Don't Buy These Things at the Dollar Store or You'll Regret It

Don't Buy These Things at the Dollar Store

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Front Exterior of Dollar Tree, Fort Collins, Colorado

When a Dollar Is No Deal

We all try to save money where we can, and shopping at dollar-store chains seems like an appealing way to achieve that goal, especially as record inflation hits our wallets. Some of the products on their shelves are a waste of money, though — regardless how cheap. Some simply don’t do their jobs, while others may even be dangerous. For instance, more than 1 million hot glue guns sold at Dollar Tree were just recalled because they can malfunction and catch fire. Read on to find out which things you should avoid at the dollar store.

Related: The Best Things to Buy at the Dollar Store

Crafter's Square Hot Glue Gun
Dollar Tree

Anything With a Plug

While dollar-store extension cords or small electronics may seem like a deal, they could be putting your electronics, as well as your home, at risk. Cords, plugs, and power strips sold at dollar stores are often flimsy and can fall apart easily. All it takes is one loose connection to spark a fire, something that's happened several times with Crafter's Square hot glue guns at sold at Dollar Tree, leading to a recall. Dollar stores have recalled extension cords and decorative lights for potential fire hazards as well, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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Hand Sanitizer in a Plastic Bottle on a Table, on the Left, Light Coming Through

Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer has flown off the shelves since the pandemic arrived, but be careful that you don't buy a potentially dangerous product. The FDA found several kinds of Dollar Tree’s Assured brand of hand sanitizer were contaminated with methanol, which “can be toxic when absorbed through the skin or ingested and can be life-threatening when ingested.” Some of the product has since been voluntarily recalled.

Related: How to Disinfect Without Damaging Your Things or Your Health

One Side of Toy Aisle At a Dollar Tree in Concord, California
Jenny F./Yelp


The old adage "you get what you pay for" certainly applies to dollar-store toys. While a $1 price tag seems like a low-cost way to give your child a treat or add to the stash for a nephew's birthday, don't bother.

Dollar-store toys are not only poorly made, they may be safety hazards. Several toys from these chains have been recalled in the past: a toy gun that posed a choking hazard, a remote control tank that could overheat, and a dart gun that caused the deaths of two children. In 2016, Dollar General recalled a toy truck deemed a fire hazard.

Related: 30 Dangerous Products That Were Popular When You Were a Kid

Closeup of a Line of AA Batteries, Mixed Assortment of Brands, Seven in Closest Line, Reflected on a Mirror


If your kids play with lots of battery-operated toys (and inevitably leave them powered on), loading up on packs of generic batteries at the dollar store may seem like a swell idea. The problem, as Wired showed through a series of experiments, is that the batteries are often packed with less energy than name brands. They may be adequate for something such as a flashlight that is used infrequently; for heavy use, it's dollar-wise over the long haul to save the hassle of replacing power cells constantly by spending more upfront on higher-quality batteries. Moreover, cheap batteries are known to leak, which can damage electronics.

Another way to tell if dollar-store batteries are a good buy: Check the label. If the batteries contain carbon zinc, be sure to pass. This component is inferior to the lithium used by name brands.

Top-View of Four Vitamin Bottles, in a Line, Spilled Different Vitamins

Vitamins and Herbal Supplements

For something as important as your health, best head to the pharmacy. Consumer Reports has tested dollar-store multivitamins and found that some were substandard, lacking the full amount of nutrients listed on the labels. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that labels be accurate, supplements are not subjected to the same rigorous review and approval process as medications.

Five Knives with a Knife Sharpener, in a Set, on a Wooden Table


For anything with a sharp blade, going cheap is just asking for trouble. Knives are dangerous by definition, so you want one that is sturdy and well-made to minimize any chance of an accident. More than 200,000 dollar store utility knives had to be recalled some years ago because the blade could slide out right past its support — so it's not just kitchen knives to beware at super low costs.

Side-View of a Large Dark Grey Cat Facing an Opened Silver Container of Wet Cat Food, Cat on the Right Facing Towards the Left
Nailia Schwarz/shutterstock

Pet Items

Canned cat and dog food costs about $1 a can at the grocery store, and sometimes less if you find a good sale. The off-brands at the dollar store may be even cheaper, but they don't use the quality ingredients found in the more popular brands. For Fido's sake, skip the pet food at the dollar store. Take a pass on the animal toys, too, which are cheaply made and may pose a choking hazard.

Makeup Aisle At a Dollar Tree in Dallas, Numerous Items Hanging for Sale
Doris H./Yelp

Beauty Products

Some personal care items are a steal at the dollar store, but others, such as makeup and hair color, are not worth even the cheap price. Every once in a while you may be able to find name-brand makeup on the shelves for $1, but more often than not the makeup at the dollar store is an unfamiliar brand. When it comes to products used on your face, it isn't worth the risk of an allergic reaction or rash caused by cheap ingredients. As for hair color, you risk long-term damage to your locks with an unknown brand, especially at just $1 a box.

