You have thrifted a brand new (to you) outfit and by doing so have helped keep clothing out of landfills, but what is the best and most eco friendly way to wash this clothing? Whether it is hand wash only, gentle cycle, or even dry clean only, there are eco-friendly ways to sanitize your secondhand clothing from a thrift store.
1. Are thrifted clothes sanitary?
This is a question that gets asked fairly often - are clothes from a thrift store sanitary? The answer to that is no! Well, actually, they could be, but you have no way of knowing how these clothes were sourced, how they were handled, who has tried them on or touched them, etc., so the best option would be to assume that they are not sanitary.
Even if you have purchased your item from an online thrift store, these same concepts still apply. With that being said, that should not turn you away from thrifting clothing. There are some amazing items that can be found in thrift shops, and thrifting clothing is a sustainable fashion option.
In fact, by purchasing clothing secondhand you are helping the environment by keeping the clothing out of a landfill, which is where the majority of items that do not sell in thrift stores end up. Your thrifted clothes may not be sanitary yet, but there are plenty of eco-friendly ways to get these items clean enough to wear.
2. How To Wash Thrifted Clothes in the Washing Machine?
Use an Eco-Friendly Washing Machine
The simplest way to clean your thrifted clothes would be to throw them in the washing machine. Before you do that, though, you will want to check the care tag on the inside of the clothing. It will tell you how it should be washed.
Many of the more delicate fabrics require dry cleaning or hand washing. There are plenty of clothing items from thrift stores, though, that can be washed in the washing machine, and you can clean them in an eco-friendly way.
The best way to do this would be to use an eco-friendly washing machine. These are washing machines that conserve water and energy. If you are not sure that your washing machine is eco friendly, check to see if it has any certifications for being sustainable or energy efficient.
If you are looking to switch to a more eco-friendly washing machine, try looking for one secondhand! I mean, you’ve already thrifted your clothing, so why not go for a washing machine, too? In all seriousness, though, purchasing a secondhand washing machine is not only a sustainable, eco-friendly choice, but it can also save you quite a bit of money!
Use an Eco-Friendly Laundry Detergent
You will want to use a natural laundry detergent when you are cleaning your thrifted clothing in the washing machine. Choose a non-toxic detergent that is free from fragrances, dyes, or other harmful byproducts. Natural laundry detergents are as (if not more) effective than chemical-packed laundry detergents.
These all-natural detergents will still get out stains, smells, and anything else that needs to be washed out of your thrifted clothing. Once your thrifted clothes have been washed in the washing machine with your all-natural laundry detergent, simply let them hang to air dry.
They will be fresh, clean, and ready to wear. No one will ever suspect that they were from a thrift store!
3. How to Deep Clean Thrifted Clothes?
Okay, so you have washed your thrifted clothing in the washing machine, but sometimes you just want to make it a little cleaner. One way to get your clothes really clean is by laundry stripping with vinegar. This has become a major trend on Tiktok using chemicals such as Borax, but did you know that there is actually an eco-friendly way to do your laundry stripping?
Using this method will help get out all of the icky things that are stuck in the fibers of the clothing - things that even the washing machine could not get out. To do this to your thrifted clothing, all you have to do is create a laundry stripping solution out of vinegar, your favorite eco-friendly detergent, and washing soda in a bathtub of hot water.
Then you can let your thrifted clothing soak for several hours. This is when you will really start to see everything that is coming off of the clothing! Once it has soaked long enough, run your thrifted item back through the washing machine and then let it dry. Your thrifted clothing will be deep cleaned and you will feel comfortable wearing your new (to you) outfit!
4. How to Get the Odors out of Thrifted Clothing?
Honest moment — one of the main turn-offs about thrifting clothing is the smell. You know the one I’m talking about — the funky thrift store smell. No one wants to walk around in clothing that has that awful odor. I have good news for you, though! It is possible to get this smell out of your thrifted clothing in an eco-friendly way, and it is not difficult at all!
Usually, washing the clothing in the washing machine will get this smell out, but if your thrifted clothing has a stubborn smell that just won’t go away, opt for the Laundry Stripping method I talked about above. The vinegar in the stripping solution is the best way to get an odor out of thrifted clothes. Once the clothing has been stripped and washed, the odor will be gone and your thrifted item will be ready to wear.
If you don’t have time for laundry stripping or you don’t want to use vinegar, there are other ways that you can get the odor out of your thrifted clothing. There are some methods that will get the smell out, and you don’t even have to wash the clothes!
A simple way to do this is to spray down the clothing with lemon juice. This method is simple, eco-friendly, and very effective! You could also stick your clothing in the freezer. I know that sounds silly, but it really works! Just make sure that you let your clothing thaw out before you want to wear it - no one wants to wear a frozen shirt.
5. How to Hand Wash Thrifted Clothing?
Many clothing items from thrift stores are hand wash only - it will be indicated on the fabric care tag on the inside of the garment. If this tag is cut out and you aren’t sure how it should be washed, hand washing is your best bet, especially if it is vintage clothing.
Hand washing thrifted clothing is very simple. You will want to do this in a large sink. Fill the sink with hot water and add in your all-natural laundry detergent. Slowly sink your clothing into the water (one item at a time) and wash it using your hands. When you are finished cleaning your clothing item, wring out any excess water and let the item air dry.
6. Vintage vs Secondhand Clothing
One common misconception is that thrifted items are always vintage. That definitely isn’t true! You can find plenty of in-season, recent items in thrift stores, as well as some super cool, older vintage items. With that being said, vintage items typically need to be cleaned differently than more current items.
A vintage item is typically considered to be at least 20 years old (though opinions on this can vary). Because the fabric is older, these vintage items are often more delicate.
If you have found a vintage item from the thrift store that you want to clean, opt for the hand wash method. If the clothing does need a deeper clean, you can do the laundry stripping with vinegar method, but make sure that you are gentle with the garment, especially when you are stirring it around during the soak.
7. How to Find a Green-Friendly Dry Cleaner?
We’ve talked about washing thrifted clothing in the washing machine, doing the laundry stripping method with vinegar, and hand washing with all-natural detergent, but what do you do when your secondhand clothing says dry clean only?
There are actually plenty of Green Friendly Dry Cleaners where you can take your thrifted clothes to have them sanitized, but it will take some research to find one that is actually green-friendly. You can start by searching for a “Green Friendly Dry Cleaner Near Me”.
When you are looking for an eco-friendly dry cleaner, be sure to ask about their cleaning method, if they use a third-party service, what they do to help the environment, and you will also want to read their reviews.
Hearing from someone who has actually used them is a great way to see if they are actually a “green” dry cleaner. Once you have found one near you, you can take your thrifted clothing that needs to be dry cleaned.
A final word on how to wash your secondhand clothes
Thrifted clothes are a sustainable fashion option that can be washed in an eco-friendly way. Whether the secondhand garment needs to be hand washed, dry cleaned, deep cleaned, or simply washed in the washing machine, there are plenty of environmentally friendly ways to get your thrifted clothing clean and ready for you to wear.
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