What not to donate to charity shops

In our current economic climate (wow, that didn’t even sound like me) many more people are turning to charity shops as a cheap source of clothing, furniture and homeware. Plus fewer people are choosing, understandably I’d say, to try and sell what they previously would have donated. Charity shops are crying out for donations and many shops have sparse shelves.

Whilst donations of goods are great and very much appreciated, there are some things you really shouldn’t donate to charity shops. Always remember charities have to spend a considerable amount (thousands of pounds per shop) every year disposing of unsuitable items, so think hard about what you’re donating – they are not a dumping ground for your broken crap.

I’ve recently spoken to two charity shop volunteers who’ve told me of some of the hideous things people have donated to the shops they work in and it made my skin crawl.

july sky
This photo has nada to do with this post however we’ve been without sun and blue skeis for a long time, so I had to share this when I saw it this morning. Glorious.

What not to donate to charity shops

Soiled underwear
Really you’d think it would be common sense but apparently not a day goes by where people dealing with donations don’t have to deal with crusted up knickers and flaky, tangled tights. Who does this? Who?

Broken toys
Sometimes it isn’t obvious to someone who isn’t familiar with a particular toy if parts are missing or broken. If a broken toy could in anyway endanger a child then it is safer not to donate.

Faulty electrical or battery operated goods
If they don’t work for you how do you expect them to work with someone else? Most charity shops won’t be able to sell them anyway. If you do think some clever soul could tinker with them maybe advertise them on eBay but label very clearly as strictly for parts.
EDIT- I have been informed that some charity shops will accept faulty electical goods because they have repair contracts. However please, please check if this is the case before donating because a great many don’t and will have to incur charges to dispose of these items.

Unwashed clothes
Please just whizz them around in the washing machine and dry the clothes before you donate them. Yes many charity shops are glad of them even if unwashed, ripped or in bad repair (many sell them onto fabric banks either way) however I’d be thoroughly ashamed to donate dirty clothes (or dirty anything.)

Sarah, one of the girls I spoke to said her charity shop makes money from selling on fabric items which can’t go on to the shop floor. A lot of their time is taken up sorting through these items so if you do intend to donate badly ripped, stained or holey textiles they’ll be very grateful of them, but they’d love you even more if you put it in a separate bag and label it ‘RAG MAN’ – they’ll know what to do with it.

Sex Toys
No, just no. According to both the women I spoke to (who work in different charity shops) they have to deal with used ‘goodies’ at least once a week. What the actual frick?

Car Seats
If a car seat (children/baby etc.) has been involved in an accident it should no longer be used as it is no longer safe. Who is to know if a second hand car seat has been involved in an accident or not?


P.S. What is the most bizarre item you’ve seen in a charity shop?

P.P.S. Earlier today I posted about organising your car.

 Enjoyed this post? Here are some ways you can keep uptodate – & they’re all free!
Subscribe on Bloglovin’ or Hello Cotton
Watch my videos on Youtube
See my pins, no not my legs, over on Pinterest
or you can even check out my instagrams @athriftymrsuk

| about | contact | archive | disclosure & disclaimer | advertise | privacy & cookies


  1. A really useful post. People really do donate these things! :-( I would add used baby mattresses as well due to increased risk of cot death. x x

  2. great post!i donate things to charity very often – all clean and not in the list above.
    cant believe people would even think of donatinga sex toy?

  3. Wow I can’t believe people donate things like that! It’s just like using charity shops as dumping grounds!

  4. I just made my friend a little bit sick by reading this to her whilst she was eating lunch ;)

  5. Ew. That is just beyond gross. SEX TOYS? CRUSTY KNICKERS?! These people need a kick up the behind!
    I’m currently looking for a charity shop job… let’s hope it doesn’t get too many of the knickers and toys…! Lol!

    Great post as usual! :) x


  6. You wouldn’t think people would do such a thing… I mean, SEX TOYS! WHAT?!?! Oooo yucky! I do like to donate to charity… why throw something away?
    Great post…
    Laura x ( DemandBeauty.blogspot.co.uk )

  7. Thankyou for this post!
    I worked in a charity shop and the worst problem we had was with clothes. I went through one bag full of baby clothes where most of them had stains on them.No-one wants to buy clothes with:
    - Bobbles
    - Loose Threads
    - Missing Buttons/ beading
    - Faulty Zippers
    – And another thing.. don’t put anything sharp in there. volunteers don’t like being stabbed in the hand while they take your donations out.

