Bargain hunters and fashionistas alike head to thrift shops for the one-of-a-kind, cost-effective goods that they want to own. And although you, too, might be wowed by the low price tags and bespoke items on offer, beware: you should never buy from these 40 item categories when thrifting.
40. Stained or Damaged Clothes
Most shops evaluate their offerings to make sure that they’re in good enough condition before being put up for sale. But even so, be sure to check clothes for stains, holes or other damage before buying – otherwise, you could be wasting cash on something you’ll never get to wear.
A used mattress could play host to a slew of unsavory germs, bodily fluids, mites… the list goes on. And said mattress might also hide bedbugs. These microscopic pests can survive for months in a bed, awakening once they feel a warm body to feed on – that’s you. So, your best bet is to always, always buy your mattresses new.
A gorgeous, colorful textile can be tempting, but think twice before purchasing a thrift-shop rug. This is especially true if you have allergies – because you never know what type of mold, mildew, pet dander or dust might be hidden within the woven threads.
37. School Supplies
There’s not a particular risk when it comes to buying secondhand notebooks, pencils and so on. But the truth is that you don’t need to thrift school-related items. Instead, you can easily purchase them during sales or at big-box stores – and that way you and your family get to use brand-new supplies for the same price.
36. Outdated Upholstery
That fabric screaming “vintage” in a bad way? It could be toxic. You see, 85 percent of sofas manufactured from 1984 to 2010 were covered in fire-resistant materials that have been found to contain chemicals that you definitely don’t want to introduce into your home.
35. Stuffed Animals
A sweet-looking teddy bear could very well be hiding something sinister. Secondhand stuffed animals have been found to contain everything from bedbugs, germs and mold to allergens and nasty odors. And some of those nasties will stick around even after a hot-water wash.
34. Raincoats and Boots
In the middle of a downpour, the last thing you want is a waterproof coat or boots that leak. Buying wet-weather gear from a thrift shop could put you in this exact position, though, as the coating that keeps water out can be compromised over time or after the clothing item has been washed.
Once makeup is opened, it will have likely been introduced to bacteria that may breed within it. In fact, even sealed makeup should be a no-no, as you won’t be able to tell if the product has expired. And believe it or not, old formulas can change in composition, thus posing a threat to your skin.
When’s the last time you washed your favorite hat? We thought so. Most people don’t put their headwear through the washing machine. And this means the thrift-store hat that you’ve had your eye on could still be carrying the original owner’s germs, sweat and even lice. You’re better off buying new.
31. Car Seats
Your child’s car seat is a major factor when it comes to keeping them safe while traveling. And buying a thrifted model could seriously compromise that – for a couple of reasons. For starters, safety standards often change, which means an older version might now be considered unsafe. On top of that, a car seat is designed to withstand a single crash – and when you buy a used one, you’ll have no clue as to what it has already been through.
30. Pet Toys
A four-legged friend needs toys, too; just don’t bring them home from the thrift store. Why? Because they’re often teeming with bacteria, mold and yeast. Just think: if someone’s donating their dog or cat’s toys, said owner may well not have taken the time to wash off all that nastiness first.
It’s not often that you’ll find food for sale at a thrift shop, but if you do, don’t buy it. After all, what’s on offer may be well past its expiration date or otherwise stale, moldy or just plain inedible. Head to your local grocery store for fresher options instead.
Like car seats, cribs have an ever-changing list of safety requirements that a secondhand option might not meet. And even if you do find a new model, it could be damaged in a way that’s practically invisible to the eye, meaning that it is still unsafe for your little one.
27. Porous Kitchenware
The unique grains that run through a wooden cutting board are certainly beautiful, but they’re also porous. This means any wooden piece of kitchenware – plastic, too – could soak up a bit of whatever’s cooking. And since you won’t know what secondhand items have touched previously, it’s best to leave them on the shelf.
26. Dining Utensils (With a Few Exceptions)
Have no fear when thrifting stainless steel and silver dining utensils; they’re safe to use, wherever they come from. Beware of options made from other, cheaper materials, though, as they can leave behind chemicals that may contaminate your food.
25. Non-stick Cookware
Yes, a non-stick pan is a godsend if you tend to overheat your meals. However, you shouldn’t buy such coated wares from a thrift shop, as their scratches and chips could cause the non-stick material to flake off and land in your food – and you don’t want to eat that.
A used computer can hide a host of issues behind its screen. After all, you won’t know if the device has a virus or some kind of irreparable damage until you turn it on and test it out. And oftentimes, you may be able to find a good deal on a new or certified used model anyway, so start your search there and invest wisely.
23. Upholstered Headboard
We have to bring up those dreaded bedbugs again, because they don’t just reside inside mattresses, unfortunately. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that an upholstered headboard is another known hiding place for the critters. So make sure you thoroughly inspect any secondhand bedroom furniture, just in case.
Although you may have found a great discount on a knife at a thrift store, keep in mind the fact that quality counts when it comes to blades. A used or otherwise low-quality knife won’t cut as well, which can be dangerous to you as you cook. Opt for a sharper set for simpler, safer food prep.
21. Jigsaw Puzzles
A jigsaw puzzle purchased at a thrift shop can ultimately rob you of that I-just-placed-the-last-piece joy that typically comes with completing the puzzles. After all, if someone donates an opened puzzle, you’ll have no idea as to whether every piece is still there. Sealed boxes are fair game, though.
