The U.S. Consumer Protection Agency has highly recommended that you do not buy certain items at yard sales. Below is a partial list. This gives you a general idea of what not to buy and to get you thinking about potential hazardous yard sale purchases. If you are unsure about an item you've purchased, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission at 1-800-638-2772 or visit their website. Depending on the item, there may even be a cash refund for returning a recalled item. See the CPSC website for more details.
Further below I have listed some of the gross things I've seen for sale and the tackiest thing I've bought at at yard sale.
Soft bedding for babies. It is believed that plush products like soft mattresses, comforters, pillows can cause SIDS. Basically, ANYTHING baby related should be bought with extreme caution. A perfect looking carseat (which you know has not be recalled), may have already been in a car accident. I've even had a reader tell me she will buy baby things at yardsales that she knows to be recalled by manufacturers just so she can take it home and destroy it.
Old baby cribs. They often don't have the proper spacing in the slats and/or could have cracked or have peeling paint.
Accordion-style baby gates (primarily manufactured prior to 1985). However, I've had pet owners tell me they are great for keeping dogs out of a room while still allowing smaller animals, like cats through.
Old hairdryers with plain plugs. Hairdryers manufactured prior to 1991 don't have the proper immersion (water) protection.
Propane gas camping heaters. Heaters sold under the brand name Bernz-O-Matic and Turner have been found responsible for numerous deaths due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Toy boxes without spring-loaded supports. The heavy lids can fall on head/neck or suffocate a kid inside.
Kid's clothes with hood draw-strings or neck draw-strings. Many U.S. kid's clothes manufacturers have stopped making them due to the strangulation possibility, but millions of old clothes like this are still in use, and for sale at yard sales.
Zippered bean bag chairs. Kids can crawl inside, zip themselves up and choke on the loose pellets/filling. If you buy one, make sure it's not a zippered one.
Weird / Unusual / Gross Things I've Seen For Sale
a bidet. I've seen plenty of toilets at a yardsale but only one bidet. I don't think your average yardsailor is shopping yardsales in the hopes of finding a bidet. I think that's something you pre-plan and buy at a store.
enemas (new at least!). Only .25. My mom bought one. Don't I know how *expensive* enemas are? Nope Mom, I sure don't.
used baby pacifiers. Ewwwwwww!!!
a box of Today Sponge Contraceptives - saw baking in the hot sun at a yardsale. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want my contraceptive baking in the hot sun for hours. Other yardsailors report finding vibrators and half used bars of soap for sale. Man, what are people thinking??? Another avid yardsailor told me they saw a used pair of dentures at a yardsale (.50) and no, they didn't buy them.
a half-used can of jock-itch spray
a box containing different flavors of bread machine bread mixes. As a bonus - the packages included free dead bugs.
a fruitcake. Yes, *the* same fruitcake that has been circling the world for 20 years had a .75 price tag on it. Merry Christmas.
a dirty, rusty eyelash curler
feminine protection device for dogs in heat (at least it wasn't used)
hamster cage with the used - pooped & peed on - wood shavings still inside
a used ant farm - I didn't see any ants in it, but still it was gross looking.
half empty bottle of saline solution for contact lenses. The same people had another yardsale about a month later and I spotted the SAME bottle at their second yardsale too!
liquor and cigarettes. I don't normally see liquor and cigarettes, but I have a few times. Just a few years ago, we rang in the New Years with an expensive bottle of Moet champagne that I paid $1 for at a yardsale.
My Personal Bad Buys
a little green bottle of hand lotion for .10. Thought it would good for travel, or to stick in my purse etc. Well anyways I thought the bottle was green plastic, but no, it's clear. The lotion itself is a bright lime green. Well it is great for the times I need a green tinge to my skin.
a great, like new, pair Avia sneakers for me ($2). What I quickly found out is that when I walk, the right shoe squeeks as if I am slowly torturing a mouse to death. The squeek gets louder when the shoes are wet. I wore them on a rainy day (what was I thinking??) to an indoor moving sale. As I was squeeking around the patio, the seller goes "where is that noise coming from?? Must be something in one of these boxes". And then she starts digging furiously in all the boxes looking for the mysterious noise.
a small tape measure (.25). Since I sell on ebay, I'm always searching for a tape measure to measure something so I can include measurements in the ad. I already have a few near my computer area, but could always use another. Well anyways this particular tape measure was in Metric only. What did I end up doing with it? Sold it at a yardsale.
Tackiest Thing I've Bought at a Yard Sale
a white toilet plunger that has a clear plastic handle which is filled with rice. On top is a bride and groom with a tag that says "We took the plunge". $1