    • Bobbles and loose threads? As a customer, provided they’re not overpriced, these are neither a problem nor uncommon in most of the (nice, West London) shops I use. Dirt, tears, stains and broken zips are problems. An odd loose thread isn’t.

  8. Wow it is unbelievable how people aren’t aware of what they donate. I bought myself a new matrascover (I mean the kind of ‘hoodie’ that you have to unzip) and someone started to lecture me why I haven’t donated my old one. Ehm well, it was old, ripped, and I am sure not so really usefull or clean (since you could not wash it). People really think garbage things can be donated. That just makes me mad. Anyway good post :) Ixx

  9. The most bizarest thing I have seen, is a drugs bong, you know those lovely long shaped vase like implements used for inhaling drugs!! The granny of course thought it was a lovely vase!!! Sadly I am now one of those people to sell my clothes to clothing recycling companies as charity shops are taking the mickey with the prices. Yes one day I would have gladly paid. But I am a single mum and I have to make my pennies work hard. So if I can make an income this way like the charity shops why cant joe public.
    Ohh yeah I have seen a pile of xxx magazines as well very recently, with erotic art and a hefty price tag. Since when has big and busty been erotic art????

    • Was it a bong or a shisha? Shisha are rather collectable, but I had the opposite someone called the local community officer about the shisha I had as an ornament!

  10. False teeth. That’s the weirdest thing I have dealt with in a charity shop. In the pocket of a cardigan. Freaked the BEEEEJESUS out of me.

  11. I volunteered in a charity shop a while back and one bag that someone brought in had some false teeth and a hearing aid with ear wax on :S Ughhh

  12. I have seen a russian smoaking pipe! xxxx(:

  13. loving the ragman bag lable. i’ve often wondered what to do with things that are not suitable for the charity shop but would otherwise go to land fill. BUT sex toys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i’ll join the others saying WTF!

  14. Good post I work in a charity shop and ” we are not a dumping ground for your broken crap” should be written on the door!xx

  15. I remember reading in an article about charity shops how they get a lot of knives put in charity shop bags – No! Don’t do that thing.

    I take photos of funny, awful ornaments that I see in my travels in CS’s, I’m building up quite a collection for a future post on my blog.

  16. I volunteered in a charity sorting warehouse and we had quite a number of ‘goodies’ to deal with, there was a tub of vaseline in one of the bags that had erm *cough* leaked everywhere, that one went straight in the bin. We also had a false leg, opening that bag almost gave us a heart attack!

    Just to point out as well, for the charity I volunteered for they had to pay to dump the crap they couldn’t sell, don’t know if that’s the case for all charities but certainly it was a big financial burden that a charity shouldn’t incur for the sake of someone stopping and thinking about what they are donating….

  17. Great post! I cannot believe some people would donate this stuff – there are no words!

  18. I used to volunteer at an Oxfam shop, worst I ever saw was someone who obviously couldn’t be bothered to unpack after a holiday so dumped their whole suitcase, complete with dirty underwear and used sanitary towels. Needless to say the whole lot went in the bin.

  19. Sorting through the necklaces in a local charity shop I came across one with a ‘Karma Sutra’ theme. Laughingly, I pointed it out to the ladies behind the till and their reaction was one of a Mother Superior on a prudish day. They snatched it away and buried it in the back of the shop somewhere. And I was going to buy it and sell it on ebay!

  20. Why oh why do people donate half used products like shampoo, hairspray and bubble bath to the charity shops? And why on earth do the shops (not usually Oxfam or BHF) sell them for £1-2 each! Who would pay that for half a bottle of Avon or Superdrug bubble bath!?

  21. Am just back from a CS shift and yes we’ve had all of those in the past!!

    Baby clothes which are caked in puke/poo appear quite often – hence we wear gloves when we are sorting.

  22. That is shocking! Car seats I can maybe understand someone not knowing, why you would EVER donate clothes that are soiled or sex toys though is beyond me. Disgusting.

  23. Oh crumbs, I wondered where the bag with my giant whizzy whopper in got too…


  24. One thing I saw in a chazza that’s always stuck in my mind was a lacy red and black set of crotchless knickers and peep hole bra – it was hanging behind the counter and looked so wonderfully out of place behind the fluffy old lady who was working on the till.

  25. You lot are weird. I ALWAYS buy puked covered clothes from charity shops, although I stopped paying for the false teeth when I realised some still have Weetabix stuck to them. It saves me so much money. And why go to Ann Summers when you can bulk buy your love machines second hand? Quick wipe with some crusty knickers (someone else’s) and you are good to go.


