Things You Should Not Buy At Thrift Stores

May 26, 2021Sonali Pandey

Thrift stores can be a bargain hunter’s paradise, especially when budgets are tight. After all, where else would you get household goods, clothes, or furnishings for just a small fraction of their original cost? But as every savvy thrift shopper knows, not everything on sale is worth buying, no matter how low the price. Moreover, since most thrift stores do not accept refunds, making a purchase always carries a risk. So in this article, we've assembled a list of items you should never buy at a thrift store. Ready to dive deeper? Let’s get started!

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CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS

Old window frames or doors may be useful for a craft project but beware of the lead amounts they contain. Lead paint can be hazardous when it is scraped off and ingested or inhaled. To be safe, avoid buying construction materials at thrift stores or invest in a DIY paint kit that'll give you results in minutes. After all, DIY kits are not so expensive!

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OLD COOKWARE

If the baking sheets, muffin tins, or pots you see at the thrift store have scratches on them, or if they seem worn, put them back on the shelf. Chipped or scratched cookware means the surface has been damaged, and chemicals could be flaking off into your food. Not good for your health!

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ITEMS WITH A STRANGE SMELL

A general rule for thrift store shopping: it smells bad, leave it. Whether it’s furniture, clothing, or decorative items, if it has an unpleasant odor, it could be from many things, including pet stains, old paint, or mold. It’s better to move on rather than get home and have to dispose of it.

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VINTAGE CROCKERY

While old crockery seems attractive, it might contain certain substances which can be harmful if consumed. So vintage serving plates, platters, and teacups are also some of those items that you should avoid buying at a thrift store. But if you’ve already bought them, don’t be disheartened. You can always use them for display!

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CLOTHES THAT DON’T FIT

Yeah, we know it seems obvious, but some people end up buying such clothes from thrift stores in hopes of losing weight and fitting into them one day. Inevitably, those clothes stay on the hanger once they get home, never to be seen again. Moral of the story: Buying cheap clothes that you can’t use isn’t going to save you money.

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COSMETICS

Even if the cosmetics seem to be sealed or unused, buying them from a thrift store is a risk. Because makeup items don't usually come stamped with an expiry date, but it's recommended to replace them regularly, usually within three to six months of purchasing. If you buy them from a thrift store, you have no way of knowing how long it’s been in the store or sitting on someone’s shelf before it made its way into the shop.

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PREVIOUSLY WORN SHOES

We all know that shoes conform to their owner’s feet over time. Therefore, using previously worn shoes can cause or worsen existing foot conditions. This is particularly true for athletic shoes, which people intend to use for long periods. So if you do plan to purchase shoes from a thrift store, check them carefully to see they’re not worn out. Try to stick to shoes that look like they’ve never been worn.

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HELMETS

Buying a used helmet is never a good idea, particularly if you don't know who the previous owner was, who can give you information about the helmet’s history. In addition to that, most helmets are designed to withstand only one crash. So if the helmet has been in an accident before, it won’t be as effective in protecting you.

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ANTIQUE CRYSTAL DECANTERS

See, we agree that crystal decanters look quite classy, but do you know that they can be harmful to your health? Wait, let us explain. Antique crystal containers contain lead, making them unsuitable for storing drinks. In fact, the longer a liquid sits in a crystal decanter or glass, the more lead is released. And you know lead isn't good for health for a variety of reasons. 

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VACUUM CLEANERS

Vacuum cleaners aren’t the best thrift store purchase for several reasons. To begin with, they hardly last for more than a few years, even when new, so who knows how soon a used one will break down. And then, cleaning them isn't easy. So if you're looking for an inexpensive vacuum cleaner, wait until there's a sale. That'd be a safer bet.

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PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES

Plastic bottles are difficult to clean, making them a breeding ground for germs. And if you consider a thrift store bottle, that’s even more dangerous because there’s no way of knowing where it's been, what's been in it, or the hygiene habits of its previous owner. Plus, even if the bottle is properly cleaned and sanitized, there's no way of knowing if it leaks until you get it home.

