Skip to main content

Bedbugs can invade furniture: Here’s how to get rid of them

Furnishing our homes is a big investment. Our favorite home furnishings require care and maintenance. But what happens when bedbugs take up residence in furniture?

Bedbugs have long been a disgusting nuisance in homes and a traveler’s worst enemy. They’ve been hanging around us for probably as long as humans have been living indoors. Although not known to carry dangerous diseases, their bites can be itchy, painful, and annoying. Bedbugs can cause revolting stain damage to beddings and furniture. Plus, they can be challenging to track down and get rid of before their presence becomes apparent.

Recommended Videos

We wanted to share some background on these pesky creatures, as well as some tips on treating furniture for bedbug prevention.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Bed bugs: A little history

Up until World War II, bedbugs were a common problem, and most Americans were well aware of how to spot an infestation and take steps to correct it. From the 1950s onward, the introduction of potent pesticides like DDT caused the number of bedbug infestations to drop dramatically. Fewer and fewer Americans came in contact with the nasty critters, and public awareness began to fall as well.

According to the Evans School of Public Policy at the University of Washington, once DDT and other environmentally dangerous pesticides began to be regulated and eliminated, and more people all over the world started to travel farther and more frequently, these nasty critters staged a comeback. By the 1990s, they had become a common problem once again.

How do bed bug problems start?

Bedbugs usually enter a home by hitching a ride from somewhere else. This is what can make them a frequent traveler’s nightmare. They attach themselves to furniture, pillows, cushions, linens, and clothing that come in contact with an infested home or hotel room. Once those items are moved into another location, they take up residence there and multiply quickly. They can also survive for days inside luggage, purses, and travel bags that carry contaminated items, giving them more opportunities to latch on to our stuff and stow away to other places.

How can we spot a bedbug infestation?

Sorry, but here is where things start to get really gross.

Bedbugs are tiny reddish-brown or yellowish insects about the size of an apple seed. They prefer to feed on nearby humans’ blood, and they live and lay their eggs in furniture, bedding, and linens. They can also live in tiny crevices along floorboards and behind low hanging drapes.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the most obvious signs of bedbugs are what they leave behind. Look for dark brown or red spots and stains on bedding fabric, furniture linings, and mattresses. Fun fact: This is actually their fecal matter, remnants of their blood feasts on unlucky humans! Their eggs are tiny and oval-shaped, yellowish-white in color, and can be found attached to linens, cushions, and contaminated surfaces. They also leave behind their discarded skins, and in cases of severe infestation, you may spot the bugs themselves or dead ones crushed beneath cushions and mattresses.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

 What are the best ways to get rid of bed bugs?

 Often, people want to know how to treat furniture for bed bugs at home. We’ve pulled together some ideas for discouraging them from taking up residence and treating the presence of bed bugs around the house.

  • Get rid of clutter in vulnerable areas, especially linens and clothing that tend to end up on the floor.
  • If you have to store linens for long periods, consider storing them in plastic zipper bags or other sealed containers.
  • If you like to frequent yard sales, thrift stores, or consignment stores, carefully inspect any second-hand furniture, pillows, and linens before bringing anything home.
  • Before returning home from a hotel stay that looked suspicious, carefully inspect your luggage, bags, and clothes.

If you do find signs of bedbugs at home, here’s what to do:

  • Contact a well-qualified, experienced professional pest control service to create a plan to eradicate the problem.
  • Bedbugs and their eggs can be destroyed by heat that exceeds 122°F (50°C). If you have potentially contaminated items you want to save, tie them into an old pillowcase and put them into a high heat dryer cycle for at least 90 minutes, assuming your dryer can get hot enough. Be sure not to mix contaminated items with clean ones. And of course, please try to avoid this process if you share public dryers with other tenants.
  • Contaminated furniture can sometimes be saved by thoroughly vacuuming cushions and fabric surfaces. If it’s possible to remove fabric linings without damaging the item, be sure to vacuum beneath them as well. When in doubt, though, consider safely and responsibly discarding them.
  • If you live in an apartment complex or multi-unit dwelling, be sure to notify your landlord and neighbors about a potential infestation right away.

If you often travel and find yourself staying in hotels frequently, it’s a good idea to check for signs of our repulsive little visitors.

