As fun as it is to “borrow” silverware, mugs, and dishes from the dining hall, it’s not exactly sustainable. The staff usually catches on before you’ve had a chance to abscond with more than a day’s worth of dishes. And, dining hall dishware isn’t exactly eye candy. It certainly does nothing for the cottage core aesthetic you and your roommates are going for. But, what can you do? Well, fear not sweet prince, for I’ve got the goods. And by “goods,” I mean all the information you could ever need to thrift your kitchen.

I recently chatted with three of TikTok’s most indomitable thrifting creators, Elizabeth Greaves of @elizgreaves, Nas Smolin of @queenofjunkvintage, and Marissa Gabriel @thethriftwitch. They provided essential insider knowledge to make this guide that much more helpful. Here’s our guide to thrifting your kitchen.

Here’s our guide to thrifting your kitchen.

The best places to go kitchen thrifting

The best places to go thrifting are the Salvation Army, Goodwill, local thrift and vintage shops, estate sales, your parent’s house, flea markets, and other local BIG thrift stores.

Pro Tip: Be prepared for days when there are huge apartment or dorm room move-outs because people discard tons of amazing things.

Brands and labels to look for when thrifting your kitchen

When it comes to glassware, the thrifters of TikTok recommend keeping an eye out for brands like Pyrex, Fenton, Jeannette Glass Co, Westmoreland, Anchor Hocking, Fostoria, Indiana Glass, and Federal Glass. They are better quality and often vintage. 

However, you don’t need to exclusively look for those names when thrifting. “First and foremost, it has to be my style and something I think I will use in my home,” Marissa said. However, she always buys Le Creuset, Guerlain, or Asta dishware when she finds them.

Materials to look for when thrifting your kitchen

Nas looks for glassware, silver platters and bowls, and unique dishes and plate sets. However, her particular favorites are crystal glassware, uranium glass, milk glass, jadeite, carnival glass, opalescent glass, pink glass, and hobnail glass. “[All of those] are very collectible but also very unique types of glass that will always stand out in your kitchen,” she said. “My favorite is Uranium glass. I collect it to display in my glass case with a UV light bulb, so it glows at night.”

Marissa follows a more aesthetic-specific angle. “It’s all purely preference but I love anything with unique designs and shapes,” she explained. “Crystal always catches my eye because I just love when you get a little sparkly rainbow in the right lighting.”

Should I thrift kitchen appliances?

This is really up to you. Usually, thrift stores have outlets that will allow you to check items. There are occasionally tags the thrift store add to show that an appliance is pre-tested and works. Marissa explained that “If it’s something that needs more than electricity, for example, a coffee machine, there are 3 options,” she said. “Sometimes the thrift store has tested it, and there is a sticker stating that it fully works. Sometimes it doesn’t work, the store knows that, and there are people out there willing to fix it, so it’ll be priced accordingly. Lastly you get the ‘as is’ sticker, and you just don’t know at all and you’re fully risking it.” In short, pay attention to your thrift store’s return policy and never go for appliances with rusty wiring.

Should you be worried about lead?

Yes! Please order a lead kit from Amazon and test any dishware you thrift once you’ve brought it home. If there is lead present, don’t use the dishware for eating. You can repurpose the item as room decoration, a flower pot, or toss it to be extra safe. Watch for old Pyrex dishes, dishes and mugs with any trace of paint, and 1960s and 70s cooking pots (they almost always test positive for lead).

How to wash your thrifted items

Nas advises to give your thrifted dishware “a nice hot, steamy bubble bath with dish soap, let it soak for 15 to 30 minutes, wash it, and dry off. Anything that has a unique finish, like lustreware, any paint, or aluminum, I never put in the dishwasher — hand wash only.”

Looking for a specific kitchen item or aesthetic? Be patient and consistent.

Each week, schedule regular trips to the thrift stores in your area. Thrift stores are constantly getting new things, and you don’t want to miss the daisy tea pot you’ve been dreaming about. That said, it’s important to remember that you’re going to have bad days where you find nothing you’re remotely interested in. “Don’t lose hope on thrifting your kitchen because of one bad day," Marissa said. "It has taken me years and probably hundreds of thrifting adventures to curate a ‘thrifted kitchen.’”

When it comes to your kitchen’s style, Nas recommends getting “a general idea of what theme you want in your kitchen. and let that be your foundation. For example a color theme, decor style, etc…”

Marissa sums it up well by sharing her greatest challenge in thrifting. “Honestly, it’s trying to not become a hoarder! You find so many goodies at such good prices sometimes it's hard to know when you just need to leave things behind.”

Pro Tip: always check the condition of items before you purchase. You don’t want any cracks or chips, if you plan on using the dishes and cups for eating.