Bed bugs on Craigslist?
July 30, 2009 7:21 AM   Subscribe

There's a bed frame I want for a great price on Craigslist. Should I worry about bed bugs?

I've been eyeing this bed at Ikea, and I just found someone selling it on Craigslist for a third the price. I was all ready to go pick it up, and mentioned it to some friends who immediately responded with an emphatic "NO." Their concern was bed bugs. I explained that I wasn't getting a mattress, just the frame, but they were insistent that it didn't matter.

I know this is this something I should be concerned about. How concerned should I be though? It's less than a year old and coming from a nice building in the financial district. I'll definitely inspect the apartment and the frame before I make the purchase. Is there anyway I can treat the pieces before bringing them into my apartment to kill anything on them before I bring them in?
posted by AaRdVarK to Home & Garden (19 answers total)
They can definitely hide out in any cracks and crevices of the bed frame. Also, even if the apartment looks immaculate they might have a bed bug problem. So basically, you're taking a calculated risk if you buy the frame.

As for whether there is something you can do to treat it before bringing it home, I don't know. Hopefully someone else will have an answer to that.
posted by amro at 7:31 AM on July 30, 2009

bed bug inspection
posted by philip-random at 7:55 AM on July 30, 2009

I really doubt that some Craigslist seller is going to let you inspect his apartment for bed bugs. I certainly wouldn't, if I were him.
posted by amro at 7:57 AM on July 30, 2009

Am I behind the times? I have never given a thought in my life to bed bugs, but I am seeing other people worrying about them now.

My daughter's east coast college has a note about them in the dorm rules, and now this!

Is it a regional thing? I am in SoCal and I have never heard of them being a problem. Or is it an old problem resurfacing?

Bite free and puzzled
posted by SLC Mom at 7:58 AM on July 30, 2009

I'd worry less about a frame than a mattress, but more about a wooden frame than a metal one.

It's a risk, but how big a risk is a mystery. It either has bugs hiding in it or not. I don't think there's anything you can simply treat it with that will just kill them--if there were, we wouldn't be having this crappy bed bug problem in the first place. But cleaning it as thoroughly as possible certainly couldn't hurt.
posted by lampoil at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2009

Response by poster: SLC Mom, in my research I've found that Craigslist has really exasperated the problem. They're pretty tenacious.

I'm still pretty torn on this. I think as a calculated risk, its OK. The savings is more than enough to cover an extermination. I am concerned about having to throw out my mattress if it is really a problem.

Maybe I'll stick my mattress in one of those bed bug bags until I know its safe?
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:12 AM on July 30, 2009

My college friends were Craigslist fiends. We rarely, rarely bought new furniture, and I only know of one kid who ended up with bedbugs. He infected his entire house, and it sucked. He was the type of person who'd roll around in an alley, and the bedbugs were NOT from any Craigslisted piece of furniture. This was around Boston, though not actually in the city. Everything else I've seen-- mattresses, beds, futons, couches, rugs-- has been totally bedbug free.

You'd have to be a pretty big asshole to try to sell a bedbug-infested piece of furniture, and it's pretty impossible to be ignorant of the fact that you have bedbugs. Obviously it's not 100% risk-free, but you'll probably be fine.
posted by oinopaponton at 8:15 AM on July 30, 2009

SLC Mom, it does seem to be a regional thing. I never heard about them in Denver but when I got to Boston I sure have. Apparently, it's further exacerbated by living in an area with a large student population, with furniture put out on sidewalks and picked up quite frequently.

Having said that, I purchased a used futon frame on CL, for my living room sofa, and it didn't even occur to me to be concerned about bedbugs.
posted by 6550 at 8:18 AM on July 30, 2009

It's an old thing resurfacing; as far as I can tell, it hit New York first and started spreading (most of the Northeastern cities (Boston included) and some Midwestern ones, including Chicago, now have issues.) Areas with large student populations or lots of travellers are most dangerous; the former tend to swap used furniture (and may be untidy or inexperienced enough not to realize they've got an infestation), the latter might move on before they realize they've been infested.

A metal bed might have been OK, but I wouldn't take the one you linked. Bedbugs can be found in nice apartments too (and hotels!), and they can live for months without food, so they're hard to get rid of. Treatments generally involve things like extreme heat or cold - though a bed frame might be a little hard to fit in a dryer - or extermination via pesticides. Other simple methods (putting bed legs in glass jars, rubbing them with vasoline, etc.) are better for preventing bedbugs access to your bed, rather than dealing with a current infestation. Actual prophylactic infestation treatment is likely to be more trouble than a cheap Craigslist bed is worth; having to deal with an infested house if the bed's infested (and you fail to wipe out the bugs) will certainly cost more than the savings. If bedbugs were easy to get rid of, people wouldn't be so freaked out about their resurgence.

