If you’re moving or cleaning out your closet, it probably feels better to donate your old things rather than toss them in the trash. But your local thrift store doesn’t actually want all of your things.
Thrift stores may not accept certain items because of liability risks, safety or hazardous waste concerns, or disposal costs if items aren’t resold. They may also turn down donations that are in poor condition. Thrift stores aren’t recycling centers or dumps—they collect gently used items that can be resold.
Also, note that national chains like Goodwill have some general donation guidelines, but individual locations may have their own rules. Clothing thrift stores (from franchises like Plato’s Closet to your local shop) may also have lists of specific needs or accepted items. Always check with your local thrift store, and be prepared to dispose of your donation elsewhere if it’s not accepted.
Things you (usually) can’t donate to thrift stores
- Mattresses and pillows: While thrift stores may accept gently used, clean linens, they will not take mattresses, box springs, and pillows due to sanitary concerns. Same goes for beanbag chairs, bunkbeds, and sleeper sofas.
- Baby equipment: Cribs, car seats, and strollers that must meet safety standards (and are at risk of recall) may not be accepted.
- Medical equipment: Anything requiring a prescription or safety inspections can’t be resold at a thrift store, including eyeglasses, walkers, braces, wheelchairs, and hospital beds.
- Other items subject to safety regulations: Bike helmets, smoke detectors, some exercise equipment, and blinds can’t be resold.
- Toiletries and medications: Personal care items, even if unopened, usually can’t be resold. Nonprofit organizations in your area may be a better bet for donating diapers, toothpaste, shampoo, and other toiletries.
- Large appliances: Stoves, refrigerators, washers/dryers, air conditioners, and CRT TVs aren’t generally accepted at thrift stores.
- Musical instruments: Pianos and other large instruments may be accepted by schools, churches, or other community organizations.
- Magazines: Old magazines, newspapers, and some books are likely to be rejected at thrift stores. You can recycle them, sell them on Facebook Marketplace, or check with community organizations and used bookstores.
- Food and drinks: Take nonperishable food items to your local food pantry or donation drive instead of thrift stores.
- Flammable items and hazardous waste: Batteries, auto parts, tires, paints, household chemicals, fuel, and other items that could leak, degrade, or otherwise be dangerous must be properly disposed of elsewhere. Auto parts may be resold via platforms like Facebook Marketplace. Obviously, thrift stores won’t accept weapons.
Things you can donate to thrift stores—but maybe shouldn’t
There are some items thrift stores will accept, but they may go to better use if donated to specific organizations:
- Sneakers and athletic shoes
- Kids’ toys
- Wedding dresses
It’s fine to donate things that don’t fit, aren’t being used, or you simply don’t like anymore. But if you wouldn’t wear or use the item in its current condition, reconsider dumping it at your local thrift store. Toss anything broken, dirty, or moldy in the trash.
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