The Dangers of Thrift Store Shopping: How to Avoid Buying Toxic Home Items

Monica Gray - February 7, 2023

Slow Cookers May Have Faulty Wiring, Buy A New Ceramic One Instead

Faulty wiring can lead to fires. This is incredibly dangerous for your home. The motor may be burned out, and there’s no way to test it at a thrift store. Older slow cookers may be peeling and not operating properly. It’s not worth it. For the safest option, buy a new, high-quality ceramic slow cooker. These use lead-free glazes, which means you won’t have toxic chemicals leeching into your food. We don’t know about you, but a dinner free of lead sounds like a good idea (Smart Slow Cooker).


Linens May Be Contaminated With Germs, Always Buy New

Just like stuffed animals and pet furniture, linens may contain bedbugs and other harmful germs. Simply washing the linens in hot water may not be enough to fully get rid of the toxic germs. You can easily buy new inexpensive linens, usually on sale, from a shop. Because there’s no thorough way to sanitize linen, there’s always a chance they contain hazardous chemicals or bacteria that can cause an array of health problems. Think about it, you’re spending between seven and nine hours a night wrapped in the linens. You want to make sure there are no bacteria (Country Living).


Any Item With Chipped Paint May Contain Lead, So Don’t Risk It

We can’t stress this enough. Always test your thrift store purchases for toxic items like lead. Not every item contains toxic lead, but if you’re buying something with chipped paint, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s best to assume it contains lead until you can properly test it. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, so you must be extra careful. Children can chew on surfaces coated in lead-based paint, like small objects you pick up from a thrift store. Breathing in lead dust is another way children may have accidental exposure (CDC).

Home in the Finger Lakes

Used Cookware And Pots And Pans Are A Big No-No

There’s a reason they suggest replacing your pots and pans every five years. Worn-down baking sheets, pans with non-stick coating, scratched pots, and rusty supplies may be toxic. Chipped non-stick coatings are not safe to cook with or eat off of. Over-used cookware may have toxic chemicals that leech into your food. If you accidentally inhale Teflon, the coating on non-stick pans, at high temperatures, you may get Teflon flu. These are temporary flu-like symptoms that come from the toxic chemicals. If you want that vintage look, it’s better to buy cookware from a store that’s purposefully made to look vintage. You can have fun shopping for these items, with the knowledge they’re completely safe to use (Healthline).

Daves Pest Control

Upholstered Headboards May Contain Bedbugs

We know bedbugs love to nestle in mattresses and linen, but they also love to hide in headboards. Anything that’s upholstered, or considered bedroom furniture for that matter, holds potential risk for bedbugs. Avoid buying headboards covered in fabric to minimize this risk. Carefully examine any headboard you buy in a thrift store to make sure there’s no potential bedbug infestation. This goes for wooden headboards, too. If there are cracks in the headboards, bedbugs can hide in there and lay eggs (JCEhrlich).

Better World Apparel

You Don’t Need That Old Tire For Your Car, Take It To the Shop Instead

Tires contain chemicals and heavy metals that are leeched into the environment as the tire breaks down. Some of these chemicals cause cancer and gene mutations. You don’t know how old the tire is or its history, so it may contain tons of chemicals you’re unaware of. If you need a new tire for your car, go to your local car shop and have them replace your tire for you. Always buy new when it comes to these toxic items (Eco Green Equipment).

Future King and Queen

Avoid Buying Antique Crystals As They May Be Dangerous And Outdated

This is mostly to protect your children, as they’re more susceptible to accidental consumption. It’s likely the crystals you find at the thrift store are outdated, which means they may contain 32 percent or more lead oxide. This also pertains to glass crystals that you’d drink out of. Use a lead test kid to get a measure of the amount of lead that may be present in the crystals. Better yet, avoid buying the crystals altogether to prevent bringing a toxic item into your home (America’s Test Kitchen).


Laptops Could Steal Your Identity, Don’t Risk It

The laptop itself won’t steal your identity, but there could be a hacker waiting for its victim to buy the laptop with tracking on it. Not only may a laptop be severely damaged at a thrift shop, but there’s no way to truly test it. It may be toxic in the sense that it carries a virus that can easily steal your information or lock you out. Keyloggers can track your typing, undetected spy software may track your actions, and illegal files may still exist on the laptop. Overall, it’s a bad idea. It’s better to make a payment plan for your new laptop and pay it off every month (Make Use Of).


