12 things you should never buy from Ikea
(But don't panic, the Swedish meatballs are still aces.)
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Shopping at Ikea feels like a rite of passage. For most of us, it goes hand in hand with the crummy apartments and bad relationships that defined that period of our lives. From Ikea desks to dressers to Swedish meatballs (which aren’t even the best thing on the menu anymore), the retailer is a veritable treasure trove of cool stuff, and all at reasonable prices.
But that belies another truth about the Swedish megastore. Even though Ikea is known—and celebrated—for offering furniture and other household essentials on the cheap, that’s one of the chief complaints that people have against the store, too. Over the years, Ikea products have been criticized for their poor quality and shoddy craftsmanship, which have resulted in allergic reactions, malfunctions, and in some cases, even tragic injuries. All told, it’s enough to make even the most avid Ikea shopper think twice before buying certain products at the store.
Love Ikea but hate the thought of wasting money on something that could chip, break, or potentially cause a serious accident? By researching customer reviews and safety complaints online—plus drawing from my own personal experiences and that of my colleagues—I’ve put together this list of 12 things you absolutely need to steer clear of the next time you’re shopping at the store.
1. MALM dressers—or any other kind of dresser
There’s no doubt about it: MALM dressers are the single biggest thing to avoid if you’re shopping at Ikea. Since 1989, eight children have died and countless more have sustained serious injuries stemming from MALM dresser tip-overs. After recalling up to 29 million MALM in 2016—and then renewing the recall in 2017 in the aftermath of yet another child death—Ikea has attempted to rectify these design flaws in a number of ways, including offering free wall anchoring repair kits and new lines of dressers with improved stability features.
Still, we recommend you look elsewhere for dressers, especially as reports have come out that other Ikea dresser lines (like the Hemnes) have also resulted in fatal accidents involving children. Wayfair, which is an equally popular destination for affordable dressers and other furniture, has not been beset by the same controversies and could be a better option if you're looking for a budget-friendly pick that doesn't pose the same potential risks as the MALM or other Ikea dressers.
2. Billy the Bookcase—and any other particleboard furniture
Ah, the Billy. This ultra-cheap, ridiculously popular bookcase (reportedly one gets sold every five seconds somewhere in the world) is a staple for Ikea shoppers because it just seems too good of a deal to pass up—even I’ve owned several. But if you’re shopping for furniture that will actually last, you’re better off leaving Billy behind at the store.
The reason? Billy, like many other iconic ready-to-assemble Ikea pieces (see: Lack side tables, Kallax shelving units, and others), is actually made from particleboard, which is just wood shavings glued together and wrapped in plastic contact paper to give the appearance of actual wood. Anyone who’s owned particleboard-based furniture knows that it’s notoriously flimsy and difficult to take apart and rebuild—if you try, the furniture’s more likely to fall apart.
Therefore, while you might save up front, by opting for particleboard-based furniture instead of real wood, you’re potentially costing yourself way more money down the line. Instead, you may want to consider shopping at Ashley's Furniture and specifically focusing your search on solid-wood bookcase options.
We spend more than half our lives in bed. It makes sense then, that you’d want to spring for a mattress that’ll really stand the test of time (we recommend swapping your mattress every 8-12 years). But if you’re on a strict budget, you may not be able to spend hundreds of dollars on a brand new mattress, which is where Ikea comes in. With mattresses starting at around $229, they’re definitely an economical option, but reviewers complain of everything from weird chemical smells to waking up with red, itchy eyes, headaches, nausea, hives, and difficulty breathing. Others, including one of our own editors, have noted that they’re just plain uncomfortable. Ikea’s sizes are also slightly different from traditional mattress sizes, meaning regular sheets and covers may not fit properly (so you’re stuck buying Ikea-brand sheets for the bed).
If you’re shopping for an affordable mattress, you’ll have better luck grabbing one of the best mattresses in a box instead, specifically our best value pick, a mattress from Tuft & Needle. While mattresses cost a few extra hundred bucks more, this mattress will actually last you a full 10 years, so it’s a smarter financial option for most.
If you’re buying a ceiling light, your best bet is to hire a professional to do the installation for you. This is especially true if you’re shopping at Ikea. For some, having to take such a costly extra step might seem like it defeats the purpose of shopping at Ikea to begin with, but customers say you don’t want to take the chance. The reason? Ikea ceiling lamps are prone to malfunctioning and shattering. The Swedish retailer has recalled a number of ceiling lamps in the past—including the HYBY and LOCK—due to malfunctioning. You may want to be extra cautious when you’re shopping for floor lamps, too.
Consumers complain of smoking, melting, and other signs of malfunctioning in certain floor lamp models, like the JOKEL and the MAGNARP. While neither of these are for sale at U.S. stores anymore, it is probably a good idea to be cautious when you’re scoping out lamps at the store. Instead, you may want to consider shopping at Lowe's, as this retailer offers a variety of lighting fixtures that are affordably priced and may not have the same safety issues as many of Ikea's most popular models.
5. Glassware (especially wine glasses)
Glasstop furniture isn’t the only thing to pass on when you’re shopping at Ikea. Turns out, most of their glassware is just as prone to breakage. While their glasses are extremely cheap—they start at $1.49, which is just absurd—Ikea glasses aren’t worth the hassle since they’re especially fragile and break easily.
“The only things I have purchased from Ikea that I would NOT recommend are the wine glasses, especially red wine glasses,” wrote one Redditor. “They break with the slightest amount of pressure. I cracked most of ours just while hand-washing them.”
