Whether you call it thrifting or secondhand shopping, almost everyone knows what it means to thrift shop. However, what most don’t know is that thrift shopping can actually cause harm.

When spring comes around and you’ve finished deep cleaning your house, many will make a pile of things to go to Goodwill. These items get taken to a drop-off site and are put into a Goodwill store in the area. This act of donating is one that ends up helping many families, so how does shopping at those stores hurt people?

Thrift stores such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army have such low prices for a reason. Items given to thrift stores are items that are good enough to be saved but not good enough or too outdated to keep. In particular, furniture items and appliances may not be as safe as they would be if bought new. Items are not extensively checked for safety. A study conducted by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) found that 69 percent of thrift shops visited had at least one hazardous product for sale. The CPSC found cribs that did not meet the federal safety standard, hair dryers without protection against electrocution and car seat carriers for sale that have been recalled. 

Additionally, clothes at thrift stores are not laundered before being set out for sale. This means that whatever germs were on the clothes when brought to the company will still be on them when sold to customers. There are risks to this as introducing new bacteria to your household can cause illness. Not only germs, but things such as bed-bugs and lice can be hiding on the clothes and items you buy from the thrift store. 

One of the biggest reasons to avoid shopping at thrift stores often is because some families depend on them. Low-income families can not afford clothes from high-end stores, and therefore depend on places like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. They depend on the five-dollar shirts, cheap jeans and other garments. These clothes are what some children get for going back to school or dances. It is important that the families that truly need inexpensive clothing have access to it. If you can afford department store clothing, choose that before second-hand garments.

By no means should anyone feel ashamed for shopping at thrift stores if that is what they can afford. The clothes at thrift stores are the same as all others, just a bit used. Plus, thrifting is much better than shopping and supporting fast fashion. Thrifting has a much smaller impact on the environment, and workers are not forced to work in harsh conditions, like they are in the fast fashion industry. The key is to be careful and mindful when shopping at second-hand stores.

When shopping, check your items before checking out. If you are purchasing furniture or household appliances, check to make sure they are safe and haven’t been recalled. A quick Google search of the product will tell you if it is safe and everything else you may need to know before taking it home. When purchasing clothes, be careful when trying them on. As previously mentioned, they could have germs and bugs on them. Inspect the item before trying it on. If you decide to purchase it, wash the garments along with the clothes you wore to the store. Check the tags for instructions on washing and drying, and wash them alone. 

While thrift shopping is not bad, it can be harmful if the correct precautions are not taken. Always be aware of the risks and effects that come along with second-hand shopping.

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