How to Clean Thrift Store Clothes & Decor (Get the smell out!)

This post may contain affiliate links · This blog generates income via ads

Are you ready to freshen up your thrift store finds and give them a new lease on life? Whether it’s clothes, décor, or accessories, sometimes treasures from thrift stores come with a not-so-pleasant odor. I call it “that thrift store smell”. But don’t worry, because I’ve got you covered with some tried-and-true methods to get the stink out !

Thrifted placemats made into a decorative cushion

Purchasing second had clothing & decor at thrift shops is a wonderful way to save money, be more eco-conscious, and give your wardrobe and home more personality. I’ve been loving getting creative with thrifted finds lately (check out my recent thrifty breakfast nook makeover here)! However, before I put thrifted clothes in my closet or vintage pieces in my home, cleaning them is the first step. Below, I’m sharing all of my best methods on how to clean thrift store clothes and decor… and these actually work! I hope you find this list helpful.

Airing my thrifted wicker chair outside

1. For All Items: Use the Sun and Air Out Method

Sometimes, all your thrift store find needs is a little fresh air and sunshine. Letting your thrifted item sit outside in the sun and air for a few hours or even days can work wonders in reducing musty odours. This method is especially effective for fabrics and upholstered pieces, but I’ve also found it effective for wooden items.

2. Upholstered Furniture: Bissell Little Green Spot Cleaner

I’m a huge fan of the Bissell Little Green portable deep cleaner. I have the old model, but this new model looks incredible! After airing out your upholstered furniture (if you can), cleaning it with a machine like this can truly help make the piece smell fresh. You can pair it with the Pet Stain and Odour solution to help get the stinky smells out of your piece, and this formula is great at removing stains.

2. Wood & Wicker: Washing with a Vinegar Solution

Wooden and wicker items can absorb odours, but a simple solution of vinegar can work wonders. Mix equal parts vinegar and water, then wipe down the wood or wicker surface. Don’t forget to wipe both the inside and the outside of the piece: drawer interiors, door interiors, the bottom of the piece, and all the nooks & crannies. Let it dry in the sun if possible for that extra odour-busting action!

Modern Industrial Small Laundry Room Makeover

3. Fabric Items: Lysol Laundry Disinfectant or Vinegar

Wondering how to clean thrift store clothes or decor textiles? For fabric items like clothing, towels, table linens, or curtains that can be washed, using Lysol Laundry Disinfectant as a pre-soak before washing. This can help eliminate stubborn smells, germs and bacteria. Just follow the instructions on the Lysol bottle on how to use the product to pre-soak your items in a large basin or sink.

After pre-soaking, you can then go ahead and wash your thrift clothes or other textiles in the washing machine.

Some people pop their thrifted fabric items into their dryer on the highest heat to kill anything before washing, however I skip this step because I prefer to use the Laundry Disinfectant for this purpose.

Alternatively, you can add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to your washing machine along with your laundry detergent. Vinegar works wonders to neutralize odours – I use it a lot for this purpose!

Make sure to follow the care instructions on the care label of your thrifted finds (if they have them), or do a spot test with the disinfectant & laundry detergent you’re using before cleaning your item.

If your garment is a delicate fabric like silk or wool, you may have to send it to a dry cleaner to have it cleaned professionally. Some vintage clothes can’t be washed in the machine, so they’ll need to be cleaned via dry cleaning or hand wash.

4. Glass or Ceramic Items: Dish Soap or Barkeeper’s Friend

Glass or ceramic items may have accumulated grime or water rings that contribute to the odor. Use a mild dish soap to clean these items thoroughly. For tougher stains like water rings, Barkeeper’s Friend is your best friend! I love using this product to make my thrifted glassware sparkle, and it’s also great for making thrift store brass decor look brand new.

5. Extra Stinky Items: The Baking Soda Method

For items that are particularly musty or cannot get wet, like paper or certain textiles, baking soda is a lifesaver. Place the item in a large bag that can be sealed and add baking soda, then seal the bag shut. Let it sit for several days or even weeks, depending on the severity of the odor.

If you don’t want to use baking soda, using activated charcoal is another option for removing smells from hard surfaces. It can also be called “activated carbon”, “active carbon”, and “active charcoal”. Place it in a sealed bag with your vintage items for a few days or weeks if neccesary.

6. Other Hard Surfaces: Alcohol & Essential Oil Cleaning Solution

For hard items like metal or plastic, a DIY cleaning solution can work wonders. Mix 2 cups of rubbing alcohol (a cheap vodka also works!), 1 cup of warm water, and a few drops of your favorite essential oil into a spray bottle. Use this mixture to spray down surfaces and banish odours.

With these tips and tricks, you can confidently tackle any musty thrift store find and turn it into a treasure worth showing off! Happy thrifting, and let me know in the comments below if you have any other effective tricks to get clean thrifted clothes & fabulous smelling thrifted decor!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.