step 4

Sniff large items such as sofas. Those with heavy infestations of bedbugs emit a peculiar sweet odor.

Step 5

Bring large cardboard boxes to carry small portable items of used furniture home, such as table lamps. Bedbugs can live in cardboard boxes, so do not use any boxes provided by the seller.


  • Never take home any bedding, mattresses or furniture left on curbs or next to trash containers, even if they look and smell okay. They still could be home to bedbugs, notes University of Kentucky entomologist Michael F. Potter.
  • Never buy any used mattress or box spring unless it carries a tag stating that it has been inspected by the state. Even so, check these items for fecal stains and peculiar smell.