Writer Amy Gale, in her book “Shows, Shops, & Auctions: Essays on the Antiques Trade,” recounts a tale of London surgeon Samuel Sharp, traveling in Italy in 1760. In the late 18th century, says Ms. Gale, the Italian countryside was a place of “hunger, lawlessness and filth.” Dr. Sharp would agree with her conclusion. On one night in particular, he so feared the uncleanliness of the proffered bed that he passed the night sleeping on a bench. Said Dr. Sharp of the bedding: “All the way to Naples we never once crept within the sheets, not daring to encounter the vermin and nastiness of those beds.”
As an estate auctioneer, I’ve never encountered anything quite as nasty as what Dr. Sharp describes, although on a couple of occasions I have chosen to burn mattresses in the yard rather than put them into my truck. The problems with the used upholstered furniture found in the typical estate sale can go way beyond popcorn and potato chips between the sofa cushions; upholstery fabrics and stuffing absorbs spilled beverages, food, body fluids, dander, cosmetics, hair spray, pet odors and urine. Much of this filth passes through the upholstery cover fabric into the stuffing and isn’t readily seen. Upholstery stuffing can also harbor mold, mites and diseases. Spinal meningitis is commonly transferred through shared mattresses and bedding. On the American frontier, European diseases were spread among Native Americans by the blankets traded by colonists. Clearly, selling used mattresses and upholstered furniture comes with certain risks.
For this reason, states have established laws to control the sale of used bedding and upholstered furniture. Most states allow the sale of used mattresses and upholstered furniture, but sometimes they require that items be disinfected and tagged with a declaration that the item is used and has been sterilized according to the state requirement. Read More…
Originally posted 2014-02-13 13:33:00.