Furniture, Closets, Couch? How To Check For Bed Bugs In Unlikely Places

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | January 5, 2024

After learning facts, man looking under couch, how to check for bed bugs in unlikely places, including where do bed bugs hide and bed bugs signs on furniture, asking do bed bugs like wood?

Although you might think that bed bugs only infect bedroom furniture, like mattresses, believe it or not, they can also be in your couch. How to check for bed bugs in unlikely places is one of the first things a professional pest control expert will do.

If you feel like bed bugs are everywhere lately, you’re not alone. Once found mostly in developing countries, bed bug populations have exploded across the globe since the early 2000s,1 and are now a major problem in many parts of North America.

In fact, a whopping 20 percent of people in the U.S. have either faced a bed bug infestation in their own home or know someone who has.1 To outwit these pests and prevent them from taking over your home, beware of items you bring into your house and learn to spot signs of an infestation before it becomes a major headache.

Considering a used mattress or couch? How to check for bed bugs in these and other furniture items is an important skill you should equip yourself with before you shop at thrift stores or bring other items into your home.

Where Do Bed Bugs Live?

To determine if you have a bed bug problem, you first have to ask yourself, Where do bed bugs live, and what are some of the clues they can leave to reveal their presence?

Bed bugs eat the blood of their victims, which includes both humans and pets.

Graphic of favorite bed bug hiding spots showing where do bed bugs hide in beds and couches.

They will typically remain within 8 feet of sleeping areas, hiding during the day and coming out to feast at night.2 Common bed bug living areas include mattresses, furniture, curtains, or any other hiding spot that’s reasonably close to a place where humans or pets sleep.

How To Tell if Bedbugs Are in Your Clothes

It’s possible to spot bed bug fecal matter on clothes that haven’t been washed, or that are stored in a home with a heavy infestation.

Instead of relying on visual clues on your clothes to determine if you have bed bugs, it’s best to assume bed bugs or eggs are on your clothes if you’ve slept somewhere another person may have slept, like a hotel or hospital room.1

As soon as you return home from a place like this, wash all clothing in hot water and dry on the hottest setting to ensure you don’t bring any creepy crawlies home with you.

Bed Bug Bites

As a bed bug draws blood from its victim, it can leave behind a bite, which may look like a mosquito or chigger bite, or even like a simple rash. Some people can be bitten by these bugs night after night and show no bite marks, while a minority may experience allergic reactions to the bites.

Because of the inconsistency in how bed bug bites present themselves, bites alone are a poor indicator of an infestation.3 Instead, make it part of your regular home maintenance routine to inspect your home for these pests so you can take steps to get rid of them as soon as possible.

Signs of Bed Bugs

The most obvious sign of a bed bug problem is actually seeing a bug in your home. Bed bugs are roughly ⅕ inch long — about the size of an apple seed — and are distinctly flat and oval.4

They are reddish-brown, have short antennae, and have six legs like other insects. Other signs of bed bugs include bug skins or exoskeleton; a sweet, musty odor; and rust-colored or black dots around the sleeping area.2

These dots are the excrement of the bugs, which they expel as they feast, travel, and rest in their hiding spots.

Bugs That Look Like Bed Bugs

Before you panic at the sight of a six-legged creature in your home, it’s best to make sure it’s really a bed bug. Some bugs that look like bed bugs are roaches, ticks, and carpet beetles.

Roaches are longer than bed bugs, measuring between an inch and 2 inches long.4 They are darker brown and have long, thin antennae.

Ticks look a lot like bed bugs, but if you look closely, you will see that they have eight legs instead of six. Carpet beetles are about the same size as bed bugs, but are round and darker in color, not flat and oval like bed bugs.

Where Do Bed Bugs Hide in the Couch: How To Check for Bed Bugs

Many people associate bed bugs with the bedroom, but they are also happy to set up their homes in other places where humans hang out, like the living room.

Wondering where do bed bugs hide on the couch? How to check for bed bugs in your sofa so you can actually relax?

While bed bugs hang out within 8 feet of sleeping areas, they are willing to travel 5 to 20 feet to feed.2,3 They are most active by night, but will also come out during the day if they are in need of a meal.

