Freebies Are Nice ... Except When They're Bedbugs

Amy Kuras

shoppingNew York City is riddled with bedbugs; they're in office buildings, movie theaters, apartments, and stores. But hey, no one comes to New York to shop, right? Oh, oops.

Several well-known NYC stores have had to shut down temporarily because of a bedbug problem, including Niketown's flagship store and a Hollister. Apparently the Hollister store is known for stationing well-muscled, shirtless young men as greeters. When the store was shut down to deal with the bedbugs, they still had to stand out there, this time warning people away (and presumably scratching at their red, itchy bedbug bites, which probably helped drive the point home).

Both stores have eradicated the bugs. But how do you know if you could be bringing the bugs home as an unwanted little extra from your favorite store?

  • Most importantly, check anything you want to buy or try on for signs of bedbugs. Look for egg sacs (they are sticky and white), left-behind exoskeletons, black or brown spots that would indicate smushed bugs, or even the bugs themselves, which like to hide in tiny spaces like inside seams or creases.
  • Don't lay your purse, clothing, or coat down on any soft surface like the carpet or furniture, and if you see a pile of clothes left behind by another customer, don't touch them. Watch out for wicker as well; the many tiny crevices are like a bedbug apartment complex.
  • Shake out bags, purses, and clothes outside when you get them home.
  • Bedbugs die at temperatures above 120 degrees. Wash anything you can in hot water immediately, and run items that can't be washed through a hot dryer for about 30 minutes (make sure they are already dry when you do this, and they shouldn't be harmed). You can also dry-clean them, but if you have any reason to suspect bedbugs, warn the dry cleaner to keep them away from other customers' clothes until after they are clean.
  • Be especially careful with used furniture. Vintage clothing blogger Sammy Davis Vintage suggests passing up anything "porous" that bugs can hide in. It's worth noting that the bugs won't actually burrow into a couch cushion or mattress; it's the little dark crevices to hide in and the proximity to a blood meal, aka YOU, that they like.

If you find some in your house despite your precautions, toss them outside if possible, and call an exterminator. Home remedies are pretty much ineffective against the bugs.


Image via Andy Hay/Flickr

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