Snacks for Sale in an Aisle At a Dollar Tree in Jacksonville, Florida, Six Shelves Filled with Numerous Different Kinds of Snacks
Chris O./Yelp


As if snacks weren't already unhealthy enough, manufacturers of dollar store munchies skimp on the quality of ingredients to keep costs down. Items such as chips, cookies, and crackers can contain ingredients you've never even heard of, so be sure to check the label before bringing a snack home. For treats such as soda and gum, there's often a better deal on higher-quality products at the grocery store.

Hammer with the Metal Head Broken Off the Wooden Handle, Laid Down
Richard Mann/shutterstock


Tools are meant to be durable. For $1, you aren't getting the highest-quality materials, which means the tools won't last as long. A hammer for $1 will likely give $1 worth of durability. If you have to replace your tools frequently, you aren't saving anything at all. Splurge on a good hammer from the hardware store and never have to worry about replacing it again.

Related: Tools That Are Still Made in America

Six White Lanterns Decorated with Small Pink Roses and Blue Flowers, Selective Focus, on a Wooden Plank, for Wedding Decorations
Andrii Oleksiienko/shutterstock

Wedding Decor

While weddings can be expensive, decor is probably not the best place to skimp. For example, it may be tempting to buy 300 fabric rose petals for $1, but they probably won't give you the look you want. The same goes for the 48-pack of plastic "silverware" — it's flimsy and will likely cause more trouble than it's worth. Sometimes it's better to skip something altogether rather than spend even a dollar.

Roll of Toilet Paper Hanging on a Toilet Paper Holder on a Bright Yellow Wall

Paper Products

You get what you pay for. While four rolls of one-ply toilet paper will be low-cost, the quality is cheap — there's more sheer product for the lower price, but you'll end up using exponentially more toilet paper from a dollar store than by paying a little more for a better product from another store.

Two Large Rectangular Plastic Food Containers with Blue Lids Stacked

Plastic Food Containers

Recent studies indicate there are harmful chemicals in poor-quality dollar store containers, meaning they may not be safe for food products. For containers to store food in, look elsewhere; using the containers for non-food items doesn't pose the same risks.

Closeup of a Hand Pouring a Gallon Jug of Windshield Washer Fluid in the Washer Fluid Reservoir Under the Hood of a Car
Mark Herreid/shutterstock

Windshield Washer Fluid

A gallon of off-brand windshield washer fluid can cost just $1, half that as for a name-brand fluid elsewhere. Read the label on washer fluid found at a Dollar Tree, though, and see if it says the solution is not effective in winter weather. The name brands often guarantee protection in weather as low as 28 degrees below zero.

Two 16.9 Fl. Oz. Plastic Bottles of Diet Coke, Mid-Portion, on Ice


Watch the amount of soda you buy at the dollar store. Often a 1-liter of off-brand soda at the dollar store will cost the same as a 2-liter bottle of a name-brand soda at the grocery store. The same is true for most cans and smaller bottles of soda. Consumers claim the quality is subpar as well.

Baby Girl Making a Happy Face While Being Fed in a High Chair, Selective Focus, Looking At Mother Off the Left Side

Stuff for the Baby

With recent years seeing dollar store recalls of baby "gripe water" (an herbal supplement billed as having organic ginger and fennel extract) and cough syrup, it seems wiser than ever to remember that babies are too fragile to risk on inferior products. Though these recalls involved an undissolved ingredient and possible bacterial contamination that could cause illness, the principle is the same for anything you put on or near a baby: Why risk it?

Large Wooden Spoon Buried in Baking Soda

Baking Soda

Baking soda is good for several kinds of cleaning around the house, whether it's for odors in the refrigerator or to make your town toothpaste. One thing it is not? Expensive. Chances are, the baking soda you can buy outside the dollar store will be cheaper at any useful quantity than the baking soda you can buy in the dollar store.

Related: 31 Ways to Spring Clean With Everyday Household Items

Top-View of a Small Pile of Cheerios on the Left-Middle
Iryna Kharkova/istockphoto

Chips and Cereals

Look closely as you walk the aisles of a dollar store and you'll see lots of products at odd sizes and weights — because instead of charging more, they can just sell less at a time. If you're not paying attention, though, it can be shocking to start snacking from an opaque bag of chips or pouring from a cardboard box of cereal and realize just how little product was inside. It might be better to get a reasonable number of servings out of a more expensive bag or box than try to enjoy how much air you're getting for your effort at the dollar store.