How To Clean Thrifted Clothes
I’m a HUGE fan of thrift shopping and much prefer helping the environment by giving new life to a secondhand item than buying something new.
Since I spend quite a bit of time shopping in thrift stores I’m going to share an important fact that you may not know,
Thrift and consignment stores do not clean the clothes they receive.
I know, I know…kind of gross but not a deal breaker.
Unless you see a new dry-cleaning tag on the clothing or the original tags are still attached, that item has been worn by someone else and should always be washed prior to wearing. Quite frankly, even if you see a dry cleaning tag on the item or new tags I would still suggest cleaning it as you don’t know where it has been.
Simply stated, every thrifted article should be cleaned.
25 Top Tips How To Clean Thrifted Clothing
Obviously all of these tips work for regular clothing as well.
Check the pockets before washing and remove anything inside. This will save you from cleaning shredded Kleenex out of your washing machine.
Check for loose buttons prior to washing. It isn’t good to lose a button in the wash, especially a vintage one.
Check and mend holes or loose seams prior to washing. Loose seams have a tendency to expand in the wash.
Spot check for stains. Stains should be treated prior to washing with a stain remover such as Oxyclean.
Turn pieces inside out and remove any belts. Fabric belts can be washed in a small mesh laundry bag if needed.
Items should be washed with like colours.
If you are worried a piece will bleed put it in an old pillow case tied at the end.
The pillowcase should absorb the dye. I’ve bought dye magnetic sheets before and that also worked. If I’m really worried about a piece bleeding I wash it on its own.
Silk or delicate pieces can often be washed on the delicate cycle in mesh laundry bags. (Note: Do not wash silk crepe or some types of vintage rayon!)
Close all zippers and buttons prior to washing.
Most contemporary pieces can be washed and dried easily. Simply review the care tag for instructions on cleaning.
Many items that recommend dry cleaning can often be washed by hand.
I’ve only shrunken a few items when washing them, most often they are vintage rayon or silk crepe. I’ve washed wool and silk by hand without issue however I never dry them when wet. If you want to learn how to stretch out something you’ve accidentally shrunk visit this blog post.
Vintage items require special care when washing. I only wash vintage items in cold water or hand wash, turned inside out.
Air drying is the safest way to dry your clothes.
An important step once your thrifted item has been cleaned and air dried is to toss it in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes to kill any possibility of bed bugs.
An item that isn’t wet will not shrink. Be sure the piece is fully dry before placing it in the dryer.
Specialty vintage pieces with embellishments, beading or unique fabrics may require dry cleaning or steam cleaning.
Some items such as large fabric coats, blazers, wool skirts and wool sweaters can often be spot cleaned with Oxyclean (if there are stains), then spritzed with Febreeze (inside and out) and finally tossed into the dryer on high for 30 minutes. This will help eliminate odours and kill bed bugs. Be sure to hang up the items when they are fresh out of the dryer to avoid creasing.
Items that cannot be washed or thrown in the dryer on high should dry cleaned or steam cleaned.
Leather or suede should be put into a sealed plastic bag and placed in a freezer for a week. This will kill bed bugs or other insects.
I also wipe down leather with a damp cloth. I do the same for shoes and handbags. You can add a teaspoon of vinegar to the water you are using which will help freshen the item too. Don’t use too much otherwise it can dry out the leather. Leather creams are also available to deodorize and nourish the leather.
Suede marks can often be cleaned using a simple soft pencil eraser.
To remove any lingering smells in leather or suede the piece can be placed into a large paper bag for a few weeks with coffee grinds, activated charcoal or kitty litter. Do not let the clothing come in contact with the coffee, charcoal or kitty litter. These should be placed in breathable mesh bags or nylon sachets. I use large paper bags meant for garden waste.
If you have a steamer you can choose to steam many of your thrifted items (except leather and suede). This will help remove smells and any fear of bed bugs. It also gets rid of wrinkles.
Every time I go thrifting all of my newly found treasures are kept in sealed large plastic garbage bags until I am able to properly launder them. Thrifting is great but bed bugs are not.
Do you have any special cleaning tips you’d like to share?