Guns and 32 Other Things You Definitely Do NOT Need To Buy During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Marina_Skoropadskaya / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Marina_Skoropadskaya / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Spurred by fears stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, unrest related to racial justice and a potentially contested election, millions of Americans are buying guns — many of who are first-time gun owners, NBC News reported. CEO of major gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson Brands, Mark Peter Smith, said in a September investor call that new gun owners accounted for about 40% of sales this year — double the national average of past years. And Sportsman’s Warehouse Holdings CEO Jon Barker said that an estimated 5 million people purchased firearms for the first time in the first seven months of 2020.

“Whichever way this election goes, it could get really scary, and it could get bloody,” first-time gun owner Bailey Beeken, a 61-year-old liberal from Riverdale, New York, told NBC News. “I just feel like it’s a powder keg. I want to be armed and dangerous.”

But before you rush out to by a gun, consider if that’s a wise purchase — especially if you’re one of the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or have seen their hours cut back amid the pandemic, and are now in a more dire financial situation than usual. Now is a time when it’s especially important to focus on saving more and spending less. Though you may be tempted to panic-buy supplies and stock up on items to prevent or “treat” the coronavirus, there are many things that are not worth your money.

Last updated: Oct.15, 2020

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N-95 Masks

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending that everyone wear cloth facemasks when in public, medical-grade facemasks should be reserved for healthcare workers. This includes N-95 respirators.

Surgical Masks

Surgical masks should also be reserved for healthcare professionals.

“The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators,” the CDC states on its website. “Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

Dehydrated Food

Dehydrated foods are expensive and full of salt. Opt for other foods and meals with a long shelf life instead.

A Year’s Supply of Toilet Paper

When it comes to toilet paper, don’t buy more than you actually need. There isn’t a shortage of supply, so there’s no need to stockpile it.

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Alcohol Solutions That Contain Less Than 70% Alcohol

If you are using an alcohol solution to disinfect surfaces in your home, make sure that it is at least 70% alcohol, according to CDC guidelines.

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Hand Sanitizer That Doesn’t Contain Alcohol

In addition to making sure your cleaning supplies contain enough alcohol to effectively kill the coronavirus, you should also ensure that it’s contained in any hand sanitizer you buy. Some hand sanitizers — including some made by Purell and Germ-X — rely on benzalkonium chloride instead of alcohol as the active ingredient, Mother Jones reported. This means they won’t work for the coronavirus.

Food You Won’t Actually Eat

Just because something is in stock at your grocery store doesn’t mean you should buy it.

“Buy things that you would really eat, not stuff that just because it was there you think, ‘Oh, gosh, maybe this would be good,'” Regina Phelps, a pandemic planner and crisis management expert, told CNBC Make It. “You just need to have the basics.”

Air Filters

Air filters can be pricey, and they have not been proven to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“Most air filters do not have that kind of micron specificity to really kill viruses and it’s not going to really help,” Phelps told CNBC.

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Zinc is needed for the proper growth and maintenance of the human body, and it is needed for immune function, according to WebMD. Because it’s essential for immune function, you might be inclined to buy zinc supplements. However, Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at University Hospitals, told NBC Miami that these supplements won’t help you ward off the coronavirus.

“Most Americans who eat fruits and vegetables are zinc sufficient,” she said, noting that your body will flush out any excess zinc.

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Other Vitamins

Other vitamins that claim to boost your immunity won’t prevent you from getting the coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that those kinds of products aren’t really offering you any benefit,” Michael Starnbach, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, told Harvard Women’s Health Watch. “There’s no evidence that they help in fighting disease.”

Instead of stocking up on vitamins, focus on keeping a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.


Timothy Brewer, an epidemiology professor at the University of California Los Angeles, told Vox that buying gloves isn’t necessary.

“That’s not going to help you in any way,” he said, noting that “there’s no evidence” suggesting that gloves are beneficial because they can still get contaminated and won’t stop you from touching your face and mouth.

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Natural Disaster Emergency Supplies

There isn’t any imminent risk to plumbing and electricity, so there’s no need to stock up on emergency supplies like sleeping bags, bottled water, batteries and flashlights, Dr. Rodney Rohde, the chair of Texas State University’s Clinical Laboratory Science program, told Forbes.

Perishable Foods That Will Go Bad Before You Can Eat Them

Check expiration dates before stocking up on any perishable foods. If you won’t be able to finish eating it all before it goes bad, you will literally be throwing money away.

Unhealthy Snacks

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health, emerita at NYU Steinhardt, told Chowhound that when grocery shopping, skip buying packaged foods with high salt and sugar content.

“I think the issue of snacks is huge,” she said. “What do you do when you’re bored? You eat.”

Plus, with people spending more time at home, many people are less active, which makes it harder to burn the calories they consume.

Foods With WIC on the Label

Participants in the WIC government nutritional assistance program can only buy certain food items with their benefits, usually labeled with WIC at the grocery store.

According to a tweet from Suit Up Maine, a political action group: “If an item has a WIC symbol beside the price, get something else. People who use WIC to feed their kids can’t switch to another brand or kind of food. If a store runs out of WIC-approved options, they will go home empty-handed.”

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Chlorine Dioxide

There is currently no known cure for the coronavirus, so don’t buy anything that’s being marketed as such. This includes chlorine dioxide — aka MMS or “miracle mineral solution.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken action against a leading supplier of the alleged remedy, Genesis II Church, which operates out of Florida. The FDA was granted a temporary injunction by a federal judge against the supplier to stop the sale of “an unproven and potentially harmful treatment offered for sale to treat coronavirus.”