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HALOGEN LAMPS

If you find an old lamp in a thrift store, it’ll most likely contain a halogen bulb. The problem with buying such lamps is that they lack the protective glass used in modern lamps and light fixtures, which prevents the bulb from coming into contact with flammable materials like curtains. So if you really can’t live without the lamp, at least replace the bulb with a safer LED one.

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SLOW COOKERS

If you’ve watched This Is Us, you’ll know why slow cookers are present on this list. After all, who knows if the cooker’s motor is burnt or if the wiring is faulty? You can’t exactly check for these things at a thrift store. So avoid buying such appliances, and while you're at it, double-check your smoke detector battery.

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LAPTOPS

Buying a second-hand laptop is not a good idea for several reasons. To begin with, laptops can be easily damaged when dropped unless they have a solid-state drive—when buying secondhand, you won't know until you can't access your data. And then, you’d never actually know if it contains any virus or malware until you get it home.

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BED LINEN

Bed linen, also known as bedding or bedclothes, includes everything laid above your bed’s mattress, such as sheets, blankets, linens, and much more. Cleaning these things thoroughly is actually difficult, and since you'll be spending so much time wrapped in them (at least eight hours a day), it’s advisable to spend some extra money and buy good ones.

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PET FURNITURE

Buying secondhand pet furniture is a bad idea because you never know what previous pets were up to. Moreover, old furniture has an unpleasant smell that your pet might not like. So buy something brand new for your furry buddy to ensure that he or she has a clean place to sit or sleep. You will thank us later!

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UPHOLSTERED HEADBOARDS

While bed bugs prefer to live in mattresses, they may also make a home out of just about anything upholstered, with a preference for bedroom furniture. So avoid fabric-covered headboards, and examine every thrift object thoroughly before bringing it home. 

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HATS

Let’s admit it, all of us have bought hats from thrift stores at some point in our lives, especially those vintage hats! But when you buy a hat at a thrift store, you know nothing about the previous owner’s health or hygiene. It might sound gross, but most people don’t even wash their hats, which means if the last person wearing the hat had lice, then even trying on that hat could expose you to an infestation.

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STUFFED TOYS

You can never be extra cautious when it comes to your child's needs or safety, so always choose a new stuffed toy over one with questionable origin. You won’t believe it, but an adorable stuffed bunny might be home to germs, mold, and allergens. So stuffed toys from a thrift store are a big no! By the way, if you're not a parent, you can keep this in mind for the future.

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SOCKS

Don't buy socks from a thrift store unless they're still in their original packaging. Socks are a breeding ground for odoriferous bacteria, and a trip through the washing machine might not be enough to get rid of them. You will thank us later for this friendly advice.

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MOBILE PHONES

There are so many things that can go wrong with used mobile phones. For example, it can stop working, or it might have a faulty camera. And since you purchased it used at a thrift store, your phone won't be covered by warranties, so you'll either have to spend more money getting it fixed or purchase a new one at the end.

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HAIRBRUSHES

Hairbrushes are germ’s best friend, thanks to old hair care products and clumps of loose hairs. Also, because most people don’t know that they should be washing their hair at least once a week, using someone else’s hairbrush is almost like inviting trouble. Still, if you want to save some cash and buy an old one from the thrift store, it’s your wish!

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PERFUME

Just like makeup items, even perfumes have an expiry date. However, they don’t have a hard-and-fast expiration date. Some will last up to ten years, while others will expire in less than a year. If you buy one from a thrift store, you won’t know how old it is or how long it was standing in its owner’s room before it made its way to the store. So no more perfume shopping at thrift stores, okay?

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SWIMSUITS

Garments that come into contact with your body in this way can be a breeding ground for germs, and buying used ones will only help spread those germs even if they’re washed. In fact, sometimes, microbes live on the material long after they’re dried. So don’t take a chance.

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TIRES

Even though they appear to be in good condition, used tires can always have hidden problems. Also, keep in mind that used tires don’t come with a warranty, and they won’t last as long as new ones. So the safest option is to keep an eye out for tire sales (yes, they exist). However, if you still plan on buying used tires, make sure you check them carefully. 

