Money & Career

Don't let bed bugs bite into your budget

Clothing stores are few and far between in my eternally up-and-coming Toronto neighbourhood. But we do have lots of junk shops and thrift stores.

bed bug

Clothing stores are few and far between in my eternally up-and-coming Toronto neighbourhood. But we do have lots of junk shops and thrift stores. Back when we moved here, these places made me very happy. On an afternoon, I would browse through the racks of my local Goodwill thrift store looking for bargains and picking up secondhand paperbacks for 50 cents.

Now…not so much. A couple of months ago, a friend of mine brought home a case of bed bugs in the pockets of some secondhand pants she’d picked up for $5. She saved a bundle on the pants, but ended up spending hundreds of dollars to have her condo fumigated repeatedly.

Bed bugs don’t just bite your body — they take a bite out of your wallet too. Most of the time it takes several expensive visits from your local pest control expert to get rid of them, and that’s not to mention the sleepless, itchy nights you’ll endure.

And these days the little critters can be found just about anywhere — your neighbour’s place, hotels, movie theatres, storage spaces….and (most heartbreaking of all) the places frugal folks like me love to congregate: thrift stores and even the public library (have you heard about bed bugs in Vancouver libraries?).

But there are some ways to stop these critters from coming into your home. Here are a few steps you can take:

  • Don’t buy used furniture that is upholstered — and definitely say no to used mattresses unless they come with a plastic bed bug proof cover. If you do, make sure you get them inspected by someone who knows what to look for (live or dead bugs, eggs, and — ew! — fecal matter)
  • If you are buying vintage or secondhand clothes, Toronto Public Health says 30 minutes in the dryer on high heat will kill bed bugs. Or you can freeze them to death — but that means keeping clothes at 0C or less for four days.
  • Think about covering your mattress or box springs in plastic that can be sealed shut — this will prevent pests from getting in and it will eventually kill any that might already be there. This might be a good option if you share walls, floors, etc. with people who have had bed bug problems.
  • These days, hotels are really struggling with bed bug problems. Experts say you could check your mattress and bedding as soon as you get into your room. Also, inspect the luggage rack, nightstands, dresser drawers, and carpet edges. If there are bed bugs in the room, moving to a different room might not be the answer (they travel through walls…). Experts also say that when you get back from a hotel stay, you should inspect your clothes and wash them in hot water. Me, I’m not sure I want to put a business suit in the washing machine — and then there’s the suitcase (do bedbugs go for those?).

Gosh, I’m starting to feel itchy just writing about this stuff. Must stop now! If you have any other tips or stories to share, feel free to chime in below…meantime I’m off to take a shower.