Avoiding bed bugs in used clothing

Amazon: Bed Bugs, by David Carter If you're a buyer of second-hand kids' clothes, a lover of the "free bin," or a garage sale or thrift store shopper, you need to be wary about bedbugs. Bedbugs are making a comeback across the United States and can stow away in furniture, mattresses, clothing…just about anything.

I'm not much of a thrifter myself, but I do swing by the resale shops looking for kids' clothes. Buying used clothes is one of the best parent hacks there is! My new habit, as suggested by Dr. Phyllis Richie in my local newspaper:

  • Immediately place items in a Ziploc bag and seal tightly.
  • Either take them directly to the dry cleaner, or wash them in hot water, then dry on HOT for at least 30 minutes.

Has the threat of bedbugs changed your used goods buying habits?

And, is it just me, or are bed bugs an odd topic for a bedtime book?

Related: How to get top dollar selling your kids' used clothes


  1. says

    Growing up in the DEET-happy 70s, bedbugs always seemed as mythical as the Sandman. I can’t tell you how often my parents’ cheerful nighttime goodbye was “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

    The recent reemergence of bedbugs in the news has made me a more wary thrift shopper. It’s hard to know how many residential cases there are in our community, but at least one school in an outlying community has been closed for bedbug eradication.

    I’ve stopped buying resale furniture altogether, but I still buy resale/thrift/consignment/yard sale clothes. Last week we decided to buy a big clear tub for the car and garage to hold yard sale buys until they get through the (atypically HOT) wash.

    I must admit, I considered giving up thrift shopping, but then I read about some NYC flagship retail clothing stores, upscale hotels, and (oy) movie theatres being infested with bedbugs. It seems like the risk is not limited to the second-hand world.

  2. Christine says

    Oh, dear, I never thought of this!!!!

    I will be handling that differently as I buy a lot of my kids things on consignment.

  3. says

    Bedtime books? Forget it! My second grade niece’s homework assignment yesterday was a “reading for comprehension” question on bedbugs!

  4. says

    I remember my mom telling me “Don’t let the bedbugs bite”, and I always thought they were myths – like that monster in my closet.
    Then a couple of years ago I got them – took me weeks to figure out what was going on.
    Then I got them again! The first time was moving into an apartment, the second after an overseas trip. They hard to spot, and harder to get rid of.
    Afterwards I started a blog on my experience, and the best product I found that gave me the knowledge and plan to get rid of them.

  5. jillian says

    Geez, isn’t there a way to kill them that isn’t so hard on the clothing? What about freezing? I’d be happy to stash new clothes in a ziplock in the basement freezer for a week or two.

  6. says

    I read somewhere that freezing won’t do the trick, but this is based on admittedly cursory research. I’d love to see others’ pointers to PROVEN ways to avoid/eradicate bedbugs.

  7. Monique Klinedinst says

    Yet another thing to worry about. Gee whiz. I certainly wash everything I get but mostly to get that thrift store smell out. Why does everything in the thrift store smell like old lady? Nothing gets hot water in my laundry but it certainly will now.

  8. says

    I really hate this epidemic. It’s making me paranoid. I’ve even heard that you have to be careful about clothing bought online/from a catalog, as the packaging could potentionally be infested (?). Has anyone else heard this? My consignment days are admittedly temporarily over, at least until I hear about a good, effective way to get rid of the little buggers.

  9. polymathamy says

    I heard that freezing will only send them into hibernation. They have to be either left completely alone for a year to die, or be heated (like in HOT wash + HOT dry). Another way to kill them with heat, if the weather is hot an sunny, is to put the item(s) in a black trash bag and let sit in the hot sun for a day.

  10. says

    I have a much better solution — Green laundry bags that you can put new/second hand clothing right in (never opening in your house) and then plop right in the washer — bag and all. The bag is green and dissolvable and any bed bugs can be killed in the wash! I keep them in my car — give them to friends who travel — easy, earth friendly and not expensive. Yea! You can find them (and other useful info/tools at http://www.bedbugcentral.com. Sleep tight…!

  11. genie says

    Will drying the clothes on the clothesline in the sun all day, after a hot water wash (also never normally done in my house) work? How about freezing in -80 degree freezer? My hubby is a scientist… I can see bringing bags of clothes from sales and chucking them in the freezer for a day! :) And surely there is something out there that we can put in the big zip loc bags… moth balls? Diotomaceous earth? Something? I heart yard sales and thrift stores! I need a solution!

  12. says

    By all accounts, bed bugs are terrible house guests: they bite, they smell bad, and they won’t leave. And increased international travel and a resistance to current pesticides have contributed to their nationwide resurgence.

    If anyone is buying used clothings, the 2 steps of placing them in ziploc bags and then washing them in hot water (as bed bugs die in exterme heat) is a must to make sure bed bugs do not infest your homes.