7 Tempting Things You Should Never Buy at the Dollar Store

If you’re looking for a great deal, you can find it at your local dollar store. Even those earning a good salary aren’t shy about visiting a discount store for savings. Roughly 68% of those earning $75,000 or more purchase items from retailers such as Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. However, in some cases you’re better off leaving these finds on the shelves. Some dollar-store items can be found for an even lower price at big-box stores, while other items are just downright dangerous.

A recent national dollar-store report conducted by Campaign for Healthier Solutions and HealthyStuff.org found that many products sold at the four major discount retailers (Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar, and 99 Cents Only) sold products that could pose potential health risks. Here are seven dollar-store items that could cause you to miss out on savings, be harmful to your health, or both.

1. Plastic household items

shower curtain

Plastic items from the dollar store might contain harmful chemicals. | iStock.com

If you rely heavily on plastic household items such as bathtub mats, placemats, and tablecloths, you may want to make your purchases elsewhere. The study found that harmful vinyl plastic (also called polyvinyl chloride plastic, PVC, or vinyl) and toxic phthalates were discovered in many discount store products. Vinyl chloride, which is the chemical used to manufacture PVC, has been found to be a human carcinogen, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Among the 164 dollar-store products tested, 38% (63 of 164) contained vinyl plastic. If you have young children at home, you may want to stay away from the plastic. “Of the vinyl products, 38 were tested for plasticizers; 32% (12 out of 38) of these contained toxic phthalates above the CPSC limits for children’s products,” said the study’s researchers.

NextThis dollar store item could pose a fire hazard.

2. Electronics

man drying hair

Those cheap appliances and electronics might not be safe. | iStock.com

Unless you want to start an electrical fire in your home, stay away from electronics purchased at a dollar store, especially extension cords and power strips. These discounted electronics are often cheaply made and can be unsafe. Many cheap electronics also contain PVC. What is most alarming is that low-cost electronics tend to be at greater risk for having fake UL labels (this is the safety seal Underwriters Laboratories places on their products).

John Drengenberg, UL’s consumer safety director, told Consumer Reports that in addition to power strips and extension cords, cheap mobile phone chargers and batteries are also among the targets for these fake labels. “Manufacturing shortcuts on products with counterfeit UL labels could lead to fire and shock hazards, among other dangers. Some extension cords with fake labels, for example, have been found with copper wiring that’s inadequate to carry the appropriate current,” warns Consumer Reports.

Next: A not-so-appetizing dollar store find

3. Food

Barbecue Chicken Wings

The food at the dollar store may not be a great deal. | iStock.com/bhofack2

Is your grocery budget tight? You may want to visit a traditional grocery store. It’s best to stay away from discount food items — especially meat. It’s hard to tell how long the food has been in the store, so you could be taking a gamble with your health. Shopping expert Trae Bodge told PIX 11 News that consumers should avoid purchasing dollar-store food at all costs.

Don’t get the food. Some dollar stores are selling produce now. Pass it by, because they’ve been bumping around in a truck for ages … we don’t know where [the food] is from, we don’t know what’s in them, we don’t know the brand, how it’s going to taste, or how fresh it is, so I would definitely avoid the food,” warned Bodge.

Next: Consumer Reports warns against buying these at the dollar store.

4. Vitamins

pills on spoon with leaves

Cheap vitamins might not be as potent as name-brand versions. | iStock.com/Ls9907

Purchasing discount vitamins could also be a bad deal. Many off-brand vitamins are missing key ingredients. In addition, some of them don’t dissolve properly. A Consumer Reports study tested multivitamins sold at the major dollar stores, and found they weren’t as good as many of the top brands.

“We still don’t recommend buying off-brand vitamins from these stores. When we tested multivitamins, we found that some didn’t have the amount of nutrients listed on the label … Always look for an expiration date on medication and food,” advised Consumer Reports.

NextThis dollar store purchase could be dangerous for kids.

5. Children’s toys and jewelry

Child Playing with toys

Dollar store toys may break easily. | FamVeld/iStock/Getty Images

Dollar-store toys and jewelry are inexpensive, so it may be tempting to load up on these finds so you can save a few bucks. However, these items are not made well and can break easily, posing a potential choking hazard.

Some dollar-store toys and jewelry also contain harmful chemicals. Some of the toxins discovered in children’s items include lead, bromine, antimony, and chlorine.

Next: Target or Walmart may offer a better deal on these must-have items. 

 6. School supplies

School notebooks in variety of colors

School supplies may be cheapers at big-box stores. | iStock.com

Back-to-school shopping can cost a bundle, so it’s understandable why you would be quick to look for dollar deals. What you may not know is that school supplies can be purchased for a better price at a big-box store such as Wal-Mart and Target. As of this writing, you can purchase composition notebooks at the larger retailers for as low as 74 cents.

Next: Cheap pet food isn’t such a bargain.

7. Pet food and treats

pet food in a bowl

Look for deals on pet food at stores like Target | iStock

Bargain-hunting pet owners should pass on the cheap pet food and treats at the dollar store. Off-brand products might make your dog or cat sick, consumer expert Andrea Woroch told Go Banking Rates. You should also check expiration dates and the ingredients list to make sure the food is safe for your pet. To save money on feeding your furry friends, look for deals on name-brand food at big-box stores like Target, advised the Today show.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!