We have been doing a lot of room makeovers lately. With our kids switching rooms and setting up areas to do virtual learning at home, we have had to purchase quite a few furniture pieces for our home. I’m always hunting for used and second hand furniture items from the thrift store since it is cost effective (and, in my opinion – fun!). But I have often wondered if there are certain items that are NOT safe to buy at the thrift store? So, I have done a deep dive and researched the safest furniture items to buy and the items that are probably best to leave at the thrift store and purchase new.
It is safe to buy furniture from the thrift store if the item is good quality, isn’t damaged and is free from odors and stains. The most important thing to do when thrifting for used furniture is to thoroughly check the item before purchasing it. You can safely buy furniture from the thrift store if you do a little research ahead of time and stick to quality materials and manufacturers.
Is It Safe To Buy Furniture From The Thrift Store?
You can safely purchase furniture from the thrift store with a little bit of knowledge and common sense. Used furniture can be an excellent way to decorate your home with quality piece for a fraction of the cost. In fact, thrifting for furniture is my favorite way to find “new” to me pieces for my home! There is some concern with safety when purchasing furniture from the thrift store, so I’ve outlined some key things to remember when buying used furniture from the thrift store. Some items are best NOT to buy at the thrift store, while others are perfectly fine!
Furniture Items That Are NOT Safe To Buy From The Thrift Store
While the majority of furniture is safe to buy second hand, used or from a thrift store, some items may not be safe. As a general rule, use your common sense. If something looks badly damaged, overly dirty or beyond repair, it’s best to leave it at the store and either find another one in better condition or purchase the item new. Below are the furniture items that are not safe to buy at the thrift store.
1. Older items that might contain lead
Some antique furniture that is painted or stained, can possibly contain traces of lead. If a vintage painted piece of furniture is chipping and that paint might contain lead, this is where the greatest risk lies (this is a great article explaining lead risks from country living). The good news is that you can buy kits that test for lead with a simple swab. If your thrift store will let you, ask if you can test the piece before purchasing it.
2. Mattresses and pillows
Used mattresses and pillows can contain plenty of dead skin cells, dust mites, sweat and even bed bugs (as discussed in this article from sleepdelivered). In my opinion, I would save up your money and buy a new mattress than risk it with a used one.
3. Rugs (if you suffer from allergies or they can’t be cleaned)
I’m a big fan of vintage wool rugs. They are beautiful, high quality and one of a kind. However, if you suffer from severe allergies or you come across a rug that seems difficult to clean, it’s probably not worth purchasing it. Look for rugs that are made from quality materials and can be professionally cleaned.
4. Cribs and Bassinets
Cribs and bassinets are one of the furniture categories that you should definitely NOT purchase used. Most thrift stores will not even sell these items any longer. With so many recalls and new safety guidelines for cribs and bassinets, it’s best to purchase a new one that you can be confident is up-to-date and safe. Don’t risk it when it comes to safety!
5. Anything that has an odor
Upholstered items and rugs can have odors from urine, smoke or pets. If you find a great item at the thrift store but notice it has an odor, it’s probably best to pass on it. There is no guarantee that you can effectively clean it or where the odors originated.
5. Items that have bug damage
Thoroughly check the furniture for bug damage before purchasing it from a thrift store. Upholstered furniture can potentially have bed bugs. Wood furniture can have damage from beetles, termites and carpenter ants. (This is a great article that discusses how to look for bug damage.)
6. Furniture that is broken or damaged
Unless you are very confident in your skills to repair a broken piece of furniture, it may not be safe to purchase it. If there are sharp edges, exposed nails or staples or an unstable chair or table, leave it at the store and look for a piece of furniture that is in better condition.
Furniture That Is Perfectly Safe To Buy Second Hand
The main thing to keep in mind when purchasing furniture from the thrift store is to buy furniture that is in good condition and can be cleaned. I have an in-depth post on how to clean furniture from the thrift store. Make sure you thoroughly inspect the furniture before you purchase it.
1. Vintage wood furniture
Not only can vintage wood furniture be perfectly safe to buy, but it is often higher quality than new furniture and will last you for years to come. Be sure to take precautions about potential lead as discussed earlier.
2. Wicker items
Wicker furniture is a great option for purchasing used furniture. It’s easy to clean and oftentimes timeless. As long as it’s in good condition and fairly clean, it’s a safe option!
3. Upholstered furniture in good condition
There can be some risks associated with upholstered furniture (as discussed earlier), but you can also safely purchase upholstered pieces. If they are clean, free from bug damage, don’t have an odors and seem to be in good condition, they can be safe. It’s probably a good idea to get your upholstered item professionally cleaned or even reupholstered when you bring it home.
4. Plastic furniture
Plastic furniture that is not damaged or broken can be purchased used or from a thrift store without much worry. Plastic is easy to clean and is generally a more current or modern piece.
5. Metal furniture
As long as a piece of metal furniture isn’t heavily rusted or damaged, you can purchase it used without many issues.
6. Outdoor furniture
Outdoor furniture can be quite expensive, so buying it used is a great option if you are trying to save money. Check for mold and rust as well as any structural damage. If the furniture has cushions, see if you can purchase new ones or have them reupholstered.
7. Rugs that can be cleaned
Vintage rugs are a hot trend right now. They can be beautiful, timeless and high quality. If you come a cross a wool rug from the thrift store that is in great condition, you should be able to have it professionally cleaned before using it in your home. Cheaper rugs or rugs that are badly stained or have odors are not worth buying second hand.
You can find a classic and beautiful used dresser at the thrift store or antique store! As always, check for damage or chipped paint before purchasing it.
Are you searching for a desk for your home office or maybe a child that is homeschooling? Instead of paying big bucks for a new one, you may be able to find something quality at the thrift store. Desks are a great option to purchase used as long as they are structurally sound, don’t have chipped paint and overall in good condition.
I love the look of vintage headboards. I even purchased a Mid-Century headboard for my son’s toddler room makeover. Make sure that the headboard or bed frame is stable and has no major damage or flaws before bringing it home.
Although purchasing a sofa from a thrift store may be more difficult, it can be done. If the sofa is from a quality manufacturer, then you can be more confident that it is built to last. When you are in the store, you can do a quick Google search for the manufacturer (look for a tag) to see if it’s a quality and reputable company. Check for odors, bug damage and stains. If it has any questionable flaws or characteristics, then it’s best not to purchase it. You can also reupholster a sofa or have it professionally cleaned.
How To Stay Safe While Shopping For Furniture At The Thrift Store
Follow COVID guidelines
If you are thrifting during the pandemic, follow all of the COVID guidelines while shopping. I have an entire post dedicated to how to thrift shop during COVID.
Shop with a friend
If you are shopping at a thrift store in an unfamiliar neighborhood, it might be a good idea to take a friend with you. It’s also helpful to have an extra set of hands to help you load and unload your furniture if you find a treasure!
Thoroughly clean furniture when you get home
Refer to my in-depth post about how to clean furniture from the thrift store. It’s important to clean your used furniture before using it in your home!.
For more thrifting tips and tricks, take a look at these helpful posts!
- Tips For Thrifting During COVID
- How To Clean Furniture From The Thrift Store
- A Complete Guide To The Best Days and Times To Go Thrifting
- How Often To Go Thrift Shopping
- The Best Home Decor Items To Buy At The Thrift Store
- The Best Things To Sell on Facebook Marketplace
- 10 Secret Tips Every Thrifter Must Know