If you want a set of wine glasses that are cheap yet shockingly durable—seriously, we've tested them and they're close to indestructible—Vivocci makes a set of stemless ones that are absolutely worth checking out. Even after our tester smashed this four-pack with a rubber mallet and a claw hammer, the glasses still held water.
6. Bed linens
One of the first things I ever bought for myself at Ikea was a duvet cover. It was purple, decorated with lots of dots, and extremely loud—so for college-aged me, it was love at first sight. But sadly, our relationship wasn’t meant for the long haul. The duvet felt like sandpaper against my skin and barely made it a semester before I sent it off to Goodwill. It was only later that I learned, just from talking to others, that my experience was fairly common. Across the board, Ikea gets poor ratings in the bedding department, with reviewers complaining that the fabrics feel coarse, scratchy, and irritating on sensitive skin. While it may seem tempting to grab a pair of sheets, for instance (the cheapest set goes for just $3.99), you’re better off spending more on one of the best bed sheets we've ever tried, the Mellanni Bed Sheet Set, as we found this set to be affordably priced, comfortable, and available in a ton of colors and mattress sizes.
Need a new oven? You’ll probably want to skip Ikea. Some of the store’s older units, including the BETRODD and NUTID, have been the subject of numerous consumer safety complaints, and Consumer Reports ranked the former last in their list of the best electric smoothtop double-oven ranges. If you’re looking for a good deal on appliances (especially ovens), you’re better off buying the one of the best electric ranges we ever tried, the Samsung NE59J7850WS, as it offers everything you need from an electric range, and is totally safe.
8. Phone chargers
A $5 phone charger sounds too good to be true. According to customers, that’s because it is. Ikea’s KOPPLA line of extremely cheap phone chargers can seem like a great call, especially if you’re looking for inexpensive ways to charge your smartphone, but you may be putting your phone—and your home—at major risk if you use one.
Some reviewers complain that the chargers just flat out don’t work, while others have reported to CPSC that they’re slow to charge and prone to overheating and melting, which makes them a potential fire hazard. The best wireless chargers, like the Yootech X2, were designed to circumvent all these issues—plus they do what they’re intended to do, i.e. charge your phone quickly—which makes them a much safer alternative to anything you’d find shopping at Ikea and well worth the extra cash.
9. Cribs and crib mattresses
Ikea has a big selection of cribs and crib mattresses, many of which are especially budget-friendly. But certain models, like the VYSSA and SULTAN crib mattresses, have come under fire from multiple reviewers who say they don’t actually fit the cribs that they’re supposed to fit, leaving behind wide gaps between the mattress and crib that can be extremely hazardous to infants. Like Ikea’s other mattresses, their sizes aren’t standard, either, which means you’ll be stuck buying Ikea-brand sheets for the bed in order to get a safe fit. Other big complaints—that the cribs themselves are poorly constructed and that kids can actually fit their feet between the bars of certain models—make it clear that you should probably shop elsewhere if you’re looking for a crib and mattress for your baby.
Instead, you may want to consider looking at some lab-tested crib mattresses that are not only safe, but comfortable for little ones. For example, you can grab our top pick, the Colgate Eco Classica III, at Amazon right now. Our reviewer found that this dual-sided mattress offered a solid blend of safety and comfort, and can grow with kiddos, from birth through toddlerhood.
All that furniture you’re buying at Ikea isn’t going to build itself, right? That’s perhaps one of the biggest reasons why Ikea’s FIXA series of tools is so popular, since you can usually find them near or around the checkout line (and everyone forgets tools until the last minute). The FIXA line boasts some seriously low prices—you can get a screwdriver for under $15 and a 17-piece tool set for just $9.99—but reviewers say these tools are inexpensive for a reason. Namely, they’re flimsy and break easily.
Many reviewers feel that Ikea’s tools aren't worth the investment, no matter how tempting they might seem right before you leave the store. Instead, you're better off putting your money toward power tools that will last, like those offered at retailers like The Home Depot. You can shop well-respected brands like DeWalt, Ryobi, and others and find a variety of items, from drills to saws, and more.
11. Home décor
One of the best parts about shopping at Ikea—aside from the Swedish meatballs, obviously—is getting to splurge on funky decor accessories for around the house after you’ve done all your big furniture hunting. And to be fair, there’s some wonderfully weird stuff to choose from, like this huggable heart cushion and this random cat house with legs, among so much else.
But therein lies the rub: As unique as these things seem, they’re also in millions of other people’s homes and have that distinctive Ikea look, which takes the specialness out of it. If you’re looking to add a little extra quirkiness to your home, you may be better off shopping a local vintage or secondhand shop or checking out home décor shops on Etsy, which may be within the same Ikea price range but won’t be so mass-produced.
12. Glass desks
At first glance, a glass-top table may seem like a chic way to upgrade your home décor. You can buy it on its own or pair it with a basic desk to make the modern home office of your dreams. However, many from Ikea have received complaints in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s database. The GLIVARP table was recently recalled, after three reported incidents.
From random cracking to spontaneous combustion, the glass tabletops are really dangerous, according to reviewers—and completely not worth the stress it can cause if it breaks. “I consider myself incredibly lucky not to have been sitting at or near the desk when it exploded as no doubt I would have maimed by the exploding glass,” wrote one Ikea shopper in a complaint to the CPSC. Instead, you may want to consider grabbing one of the many glass desks available at Wayfair.
Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.