That old window frame or door may work for a craft project, but beware of lead. Lead paint is a hazard when it is scraped off and ingested or inhaled. To be safe, avoid construction materials at thrift stores or invest in a DIY lead paint test kit which will give you results in minutes. You can find a DIY test kit for less than $40.
Avoid old dishware such as vintage serving bowls, platters and tea cups. They may look pretty but these old dishes may also contain unsafe substances that can be harmful if ingested. To be safe, spring for new pieces or use the pretty vintage dishware for display only.
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Whether it's a dishwasher, refrigerator, laundry machine or stand mixer, proceed with caution when it comes to thrift store appliances. If you can't test it in the store, leave it there.
Mattresses and Pillows
Here's something to think about if you're considering buying a mattress or pillows from a thrift store: Bed bugs can survive about five months without a meal (blood). Pay a little more and buy a new mattress and pillows because peace of mind is priceless. Note: Many thrift stores will not accept mattresses and pillows.
Those vintage knobs may look great on your updated kitchen cabinets, but old hardware may contain lead. Instead, look for new hardware pieces in vintage or throwback designs.
Weigh the risks before purchasing furniture from a thrift store. If that old dresser has chipped paint, skip it as the paint may contain lead. Upholstered furniture may harbor bed bugs and odors you can't get rid of. Do a thorough inspection before bringing any piece of furniture home.
Safety should always be top of mind when it comes to purchasing items from thrift stores. When it comes to cribs, it's hard to keep up with recalls. Instead, spring for a new crib to make sure it's up to the latest safety standards.
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Items that Smell
A general rule of thrift store shopping: If it smells bad, leave it. Whether it's furniture, clothing or decorative items, if it smells it could be from many things including pet stains, old paint, dust or mold. It's better to just move on rather than to get it home and have to dispose of it.
If those baking sheets, muffin tins or pots and pans at the thrift store have scratches and look worn down, leave them on the shelf. Old cookware that is chipped or scratched can release harmful chemicals into your food.