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Can You Get Sick from Thrift Store Items?

With a lot of people using thrift stores, how "safe" are the donations? Can you "catch" anything from what you buy?

Kathy from Coatesville, PA

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November 25, 20080 found this helpful

Make sure you launder all clothing when purchased at thrift stores.

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Anonymous
November 25, 20082 found this helpful

Excluding food, eighty per-cent of what I buy comes from the thrift store, and I have shopped there and at yard sales for most of my life. Any clothing items that I buy are always washed immediately as soon as I bring them home; as well as stuffed animals, bed covers, pillows, rugs, etc. Any kitchen items are sterilized in the dishwasher before use, as well as baby toys, and other items that can safely be put into the dishwasher. I never buy any food items, I also never buy lotions or shampoo; (better safe than sorry). I wash washable shoes in the washing machine, and spray disinfectant in the un-washable ones, if they look too "raunchy" I don't buy them.

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In other words, everything that is brought home from the thrift store is cleaned and disinfected to the best of my ability. I have bought second-hand for most of my adult life, and have often thought that even if I won the lottery, that I still would continue to buy from thrift stores and such. The money you save by buying second-hand is astronomical, and sometimes you come across that one "something" that you never would have been able to find anywhere else. My family or no one that I know has ever "caught" anything from any items that were brought home from such a source. I absolutely LOVE thrift stores!

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November 25, 20080 found this helpful

Like most folks, we wash any new-to-us clothes before anyone wears 'em, throw what can safely be washed via dishwasher in there, and use Lysol wipes (bought on $1./container markdown !) and antibacterial dish soap on clean rags on almost everything else. And we haven't gotten sick (that I know of !) from our abundance of second-hand stuff.

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But then again, can any of us really track with any certanty what made us sick when it hits ? If you have kids in school or work in a public place, or even handled a few books in a library or DVDs in a rental shop, you've probably been exposed to the current nasties floating around in your neighborhood already.

Personally, I'd pay attention to my 'squick' factor - if it makes me shudder, or instinct is screaming at me 'stay away !', I'll pay attention, don't go near it, and fer sure not buy it ! - and clean everything that didn't bug ya once you're home.

I don't really worry about it, because I figure my immune system needs some challenges now and again ! And I can't resist the lure of the yard sale and thrift shop...

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 135 Feedbacks
November 25, 20081 found this helpful

I like the "squick factor" advice. May I pass it around?

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 846 Posts
November 25, 20080 found this helpful

A tip for brand new clothing, too !!! Always wash !!!

One never knows where they have been, who might have tried them on and what chemical processes were used in manufacturing the fabric and the dyes ...

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By glinda (Guest Post)
November 25, 20080 found this helpful

You'll probably get more sick from handling public door handles than things from a thrift store. But, we have a rule of thumb to thrift store or yardsale buying. It must survive a washing, or it goes in the garbage. That includes purses too. With shoes I do the lysol spray first. I've had years of good deal experiences from good thrift store buys, and never had any sicknesses or illnesses from it.

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You'll get more from public shopping and visiting public places, and public school. Note to remember, I never allow myself or my family to try on unwashed or un-lysol used hats of any kind. That you need to beware of, even at yard sales, and hand me downs. Spray hats, purses and shoes with lysol.

Happy thrift store shopping, I think you'll really enjoy the money you can save on your family budget.

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By Ellie (Guest Post)
November 25, 20080 found this helpful

Wow, so much good advice already, but just will add that in many, many years of shopping thrift stores nothing has ever made me sick. Same rules, I wash everything before I wear it, Wash any china, etc. in good hot detergent water, Wipe down things like bags with an antiseptic cloth.

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I do have two 'Nos' though. I don't purchase either socks or undergarments. A matter of personal preference.

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By Julia in UK (Guest Post)
November 26, 20080 found this helpful

I have been buying from thrift stores and jumble sales (which can be very dusty) all my adult life and never come to any harm.

Infection can happen though - as children about 45 years ago my brother and I were the only children in our town to catch scarlet fever. Our mother believed that it came from playing with a toy gun that my brother fished out of a garbage bin in a park when we were on vacation.

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October 21, 20190 found this helpful

It would be almost impossible to contract Scarlet Fever from an object like a toy gun.
Rarely, people can spread group A strep through food that is not handled properly (visit CDCs food safety page). Experts do not believe pets or household items, like toys, spread these bacteria.

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By Joyce H. (Guest Post)
November 27, 20080 found this helpful

Make sure to bug spray any upholstered furniture you get used. I got a terrible case of cockroaches one time from an easy chair I bought at a thrift store.