I love getting cheap second-hand stuff, but for things like bedframes or fabric-containing things like chairs or sofas, I'd opt for something from a slightly more controlled source like a Salvation Army furniture warehouse instead. Bedbugs are creepy!
posted by ubersturm at 8:25 AM on July 30, 2009

Response by poster: I think I'm going to go for it. I'm going to get some isopropyl alcohol and give the bed a once over, and keep doing that for a few weeks. The worst case scenario is that I lose my mattress, and I think that's not a huge risk.
posted by AaRdVarK at 8:57 AM on July 30, 2009

I don't think that's the worst case scenario... They could infest your entire apartment.
posted by amro at 9:08 AM on July 30, 2009

When I lived in East Williamsburg/Bushwick, I picked up three bookcases, two sofas, a rug, an end table, a desk, a dining room table set, and a awesome buddha-hand-shaped stuffed chair. Call me lucky, but I never saw a bedbug in my entire life.

When I calculate the cost of hiring an exterminator vs. the cost of filling my apartment with quality furniture, the latter STILL wins, hands down!
posted by aquafortis at 9:30 AM on July 30, 2009

Bed Bugs have resurfaced because they were controlled in the past with lovely pesticides like DDT, which are now illegal (for very good reasons)
posted by jrishel at 9:39 AM on July 30, 2009

Actually, the worst case scenario is that you get bedbugs, and on top of buying a new mattress, you also have to hire an exterminator for a minimum of two visits, often at least three, and you have to wash and dry every item of fabric you own (except for all the stuff that can't go in the washer on hot and the dryer on high heat, which has to be dry cleaned), and you have to vacuum everything daily, and you have buy either plastic bags or plastic tubs for all your stuff to sit in while your apartment is being sprayed (and it needs to remain packed for two weeks between the sprayings and another few weeks after the spraying to be sure they're gone) the stress and time associated with this? Plus the social stigma of bedbugs? PLUS the bites, which are incredibly itchy? Man, it is NOT worth it.

The cost of that frame new is a fraction of the cost of dealing with bedbugs--it can be literally thousands of dollars, depending on how much stuff you have to dry clean and how big your apartment is (exterminators charge by the room). I know I sound crazy and paranoid--but my former roommates brought bedbugs in with a bed frame off the street, and it was a huge nightmare. It was years ago now, and I still worry about getting bedbugs again, because it was such an awful thing to deal with.
posted by min at 9:46 AM on July 30, 2009 [4 favorites]

Another NYCer. Are beg bugs a risk? Of course. Would I buy the bed? Probably yes. I've rolled the dice many times, including buying a used mattress, couch, and upholstered chair off of Craigslist. I've taken rugs, chairs and other furniture off the street. No bed bugs. I am much more careful now, but still, likelihood of this person selling a bedbug infested bed frame seems pretty low to me.

If you get the address of the building, you can check for housing complaints here. Put the address in the right sidebar, then you have the option of looking at open complaints, or complaint history. If you see bedbug infestation, then you no for sure not to buy it.
posted by kimdog at 10:53 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it's wood, don't buy it. Bedbugs have been spreading across the US for the last three years and they are a freaking nightmare to live with and to get rid of - I actually had to replace any type of wood furniture in my house. It's completely ended dumpster diving for me.
posted by medea42 at 12:14 PM on July 30, 2009

If you do get bed bugs, don't throw away your mattress! It won't get rid of your bed bugs and it actually helps them spread.
posted by lampoil at 1:47 PM on July 30, 2009

Don't do it. Just don't do it. It's not worth the risk. I mean, if you did get bed bugs, would you look back and think, "Well, at least I saved $50! Oh that was so worth it!" You live in NYC, so you know that we're in the midst of a bedbug epidemic (yes, EPIDEMIC), and this is the #1 way that people get them. You think it's expensive to buy a bedframe? Do some research and find out how expensive it is to get rid of bedbugs -- and even then not even know if they're completely gone. Do some research and you will be convinced. Just buy it new.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:09 PM on August 1, 2009

And yes, min speaks the truth. Cannot favorite their comment enough times. My god, if you're that strapped for money you should just save your money and wait for your next paycheck. Bedbug risk is NOT WORTH IT. And if you're going to listen to the "never had a problem" people in this thread, I suggest you ask around your group of friends and ask if anybody's ever dealt with an infestation. But be prepared, once you find someone who has, they'll probably grab you by your shoulders, widen their eyes, and scream, "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?"
posted by Afroblanco at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2009

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