For many homeowners, second-hand items are slowly becoming the norm. With thrift stores and online marketplace platforms becoming go-to options to acquire various items. Unfortunately, when purchasing products from these sellers, you may not be aware of the environment that these items came from or were stored in, and as a result could inadvertently be bringing a pest issue into your home.

To ensure you can recognize the signs of a pest activity on items prior to introducing a new purchase into your home, we have put together a list of the most common pests to watch out for and the items they commonly infest.

Common Pests That Can Easily Be Introduced In Homes Via Second-Hand Household Items

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Bed Bugs

Bed bugs are expert hitchhikers that can hide in cracks and crevices inside furniture, bags, picture frames, electronic, seams of clothing and bedding etc. and because of small size and nocturnal nature it would be difficult to know whether the item you are buying could have a growing bed bug infestation.

Because of the constant turnover of people and donations that could already be in thrift stores, along with the unknown variables within an individual’s living situation, the possibility of buying an item with bed bugs can be high.

It is important to inspect the item, looking for these signs to avoid introducing bed bugs into your home.

Signs To Watch For

  • Small black specks, which are droppings
  • Pearly white hatched or unhatched eggs glued on suspected surface
  • Blood stains or smears on surfaces
  • Discarded nymph skins
  • Actual dead bed bugs – nymphs or adults

Items Bed Bugs Commonly Infest

  • Furniture
  • Bedding (Mattress, box spring, pillows)
  • Electronics (Laptops, etc.)
  • Lamps
  • Suitcases
  • Backpacks
  • Bags/purses
  • Picture frames and other wall mountings
  • Clothing

Cloth Moths

Cloth moths can pose a unique threat if introduced into your home, particularly any clothing and fabric-based items. These small, beige, or golden coloured moths are known for their larvae, which feed on materials containing keratin, a protein found in animal-based fibres.

Cloth moths can cause significant damage to clothing, as adult moths lay eggs on fabric, and the hatching larvae then consume the material, leading to holes, grazing, and deterioration of the items.

This can result in ruined clothing or other fabrics such as curtains, drapes, and upholstered furniture, especially if the items are valuable or vintage clothing. The presence of cloth moths can also be unsightly and may cause panic within your home.

Signs To Watch For

  • 1 to 10 mm long cigar shaped silken larva tubes/cases on surfaces of item, often with larvae in it (case-making cloth moths)
  • Silken webbing tubes on surfaces, often in hidden parts of cloths or fabrics (webbing cloth moths)
  • Irregular furrows or holes in infested items due to feeding
  • Grazing patches that appears like  furrows on surface of item

Items Cloth Moths Commonly Infest:

  • Fabrics (Cashmere, Wool, Feather/Fur, Rugs)
  • Taxidermy mounts
  • Piano felts
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Stuffed toys

Carpet Beetles

Carpet beetles are small insects known for their destructive larvae and can significantly destroy the items you may have purchased from thrift stores or marketplaces. These beetles are attracted to natural fibres commonly found in second-hand items. The most common is the black carpet beetle.

These pests pose a threat causing damage to clothing, furniture, and other fabric-based items. Infestations can spread quickly, potentially affecting a wide range of products including food items. This can require you having to regularly having to replace items in your home.

Signs To Watch For

  • Surface damage – large irregular holes in materials
  • Larval cast skins
  • Fragments of body parts
  • Minute frass/droppings taking colour of material
  • Seeing actual insects – living or dead

Items Carpet Beetles Commonly Infest:

  • Carpets/rugs
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Mattresses


Silverfish are small, wingless insects known for their distinctive silvery-grey colour and fish-like movements. Silverfish are attracted to materials rich in starch, sugar, or protein, making thrifted or second-hand items made from paper, fabric, and certain adhesives susceptible to a silverfish infestation. These pests cause damage by eating holes into these materials, leading to deterioration and loss of value.

Signs To Watch For

  • Irregular holes and notches along edge of paper
  • Brown, yellow stains on surfaces
  • Scales and frass on surfaces

Items Silverfish Commonly Infest:

  • Books
  • Paper/Paper Products


Spiders, while often beneficial in controlling other insect populations, can present challenges for you when infested items are brought inside your home. These pests typically infest items in search of shelter or following their prey. While most spiders are harmless and non-destructive, their presence can impact products and may bite you if they feel threatened. Once in the home, spiders can build unsightly webs, which can be quite unsettling.

Signs To Watch For

  • Webbing/cobwebs
  • Silken egg sacs with eggs
  • Seeing spiders

Items Spiders Commonly Infest:

  • Furniture
  • Electronics

German Cockroaches

German cockroaches, a common and persistent pest, can pose significant challenges for homeowners. These small, light brown cockroaches are known for their rapid reproduction rate and resilience, making them particularly difficult to control once an infestation begins.

More than just a nuisance, German cockroaches can pose health risks, as these pests can potentially carry pathogens. These pests can also trigger allergies and asthma in some individuals and their droppings and shed skins can contaminate items and surfaces, creating an unhygienic environment.

Signs To Watch For

  • Capsule-like yellow-brown egg cases (6 to 9 mm long)
  • Spotting insects – dead or alive
  • Cast skins
  • Fragments of body parts
  • Small black specks – droppings (looks like black pepper)

Items German Cockroaches Commonly Infest:

  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Fabrics
  • Electronics

Wood Boring Insects

Wood boring insects, such as termites (particularly drywood termites) and powderpost beetles, can pose a serious threat to thrift shops. Both powderpost beetles and termites are known for their ability to consume wood from the inside out, often going unnoticed until significant damage is done.

In thrift shops or if infested items are brought into your home, these pests can spread to other wood-based products, potentially causing widespread damage and expensive treatment and repair costs.

Signs To Watch For

  • Tiny exit holes on surface of wood (beetles)
  • Powder-like frass on surfaces
  • Mud tubes or traces of mud tubing on surfaces (Subterranean termites)
  • Termite plugs
  • Surface blisters
  • Piled pellets (Drywood/furniture termites)

Items Wood Boring Insects Commonly Infest:

  • Wood furniture
  • Wood panels
  • Wood related structures or items including planters, boxes, crates, logs, and lumber
  • Wooden cutting boards or trays
  • Firewood

Pharaoh Ants

Pharaoh ants are a common pest problem in various settings, including thrift shops or inside homes. Known for their small size and light yellow to red colour, these pests are particularly challenging to get rid of because of their ability to break up (budding) to create other colonies quickly and their tendency to infest a wide range of environments.

Pharaoh ants can be a significant concern, as they are attracted to a variety of substances, especially sweets, fats, and proteins, making many food related products and remnants left in appliances particularly susceptible to a possible infestation.

Signs To Watch For

  • Seeing actual ants
    • Pale yellow to reddish colour
    • About 1.5 to 2 mm long
    • Abdomen is darkish

Items Pharaoh Ants Commonly Infest:

  • Almost all items have the potential to transport pharaoh ants

We hope this will help make you a smarter shopper and give you the tools necessary to avoid buying a pest infestation. If you accidentally brought home a pest infestation with your second-hand purchase and need a professional, your local Orkin Pro would be happy to help you. For professional pest control you can trust, contact us today!