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Needless to say, any thing like that gets sprayed, vacuumed, and sits outside for a few days now.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 263 Posts
December 4, 20080 found this helpful

I've never gotten sick from anything purchased at a yard sale or thrift store. There are a few things I don't buy used. They are under clothing: bras, panties, underwear. Shoes. Used lipstick/lip gloss, used eye products: mascara, eye liner.

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July 7, 20090 found this helpful

I used to work at a thrift store and I never had any problem but I'm not going to say it's not a possibility. If you are concerned I would recommend consignment stores as an alternative. They are still a great way to save money but are much more strict about the quality of items they put out. (And when you bring in your used stuff they will give you a store credit!)

Be selective about the thrift stores you shop at. I used to work at a St Vincent De Paul that was very strict about the condition of the items they put out to sell. Much of my day consisted of cleaning items before we put them out. But the St. Vincent the next town over was terrible. They put out stuff that we would have tossed. I guess it just depends on the management and how well staffed they are. It's a struggle to keep up with the incoming donations and have time to clean. We were lucky to have volunteers and community service workers.

One last little comment I want to leave you with. I work in a grocery store now. My advice, wash everything! Anything you bring in to your home, new or used if it's been in a store, people have fingered and touched all over it and it's filthy. I would never buy anything out of a bulk item bin in a store, especially out of a cookie case, donut case, candy bin etc. People touch everything. Kids put things in their mouth and their parents throw it back in the bin! I watch this all day at work. If your not afraid of the grocery store, I wouldn't shy away from a thrift store either. Can't be much worse!( Hope you have a good immune system)

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July 31, 20090 found this helpful

Everything I could say has been covered, but I'd like to repeat the advice to not use makeup anyone else has used because it can become contaminated--especially mascara.

I don't know if it's possible to catch anything from used shoes, but I never put my bare feet into them.

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July 31, 20090 found this helpful

I've shopped thrift stores for years now. Bleach & Lysol are your 2 best friends when purchasing items from thrift stores or yard sales. Throw one of those small size cans of lysol spray into your vehicle (or even the large can) this way, IF you are concerned of "catching" something, simply open your bag when you get to your vehicle and give a quick squirt into the bag and close it together once again. This will begin the germ killing process til you get home, thus you aren't transporting any germs as you go. Also, be sure to use that hand sanitizer soon as you get into your vehicle to help keep germs at bay.
Also when I say Lysol, the store brands are just as good at germ killing as the Lysol brand and they are less expensive.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 519 Posts
July 31, 20090 found this helpful

If the clothes are in good, clean condition & the shop itself is not raunchy, there should not be a problem. But you should dry clean suit pants. A friend did have trouble once with that. But spray disinfectant will help with that & for shoes. Remember that clothes in stores are also subject to being handled and tried on. Most germs we worry about are air-borne or have to do with personal surfaces, like a drinking glass or water bottles. & YES, the handles of the public bathroom are rife with germs. Wash your hands! And use sanitizer when in environments when you are in close contact with people's hands, or things that are touched - like keyboards & mouses & phones. They also should be cleaned if used by multiple people! I love vintage & don't have a problem with anything if it can be washed well.

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August 6, 20091 found this helpful

I have shopped thrift store for years. You can get some really good deals on gently used clothing. I wash everything new or used that I buy. The clothing comes from so many places around the world anymore that you never know where the product has been before it got to you. We never try on hats anymore because my daughter got lice years ago from trying on a hat at a thrift store. Luckily we caught it very quickly and it didn't spread. Household dishes and stuff we put things in the dishwasher as hot as possible with "heat dry" to sanitize before we use it. Do not try to save money by letting the item air dry in the dishwasher. It's the drying with high heat that sanitizes things. Wash it, sanitize it, dry clean it. Whatever you need to do before you use it. We do that with every store we buy something from, not just thrift stores, because, remember - things are from all over the world and you never know the germs they are fighting there that hitched a ride on the item you are buying!

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February 18, 20200 found this helpful

I think it really dependes on what you buy from the thirst stores

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Anonymous
April 4, 20210 found this helpful

I have a personal laundry business. When I first started, a group of 4 college aged kids requested I take care of a HUGE bunch of dirty clothing. This literal truckload of nasties included clothing etc. that remained after 3 days at "Decadence", an outdoor Music Festival. 23 loads. Within about 12 hours of completion, I became VERY sick with FLU symptoms. The illness hit me like a brick, and I was out of commission for almost a week. Bottom line? YES. You can infect yourself from clothing, but it is also possible to protect yourself!
Heres the "straight skinny": Masks and Non-latex or Nitrile gloves are ESSENTIAL. Then wash your hands.
Just be smart, and we can all continue to enjoy our "frugal retail therapy".
happy thrifting! :)

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