$econdhand First Class

A thrift store fanatic shares her shopping secrets

Archive for the tag “stink and stain test”

What NOT to Buy

From reading my blog, you might think that, like Alice’s Restaurant, you can get anything you want at a thrift store. Well, almost. Here’s a short list of what I don’t buy at thrift stores.

  • Toiletries. Yes, opened and used lipsticks, creams, shampoos, etc., are donated regularly. If no one else in your family wants it, why would someone else want it? And, thrift store pricers, just cause it comes in the back door doesn’t mean you have to put a price on it. Come on, people. Show some sense. What would your mothers say?

    Oh sure, they look innocent,
    but what’s that stain? Photo courtesy of
    morgueFile, elemenoperica 

  • Underwear, such as panties, briefs, etc. Normal laundering does not kill some bacteria and germs. Repeat, washing does NOT kill some critters that would love to come home and cozy up with you. So, really, why take the chance?
  • Mattresses. I have one word. Bedbugs. Many thrift stores don’t even accept these items but if they do, don’t take them home.
  • Stuff that smells like pee. This goes back to the stink and stain test. This can be rugs, pillows, sofas, clothes, etc. Stink tells a story. Listen and then walk away.

Happy thrifting!

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Assessing Upholstered Furniture

Here are a few tips for finding just the right comfy seating:

Stand back and check the structure.

  • Is the item even, no leaning or sagging? If the legs are loose but the item is in good shape otherwise, you may be able to have the legs repaired.
  • Are the arms the same height and firmly attached? Wobbly arms or uneven arms can be a sign of poor construction. An upholstery expert might be able to fix wobbly arms but there’s no guarantee.
  • Are the cushions present and accounted for?

Get close for the next phase:

  • Apply the stink and stain test, especially to the cushions. A little dirt can be cleaned but beware yellow or brown stains.
  • Is the upholstery in acceptable condition? Wear around the edges might be okay but rips and tears might be unforgivable unless you want to invest in a slip cover or reupholstering the piece. Reupholstering can run into bucks but if the item is good quality, it could be a worthwhile investment.
  • Remove the cushions and feel the springs. Push down. Do the springs spring back with enthusiasm or begrudgingly? Any points sticking up or twisted loose? Maybe the spring hasn’t yet poked its way through the fabric but you’ll eventually get the point when you sit. And the point is pain either way; pain in the bottom when you sit or pain in the wallet when you have the piece “re-sprung” and reupholstered.

If the item has passed all the tests above, take a seat.

  • Listen for groans or squeaks. This is the sofa telling you about its hard life. Listen carefully.
  • Cushions should support you, not gasp and collapse. If you sink to the floor, the foam may have lost its bounce. Replacing foam can be pricey but worth it if the brand is good.

If that sofa or chair is still under consideration, turn it over if possible or tip up the legs to look underneath. Check for signs that critters made their home in the piece such as tears or holes in the fabric. See gobs of nice soft fibers fashioned into a cozy nest? Stains and streaks? Beady eyes peering out? All of these could be signs of an infestation of bugs or pests. A friend once brought home a used sofa. Problem was, the sofa was already occupied by a family of mice. That night, there were some surprised humans and rodents!

In another post, I’ll talk about the cost of re-upholstering a chair or sofa.

Happy thrifting!

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