Five Things You Should Never Buy From a Thrift Store


I know you can find lots of advice out there about what items to avoid when shopping in a thrift store – one article I read listed sixteen different things! (I wondered what could be left at that point?)

But I’ve been a thrift store shopper for over 30 years – my success in shopping at these venues has been the single biggest factor in being able to create the cozy cottage style I enjoy in my home! Now maybe I’ve been lucky but I’ve never encountered any of the hazards listed in these articles. For example –

  • I’ve never brought home bed bugs, mold, or other pests.
  • I’ve never gotten lead poisoning from eating off vintage dinnerware, hanging around architectural salvage, or using old hardware.
  • I’ve never found my body suddenly out of alignment from wearing used shoes.

My secret weapon? Common sense. I don’t just grab – I inspect items very closely. If the shoes are obviously mis-shapen from someone else’s feet, I won’t buy them. If the non-stick coating is flaking off the skillet, I won’t buy it. If a piece of furniture has a funky odor or damage that appears to have been caused by pests, I don’t buy it.

So because I’ve never had problems buying used items, my list of “what you should never buy from a thrift store” is pretty short. Here it is:

Underwear/swimwear – Because of the body parts that touch it, I always buy these items new. Including bras.

Mattresses – Even if there are no bed bugs, there’s still “other peoples’ gunk” (OPG) like body dirt, dead skin, hair oil, etc. I prefer to start fresh with mattresses and add my own gunk.

Bed pillows – See OPG above. I’m specifically talking about the pillow you lay your head on here. If I found a great bolster or other decorative bed pillow in a thrift store, I wouldn’t have the same hesitation. I purchase throw pillows for my sofa from thrift stores all the time.

“Expired”, damaged, or old safety equipment – Bicycle and motorcycle helmets and children’s car seats contain energy-absorbing foam that is considered “spent” if it becomes too aged or absorbs an impact. So with no way to know if the protective foam is any good in these items, I would always buy new. And I didn’t know this until recently, but apparently car seats actually have expiration dates due to potential deterioration of inner materials.

Vintage baby cribs – Drop-sided cribs and those with slats spaced more than 2-3/8 inches apart present suffocation, entrapment, and other injury hazards for Baby.

These are the items I don’t buy in thrift stores. As for those items I do buy, the practice of closely inspecting them prior to purchase has helped me avoid virtually all the potential hazards of buying from thrift stores. It also has the added benefit of ensuring I don’t spend even a small amount of money on something that is soiled, broken, or damaged – it’s not a bargain if it’s unusable!

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