Humans stretched out on the couch relaxing and watching a movie make an ideal feeding situation for bed bugs.

Should I Throw Away My Couch if It Has Bed Bugs?

To determine if your couch has bed bugs, grab a flashlight and magnifying glass to assist your search, then inspect these favorite bed bug hiding spots:

  • All seams
  • Under cushions
  • All sides, including the back and bottom of the couch
  • Any small crevices in the frame that you can see
  • Indentations around tacks, staples, or other fasteners

Remember, you’re not just looking for bugs, but also exoskeletons and the rust or black-colored spots that indicate fecal matter. So what happens if you find a problem?

You might wonder, “Should I throw away my couch if it has bed bugs?” The answer is only an emphatic yes if the couch has rips, tears, or damage that makes it impossible for you to inspect certain areas.

In that case, it’s impossible to know what hides inside, and you should assume the worst and invest in a new couch. Otherwise, you may be able to treat the couch and avoid replacing it.

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs on Couch: How To Check for Bed Bugs

So you’ve inspected your sofa and found an issue — now how to get rid of bed bugs on the couch without throwing it away? One of the easiest places to start is by simply vacuuming, using tools to clean deep inside of every crevice.

A modern living room featuring a beige couch with two turquoise pillows, positioned against a wall decorated with a circular mirror display and a vase of dried plants.

(Image: ErikaWittlieb12)

Once you’re done, immediately empty the vacuum cleaner into a plastic bag, tie up the bag, and take it outside. Next, use a steam cleaner on the entire couch, with the steamer set to 130 degrees F to kill bed bugs.

Finally, if your couch is up on legs, add interceptor traps at the base of each leg to keep bed bugs away.5

Bed Bug Couch Cover

Once you’ve cleaned the couch and removed any signs of bed bugs, it’s time to invest in a bed bug couch cover. This plastic or vinyl cover is designed to protect the entire couch, preventing any bed bugs inside from coming out to feast.

To ensure they can’t possibly survive, the cover must be left on for at least a year and should be inspected regularly for any rips or tears.6 Any damage must be repaired immediately, and the cover should be replaced if repair isn’t possible.

How To Check for Bedbugs on Mattress

After you’ve cleared up any couch infestation issues, the next question to ask yourself is how to check for bedbugs on mattresses and around the bed.

Bedbugs on Mattress

Use a flashlight and magnifying glass to check for bedbugs on the mattress or around the bed. Remember, bed bugs are tiny, so these tools can reveal clues that the naked eye can miss.

Carefully inspect seams and areas around mattress tags,3 as these are popular bed bug-hiding spots. Inspect the area where the mattress meets the frame, then move on to check the frame itself.

Bed bugs can hide in nail holes, around tacks or staples, and in the joints or grooves of a bed frame. Next, move on to the surrounding area, inspecting nightstands, all hangings or paneling, and the joint where the flooring meets the bottom of the wall. Look for bugs, shed skins, and fecal matter.

Preventing Bed Bugs in Mattress

Preventing bed bugs in mattresses and surrounding areas is relatively simple. Consider investing in a metal frame, as bed bugs are less likely to hang out in a metal frame than they are in one made of wood.6

Ditch fancy headboards with lots of hiding spots and stick to simple ones that are easy to clean. Invest in interceptor traps and place them around the bottom of each leg of the bed to keep bed bugs from crawling up.5 Finally, spring for a plastic or vinyl mattress cover so bed bugs can’t build a home inside your mattress.

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress

Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress if you spot these pests:

  • Vacuum the mattress to remove any bugs, and shed skins and eggs. Immediately empty the vacuum canister and take the contents outside in a plastic bag.
  • Use a steam cleaner set at 130 degrees F or higher to clean the entire mattress, paying particular attention to seams and folds around the edges
  • Encase the mattress in a plastic or vinyl mattress cover and leave the cover on for at least a year.6 Keep a sharp eye on the cover for any rips or tears, and repair them immediately, or replace the cover if you can’t fix them.

Free Couch? How To Check for Bed Bugs in Used Furniture

Furniture can be a major expense, so many people rely on used pieces and hand-me-downs to furnish a home.

