15 Things You Should Never Buy at a Thrift Store

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Things You Should Never Buy at Thrift Store
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Can't Touch This

While thrift stores can be a great place for finding bargain deals and hidden gems such as designer clothes, home goods, and jewelry, there are some things that you should avoid buying due to safety, hygiene, or other reasons. If thrifting is a way of life for you (virtual high five), it's always a good idea to use your best judgment when deciding what is worth purchasing. 

Buying used may seem cheaper at the moment, but some items could wind up being more expensive in the long run if they break — or could carry germs and bacteria that could get you sick. Here are 15 things you should never buy at a thrift store.

Detail of hands looking for puzzle pieces
Studio CJ/istockphoto

1. Opened Puzzles

Buying opened puzzles at a thrift store can be a risky purchase. While the puzzle may seem complete at first glance, there's always a chance that some pieces are missing or damaged. Also, if the puzzle has been opened and used before, there is a higher risk of exposure to germs and bacteria. It's also possible that the puzzle pieces may not fit together as well if they have been taken apart and put back together multiple times. 

Cooking on Gas

2. Nonstick Cookware With Scratches or Chips

Used cookware such as stainless steel pans and crock pots may have been subjected to wear and tear and have scratches, dents, or chips that can affect its ability to distribute heat evenly. Additionally, thrift store cookware may have been exposed to various food residues or chemicals that can be difficult to remove and properly clean. 

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Portrait of Miniature Pinscher relaxing in fake fur pet bed

3. Pet Furniture

Used dog beds and other pet furniture can harbor bacteria such as parasites, fleas, and other allergens that can be harmful to your pet's health. Used dog beds may also have loose stuffing or other damage that can pose a choking hazard to your furry pal. 

While buying a used dog bed may seem like a cost-efficient option, it's worth it to spend a bit more and invest in a new, quality bed that is clean and comfortable. (Or you can save money by making your own). 

Man installs a child car seat in car at the back seat. Responsible father thought about the safety of his child
Oleksandr Hrytsiv/istockphoto

4. Baby Cribs and Car Seats

Since baby cribs and car seats found at thrift stores may be outdated or damaged, these can pose a safety hazard to infants and young children. Older cribs may not meet current safety standards, such as spacing requirements between the slats or the use of drop-side rails. Car seats may have been involved in a previous accident or are expired — making them ineffective in protecting a child in the event of a crash. 

In fact, we recommend staying away from children's safety equipment at a thrift store altogether.

Related: Old TVs and Ratty Sofas: 5 Things You Should Never Sell at a Garage Sale

A nude eyeshadow palette and makeup artist's tools on a marble vanity. Brushes for powder, blush, eyebrows, shadows and sponges for concealer and foundation.
July Ko/istockphoto

5. Makeup and Skincare Products

Generally, it is not recommended to buy makeup or skincare products at thrift stores due to the risk of these products being expired, contaminated, or tampered with. Makeup and skincare products have expiration dates, and using expired products can cause irritation, infection, or other adverse reactions to your skin

Additionally, some products may have been mislabeled or altered, making it difficult to know what ingredients are in the product and whether it's safe to use.

Related: The Best Beauty & Makeup Subscription Boxes

Woman at home making the bed and arranging the pillows

6. Pillows

Used pillows may have accumulated dirt, sweat, or dead skin cells over time, making them a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. They may also contain dust mites, pet dander, or other allergens that can trigger allergies or respiratory problems in humans and pets. It's always best to purchase new pillows from a reputable retailer to ensure optimal comfort and prevent potential health hazards.

Related: Why Nest Bedding's Easy Breather Pillow Is Overpriced and Overhyped

Young Woman Vacuuming Her Apartment

7. Vacuums

While some electronics such as record players and battery-powered appliances are generally safe to buy at a thrift store, used vacuums are an exception. They could have damaged parts that affect their suction power or make them less efficient in picking up dirt and debris. 

Vacuums sold at thrift stores may also be outdated or lack new features such as HEPA filters or allergen-sealing bags that can help keep the air in your home cleaner. 

