rubber bootsI'm a sucker for a cute jacket. And growing up in Portland, Oregon, if I had a storybook vision of myself with kids, it was walking along with them, dolled up in mis-matched raincoat and boots, splashing in puddles and laughing uproariously. So whenever I'm thrift store shopping and see another adorable pair of boots or delightfully colorful rain jacket, I can't help but swoop it into my cart.

And then I get it home. And then it rains. And the trouble begins.

Raincoats and rubber boots are, unfortunately, about more than just good looks. They have to work. Even if you're an adult and accustomed to more prosaic rain behavior than my rambunctious boys: you may, for instance, desire to keep dry. When you're facing a used raincoat, that could be problematic; waterproofing is compromised when a garment is washed, for instance, and heavy use can introduce all kinds of entry points for raindrops and wind. Not only is it a possibility that the raincoat is only at the thrift store because it's not working for the original owner any more; but many thrift shops wash all their clothing before putting it on the racks, further reducing the waterproof qualities.

Rubber boots, though not susceptible to wash-and-wear treatment, are often not made to withstand several seasons' worth of jumping in puddles and running to catch the bus; you're better off as the first person to use a pair, or you could discover this truth seconds after you step in that giant puddle that always collects at your corner in a rainstorm. Sploosh.

My verdict after a couple of really messy experiences? You shouldn't thrift raincoats and rubber boots, unless you live in an area where rain is just in the storybooks.

This post was written as part of a series on how to thrift shop smarter. Read more on what to buy, and not to buy, at thrift stores.

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