How to Tell Good vs. Poor Quality Products

posted in low waste, shopping tips

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

One of the best ways to shop more sustainably is by buying good quality pieces. Not only will they last you longer and save the waste, energy, and resources needed to replace them, but even if you stop needing the item someone else can use it as well!

I’ll be sharing some tips to help you distinguish good quality not only in clothing but in many different kinds of items. However for a really easy way to find good quality products you can check out BuyMeOnce (who kindly sponsored this post 💚). They have a huge selection of products which they’ve tested and researched to find the longest-lasting versions available, and include many brands which also have a lifetime guarantee!

Does Price = Quality?

A common assumption is that a higher price means better quality and a lower price means cheaper quality. While there definitely is some correlation and truth to “you get what you pay for” this also isn’t a universal rule. Expensive things can break right away and budget options can also be very good quality.

It’s more important to look at the product, materials, and construction than to just make assumptions about quality based on the price. Although if something seems suspiciously cheap (like a $1 t-shirt) it very likely is poor quality.

Investing in good quality cookware
We love to cook so high quality knives and cookware are a priority for us

Signs to Look For


The material something is made from is a great place to start looking for signs of good or poor quality. Simply put, good quality products are made from good quality materials.

With fabrics and textiles you want to feel it and look for inconsistencies like lumps, snags, or holes. You also want to look at the weave or knit – generally it should be tight, even, and consistent (but it does depend on the style of the piece and if unique fabrics are being used for the design that are purposefully loose or inconsistent). Don’t just look at the main material either, trims and details can be a great way to check for quality – things like zippers, buttons, cords, elastics, etc. should function properly and feel durable.

For other products you want to know what materials are being used – is it solid or a mix of materials, and are the materials durable, like metals, or easier to break, like plastics.

Each product and material is unique, so do a bit of research into the materials used and whether it’s appropriate for that product and what are signs of quality specific to that material.

Linen duvet and pillowcases with a 50 year warranty - BuyMeOnce
These linen duvet covers and pillowcases come with a 50 year warranty!


While good quality materials are important, if the item is poorly constructed it’s still going to fall apart. The best places to asses construction quality are the seams or where anything is joined together. For clothing and fabric products you want to look for even, straight stitches that aren’t too far apart and tight seams. For other products look at how elements are joined together – typically poorer quality items will just be glued together, maybe even messily or with glue marks, while better quality construction often utilizes more durable ways of fastening such as screws.

I also think it’s helpful to inspect the “hidden” part of the item – so turn it inside out, look underneath or at the areas you don’t easily see, for example the lining of a garment or the underside of a piece of furniture. If these areas also look well constructed and finished that’s a great sign.


Products that are easy to repair are a better investment (and more sustainable) than products that need to be completely replaced.

Check for brands that offer repair information or that sell kits/replacement components, or to make it really easy look for brands that will take care of any repairs for you or offer lifetime guarantees – BuyMeOnce is a great platform to find brands with lifetime guarantees and repair policies.

iFixit can also be a helpful resource, especially for electronics, to see how easy it is to repair or replace parts with certain products. They even give a “repairability” rating to products.

Cast Iron Skillet - Finex from BuyMeOnce


Finally reviews are a great way to help determine good vs. poor quality products, especially when shopping online. It’s pretty straight forward: if a lot of people are commenting on the good quality or how long it’s lasted that’s great! Otherwise if there are a lot of comments about the item breaking or the poor quality, it’s probably better to look for another option.

While I don’t want to promote shopping through Amazon (you can read Ethical Unicorn’s great post for more info about why) it can be a good place to find a lot of reviews. For example we’re in the process of slowly figuring out what baby gear we’ll need for the new addition to our family this year; unfortunately BuyMeOnce doesn’t (yet) have cribs or car seats, so reading reviews on sites like Amazon has been helpful to find which brands/models are high quality and long-lasting. It can really pay off in the long-run to take a little time to read reviews both when buying new and secondhand products.

Make it Easy

BuyMeOnce is an incredibly helpful resource to easily find good quality products. The online shopping platform includes everything from clothing and accessories, to kitchenware, electronics, and lifestyle products. Their 2000+ featured products go through independent research and testing and each one meets their 5 criteria:

BuyMeOnce's product requirements

While it can take some extra time and maybe cost more to find and invest in good quality products, it actually pays off long-term because you’ll save time and money having to replace those items less often (or maybe never again!). Plus in our very “disposable” culture you’re taking the much more sustainable route and saving resources, energy, and waste by buying long-lasting products.


You can also check out this post and video for more specific information about clothing quality.

4 Responses

  1. Steve

    Wood glues bond to both pieces of wood and if done well it’s a stronger joint than screws, which are often a sign that the furniture has been put together quickly.

  2. Helena

    Hi Erin,
    your work has been an amazing inspiration as i have been slowly building my new relationship to clothing and overall lifestyle in the past years.
    One thing i am beginning to see when trying to welcome a new item in my wardrobe is that unfortunately second hand clothing is becoming such a hype that is now frequently (much) more expensive to buy second hand then a new item. Sometimes we can find items made of poor materials second hand again more expensive then a 100% cotton new item, for instance. So it would not be neither a good financial option, nor one for quality options. Also the way the body feels in contact to natural materials is very different. Buying new is also not the smartest choice so i wonder what’s your take on this if you can comment.

    Thank you!

    • Verena Erin

      First, thank you so much!

      For me secondhand shopping has always been about finding the “gems” – so the good quality and unique pieces. I typically avoid any fast fashion or cheap brands and also poor quality fabrics and construction, but it really does takes time to find those gems and I often walk away empty-handed. I luckily haven’t yet found a piece I liked that would be cheaper new than secondhand, but that’s disappointing to hear you’ve had that experience. 🙁 Personally I would probably just avoid any stores like that which I knew were over-pricing their product.

  3. Meri-Tuuli

    Thank you for another great article! It’s filled with well thought out information and useful recourses. 👌

    You mentioning the Finlayson sheets with 50-year-warranty just made my day! 🎉 I’m not excited just because I got those exact sheets two weeks ago and you’re basically affirming my choice, but because they have been designed in my home country. Finland is a small country, and we get very excited when someone important mentions us in a positive way, and I’m very very excited right now!!

    The sheets are amazing, by the way! 100 % linen makes them warm yet not too toasty and the texture looks so beautiful! The high quality weave feels amazing on the skin. I’m very happy with my investment so far!

    It’s always a pleasure to read your posts!