Goodwill is a great place to unload your clutter. However, I know from firsthand experience that you cannot bring anything and everything to a thrift store like Goodwill. That’s why I’ve put together this guide of what not to donate to Goodwill. This will help you decide which donations to bring to your local Goodwill store and which items you should find another way of donating or recycling.
Can I donate this to Goodwill?
I was always under the impression that Goodwill took everything. In fact, for the longest time whenever I drove up to make a donation at the drive-through, the employees took everything I was offering. Maybe I just got lucky.
However, during a recent visit to Goodwill, they rejected two flat-screen televisions I was offering. At the same time, they took an old computer monitor. To me, that didn’t make any sense. Weren’t they basically the same item?
Well, the answer is no. Computer monitors are something that Goodwill can easily sell. Older flat-screen televisions? Not so much. Everyone wants Smart TVs these days.
Also, if Goodwill couldn’t sell this older model flat screen, then they would be left to recycle it. And recycling older televisions, called tube-style TVs, has become more difficult to do, as fewer places are taking them.
Or, they’re simply too expensive to get rid of. And Goodwill cannot afford to shoulder those disposal fees.
Taking TVs to the transfer station
For example, you could take an old TV to your transfer station. However, you will have to pay to get rid of it.
In my town, you pay $25 for each television you want to drop off. My guess is Goodwill has to pay a similar fee, so I understand why televisions are on the do not donate to Goodwill list.
You could wait for your town’s electronics and/or hazardous waste recycling event to get rid of a TV for free. However, not every e-waste recycling day includes TVs. This past year, South Portland had two hazardous waste days. Both times, TVs were not on the list. Instead, the city recommended you bring items like TVs to a Staples or Best Buy for recycling.
What not to donate to Goodwill
OK, so I think I’ve done a good enough job explaining why you cannot donate TVs to Goodwill. It’s also important to recognize that TVs aren’t the only items on the “what not to donate to Goodwill” list.
Here are other items you local Goodwill will likely reject, based on information I found on the Goodwill of Northern New England website. Note: when I checked other regional Goodwill Industries around the United States, they all had similar items listed that they would not accept. So, this isn’t exclusive to Maine only.
Finally, whenever possible, I’ve included the reasoning behind why Goodwill cannot accept these items as donations, just as I did with televisions, or alternate options for where you could donate them. Keep in mind that Goodwill is not the place to just dump your junk. You want to donate items that they can resell in their Goodwill stores.
Goodwill will not accept any item containing freon. Freon is a refrigerant, so it appears in refrigerators, freezers, dehumidifiers and any other product that cools. Try donating to Restore instead.
Goodwill will not take weapons of any kind. This includes products you may use for hunting and fishing, too, such as firearms and fishing tackle. On the other hand, they will take fishing poles.
Speaking of fishing, you also cannot donate a fish tank to Goodwill.
This includes stoves, ovens, dishwashers, refrigerators and the like. One place you can try to donate appliances like these, especially if they are in good working order, is your local Habitat for Humanity Restore.
Another option: if you’re buying a new appliance, buy from a store that will haul away your old one, even if it’s for a nominal fee. When we bought a new refrigerator from Agren, they took away our old one. Sure, we had to pay $25, but then we didn’t have to worry about getting rid of it on your own.
Finally, this appliance restriction does not apply to small appliances like coffee makers and toasters. Goodwill will take these as donations.
A hazardous waste recycling day is the perfect place to bring any auto parts that you can’t donate to Goodwill. For example, South Portland listed the following auto parts as acceptable during last year’s hazardous waste recycling days:
- automotive fluids
- car wax or polish
- engine degreaser
One of the big reasons Goodwill will not accept baby equipment, including cribs, strollers and car seats, is there is no way to know if anything has been recalled or if the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has deemed something not to be up to current safety standards. A great place to donate car seats is Target, when they do the Target car seat recycling event each year.
Overall, any product that the CPSC has recalled should not be donated anywhere. You can’t blame Goodwill for not taking these items.
Bed frames and bunk beds
Restore takes bed frames. In fact, when we were furnishing our Kennebunk home, we bought four bed frames and headboards at Restore.
Goodwill also will not accept:
- hospital beds
- box springs
Bed pillows and used bedding
I’m guessing they won’t take pillows because there’s no way to know if they are infested with anything. It’s the same with bedding and other linens. That being said, I have seen some linens at Goodwill so go figure.
Also, recently, we visited the Goodwill Buy the Pound outlet store in Gorham. There, I saw bins filled with stuffed animals and other textiles. I was surprised because I thought these would be forbidden like pillow and bedding is.
Used bike helmets
You don’t want to use a bike helmet that may have been in an accident and therefore is no longer safe on your head. However, if you have a bike helmet still in packaging, your chances are better that Goodwill will take it off your hands.
Hazardous products (household or industrial)
Again, you should take hazardous products to a town recycling event. This includes:
- flammable Liquids or gasses (lamp oil, gasoline, propane, kerosene, sterno, butane, etc.)
- lead acid batteries
- equipment containing any of the above
If you have construction debris that someone could reuse, try donating to your local Habitat for Humanity Restore. I’ve seen plenty of building materials, like lumber and flooring, at Restore.
In addition, at my local Restore I’ve spied water heaters, washer and dryers, and even wine refrigerators. So it’s a place to bring working appliances.
This includes treadmills, Bowflexes, elliptical machines, etc. If any of these items are still in working order, you could try selling them on Facebook Marketplace or bringing them to Play It Again Sports. This is a Play It Again Sports in Portland.
Goodwill does not take food donations. Full stop.
If you have unexpired, non-perishable food, please take it to your local food bank. Again, make sure it is not expired. People who need food banks do not deserve to receive expired food.
Furniture with significant damage is simply unsellable. Therefore, if any part of it is broken, Goodwill can’t sell it so it is understandable why they would reject it as a donation.
Used light bulbs, including halogen lamps, are a no-no at Goodwill. However, if you have brand new household light bulbs that are still sealed in their original boxes, then Goodwill will likely take them. If for some reason they don’t, though, try Restore.
Medical assistive devices
Goodwill will not take these, including wheelchairs, walkers and any pharmaceuticals.
Pianos and organs
A few years ago we tried to get rid of an upright piano, and it proved nearly impossible. In fact, if you search Facebook Marketplace, you’ll likely see lots of pianos. If you have any good ideas of where to donate a piano or who would take a donated organ, please let us know. But we know that Goodwill does not take pianos or organs.
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any places locally that will recycle these safety detectors for you. So, remove any batteries and recycle the batteries at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Then, put the detector in the trash. I know, I hate that idea, too, but that’s the only solution I can find right now.
Other items you can’t donate to Goodwill
Here are some remaining items that Goodwill will not take
- Swing sets
- Venetian blinds: used only. New ones still in their original packaging are OK.
- Wall-to-Wall Carpeting. However, I believer area rugs are OK.