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal silver is another solution that has been peddled as a cure for the coronavirus. However, the FDA has warned that colloidal silver is not safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. In fact, colloidal silver can be harmful when consumed or applied to your skin.

“The silver in colloidal silver products gets deposited into organs such as the skin, liver, spleen, kidney, muscle and brain,” Dr. Wong Siew Wei of The Cancer Centre and Singapore Medical Group told Insider. It can also interfere with the absorption of other drugs you may be taking.

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Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine

Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are autoimmune drugs that were developed for use against malaria and have been used in various capacities as treatments for the coronavirus. However, the FDA has said that further testing is needed and has not approved these drugs to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19.

Some people have been fraudulently marketing these drugs as coronavirus cures. One San Diego-based doctor advertised “COVID-19 treatment packs” that included the medication hydroxychloroquine — he has since been charged with fraud, Buzzfeed News reported.

Bleach/Disinfectant as the Coronavirus ‘Cure’

Bleach and disinfectant are useful for keeping the surfaces of your home clean and free of viruses and germs, but they should not be ingested or injected by humans as a way to treat the coronavirus, health officials warned.

Injecting bleach “causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst,” Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, told The New York Times. “It can definitely be a fatal event.”

Essential Oils

Some companies have been advertising essential oils as protection against the coronavirus. Once again, these claims are fraudulent, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission are cracking down on companies that are making these claims, Texas Medical Center reported.


Gun sales have skyrocketed, with the U.S. hitting a monthly record for sales in March due to fears related to the coronavirus pandemic, NPR reported. Although the government doesn’t track firearms sales, it does track background checks that are required to buy guns from licensed dealers, which can provide an estimate for overall sales. Background checks for gun purchases have increased 69% year over year, and background checks for handgun purchases, in particular, have risen 80% year over year.

However, there are a couple of reasons why buying a gun right now could be a bad idea, NPR reported. First, new gun owners might not be able to get hands-on safety training about how to properly store and use a gun due to pandemic-related closures in some states, which could lead to unintentional shootings and injuries. Secondly, with guns at home, there’s a higher chance that domestic confrontations could lead to serious injury or death.

“Specifically, in cases of domestic violence or when someone is suicidal — having that gun present could turn a situation deadly,” Emmy Betz, a researcher at the University of Colorado focusing on injury prevention, told NPR. “I’m skeptical that all of these new purchasers are getting the training that they need and getting the guidance around storage devices that they need.”

Professional-Grade Hair Dye

With salons closed in some states, clients are asking their colorists to send them at-home kits — but dyeing your hair yourself is probably a bad idea. Melanie Wade, a hairdresser in Seattle, told Sacramento’s ABC 10 that “there’s liability in the event a client has an accident, reaction or exposure to the chemicals without proper care.”

“Not only is a detriment to my client but it’s a detriment to the industry as a whole,” Wade told the news channel.


New Clothes

Shopping is one of the few activities you can do from the comfort of your home, but it’s not a smart use of your funds.

“Retailers are trying to minimize their losses by having frequent online sales, so ask yourself if you really need the item in your cart before checking out,” said Leslie Tayne, founder and head attorney at the debt solutions law firm Tayne Law Group. “If you find yourself browsing sales and purchasing items because they’re a ‘good deal,’ consider unsubscribing from the retailer’s list and minimize your time browsing due to boredom.”

You especially don’t need new clothes if you will be working from home for the foreseeable future.

DIY Hand Sanitizer Ingredients

Don’t trust any at-home recipes for hand sanitizer that encourage you to use liquor to make it. Emily Landon, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine, told ProPublica that whiskey or vodka you can buy at the liquor store doesn’t contain enough alcohol to be effective.

Feel free to stock up on your liquor of choice to make your favorite cocktail at home, but don’t buy a handle thinking it will kill the coronavirus if you use it on your hands.


Special Household Cleaners

You don’t have to go out and buy all new household cleaners to keep your home disinfected — soap and water will do.

“One of the nice things about this virus, if there’s anything nice about it at all, is that soap actually kills it — it doesn’t just escort the virus off you and down the drain,” Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of public health at UC Berkeley, told the University of California website. “Soap and water truly is one of the best ways for getting rid of the virus in your home.”

Phone Disinfecting Gadgets

There are phone disinfecting gadgets on the market that sell for over $100 — but you don’t need to spend that kind of money to keep your phone clean. You can safely sanitize your phone with a Lysol wipe, experts told Good Housekeeping.

Water Purifier

It’s still safe to drink tap water, so there’s no need to spend money on a water purifier if you don’t already have one. According to the CDC website, “the virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Stockpiles of Bottled Water

There’s no need to buy a year’s supply of bottled water. As previously stated, tap water is perfectly safe to drink.

More Than 2 Months’ Worth of Prescription Medication

Thanks to prescription delivery services, you don’t need to have more than a couple of weeks’ worth of prescription medication on hand. If you live in an area where delivery is not an option, having a one- or two-month supply is sufficient, experts told AARP.

Paper Towels

Paper towels may still be in short supply at your local store and are extremely wasteful anyway. Instead, invest in a couple of cloth dishrags that you can clean and use multiple times.

Produce Wash

Plain water is effective for cleaning produce, according to the FDA. “There’s no need to use soap or a produce wash,” the organization states on its website.

Stockpiles of Pet Food

Pet stores and pet food delivery services are considered essential and are unlikely to close, so there’s no need to overdo it on your pet food stock, according to MoneyWise.

Anything You Don’t Need

In general, cut down on your “wants” and focus on buying essentials. Also, keep in mind that there’s no need to stockpile any supplies — just buy what you need for the next week or two and leave the rest for other shoppers.

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