Buying selling of second-hand goods for general public

Most of the parasites and bacteria commonly associated with second-hand goods can only survive away from the human host for a few days (except bed bugs and tinea) so contaminated items remain a risk for a very limited time.

Washing second-hand clothing and bedding in hot water (hotter than 60oC) and detergent kills these disease-causing organisms.

Items that cannot be washed such as toys, pillows and delicates can be dry cleaned, sealed in a plastic bag for five days or placed on high heat in a tumble dryer for 10 minutes.

As the risk to health associated with second-hand goods is very low, thorough and hygienic cleaning is all that is required to eliminate the risk of transmission.

Many charitable organisations and second-hand dealers ensure that items are washed or clean before offering for sale to the public.

What to look for

Checking second-hand items thoroughly before purchase is a good idea.

Bed bugs, lice and their eggs and/or waste products may be evident in the seams and creases of second-hand goods (although they usually scurry away and hide when exposed to the light).

Examining the article will give you an indication of its general cleanliness and quality but not necessarily reveal a health risk.

Most of the parasites of concern are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. For this reason it is important that all items are treated as potentially contaminated and washed before use.

Items that are grossly soiled or contaminated should be discarded.

Washing items before sale

There are no specific laws in South Australia that require second-hand dealers to clean goods before they are offered for sale to the public.

It is common practice in many charitable organisations and second-hand stores to make items look clean, but the standard of cleaning practices may vary from store to store. Some stores wash all stock while others wash only items with noticeable marks or odour.

Store cleaning policy may also vary depending on the item in question, such as washing all socks when they come into the shop but giving shoes just a wipe over (exterior surface) if they look 'dirty'.

Second-hand jewellery

Although second-hand jewellery is often inserted into the body, it poses no more of a risk than clothing or bedding and requires the same standard of cleaning.

All second-hand jewellery items should be washed in warm water and detergent to remove any visible soiling, then rinsed in warm to hot running water before use.

Further information

For further information on buying second-hand goods: