Parents-to-be are often flooded with hand-me-down baby gear coming from friends, family, and neighbors.  These second-hand items can save you a ton of money and help you tread lightly on the planet...but how can you tell for sure if they're safe? 

The March 2009 issue of ShopSmart (from the same publisher as Consumer Reports), took a close look at the pre-used cribs, toys, clothing and bath products that often make the rounds when a new baby is born.  Here's a sneak peek at what they found: 

Bath products

Safe: Used baby bathtubs are fine as long as the lining isn’t full of mold or mildew.
Unsafe: If the tub has an odor of either of these, say no thanks because they can be hard to remove. Also, skip secondhand bath seats, bath rings, and inflatable tubs since they have been responsible for many deaths among babies.

Car seats

Safe: A car seat that has all its original parts and labels, has never been in a crash, and fits your car and child is OK.
Unsafe: Products more than six years old are outdated, and most likely too run down to be considered safe.


Safe: Any crib that was manufactured after the year 2000 should be fine, as long as it is not broken or missing any pieces.
Unsafe: Prior to 2000, cribs were held to different safety standards, and will not be acceptable for your baby, even if you slept soundly in them. Any crib with cutouts in the headboard, and corner posts over sixteen inches pose serious risks for a child’s safety.

High chairs

Safe: Say yes to a hand-me-down high chair if it has a five-point harness to prevent your child from climbing out and a fixed crotch post that prevents him/her from sliding out the bottom.
Unsafe: Old fashioned wooden high chairs with removable trays or arms are considered dangerous and uncomfortable for the baby, in addition to not being up to newer product safety standards.


Safe: Strollers made after 2007 when new safety standard were published are safe.

Unsafe: Any stroller made prior to that date, or has missing, loose, or broken pieces is not.


Safe: Stuffed animals and most children’s books make fine hand-me-downs. In the case of lead contamination in used toys, there are many home lead inspection kits which can be purchased for under twenty dollars which will tell you whether the toys are safe.
Unsafe: Avoid any toys that are chipped, as well as any small parts that can fit through a tube of toilet paper, since they present serious choking hazards for small children.

Used Clothing

Safe: As long as buttons and snaps are on tight and none of the thread is unraveling from the fabric, the used clothing is fine.
Unsafe: Pass on any article of clothing with drawstrings because they pose a strangulation hazard.

Photo by Ty Beal

How to spot safe seconds
Second-hand items are great for your baby and the planet, but only if they're safe.