Before you go this route, it’s important that you understand what to do first when purchasing used furniture, like a couch. How to check for bed bugs on them is something that you should learn so that you can avoid bringing unwanted pests into your home.

Bed Bug Signs on Furniture

When looking for bed bug signs on furniture, you can’t just wait for bed bug bites while you sleep; you need to know how to find bed bugs during the day. This means learning how to search the tiny spaces where they tend to make their homes.

A cozy living room featuring a stone fireplace, plush sofas with burgundy pillows, hardwood floors, and a rustic wooden wardrobe, all complemented by light walls and sheer curtains with burgundy accents.

(Image: SilverTongueSteve13)

Before you bring any piece of furniture into your home, use a flashlight and magnifying glass to closely inspect it outside. You are searching for any sign of bed bugs, including live or dead bugs, shed skin, or red, brown, or black dots that indicate bug fecal matter.

Here’s where to search:

  • Around lining or seams. Anywhere one surface meets another, a narrow area is created that makes a perfect hiding spot for bed bugs.
  • Around staples, tacks, fasteners, nails and screws. Bed bugs can fit inside the head of a screw and hide
  • In grooves and joints of wood furniture. Slide a putty knife or an old credit card into these joints to see what the naked eye cannot.

Be wary of any furniture that was kept in a bedroom,7 as these items are more likely to be infested with bed bugs than items that were kept in non-sleeping areas.

If One Room Has Bed Bugs, Do They All Have Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs are tiny and can’t fly, so many people wrongly assume that they only live near the bed and won’t travel far beyond that. Actually, bed bugs are notorious hitchhikers that typically travel by hitching a ride in luggage, on clothing, or in furniture.10

That makes it easy for them to not only spread throughout an entire home or apartment but also to travel through cracks in walls and settle into adjacent homes or apartments.

How To Clean Used Furniture To Prevent Bed Bugs

If you spot signs of bed bugs but still want to try to make a piece work in your home, you need to understand how to clean used furniture to prevent bed bugs and keep them from taking over your house.

  • Remove cushions or pillows whenever possible and put them in the dryer in the highest heat setting for at least 20 minutes7
  • Pull out drawers and vacuum the entire piece of furniture thoroughly, including the bottom and back
  • Use a steam cleaner set at 130 degrees F to clean upholstered items and wood
  • Consider painting wood furniture white or light color so bed bugs are easier to spot in the future6
  • Don’t forget cracks and joints. Just because you can’t see inside a joint doesn’t mean bed bugs can’t fit in there.
    Use a putty knife to clean out the joints as much as possible to make sure no bugs or eggs remain.

Do Bed Bugs Like Wood?

When it comes to bed bug discussions, soft items like mattresses, couches, and clothing get most of the attention, but if you’ve stopped to ask yourself, “Do bed bugs like wood?” then you are on the right track.

Bed bugs like organic materials, including wood, paper, and fabric.7 This includes wooden bed frames, wood furniture, and even wood paneling.

That means these items must be cleaned just as thoroughly as upholstered items if you want to win the bed bug wars.

How To Remove Bed Bugs From Wood Furniture

Once you’ve accepted that bed bugs are just as likely to live in wood as they are in something softer, it’s time to determine how to remove bed bugs from wood furniture. Start by vacuuming the entire piece, paying extra attention to grooves and corners.

Remove drawers in dressers and nightstands so they can be cleaned, and vacuum the tracks that hold these drawers. Use a steam cleaner over the entire piece to kill any remaining bugs or eggs.

Keep in mind that if a piece of wood furniture is damaged, you really can’t get inside a hole or crack to eliminate bed bugs, so it might be best to throw damaged pieces away.7

How To Get Rid of Bed Bugs Permanently

When you’ve discovered bed bugs in your home, your immediate reaction is to find a way to get rid of the bugs as quickly as possible, but remember – it’s much more important to create a plan and figure out how to get rid of bed bugs permanently.

What Kills Bed Bugs Instantly?

What kills bed bugs instantly? Bug sprays, but pesticides are almost never the best answer to a bed bug infestation.