  26. Some of my favourites from my days working in a charity shop:

    Odd shoes
    Dodgy video tapes
    Teapot with the handle broken off

    Totally agree with Vintage Vicki- gloves are a must!

  27. These are really good tips, hopefully those with common sense wouldn’t donate these items anyway, but I didn’t know that they’d accept ripped/holey stuff! Thanks for that :) x

  28. I wouldn’t dream of donating items like those! I see donating to charity shops as a way of repaying them for the joy of the items I buy from them for such a lovely low price(if that makes any sense). Right now I have a big bag of washed and dried clothes ready to donate asap :)

  29. They also can’t sell prams, pushchairs or bikes for the same reasons as car seats. and no soft toys withour the kitemark!

  30. one of my favourite stories from my 20 years charity retail experience was of the CRUK shop in Bletchley. One of the volunteers picked up a rather phallic-looking item that had been donated and started waving it around saying “Oooo, look, it’s one of them vibrators” before the ex-service shop manager told her very calmly to put it down.

    She called the bomb squad and the entire parade was evacuated whilst they checked out what was in fact anm artillery shell :D

  31. I feel terrible now because I have binned lots of clothes that were ripped/torn thinking they wouldn’t be suitable for charity shops. It never occured to me that they might sell the fabric. Will make sure I put together a “rag man” bag next time

  32. My partner is a charity shop manager and I was nodding in agreement with all of this. They also have people bartering the price down and had an incident where someone hid part of something and then asked for a discount because it was faulty. Unbelievable!

  33. Always in the charity shop me! Did a big donation last weekend. I couldn’t drop off anything dirty or broken – 1. Because I wouldn’t want them to think I was dirty and 2. Because it would be a waste of effort and time lugging it to the shop when I could just put it in the bin / recycle!

  34. i worked in a charity shop until recently, we got the dirty knickers and broken toys, manky old odd socks, odd shoes, jigsaws with pieces missing, dirty kitchen wear..the list goes on – some people really do just dump all their crap from the back of their car on to you, without realising we had to dispose of it, after we had to trawl through their crap! worst still, we had to smile and say ooh thankyou soo much, this looks great, even if we could see that it was absolute crap destined for the bin. some ‘donations’ went straight in the skip as soon as the donor drove off, they were that manky, totally unsellable.
    worst i ever had to sort through was about 3 full old suitcases of tights?! why?! 3 cases FULL of old TIGHTS!!!
    bleurgh, glad im out of it.
    seriously tho, if ur gonna donate, think about whether it is SELLABLE!!!

  35. Why would people donate some of them things?! xxx


  36. i worked in a charity shop when I was 16 and loved going through all the stuff (I got first dibs a lot of the time) but the amount of weird stuff you’d get sent… ripped tights, stained bibs, socks with tons of holes in. People need to use common sense, this stuff is going to be sold on!


  37. A brilliant post! I am shocked and disgusted people actually think that stuff is suitable to be sold on! I found you thru a link on ready, steady Mummy and am going to follow. A great blog! X

  38. really good to hear about the rag man option! at uni i really loved that at the end of year they would send round bags for tat fabric to be sold for recyclcing they got so much per ton didnt matter the state or what the item was i sent my old sheets a bobbly coat and tatty old fancy dress stuff (scribbled on t-shirts) …. x

  39. I worked at a large chain second hand store for a few months, and during that time someone actually had the GALL to “donate” a massive garbage bag full of dirty diapers. I wish I was joking. I’m glad I wasn’t at the sorting table that day.

    Real hair wigs are tricky. Before donating them to a second hand store, please talk to a local hair dresser OR a local chemotherapy centre about where the wigs might be better appreciated.

    If you are unable to find a more suitable home for real hair wigs and must donate them, please give them a good brush and wash, tie the longer hair wigs back into ponytails and put them in separate plastic bags. Not only will it make the task of accurately pricing and displaying them easier, it will keep them from getting tangled together, from getting hairs ripped out, and will ensure the life span of the wig.

    And if you have a bunch of PARTY wigs to donate, please just throw away any that has more than a quarter of the hair missing or so tangled you can’t run a wide toothed comb through it. Again, please put each of them in separate bags. Sometimes party wigs come in a bag of about 20 or so and over half of them get thrown out because they are just a big mass of hair.

  40. I know this is an old post but i’ve just linked through from today’s, and thought you might like to see some of the worst Aussie donations – including dead animals! Sadly the donation bins have almost disappeared because of this sort of thing – you have to take donations in personally when the shops are open mainly now. http://www.news.com.au/national-news/dumping-on-our-battlers/story-e6frfkvr-1226236041232

Speak Your Mind