Used Rain Boots May Leave Your Feet Wet And Soggy

No one wants soggy feet, especially during a torrential downpour on your way to work. Buying a good pair of rain boots at a thrift store might seem like a good idea, but waterproof apparel can easily degrade over the years and lose its efficiency. Not only that, but if they weren’t properly taken care of, they may contain bacteria, mildew, and mold. After a few seasons, rain boots usually wear out. The same goes for waterproof jackets (Insider).


Medical Supplies Can Be Harmful And Tampered With

Stocking up on medical supplies is never a good idea. First of all, they might not be cleaned properly. Face masks, thermometers, and hand sanitizer are always better purchased new. They can also easily be tampered with, so buying them from an accredited store is your best bet. The same goes for medication. It can be very dangerous to purchase medication that wasn’t prescribed by your doctor. Even Tylenol or Advil should be bought, new, from the pharmacy (Country Living).


Helmets Are Only Made For One Accident. Never Buy Used.

Similarly to strollers and children’s items, buying used helmets is never a good idea. Helmets are built to only withstand one impact, which means if someone used it and got into an accident, it doesn’t work anymore. That could very possibly be one of the reasons it’s at the thrift store. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to helmets for your children (Insider).


Don’t Buy That Dirty Mattress, Ever

Even though it’s unlikely you’ll find a mattress in a thrift shop, you may come across one. It’s never a good idea to buy a mattress in a thrift store, just as it’s not a good idea to buy linens or pillows. In general, bedroom furniture always runs the risk of carrying bedbugs and other mites that are toxic to you and your family. They may also carry smells, mysterious stains, and other bacteria. Bringing them inside your home could create a ton of problems that is never worth saving a couple of hundred bucks over (Insider).

NY Times

Used Underwear Is Off Limits

This one is obvious, but we’ll subtly remind you that used underwear is off-limits. Buying undergarments secondhand is not something you’ll ever want to do. Unless it’s clear they’ve never been worn, don’t buy them. Preworn underwear or swimsuits can carry tons of bacteria, fecal matter, and even STDs. Because of where they sit on the body, it attracts tons of bacteria. Swimsuits also wear out easily, so you’re not saving much money in the long run (WebMD).

Langley Vacuum and Sewing Center

Vacuum Cleaners Don’t Last Very Long, So Just Buy It New

Vacuums are another item that’s best bought new. Since you don’t know the history of the vacuum, it’s hard to tell if it works properly or not. The money saved in the long run isn’t worth it. If you need the vacuum, make sure you test it at the thrift store beforehand. It also runs the danger of bringing someone else’s dust into your home (Fool).


That Old Rug May Make You Sneeze

Did you buy a used rug from a thrift store and suddenly, you’re sneezing? That’s because the pre-owned rug can contain mildew, mold, allergens, dust, and stains. Even worse, it could contain black mold, which is incredibly harmful and toxic to your health. Carpet mold comes in black, white, or green spots, so if you see this on the rug, leave it at the shop. If you bring this mold into your home, you run the risk of spreading it to other areas of your home. If you or your family are sensitive to mold, you might experience sneezing, sniffling, itchy eyes, or itchy skin (GP Inspect).


Outdated Furniture May Contain Multiple Toxins

If you see a couch or other furniture that dates back to 1984, leave it at the shop. It may be one of the 85% of furniture that contains harmful fire retardant chemicals in its fabric. In 1975, a “California furniture flammability standard called Technical Bulletin 117 led to the use of harmful and ineffective flame retardant chemicals in furniture and children’s product foam. This California regulation was followed across all of North America.” This toxin is associated with a lower IQ in children, hormone disruption, cancer, and a host of other health problems (Green Science Policy).


Construction Materials Have Lead, Especially Before 1978

Just as many other items on this list may contain lead, windows, doors, and molding manufactured before 1978 may also contain lead. Leave the construction materials at the store, where you found them. Lead poisoning is a serious issue, and it’s never worth saving money. To prevent this, you can do a lead paint test before taking it out of the store (Country Living).

The Healthy

Used Makeup Contains Yucky Bacteria, Avoid It Altogether

Wearing other people’s makeup is never a good idea, especially because it can lead to skin infections. Even with unopened cosmetics, you don’t know the expiration date or if someone happened to tamper with the item. It’s always better to spend the extra money and buy high-quality makeup. You’re putting it near your eyes, nose, and mouth, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry (Country Living).