Donations we can't accept
What you shouldn’t donate to our charity shops
British Red Cross shops make money to support people in the UK and overseas.
We try to sell everything that you generously donate to us, but there are some items that we cannot sell.
Please do not donate these items. Disposing of them may cost money and divert funds away from people who need our help.
Contact your local British Red Cross charity shop if you have any questions about whether an item is suitable for donation.
We don’t sell items that may be dangerous to our staff, volunteers or customers. We also don’t sell safety equipment that we can’t guarantee is still effective.
We do not sell items that present a hygiene risk in their use or handling.
We do not sell items that are legally prohibited from sale. We also do not sell items that need a licence that is either inappropriate or too expensive.
We do not sell legal items that may cause harm.
We do not sell items are unlikely to sell or that would be against our fundamental principles if we sold them.
Appliances and equipment
- Mains or bottled gas appliances (safety reasons). Includes cookers, fires, lighters and hair-styling tools.
- Microwaves (safety reasons). Costly to test: standard appliance testers may not be qualified to conduct the necessary radiation tests.
- Electric fires (safety reasons).
- Oil heaters, petrol or diesel fuelled items (safety reasons).
- Computer hard drives (legal reasons). Copyright law forbids the resale of computers containing software.
- Bicycles (safety reasons). Selling an unsafe bicycle is against the law and can result in a large fine.
- All types of protective headgear (safety reasons). Includes cycle helmets, motorbike helmets, riding hats, hard hats.
- Wheelchairs, wheeled walkers (safety and hygiene reasons). We cannot guarantee infection control. Wheelchairs should only be bought with professional advice to ensure the item is appropriate for the user.
- Four-wheeled mobility scooters (safety reasons). Mobility scooters need road worthiness testing. Our Independent Living service may be able to accept your scooter, please contact us to find out more.
Medical and cosmetic items
- Medication of any kind (safety and legal reasons).
- Cosmetics and scents (hygiene reasons and undesirability). We can accept new, unused cosmetics, aftershaves and perfumes if they remain sealed in their original packaging.
- Dentures and prosthesis (wellbeing reasons).
- Earrings and jewellery for pierced ears or any other pierced body parts (hygiene and safety reasons).
- Prescription glasses (wellbeing reasons). Please donate prescription glasses to Vision Aid Overseas. British Red Cross sells new, off-the-shelf glasses (‘ready readers’) which have an approximate lens strength and will not cause any lasting damage to eyes.
- Firearms and ammunition (legal reasons and undesirability). Includes starting pistols and other blank-firing weapons and ammunition.
- Weapons and realistic toy weapons (legal reasons and undesirability).
- Pointed objects that can be used as weapons (safety and legal reasons). Includes butcher’s knives, flick knives, sports knives, swords, daggers and axes.
Please note, knives, blades or sharply pointed items will not be sold to under 18s (safety and legal reasons). Includes knives, knife blades, razor blades and articles with a blade or sharp point that can cause injury. Excludes scissors and pairs of compasses. Each shop keeps a ‘refusal register’ to notify local Trading Standards of anyone who appears to be under 18 who is refused a purchase.
Poisonous, toxic and hazardous substances
- Flammable items such as firelighters and barbeque lighting tools (safety and legal reasons).
- Solvents and solvent-based products (legal reasons and undesirability).
- Any goods that infringe the copyright law (legal reasons). Includes pirate DVDs and counterfeit CDs. These can be recognised by the colour of the disc, hologram labelling or poor packaging.
- Pornographic publications, DVDs and videos (legal reasons and undesirability). Includes DVDs and videos classified as R18.
- Any DVDs and videos not legally classified by the British Board of Film Classification (legal reasons and undesirability). Includes DVDs missing classification labels.
Please note, any films or computer games rated 12, 15 or 18 cannot be sold to anyone underage (legal reasons). Over 18 films are kept on high shelves. Each shop keeps a ‘refusal register’ to notify local Trading Standards of anyone who appears to be under 18 who is refused a purchase.
