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Treating Your Furniture for Bed Bugs

As is the case with mattresses, treating furniture for bed bugs begins with deciding whether the furniture is worth treating. Furniture that's severely infested, or which is simply old and dilapidated, may not be worth bothering to treat. If you do decide to replace your furniture, treat your home for bed bugs first, and be sure that the bed bugs are gone before having your new furniture delivered.

Using an aerosol insecticide to treat for bed bugs in the stand under a swivel chair

If you decide to keep your furniture, it must be thoroughly treated. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies in furniture where bed bugs can hide, and you have to find and treat them all. If you miss an area that's infested, you may just have to do the whole bed bug job again.

You definitely will have to do an exhaustive inspection of all the furniture in the bedrooms and any other rooms that are known to be infested. Whether you treat the furniture in the rest of the house is up to you, but you probably should.

If you choose to treat all the furniture in the house, then treat it at least a day or two before you treat the bedrooms that are infested. This way any bed bugs that escape your treatment won't simply move into the untreated furniture.

As I stated earlier, furniture is full of places where bed bugs can hide. Your inspection and treatment has to be very thorough, lest you miss some of these harborage areas. Some of the places in furniture where bed bugs hide include:

Or in other words, pretty much anywhere. So be thorough. You don't want to have to do this job again.

Treating Upholstered Furniture for Bed Bugs

A person's hand using the upholstery attachment of a carpet cleaning machine to clean a sofa

At a minimum, all of the upholstered furniture in any room of a home that's known to have bed bugs should be shampooed. The upholstery attachments of a good carpet shampooer usuall will do a very good job. Shampoo all the surfaces, and use the crack and crevice or extractor attachment to thoroughly shampoo and extract the cleaning solvent from all the crevices and seams.

When you're done, inspect the water that you pulled out. Sift it through a fine strainer and look for any bed bugs or bed bug skins, and sniff it to determine whether it smells like bed bug droppings. If it does, then the item of furniture should be treated for bed bugs once it's dried from the cleaning.

Yeah, I know that last step, inspecting the water, is pretty gross. But you don't want to do the whole treatment again, do you?

Furniture located in a room that's known to be infested should always be treated after cleaning, even if you don't find evidence of bed bugs.

Upholstered furniture can be treated using steam, liquid insecticides, aerosols, dusts, or some combination of these. Whichever one you use, it's a good idea to remove foam stuffing from cushions that have zippers, and to treat the foam separately from the cushion covers. This also allows the cushion covers to be turned inside-out and treated from the inside, which is useful if the fabric is very thick. Also make sure to treat every part of the furniture item, top and bottom, including the parts of fold-out beds and futons that are usually concealed. Treat them in both the closed and open (sleeping) configurations.

You can treat upholstered furniture using one or more of the following options:

Non-Chemical Treatment. If you're taking a completely non-chemical approach, then use your bed bug steamer to methodically cover every square inch of the furniture, both the upholstered and non-upholstered parts, paying special attention to cracks, crevices, and tufts in the upholstery.

Liquid Insecticides. If you're using liquid insecticides, then I suggest using EcoRaider Bed Bug Killer. But before using it, treat an inconspicuous area and allow it to dry to make sure it doesn't discolor the fabric. If it passes that test, then treat the entire item of furniture, both the upholstered and non-upholstered parts, paying special attention to cracks, crevices, and tufts in the upholstery. You'll want to use enough liquid to wet the fabric, but not enough to soak it.

Insecticide Dusts. If you're using dust insecticides, double-check the label to make sure they're approved for use on upholstered furniture, and treat in accordance with the label instructions. Usually the procedure is to apply the dust to the fabric and work it in, then remove it with a vacuum after a specified period of time.

Personally, I don't recommend treating upholstered furniture with dusts. It's too difficult to get all the dust out, in my opinion. I also wonder whether the abrasive particles in the dusts won't damage the fibers in the fabric.

Aerosol Insecticides. There are many aerosol insecticides labeled for use against bed bugs on upholstered furniture. The usual procedure is basically the same as when using liquid insecticides: Treat the entire item of furniture, both the upholstered and non-upholstered parts, paying special attention to cracks, crevices, and tufts in the upholstery. Sometimes the labels also specify vacuuming the item a specified time after treating it. Read and follow the label for more specific instructions, including things like drying and airing-out times.

Treating Cabinets, Hutches, Dressers, Desks, and Other Non-Upholstered Furniture for Bed Bugs

A person's hand using the upholstery attachment of a carpet cleaning machine to clean a sofa

The process for treating non-upholstered furniture is pretty straightforward and doesn't require much explanation. It can all be summed up in two words: Be thorough.

Basically, you need to remove any drawers or other removable parts and treat the entire unit, inside and out, right side-up and upside-down, paying special attention to cracks and crevices.

The easiest way to treat these furniture items is with aerosol or liquid insecticides. Dusts can also be used, but they're hard to remove completely. My personal preference is to use a liquid insecticide with a compressed-air pump sprayer. It's easier to get all the nooks and crannies using the wand than when using a trigger sprayer.

When treating the inside of furniture, it's a good idea to wear chemical-resistant gloves and a pesticide respirator, even if the labels don't specifically require them. Chemicals applied inside furniture tend to come back at you, and you don't want to be breathing it in or absorbing it through your skin.

If you're doing a purely non-chemical bed bug control treatment, then simply reach into the furniture with your steamer and run the steam along all the corners, cracks, and crevices. Be careful not to burn yourself when treating inside dressers, hutches, and the like because the steam will fill the inside of the furniture.