These are the things you shouldn't buy second hand, according to an expert

Don't buy these things second hand, warns cleaning pro

red sofa and coffee table in green living room
(Image credit: PPG)

There are things you shouldn't buy second-hand, a cleaning expert has warned. While buying second-hand is, in many cases, more sustainable, cheaper, and a great way to acquire one-of-a-kind items, there are things that really should be bought new. 

So, whether you're looking for sustainable interior design trends or just like being a bit thrifty in your everyday life, there are some items that aren't worth buying second hand. Here's what they are.  

1. Upholstered furniture

A teal blue velvet sofa with wooden legs in a living room with blue painted panelled walls

(Image credit: Sofa.com)

The main thing to remember when buying an upholstered item such as a sofa or armchair is that 'it is always enclosed in fabric or leather, meaning that it's nearly impossible to launder', says Heather Barrigan cleaning expert from MyJobQuote.co.uk

The simple fact is that 'unless you were very familiar with the condition of the previous owner’s home', you just don't know what lives inside all of these dense materials (think foam padding as well as the upholstery itself). Upholstered furniture 'could be full of nasty bacteria, dust mites, dead skin cells and in the worst case, bed bugs', cautions Heather. Best buy a new sofa from a list of the best sofas.  

2. Helmets

Especially if you have a family of cyclists, it may be tempting to buy second-hand helmets and make a saving. However, Heather warns that this is a bad idea both from a safety and from a hygiene point of view. The safety aspect, of course, is the most important one, and everyone should know is that 'helmets are designed to protect you from only one accident.' 

Although a helmet may look new, it may already be 'useless' because 'damage doesn’t always show up on the surface of the helmet, so you’ll never really know if the helmet has already done its duty.'

To say nothing of the previous owner's sweat and dead skin that will have accumulated in the soft padding. Give second-hand helmets a hard pass. 

3. Child car seats

Having a baby is expensive, and it may be tempting to save on a child car seat in order to have one less thing to have to buy new. Unfortunately, as with helmets, 'the damage may not be visible, and a second-hand car seat could actually endanger your child.' And even if it's perfectly fine, if the car seat is old enough, 'it could fail current safety standards', which change about every five years. 

4. Synthetic or feather pillows

neutral bedroom with white bedding and nightstand

(Image credit: Dunelm)

The best pillows can be very expensive, especially if you like feather and down or memory foam. While some types can be washed, others, especially foam or latex pillows, cannot be laundered at all, and could be harboring 'drool, sweat, tears, lice and many other bacteria'. Moreover,  'feather or synthetic pillows that are just one year old can harbor up to 17 different types of fungus.' Yikes. Better to buy a cheaper pillow that is guaranteed to be hygienic. 

5. Personal care items

According to Heather, buying second-land 'cosmetics, lotions, bath products or skincare' is a big no-no. 'This is a huge heath risk', she states, 'and can lead to allergies, skin infection, conjunctivitis and potentially diseases such as herpes from sharing lip products.' You could also end up buying a fake that hasn't passed any safety tests. A cheaper lipstick or mascara that is brand new is always a better option.

6. Rugs

living room will with houseplants

(Image credit: Leaf Envy)

This will come as a disappointment to those who think that the best rugs are vintage ones. If you want to know how to find the perfect rug for your home, the answer, according to Heather, is – buy a new one. 

The reason is that 'when you buy a used carpet, you always run the risk of bringing insect infestations into the home. Common critters that love carpets include ants, bed bugs, fleas and even if the seller has steamed the rug beforehand, a few eggs can still survive.'

Second-hand rugs can also turn out to have absorbed unpleasant odors and, quite simply, dirt and grime. Buying a second-hand rug is a false economy, because 'the cost of getting a used rug deep cleaned or removing infestation can be expensive, so you are better off purchasing a brand-new rug.'

7.  BBQ grills

Buying a used bbq can save you impressive amounts on the best bbq price, but, before you take the plunge, you need to thoroughly inspect the second-hand barbie in person. 

Firstly, Heather recommends checking for rust, as 'the rust can stick to food, and whilst this may not be problematic after one meal, continuous ingestion can be harmful for your intestinal tract.' You'll also need to 'check the drip tray is clean, the burner holes are unclogged, and gas hose connections are secure before purchase.' If you're not satisfied with the barbecue after inspection, or the seller won't let you come see it in the first place, you're better off buying a new one.

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.