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SURGE PROTECTORS

The last thing you’d want is to buy a surge protector at a thrift store that doesn’t work when you truly need it. See, they're pretty cheap, so there’s no need to buy a used one. Search for some good ones online and get yourself a protector that’s actually helpful when you need it.

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TELEVISIONS

Just like used mobile phones and tires, second-hand televisions don’t usually come with a warranty, so buying them from a thrift store might not be a good idea. If money is the problem, watch out for electronic sales, such as those that happen around Black Friday, and buy yourself a new TV!

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COMPUTER SOFTWARE

You shouldn’t buy computer software at a thrift store for two main reasons: Firstly, most software with a license id number that’s only good for certain computers. And secondly, a lot of secondhand software programs can’t be sold because it's illegal. So it's better to use open-source software or wait for a sale on the software program you need. 

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MEDICAL SUPPLIES

If you want to stock up on medical supplies such as thermometers, medicines, sanitizers—and now masks also—a thrift store might not be the ideal place for that. These items can easily be tampered with, so it'll be better if you buy them from an accredited store or just any other medical store. 

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RAIN BOOTS

Rain boots at a thrift store might seem like a bargain, but waterproof apparel can wear over the years and become less effective. Believe us; Nobody likes wet feet, especially the awful smell of wet feet! So it’s better to spend some extra cash and get yourself a new pair of rain boots.

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JEWELRY

Although some pieces might seem attractive, you’ll mostly find costume jewelry at a thrift store, which was popular back in the 1950s. So unless you really fall in love with a piece and can’t take your eyes off it, jewelry isn’t worth splurging on at a thrift store.

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WATERPROOF JACKETS

Here’s another waterproof gear that you shouldn’t buy at a thrift store. Basically, waterproof jackets aren't necessarily meant to last. After being washed or after a particularly severe storm, raincoats get damaged, and many jackets just become less waterproof over time.

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CHILDREN’S SAFETY EQUIPMENT

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission states that it’s illegal for retailers to sell recalled products. However,  sellers, such as thrift stores, are not required to check the products before selling. That being said, make sure you check any secondhand child products before buying them because, unlike clothes, children’s safety equipment doesn't have noticeable flaws.

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ANYTHING THAT LOOKS DAMAGED OR STAINED

Although most thrift stores are strict about which donations make it into the shelves, there are no set rules for determining which products will be sold and which will not. So make sure you check everything properly before buying so that it doesn’t have any odor or stains that might make you regret the purchase.

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LINENS

Just like worn clothes and stuffed toys, even linens are susceptible to bed bugs and other germs. Unfortunately, simply washing such products in hot water won’t be sufficient to decontaminate them fully. So if you’re really interested in buying inexpensive linen, you check out the sales sections at department stores, not thrift stores!

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MATTRESSES AND PILLOWS

Here’s something to think about if you’re planning to buy a mattress or pillow from a thrift store: Bed bugs can survive up to 400 days without any food. Well, we hope you don’t want to have those tiny creatures as your tenants. So spend some extra money and get yourself new mattresses and pillows because peace of mind is invaluable. 

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ANTIQUE FURNITURE

Before you buy furniture from a thrift shop, make sure you understand the risks. For example, if the paint on that old dresser has chipped, it could contain lead, or upholstered furniture may contain bed bugs and odors that you can't get rid of. So do a thorough inspection before bringing any piece of furniture home.

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RUGS

Imagine having a rug half the size of the floor, trying to cover it. It just looks so weird and out of place! Well, if you buy one from a thrift store, there’s a high chance you’ll end up with such rugs. After all, there’s no way of knowing if it’ll fit your room. If you've decided to keep something at home, it should make the whole area look pleasant and beautiful. So why not spend some money and buy a nice one?

Image Credits: Instagram/violetvintagerugs

Okay, this was all about the items you should avoid buying at a thrift store. If you’d like to add something to the list, don’t forget to hit us up in the comments section. Also, if you enjoyed the article, don’t forget to share it with your friends and family. See you soon. Until then, keep reading!

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Photos in this article are used for illustration purposes only. Depicted persons (all or some) have no relationship to any persons / events described in this material.