When I spread the news of this swap to others in my area, some friends told me they didn't want to attend because of BEDBUGS.
Bedbugs are a totally valid fear here in NYC. There is an epidemic. I personally know 6 people who've had them and almost every friend I speak to seems to know another few. Mattress covers are being stocked per month in the hundreds in stores that were selling 1 per day just last year. I know other cities (I'm looking at you, San Francisco) also have issues with bedbugs. They can live for 18 months in virtually anything without eating -- picture frames, clothing, books -- and the real kicker about them is there is no way to kill their eggs. Save DDT.
But fear of bedbugs making people miss out on clothing swaps is sad news to me. Fear of people buying clothing from resale places is also sad to me. If you are going to swaps, to Beacon's Closet, to Buffalo Exchange, to Brooklyn Flea here in NYC...should you be worried about bedbugs?
Some of those places steam their stuff but apparently you need to steam effectively to get rid of them and yeah, bedbugs are pretty easy to get.
If you think this is an issue and you'd like to take precautions, I'm laying out some bedbug basics below and I'll direct you to hub of all bedbug info, bedbugger.com.
THE BASICS:** Just an edited note: the part that actually kills the bedbugs here (as commenters noted) is the clothes-drying. The bagging is just to contain the bedbugs so they don't infiltrate your apartment while the clothes sit in a laundry pile and the washing is mainly because I assume everyone will wash thrift store/swap clothing before they wear them. Thank you, commenters, for pointing out that fact was not obvious in the way the steps are written out!
1. Put everything you get in ziploc bags at the location of the store or swap (you don't want the bugs crawling out of the bag in your home; I plan to bring a ziploc in a tote bag and then put the tote bag in the ziploc after I'm done carrying the stuff home)
2. If you've tried stuff on over your own clothes, put those in the ziploc bag, too. I usually do this in the hallway if I think I have anything on me (this goes for when I'm working Spay Day, too, and I think I might have fleas on me!) but if you can't do it outside your apartment, go right to your bathroom, strip in your shower and then run your shower with hot water
3. Make sure you seal the ziploc every time you put something in it!
4. Bring ziploc bag to the laundrette ASAP; needless to say, don't rub all your "questionable" clothing on the clothes you're wearing when you do it. (Alternately, you could bring everything to a dry-cleaner and let them know it's possible these clothes might have bedbugs but that's up to you.)
5. Wash and dry your clothing (hot wash, dry until well-past dry)
6. Get rid of the ziploc
7. Put your washed-and-very-dried laundry in a clean bag (laundry or whatevs, just not the ziploc you carted them there in) to take home
This section talks about how to deal with bedbugs and clothing.
This section talks about using steam to get rid of bedbugs
Now that my civic duty is done, happy re-using!
(And as Rad notes in the comments, clothing is easier to treat for bedbugs removal...use precaution with furniture. Bedbugger.com has some info on how furniture is treated but I do keep a box of DE in my house to dust new stuff with.)