- Toys without the CE mark (safety and legal reasons).
- Second-hand children's shoes except Wellington boots, jellies and flip flops (wellbeing reasons). Only unworn second-hand children’s shoes can be sold. This is because wear can affect the fit of the shoe.
- Children's garments with drawstring hoods (safety reasons). We can accept this clothing if the drawstring is removed.
- Cot, crib or Moses basket mattresses (wellbeing reasons). There is research that showed an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome when using another family's second-hand baby mattress, but no proven link yet.
- Children's car seats or booster seats (safety reasons). Second-hand seats often have no or incomplete fitting instructions. Seats that are not installed correctly or are damaged may not be able to protect a child in an accident.
- Used breast pumps, sterilisers or baby monitors (safety and hygiene reasons). Only acceptable if brand new and they pass portable appliance tests.
- Baby walking frames, door bouncers, baby slings (safety reasons).
- Child safety gates (safety reasons). Second-hand stair gates may not come equipped with all the necessary fittings and fixtures. These are essential for ensuring safety.
- Nursery furniture that contains upholstery (legal reasons). We can accept these if the item complies with The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 and has the relevant label attached, or predates 1950.
- Repainted cots (safety reasons). Cots that have been repainted may contain lead or other substances that may be harmful if chewed.
- Alcohol (legal reasons and undesirability).
- Cigarettes, tobacco and related products (legal reasons and undesirability). Includes electronic cigarettes, vaporizers and their accessories.
- Drugs (legal reasons and undesirability). Includes prescription drugs, illegal, recreational or any other form of drugs and drug paraphernalia.
- Foodstuffs (legal reasons). A Foods Standards Agency licence is needed.
- Items made of fur (undesirability). Includes new and second-hand items.
- Items made of ivory (legal reasons). The trade in ivory is banned, except for pre-1900 furniture, wooden items or pianos with ivory inlays or keys and items believed to be ‘antique’. An affidavit from an antiques dealer is required to ensure items are sold legally.
- Items made of bone (legal reasons). Includes items made from animals such as elephants, mammoths, walruses and whales.
- Turtle or tortoiseshell items (legal reasons). Applies to items made, in whole or in part, from any part of sea turtles, regardless of the age of the item. Tortoiseshell-patterned items made of plastic or synthetic materials are permitted, but should clearly indicate they are not made of tortoiseshell.
- Items made from endangered species (legal reasons). Endangered species are listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. This applies to both new and second-hand products, but not to antiques.
Other items we can’t sell
- Religious items (undesirability). Includes crucifixes, menorahs, Buddha statues, rosaries and nativity sets. Excludes religious and political books and texts including the Bible, the Koran and the Torah.
- Official items (undesirability). Includes police, emergency services or government identification, uniforms and vehicle license plates.
- Non-promotional Red Cross items (legal reasons). Includes uniforms, military items, clothing, identity cards, decorations, awards or flags.
- Golliwog-related items (undesirability). Includes dolls, toys, badges and books.
- Sex aids or sex toys, in any condition (undesirability, hygiene reasons).
- Nightwear without flammable warning labels (safety reasons). Includes children’s and adults’ nightdresses, pyjamas, dressing gowns and bathrobes.
- Upholstered foam-filled furniture (legal reasons). We can accept these if the article predates 1950 or complies with The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations 1988 and has the relevant label attached.
- Mattresses, pillows and quilts that are not in new, unused, condition (hygiene reasons).
Alongside these listed goods, each British Red Cross shop reserves the right to refuse to take or sell items for other reasons not outlined on this page.
How we decided what not to sell
The British Red Cross retail department developed this list of prohibited items with:
- local authority trading standards
- relevant central government departments
- the British Red Cross health and safety officer
- the British Red Cross legal department
- the British Red Cross head of international humanitarian law.
Contact us to ask about any items you aren’t sure about, or ask in store.