Smiling white, light brown and dark brown teddy bears sitting on table at pink wall background. Pastel color. Togetherness and friendship concept. Front view. Closeup.

8. Stuffed Animals

Don't cave while your kid begs you to buy them that cute teddy bear at the thrift store. Since used stuffed animals may have been exposed to dust, pet hair, or mold, they can trigger allergic reactions or respiratory issues, particularly in children. In addition, stuffed animals in thrift stores may have damaged parts — such as eyes, buttons, or loose seams — that can pose a choking hazard to young children.

Close-up of decorative concept for celebration table with glass tableware and blue checkered handkerchief on a white background
Iker Martiarena/istockphoto

9. Vintage Crystal or China

Believe it or not, antique crystal or china sold at thrift stores may contain trace amounts of lead that can be toxic to humans. Lead was commonly used as an additive in glassmaking until the late 20th century to give crystal an added layer of weight and clarity. It can also be difficult to determine the authenticity of antique crystals without proper expertise or equipment, and thrift stores may not have the knowledge or resources to identify them. 

Need to differentiate whether crystal has lead in it? Tap it gently with a knife, says Webstaurant store. If it makes a drawn-out chiming sound, it's probably lead crystal. On the flip side, regular glass makes a duller sound when struck.

Mattress Topper Being Laid On Top

10. Mattresses

This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but we generally recommend buying new mattresses due to hygiene and safety reasons. Mattresses can harbor creepy crawlers such as bed bugs (major yikes), mold, and other allergens, which are difficult to spot with the naked eye — and are impossible to completely remove and sanitize. 

Used mattresses may also not provide the necessary support for your body, which can lead to back pain and discomfort. 

Biker putting on helmet in nature park
Igor Alecsander/istockphoto

11. Helmets

Since helmets cannot be run through the wash, there could be remnants of lice or dirt in them. If that isn't reason enough to deter you, used helmets may also be damaged or outdated, compromising their ability to protect your head in the event of an accident — especially if they've been involved in a previous accident. 

Since helmets are designed to absorb the force of an impact and prevent or reduce head injuries, they may not be as effective if they have been subjected to wear and tear. 

Swimsuits hanging on a line to dry

12. Bathing Suits and Undergarments

This one goes without saying, but bathing suits and intimate wear should always be bought new. Used bathing suits and underwear may have been exposed to body fluids or other contaminants, making them a potential source of infection or skin irritation. Undergarments found at thrift stores have also likely being stretched out after being washed a bunch, and won't provide the proper fit or support your body needs. 

Used Clothes and Shoes at Thrift Store

13. Shoes

Since shoes tend to mold to the shape of the original wearer's feet, this can lead to a poor fit for a new owner — causing potential discomfort, foot pain, or posture problems. Over time, the cushioning and soles will also wear out and offer less traction, which can increase your risk of slips and falls. 

Plus, you never know if the shoes were properly sanitized prior to making their way to the thrift store, and they might still harbor bacteria, fungi, or lingering odors from previous owners. We recommend spending a bit more and investing in a quality pair of shoes to ensure optimal fit and comfort.

Digital Blood Pressure Monitor

14. Medical Equipment

Purchasing medical equipment from a thrift store is another risk that's not worth taking. Items like blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and glucose monitors should be purchased new to ensure they're sterile and safe to use. Plus, you never know if items sold at thrift stores may be lacking important things like instruction manuals, warranties, or other key components that can compromise their safety and reliability. 

New winter tires for sale in store

15. Tires

Since used tires may be worn or damaged, buying them at a thrift store can pose a safety risk. Without knowledge of their past use, exposure to harsh conditions, or whether they've been subject to recalls, you can end up with bigger problems down the road. In addition, the perceived savings of buying used tires can be deceptive, as the cost of premature replacements and potential vehicle damage outweighs the initial price. 

When it comes to tires, we recommend spending a bit more on new ones to ensure all safety standards are met — giving you more value and peace of mind in the long run.