How to Clean and Sanitize Thrift Store Clothes

rows of thrift store clothes at a secondhand sale

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Thrifted items, like clothing, shoes and coats, are a great way to refresh your wardrobe without breaking the bank. Learn how to clean and sanitize thrift store clothes step by step in this article!

Thrift stores are a great place to find unique and affordable clothing pieces to help save your family money. Our family loves secondhand clothing for the little years especially, as kids grow SO fast. Our children are also really rough on their clothes, so I feel better letting them be as wild as they want when I don’t have to stress about our clothing budget.

However, unlike new clothes, thrifted clothing may not always be in the best condition. Before wearing thrift store clothes, it’s important to clean them properly to ensure they are free of any dirt, bacteria, or odors.

The good news is that most thrift store finds and second-hand clothes are pretty simple to clean! In this article, I will share some tips on how to clean thrift store clothes effectively, helping to stretch your family’s clothing dollar further.

Some links may be affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you use my links to purchase, at no extra added cost to you! I only recommend products that I personally love and believe in. Full disclosure here.

rows of thrift store clothes

Preparation Before Washing

Before washing thrift store clothes, it’s important to take a few steps to ensure that they are properly cleaned without causing damage. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Firstly, it’s important to read the care label on the clothing item before washing it. Some pieces may require special care, such as dry cleaning or hand washing. If there is no care label, it’s best to err on the side of caution and hand wash the item in cold water.

Secondly, it’s important to pre-treat any stains or spots on the clothing item. This can be done by using a stain remover or soaking the item in a mixture of water and vinegar before tossing it into the washing machine.

Finally, it’s important to wash the item thoroughly using a gentle detergent and cold water. Avoid using hot water or bleach, as this can damage the fabric.

Here are a few more tips to complete before you start washing:

  • Quality: Check the quality of the garment before washing. If it looks worn out or damaged, it may not be worth the effort to clean it.
  • Care Labels: Look for care labels on the garment. These labels provide important information about how to clean the item without damaging it. If there is no care label, it’s best to err on the side of caution and wash the item gently.
  • Color and Fabric Type: Sort clothes by color and fabric type before washing. This helps prevent color bleeding and damage to delicate fabrics.
  • Wool: If the garment is made of wool, it’s important to handle it with care. Wool can shrink and lose its shape if not washed properly. Always follow the care label instructions for washing and drying wool items.
  • Delicate Fabrics: Delicate fabrics such as silk and lace require special care. Wash them by hand or on a gentle cycle in cold water. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as these can damage delicate fabrics.
  • Vintage Clothing: Vintage items require extra care when washing. Check for any damage or discoloration before washing, as these issues may become worse during the cleaning process. Use a gentle detergent and avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Accessories: If the thrift store item comes with any accessories such as belts or buttons, remove them before washing. This helps prevent damage to the garment and accessories. If they have a thrift store smell, you can try using a spray bottle filled with a little white vinegar and water to help gently remove the odor.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that your thrift store clothes are properly cleaned without causing damage.

thrift store clothes on a rack

Washing Thrift Store Clothes

When it comes to thrifted clothes, washing them properly is crucial to ensure they are clean, fresh, and ready to wear. Here are some tips on how to wash thrift store clothes effectively:

Materials Needed for Cleaning

Before starting, it’s essential to gather all the necessary materials for cleaning thrift store clothes. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Stain remover
  • Odor eliminator
  • Disinfectant
  • Sewing kit (optional)

Removing Stains and Odors

Thrift store clothes may come with stains and odors that need to be removed before washing. To remove stains, apply a stain remover directly onto the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before washing.

For funky smells and musty odors, use an odor eliminator or add a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle. You can also hang second hand clothing outside to air out before washing.

Disinfecting and Sanitizing

To ensure that thrift store clothes are free from germs and bacteria, it’s essential to disinfect and sanitize them properly. Use a disinfectant that is safe for fabrics and add it to the wash cycle. You can also use a hot water cycle to kill germs and bacteria effectively.

Mending and Caring

Thrift store clothes may also have minor damages that need to be fixed before washing. Use a sewing kit like this to mend any tears or loose buttons. It’s also essential to follow the care instructions on the label to ensure that the clothes are washed correctly.

Washing thrift store clothes requires some extra care and attention to ensure that they are clean, fresh and ready to wear. By following these tips, you can make sure that your thrift store finds look and feel their best.

thrift store shoes on a shelf

How to Clean Shoes from the Thrift Store

Finding secondhand shoes and vintage shoes in good condition at a yard sale, Goodwill bin stores or thrift store is such a great find. However, used shoes can be a breeding ground for germs and should not be worn without properly disinfecting and cleaning them first.

