Free Furniture?
May 22, 2009 7:43 PM   Subscribe

What about free furniture on Craigslist?

I'm in need of a desk and a couch, and I know Craigslist and other classifieds sites have a lot of old furniture people are giving away. Do you think it's a good idea? Is there a systematic way you can determine whether the furniture you're getting for free is "safe"?
I know this seems like an odd question, but I don't wanna pick up a seemingly safe sofa from someone only to find myself with a rash on my rump or something due to some unknown problem with the couch. How does one determine how clean furniture is?
posted by bobertdude to Shopping (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Anything with stuffing or fabric, consider suspect. If you can go into the home and they don't look like hobos, you might be okay, but why risk it?

Desks and desk chairs, are fine. Check how sturdy they are, if they are less sturdy, check to see if you can fix it with some screws. If they are scuffed, you can always paint or sand and restain.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2009

I had to give away a bunch of free furniture on CL once. I wish I'd found someone like you. The furniture was brand new and I thought people would be happy to get it for free (I would have been). Some people wrote but would stand me up without explanation; others would show up and critique everything. It ended up being a huge pain and much harder to get rid of everything than I'd expected. So based on my experience, there's at least some really good free furniture out there.

My guess if you'll probably get a feel for how clean the furniture is by how clean the house where it comes from is. If you're really worried about a rump rash, um, maybe clean the couch before you sit on it?
posted by walla at 7:51 PM on May 22, 2009

Desks from craigslist are totally fine - unless there are termites, you are in the clear.

Couches (and likewise mattresses) are a bit riskier. Typically, when I buy (or get free!) items like that from craiglist (or tag sales, etc.) I will go to the house and try to meet the people, see if they are clean, have pets, children, etc. Usually, that is a pretty decent indicator of how the furniture will be. You can never be a hundred percent certain, but just be smart. (Ie, don't take sofas that are "out on the curb, free to the first person with a truck to pick it up!" You never know how long it's been out there and what has started living in it...)

Good luck and happy hunting!
posted by firei at 7:52 PM on May 22, 2009

Do you live in an area with bedbug problems? Something to think about re: anything upholstered.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:11 PM on May 22, 2009

This recent thread made me scared to ever buy soft furniture second hand.
posted by Nickel at 8:13 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've given away a lot of furniture for free on Craigslist. I've moved across the country twice, and really, giving all that stuff away is very much preferable to moving it.
posted by sanka at 8:15 PM on May 22, 2009

You can't tell whether someone is likely to have bedbugs by how clean their house is.
posted by Airhen at 8:16 PM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

As having been a college student, having participated in the bedbug thread nickel referenced, and having had bedbugs in a roommate's room, I'll make this statement... go for it as long as their place is clean and they are moving a long distance away or if they just purchased a new couch and are staying in their appartment: in either case it is less likely they are doing a dump and run. Ultimately ask them if they've had bedbugs.

Wash it, clean it and re-use it. Free is free.

(please note: if it was a "pay"deal, my advice would be to assume bedbugs. Its the "free" aspect of the furniture that actually makes this slightly more trustworthy.)
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:32 PM on May 22, 2009

Don't forget to check the barter section. I hate posting anything for free on craigslist because it seems to attract the worst humanity has to offer. Instead, I post things I'm more or less giving away in the barter section, and I trade them for very little. For example: I traded a Mac I no longer needed for a bottle of wine once. I've found that by doing this, the nicest people reply... people who really seem to appreciate what they're getting.
posted by 2oh1 at 11:22 PM on May 22, 2009 [4 favorites]

The free furniture on Craigslist is for us, the people who aren't freaked out that someone else once used it and are willing to play it by ear when responding to ads and picking up stuff.

If you're one of us, you wouldn't ask this question, so you're not. Stay away from used furniture on Craigslist for your own good (and ours -- we don't need the competition).
posted by gum at 12:31 AM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ask where they got it and why they're getting rid of it. If they didn't buy it new, pass. If they're replacing it, pass. But if they're doing a big move, or moving into a smaller place (pretty common recently) give it a chance. Ask about pets and smoking. If moving, see what else they have that they want to part with. (If they got nothing the might be trying to unload trash.)

And don't buy a used mattress. *shudder*

There's plenty of good stuff on Craigslist. It was a decent way for me to get rid of some very nice stuff when I moved overseas. (Though some morons still tried to jerk me around. It's free folks, why do you have to be difficult?!?! One guy dropped the table I gave him unloading it at home and to make me take the broken bits back.)
posted by Ookseer at 1:33 AM on May 23, 2009

I unloaded an apartment's worth of furniture on Freecycle recently and there was nothing sketch about any of the people who picked it up, although sorting through the emails and coordinating was a little tricky and a couple people seemed really promising and dropped the ball. Hasn't Craigslist has gone to seed in recent years from being too popular and well-known?
posted by Skwirl at 2:26 AM on May 23, 2009

Okay, I got a used mattress on Craigslist (I still sleep on it), but it was from a clean female college student who was graduating and leaving town. Actually went to see it before deciding to buy it. No bedbugs. I think if you follow the advice above about actually going to the person's house to look at it, and seeing if they seem clean, then you are fine.
posted by ishotjr at 10:11 AM on May 23, 2009

I got a used mattress on Craigslist, I didn't enter the person's house to check their "cleanliness" factor, and I slept on the thing for 3 years without a single problem. Then I gave it away on Craigslist to somebody else. If you have mental issues with cleanliness of Craigslist furniture though, don't bother, because it will bug you forever. Hee. Bug.
posted by dithmer at 5:10 PM on May 23, 2009

I've freecycled furniture before when I upgraded, and probably will again. I'm thinking if I had bed bugs, I'd have noticed by now.

If you want to be sure have access to a garage or the like, gets some heavy plastic and duct tape and make a fumigation tent, spray it down and let your couch to be cook for two or three weeks so that any eggs have a chance to hatch and the little bastards gasp and die before you bring it into the house.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:00 PM on May 23, 2009

Yah, the only thing I'd be weary of is fabric and upholstered furniture. Although wood furniture can contain unwanted bugs like termites.

My suggestion would be to go for items that have non-porous surfaces, like plastic, glass or laminate. This is where you can spray it with Pine Sol or a 1:99 bleach to water mix solution to kill germs. Anything other than that you risk having things growing inside cracks, pores or upholstered stuffing of the furniture.

It seems as though you do care about the "icky-germ" factor, so maybe you'd want to just get it from Ikea or online where it's brand new and just easier to get/transport than whole pieces of furniture (which do cost money if you have to rent a truck or mover to get it...)
posted by visiondecor at 12:01 AM on June 3, 2009

I have used freecycle to give and receive furniture, and I have always been happy. Slept on a freecycle mattress for a year, then passed it on when I upgraded. I have a freecyle futon in the basement.

Bedbugs are one of those things that I think you either worry about (and therefor buy new) or don't. I don't worry about it. Maybe that's not smart, but, really, you simply cannot tell who might have bedbugs and who won't. Some of the worst cases of bedbugs come from HOTELS, so....

You could also send out an email to all your friends and relatives asking them to keep you in mind should anyone decide to upgrade their sofa. That way, you might get one from someone you know.
posted by coollibrarian at 3:39 PM on June 8, 2009

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