  • Since they love to shack up in and around bedding and soft upholstered surfaces, pillows, and cushions, these are good places to start looking for evidence of their presence. Look for those nasty little reddish-brown stains, their eggs, skins, or the little devils themselves in those areas.
  • Try to avoid leaving clothing or luggage items on the floor near floorboards, under furniture, or close to beddings where bedbugs like to live.
  • If you do spot evidence in a hotel, motel, or B&B, be sure to alert the staff immediately.

In the end, it’s a big job eliminating bed bugs and getting your furniture in tip-top shape again. Depending on the extent of the damage, your sentimental connection to your pieces, or whether or not you can afford to replace key pieces, you might want to consider discarding items altogether.

Editors' Recommendations

Jennifer Robenalt
Former Digital Trends Contributor
How to get paint out of clothes and save your wardrobe
how to get paint out of clothes shutterstock 1760450252

When the dust settles on your painting project and you're admiring the finished result, you may not even notice the drips or smears of paint on your clothes. Once the paint dries on your clothes, however, your typical laundry process may not be enough to get those paint splashes out. Don't toss the garment out yet, though. We'll walk you through how to get dried paint out of clothes based on the type of paint used.

How to get paint out of clothes: Water-based paints
Water-based paints are some of the most common paints used in both arts and crafts as well as interior surface painting. The good news is it's also the type of paint that's easiest to get out of fabrics without staining. Here's how you do it.
How to get watercolor paint out of your clothes
Crafting is a great pastime, but it's also a messy one. If you get some of those watercolors on clothing, here's how to get it out.

Read more
Get a revamped kitchen for $400: How to tile a backsplash
how to tile kitchen backsplash shutterstock 1455082490

Home DIY projects are a great way to save money while giving your house a facelift. Some projects quickly raise your curb appeal, like installing a raised patio or redoing the driveway, and others are known to raise the value of your home exponentially, like a kitchen renovation. The good news is you can revamp your kitchen and give it a whole new look for under $400 simply by tiling your backsplash.

How much do pros charge for tiling backsplash in the kitchen?
The average cost of installing a backsplash in your kitchen is $1,000. This depends upon many factors: the materials you choose, the size of your space, the complexity of the project, and whether or not you're hiring a professional or tiling the backsplash yourself. Typically, labor costs between $40 and $60 per hour, which means you can save a lot by tackling the project yourself. Since it's a fairly quick and easy project for those who are proficient DIYers, you can't go wrong tiling your own backsplash.
Where do you start when tiling a backsplash?
The first step in the project is to choose your new tiles. Depending on your budget and style preferences, you have a few different choices in materials. The most common tiles used on kitchen backsplashes are mosaic tiles and subway tiles. Both look chic and modern and will give your kitchen a stylish upgrade.
How do you prepare a kitchen wall for a backsplash?
Once you've chosen your tiles, it's time to prepare the space for installation. Make sure the space is safe to work in by disconnecting and moving any appliances and countertop clutter, as well as shutting off electricity to any outlets in the area you'll be tiling. Cover countertops to keep them from getting stained or dirty during the project, and then use painters tape to mark off areas where the cabinets and countertops meet the backsplash.
Clean the wall before tiling the backsplash
Next, you'll need to clean the wall that tiles will be installed on, since tiles will not adhere if there's dust, dirt, or grease on the surface of the wall. Use water and dish soap and a clean rag to wipe the wall clean. Any tough grease stains may need to be removed with a degreaser. Make sure the wall is completely dry before moving on in the project.
What do you put behind backsplash tile?
If you're tiling an area that will see a lot of moisture, like near the kitchen sink or behind the stove, the wall should be waterproofed before adding backsplash tile. This will prevent water damage and mold growth on the wall. Waterproof your drywall or apply a waterproof membrane to the wall before adding tiling.

Read more
Trendy indoor plants can make a design statement — here’s how
Indoor plants hanging from the ceiling

The benefits of indoor plants are plentiful. From lifting your mood to helping reduce anxiety, it's always good to have some indoor plants around. If you're looking to integrate some indoor plants into your interior design to make a big statement, you've come to the right place. There are more ways to display your plant babies than just sitting them on a side table, and we're going to review some creative indoor plant designs to get your inspiration flowing.

Frame your succulents
Succulents are incredibly popular due to their low-maintenance care requirements and their adorable shapes and sizes. A great way to incorporate those little beauties into your interior design is to plant them into a soil-filled frame box and create a living art display. You can use a frame that's as large as you'd like and mix and match your favorite succulents to create a gorgeous wall design. Use varying colors and shapes to make this living statement design really pop.

Read more