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10 Household Items You Really Shouldn't Put in the Donation Pile

It's that time of year again. As in, the time to purge your garage, your basement—and every other space in your home—for a fresh start to the new year. Farewell, broken DVD player! Sayonara, stained T-shirts!

But not so fast. You might have the best intentions with your donations, but your local secondhand store doesn’t actually want everything you’re eager to banish from your home.

“We can’t take some things,” says Harman Singh of Value Village in Silver Spring, MD. “But we can suggest local haul-away services.”

So before you get down to the business of decluttering, make sure you know what not to drop off at your local donation center. (Some of these might surprise you.)

1. Mattresses and box springs

It makes sense that you’d want to donate your son’s twin mattress and box spring now that he’s sleeping in a full-size bed. Unfortunately, secondhand stores won’t take mattress sets. Why? Because they can't trust that your donated mattress doesn't have bed bugs, or mold, or mites, or scabies.

Gross, we know. But even grosser if that gets passed on to an unwitting recipient.

Instead, look for a mattress recycling day in your neighborhood, or call 1-800-GOT-JUNK for recyclers in your area that take mattresses.

2. Anything that holds children

It’s virtually impossible to keep up with the ever-growing list of safety recalls issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, so here's a good rule of thumb: Don't donate anything that is made to hold the weight of a child, according to Hope’s Treasures in Sterling, VA.

That includes high chairs, cribs, car seats, and strollers. Thrift stores and donation centers usually won’t even consider taking them.

3. Outdated technology

It's important to remember that even those who shop thrift stores have DVD players and flat-screen televisions. They aren't usually looking for obsolete VCRs, cassettes, or tube-style televisions. In fact, many donation centers won’t even take these items off your hands.

The same goes for out-of-date textbooks, encyclopedias, and magazines. Look to eBay or try recycling them instead. Search Earth911 for recycling centers by recyclable item (e.g., electronics, glass, paper, etc.) and ZIP code.

4. Anything vulgar or offensive

If you’ve got clothing—like T-shirts, socks, and sweatshirts—that are at all profane or offensive, you’re better off tossing them in the trash. Most thrift stores don’t want anything to do with them, particularly faith-based shops, like Salvation Army centers.

The same often goes for donations (movies, books, etc.) that are even mildly sexual in nature. Yes, that means your copy of "50 Shades of Grey," and even your secret stash of Harlequin romance novels.

5. Large appliances

These days, hardly anyone is looking to buy a used stove, air conditioner, dishwasher, or refrigerator, so secondhand stores won’t take them.

The good news: If you’re upgrading to a new appliance, many retailers, such as Home Depot, will haul away your old appliance for free. Alternatively, try a scrap metal recycling or junk removal service, both of which can come to your home to take away your old appliance for a nominal fee.

6. Broken, stained, and clearly unusable items

A thrift store is not a repair shop, a dry cleaner, or a laundromat. Do not donate anything that’s broken, stained, torn, missing pieces, worn-out, or is clearly unusable. They cannot sell this stuff.

However, before you trash anything, it’s worth a call to your local thrift store to find out if it will pass it along to other nonprofit organizations—such as Nike Reuse-a-Shoe, which grinds up the soles of old sneakers to create a surfacing material for playgrounds.

7. Anything you got for free

We hate to say it, but it’s fairly unlikely that anyone else will want the free T-shirt you were given for running your neighborhood 5K, or the mug with your company’s logo on it. Sad! Do your local thrift store a favor and take them out of the donation pile.

8. Anything that could grow mold

Thrift stores don’t have the manpower to thoroughly clean and sanitize tea kettles, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers—all of which are susceptible to mold growth, due to moisture. Similarly, most secondhand stores won't take breast pumps because there's no way to clean milk thoroughly from the machines.

9. Oversized and unwieldy items

Donation centers are generally limited on space. There isn’t a lot of room for china cabinets, entertainment centers, pool tables, and pianos.

Worse, these items aren’t in high demand. So even if you do find a thrift store that will take them, they'll be hard to sell. Sell these items on Craigslist instead.

10. Garage sale leftovers

If no one bought an item from your garage sale, there was probably a reason for it—and chances are good your local donation center won't be interested, either. But don’t give up hope of finding a home for your odds and ends. Try, a free service connecting your unwanted goods with neighbors who will take them off your hands. No money changes hands. It’s all about giving and getting stuff for free, and ultimately, keeping your stuff out of landfills.

And remember: If you're in doubt about an item, call your local donation center. If it can't accept a particular item, it may be able to point you in the direction of an organization that can.

Gifford, Erin. "10 Household Items You Really Shouldn't Put in the Donation Pile." 26 December 2018. Web. Link


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