When Should You Avoid Ads For Free Things?

There’s nothing quite like finding that perfect new silverware tray for your kitchen drawer on a social media group or classified ad website and realizing that you can get it for free. No, not super cheap – free.

Getting new decorations, furniture, or other household items for free sounds great, but it’s not always a good idea. Sometimes, grabbing that free item can have consequences that require more money to address than you would’ve spent buying the item new in the first place. If it still seems crazy to you that anything could go wrong with a free item you find on the internet, consider the below situations when you should avoid ads for free things.

Avoid: most furniture

A free couch, loveseat, or mattress might seem like a deal too good to be true. And sometimes, it is. Unfortunately, these items, when secondhand, can be home to every renter’s worst nightmare: bedbugs. Any furniture that’s upholstered or made of porous materials – fabric, fibers, wood – can have microscopic holes small enough to house pests even if you can’t see them. Even when you come across non-free listings for these items, it may be a good idea to steer clear altogether.

Avoid: other fabric items and decorations

The same logic with porous materials extends to items such as towels, blankets, and even tapestries. In porous materials, including the thin, paper-like material of tapestries, bedbugs can hide in spaces as narrow as a credit card. Not to mention, a used fabric item could be downright unsanitary. 

Although you can run these items in the dryer to kill bedbugs, the risk of even bringing these pests into your home isn’t worth the mad dash from your front door to your dryer. Thus, as with couches, mattresses, and other fabric-based items, you’re better off spending money on a brand-new purchase than a free secondhand object – pest extermination can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. 

Avoid: anything you can’t easily clean

In general, if you can’t run something through very hot water in your washing machine or dishwasher, you should scroll right past any free ads you see for it. A free set of plates or bowls is a safe bet, as is a rice cooker, since those items can be thoroughly scrubbed and sterilized at very hot temperatures. 

Totally OK to get for free: Items with non-porous surfaces

No pests, bedbugs included, can burrow in or climb non-porous surfaces. These materials include plastic, glass, and metal. Additionally, varnished wood is non-porous (unlike conventional wood, which is extremely porous). Nabbing that free metal-frame mirror, giant casserole dish, or varnished wood coffee table is thus about as low-risk as it comes – and your wallet will certainly be a bit thicker for it.

Free items are generally OK to bring home if they’re not made of fabric, non-sealed wood, or other porous materials. That giant metal mixing bowl is a great free addition to your kitchen, but you might regret going for that used couch – even if the zero-dollar price tag is tempting, don’t take any chances.

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