A head profile of a bed bug showing its brown hairy body on a bat, showing that where do bed bugs live can also be on animals.

(Image: Gilles San Martin11)

In fact, pesticides can make a bed bug problem worse and pose serious health threats to you and your family if used incorrectly. Instead, bed bug removal requires patience and a plan.

  • Get rid of clutter where bed bugs like to hide, especially around sleeping areas
  • Put interceptor traps under bed legs and encase mattresses and other infested furniture in plastic covers
  • Place soft items in the dryer at the hottest heat setting to kill bugs and eggs
  • Place items that can’t be dried into a freezer set at 0 degrees F for at least three days5
  • Use a steam cleaner set at 130 degrees F or higher to clean carpets, curtains, and other soft items

Things to avoid when getting rid of bed bugs:

  • Attempting to kill bugs by heating the house. You can’t get your house hot enough like a professional can
  • Using alcohol, kerosene, or gasoline. They don’t work and are dangerous.5

Diatomaceous Earth for Bed Bugs

In addition to decluttering and cleaning up to eliminate bed bugs, there are a few eco-friendly pest control options that can kill bed bugs without the use of dangerous pesticides.

  • Diatomaceous earth for bed bugs: Place this sand-like material in areas where bed bugs live. It is not generally harmful to humans but kills bugs. Don’t use food or pool grade — instead look for a pesticide grade that won’t harm human lungs.5
  • Desiccants: Desiccants are powders that dry out the bugs and kill them, but aren’t as dangerous as bug sprays and liquid pesticides. Always choose an EPA-registered desiccant designed for bed bugs.5

Exterminator Prices

Sometimes you’ve done your best to get rid of bed bugs and you’ve found these annoying critters just keep coming back. When that happens, it’s time to bring in a professional bed bug exterminator.

Exterminator prices can vary but generally are based on:

  • Size of infestation
  • How much clutter is in the home
  • How much furniture exterminators will have to move when dealing with bed bugs
  • Size of the home

With that said, exactly how much does a bed bug exterminator cost?

Treating a small one-bedroom apartment starts at around $300,5 and prices go up from there. Heat treatment for bed bugs is an effective way to get rid of these pests, but it is not a DIY job, so you will have to hire an exterminator to perform this service.

Heat treatment for bed bugs cost ranges from around $800 to $2,000.8 You can find an excellent checklist to help you choose a bed bug exterminator at this link.9

Early detection and regular inspections can keep a few bugs from becoming a much larger problem. Whether in a mattress, bed frame, or couch, how to check for bed bugs is an important thing to know to prevent these pests from infesting your home.


1California Department of Public Health. (2021, January). Bed Bugs. CDPH. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

2California Department of Public Health. (2023, May 11). Bed Bugs. CPDH. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <,box%20springs%20and%20bedroom%20furniture>

3United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, October 04). How to Find Bed Bugs. EPA. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

4NYC Health. (2023). Is it a Bed Bug, Cockroach or Carpet Beetle? NYC. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

5United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023, May 31). Do-it-yourself Bed Bug Control. EPA. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

6The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. (2023). PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF BED BUGS IN DONATED ITEMS. NYC. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

7Quesada, C., & Gripp, S. I. (2022, June 30). Biology, Habitat, and Management of Bed Bugs. PSU. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

8Developmental Disabilities Administration. (2016, November). Don’t let the BED BUGS bite! DSHS. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

9Merchant, M., & Brown, W. (2013, June). How to Select a Bed Bug Control Provider. ARKANSAS. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

10State of Rhode Island & Department of Health. (2023). Bed Bugs. RI. Retrieved November 17, 2023, from <>

11Bed Bugs Photo by Gilles San Martin. CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic. Resized, Adjusted Color Balance, and Adjusted Brightness and Contrast. Flickr. Retrieved January 5, 2024 from <>

12Couch With Bedbugs Photo by ErikaWittlieb. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved January 5, 2024 from <>

13Bed Bugs on Wood Furniture Photo by SilverTongueSteve / Stephen Parr. Resized and Changed Format. Pixabay. Retrieved from <>