Thursday, October 14, 2010

Taking a Bite Out of Second Hand

From the bean of Green Bean.

I've long been a fan of second hand. Indeed, we've furnished much of our house and most of ourselves with other people's cast offs. A quilt from a garage sale. A wine rack free on the side of the road. A fall wardrobe from the thrift store. An Etsy purse made from repurposed sweaters. Here in the Green Bean household, we really sink our teeth into the idea of "reuse."

But a recent development has turned second hand into spooky: Bed Bugs!

Oh, I'm sure much of the bed bug invasion is media hype. Many of the infestations occur in hotels, first use retail stores and such. However, nearly every article I've read about the bloodsuckers mentions being careful when you buy used. That's gotta take a bite out of second hand shopping sprees.

A little grossed out but not easily deterred, I grabbed some garlic I did some research on how to avoid getting bit by my second hand scores.

Sealing your item in a plastic bag and then taking it to a professional cleaner topped the list of preventative measures. Wrapping anything in plastic, though, takes some of the green out of second hand and professionally cleaning sucks the bargain out of bargain hunt. Next try.

Steam cleaning is said to kill bed bugs so perhaps a used rug is cool if you are going to steam clean it. But how do you get it home or to the cleaners? In your car? Where those creeps can hitch a free ride? Maybe pass on the used rugs.

Upholstered furniture that is "baked" (in a cauldron?) should be fine but this would come from a furniture re-seller and not Joe Blow selling stuff on Craigslist. Okay, maybe skip on the upholstered furniture and stick with wooden or metal.

Putting an item in the dryer (for at least 30 minutes) or in hot water wash in the washer and then the dryer again apparently kills bed bugs. Alternatively, placing the item in the freezer for one month and then washing it supposedly annihilates the beasts. Both of these tactics seem to put clothes, some shoes, costumes that could stand up to the washing or dry cleaning, and bedding in the clear. They also seem a little more eco friendly and affordable.

Maybe I'm just being paranoid, I tell myself, as I stroll the dimly lit aisles of my favorite second hand haunt. I pass the rugs with hardly a glance, stop to dig through the stacks of pots and pans, flip through some books, wander by the stationary section, and then head to the aisle for women's clothing.

There's a cute cardigan. My size. My color. Excellent condition. $3.99.

Should I bite?


ehmeelu said...

Thanks for writing about this! Putting things through the dryer is what bedbug exterminators get the tenant to do, as well, so I think it's a good solution.

And it's definitely not just hotels etc. that have a problem - I live in a Canadian city that is having an increasing problem with bedbugs, and half of the small apartment blocks my company manages have had problems with bedbugs. So far they've been isolated to one or two suites, but it never has anything to do with whether a tenant is clean or not, so it has really given me pause in regards to second hand stuff!

Kathryn Grace said...

Thanks for posting this. I have known women who wear wonderful designer clothing they buy on the cheap from consignment shops, but I've never had that kind of luck, not being an ardent shopper, and I cannot bear the smell of used clothing stores. It would be so much easier if folks would launder their giveaways before bagging them and carting them off to the thrift store.

On the other hand, I am beginning to stop into the local thrift store now and then and watch for table ware to augment our dwindling supply. Simply cannot stomach buying dishes and utensils that have been made, possibly, in sweat shops then shipped overseas packed in styrofoam and numerous plastic and virgin cardboard boxes. So giving the thrift stores a try. Perhaps we can grow an elegant set of mismatched but somehow charming beauties.

Deborah said...

With 2 kids under the age of ten, I'm naturally an avid second-hand clothing shopper - it's the best way to keep them dressed on a budget. But since bedbugs have become a big problem in my city (LOTS of stories of whole apartment buildings ending up infested), I'm definitely thinking twice before I buy. The very mention of the things makes my skin crawl. So - thanks for this great post! (Retweeted it!)

Alison Golden said...

Great post, Green Bean! :)

I have to admit the idea of bugs bothers me and I pick and choose what I buy used. I hate shopping so between that and my aversion to bugs, I simply don't buy much at all. Which my husband loves me for!

Billie said...

I don't think it would have occurred to me to worry about bed bugs when buying clothes.

That kind of skeeves me out! My last couple of purchases have been off the deep discount rack so I sort of feel like I am not contributing to demand just picking through its left overs.

susanna eve said...

I think that places like value village do treat all their clothes, that is what the horrible smell is on them. However, what I do is to take a plastic garbage with me and put the purchased clothes in there and seal up tight. When I get home I put the dry clothes in a very hot dryer. You don't need to do 30 minutes, 5 is supposed to be enough to kill bedbugs, I do about 20 minutes. I then go ahead and wash as regular. I put items like purses etc in the deep freeze for about 2 weeks. Furniture would be trickier, vacuuming works but you would have to put the item in your vehicle first.


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