How to Disinfect Thrift Store Shoes

There are a few different ways to disinfect thrift store shoes:

  1. Rubbing alcohol: If your shoes are fabric shoes (like canvas) or are sneakers, you can soak the shoes in a large bowl of rubbing alcohol to disinfect them. If they are made of a different material or you don’t have a bowl large enough, you can gently scrub the shoes with a rag soaked in rubbing alcohol. Place them outside in the sunshine or by a window to fully dry. Rubbing alcohol can also help get rid of bad odors!
  2. Antibacterial sprays: Disinfectant spray is a good option for many types of shoes. Lysol spray or a shoe sanitizer spray like this can kill germs that cause a bacterial infection and athlete’s foot.
  3. Bleach and water: A spray bottle filled with bleach and water is a great way to sanitize the inside of thrifted shoes. Keep in mind that bleach is a strong chemical and can cause discoloration, so care should be taken with bleach spray and any shoes that are not all white.

Ways to Clean Used Shoes

When it comes to thrift store shoes, it’s important to clean them properly before wearing them. Here’s how I clean thrift store shoes to make sure they’re clean and ready to wear:

  1. Remove any dirt or debris. Before cleaning the shoes, I remove any dirt or debris from the surface using a soft-bristled brush or a dry cloth. This helps prevent any dirt from getting ground into the shoes during the cleaning process.
  2. Spot clean any stains. If there are any stains on the shoes, I spot clean them using a mixture of water and gentle soap. I apply the solution to the stain using a soft-bristled brush and then blot it away with a clean cloth. I repeat this process until the stain is gone.
  3. Clean the shoes. To clean the shoes, remove the insoles if possible and wash those first. I mix a small amount of gentle soap with warm water in a bowl. I dip a soft-bristled brush into the solution and then use it to scrub the shoes, paying special attention to any areas that are particularly dirty. I then rinse the shoes with clean water and use a clean cloth to wipe away any excess soap.
  4. Dry the shoes. After cleaning the shoes, I stuff them with newspaper or a clean cloth to help them maintain their shape while drying. I then place them in a well-ventilated area and allow them to air dry completely before wearing them.

Keep in mind that some shoes, like leather shoes, suede shoes or those made of another delicate material, require special care. By following these steps, you can ensure that thrift store shoes are clean and ready to wear without the risk of any harmful bacteria or other contaminants.

used kids shoes with a price tag

Additional Tips

When it comes to cleaning thrift store clothes, there are a few additional tips that can help ensure the best results.

Firstly, don’t forget about shoes! Thrift shops often have a great selection of shoes, but they can be overlooked when it comes to cleaning. Use a soft-bristled brush to remove any dirt or debris, and then wipe them down with a damp cloth. For tough stains, try using a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar.

If you’re buying a coat from a thrift store, check the label to see if it’s dry clean only. If so, it’s best to take it to a dry cleaner to ensure it’s properly taken care of.

However, if it’s machine washable, give it a good wash on a gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent. Hang it up to dry, and avoid using a dryer as it can damage the fabric.

If you come across a brand-new item at a thrift store, it’s still a good idea to give it a deep clean before wearing it. You never know how long it’s been sitting on the shelf, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

When shopping at a thrift store, keep an eye out for potential lemons. Check for any holes, stains or tears before making a purchase. It’s also a good idea to try things on before buying them, as sizes can vary greatly between brands.

Finally, don’t forget that thrift stores can be a great resource for fashion inspiration. Don’t be afraid to mix and match different pieces to create a unique look that’s all your own.

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secondhand baby clothing in a thrift shop

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I wash clothes I got from the thrift store?

Yes, it is highly recommended that you wash any clothes you get from the thrift store before wearing them. This is because they have been previously worn by someone else and could have accumulated dirt, bacteria, or even bed bugs!

How should I wash clothes from thrift store?

The best way to wash thrift store clothes depends on the fabric and care instructions on the label. However, it is generally recommended to wash them in hot water with a strong detergent and bleach if possible. You can also add vinegar to the rinse cycle to help remove any odors.

How do you clean and deodorize thrift store clothes?

To clean and deodorize thrift store clothes, you can soak them in a mixture of water and white vinegar for a few hours before washing them. You can also add baking soda to the wash cycle to help remove any stubborn odors. Hanging the clothes outside in the sun can also help freshen them up.

How to disinfect second hand baby clothes?

Babies grow so fast that first year, and our family loves second-hand clothing for that very reason. To disinfect second-hand baby clothes, you can wash them in hot water with a mild detergent and bleach if the fabric allows it.

You can also add vinegar to the rinse cycle to help remove any odors. It is also recommended to dry the clothes in direct sunlight to allow the UV rays to help kill any bacteria.

Whether you shop at the local Salvation Army, flea market or your town’s unique second-hand stores, thrift store shopping is a good way to save money and give old clothes new life. By following these tips, you can effectively clean thrift store clothes and ensure they are safe to wear. With a little bit of care, you can enjoy your preloved clothes and other thrift store finds for years to come!

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