20. Shoes and Socks
Skin issues and fungi can sometimes be present on a person’s feet. So with that in mind, what happens if you end up wearing that person’s secondhand socks or shoes? Oh, and if that’s not enough to sway your opinion, consider the fact that shoes conform to the first owner’s feet, which might make them uncomfortable when you wear them the second time around.
Vacuums represent just one example of a device that’s not meant to last forever – or even for a long time. So, that thrifted vacuum could have already reached the end of its life or be entering into its golden years by the time you buy it. In most cases, then, you’re better off saving up for a newer model.
18. Moisture-wicking Workout Gear
Moisture-wicking material works wonders while you’re exercising; after all, it absorbs sweat so that you stay comfortable. But if you buy something secondhand that’s made out of this kind of material, it will likely contain someone else’s sweat within its fibers.
17. Halogen Lamps
The extra-bright bulb in a thrifted halogen lamp could be a danger to you and your loved ones. How so? Because older models were made without any protective glass covering the light sources, which meant they heated up quickly and sometimes caused curtains and other flammable materials to ignite.
16. Vintage Electric Appliances
No matter how cool that vintage appliance looks, it might not work once you bring it home. So, the only way to justify purchasing any electronic appliance, no matter its age, is to plug it in first. If you can confirm that it still works, then go for it; otherwise, leave it behind.
15. Antique Crystal
Don’t let a set of shimmering antique crystal fool you. Such sets may be beautiful, but they sometimes contain harmful chemicals, including lead oxide. It’s therefore unsafe to eat or drink from wares like these, although you can use them as display items without worry.
It might seem wise to buy a used smartphone, as the devices are getting more and more expensive. But thrifting for one could leave you with a non-functioning or damaged device. Always therefore question why the phone is on offer in the first place – as chances are, the seller wanted to get rid of it for a reason. Trust a certified retailer instead.
13. Wood Furniture
Unsuspecting thrifters might assume that wood furniture is a safe bet, but check every crevice before bringing any of it home. Yes, it turns out that bedbugs can hide away there, too, lying dormant in the cracks for up to an astonishing year and a half.
12. Vintage Construction Materials
A door covered in chipping paint or an old window frame could be the perfect shabby-chic accent for your home. But if the item is truly vintage, then there’s a good chance that it might also be coated in lead paint. Some brands still contained the metal until 1978 – so purchase wisely.
Whether you cycle, skate or ride your motorcycle around town, you’re wearing a helmet to protect your head. Buying a used one could be putting you in danger, though. That’s because a helmet is designed to protect its user through one impact – and you have no way of knowing whether the used piece of headgear has already been compromised.
10. DVD or Blu-ray Player
A used DVD or Blu-ray player will typically come with an appealing price tag. However, if the device needs any sort of repair, you’ll probably end up spending way more than you paid for it in the first place. That’s why it can be more cost-effective in the long run to simply buy new.
You’ll also want to avoid the temptation to buy a pair of thrift-store earrings. Yes, no matter how beautiful or unique the jewelry items are, they could spell trouble. Simply put, you don’t want to put anything through your piercing that’s presumably been through someone else’s already. ’Nuff said.
Ten percent of all American tire sales are used ones, but experts say they’re not the safest choice. After all, you can visually inspect a tire for wear and tear, but the rubber ring might nevertheless be damaged from previous under-inflation, overloading or an accident. And on top of that, it’d be hard to find out if your used tire was ever at some point recalled.
7. Halloween Costumes
A sequined or otherwise embellished Halloween costume can cost big bucks, so thrifting is a smart idea… Until you really think about it. Those fancy materials and accents are probably not machine washable, after all, so we’d wager that the costume you want to buy may well not have been cleaned since the original owner wore it.
6. Children’s Furniture
Furniture built specifically with children in mind comes with all the safety features that they need. If you thrift furniture for your child’s room, however, you could well pick up something that, while sturdy, might not be safe for a kid’s space.
When it comes to houseplants, you should always head to a plant store or licensed greenhouse. That’s because you never know what’s lurking in the soil of a thrifted leafy green item. Some plants may even be home to bugs or parasites that could damage your existing home-based flora.
4. Blenders and Food Processors
First and foremost, don’t buy a small appliance without plugging it in to see if it works. Blenders and food processors should be avoided regardless, though. If you’ve owned one before, you know how difficult they can be to clean. And you don’t want to be tasked with scraping away another person’s food – especially from a sharp blade.
3. Vintage Hardware
Just as with an old-school window or door, you should be wary of buying vintage hardware. Some of the old models contain lead, making them unsafe to touch, no matter how beautiful they are. If you want, though, you can purchase a lead-testing kit from sites such as Amazon to help you make your decision.
2. Bathing Suits and Underwear
There’s a reason why stores won’t accept returned bathing suits or underwear without the protective liner intact. That’s right: we simply don’t want to share these types of garments and germs with one another – so our suggestion is to never, ever buy them secondhand.
1. Anything That Smells
Whether you’re looking for furniture, textiles or clothes, one rule stands at all times: never thrift something that smells. Even if the piece is a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind item, it could cost a pretty penny to make it have a pleasant aroma again. Plus, you don’t know what caused the item to stink in the first place – and it might be a slew of unsavories. Skip it.