The worst part of thrifting is trying to get rid of the unpleasant thrift store smell in your items without washing them a million times.
Thrifting is a great way to find unique and stylish pieces without dishing out a ton of cash. The downside? The cat lady stench that is usually embedded into fabric. When I first started thrifting, I had no idea how to get rid of the smell or make the clothes feel soft to touch. I’d wash thrifted clothes 3-5 times on long wash cycles to no avail. Finally, I found a method that has yet to fail me.
There’s so many places to thrift here in NYC but one of my favs is Housing Works Buy the Bag thrift ( I got a ton of dope stuff for $25–you should definitely read about this AMAZING thrifting experience here). I also love L Train Vintage that has a few great locations throughout NYC.
My foolproof method to get rid of the thrift store smell in clothes, takes very little effort and a trip to the dollar store.
What you will need:
- White Vinegar
- A spray bottle
- Liquid Fabric Softener
- Dryer Sheets
- Mesh Laundry Bag (optional)
- Spot Treatment (optional)
- A bag or open space
- Patience (but, really)
Step 1: Prep Clothes With Vinegar Before Washing
After carefully inspecting the items one last time to see if they are even worth cleaning up, spray your clothes with diluted white vinegar. I like to spray the vinegar vigorously all over the clothing and let it hang up in an open space or in a bag overnight.
White Vinegar helps to neutralize/ get rid of the thrift store smell a.k.a. cat lady stench and acts as a disinfectant White vinegar also softeners fabric making your thrifted clothes feel comfier.
Step 2: Let the diluted vinegar settle into your thrifted clothes
Let the clothes sit overnight for best results. I usually put them on a clothes hanger and hang them over the tub on the shower rod.
Step 3: Wash your thrifted clothes as you would normally.
Wash the thrifted clothes based on the recommendations given on the tags of the items. If you suspect that items are made of gentle fabric, wash them in a mesh laundry bag on the “gentle” cycle option. You can use whatever laundry detergent you prefer but be sure to use a liquid fabric softener/conditioner as well. My fabric softener of choice is Suavitel. It smells AMAZING, really softens your clothes and is SUPER cheap.
FYI, if you think the thrifted clothes need to be disinfected a bit more, wash with hot water if you don’t think it would be damaging to the clothes.
Step 4: Dry your thrifted clothes on low or hang to dry.
DRY TIME! If you choose to dry your thrift clothes, put the dryer on low (trust me, I shrunk a 100% wool scarf by not doing this). Use dryer sheets for this for the same reasons as the liquid fabric softener. Suavitel also has some AMAZING dryer sheets for the low and your clothes will smell amazing…FOREVA.
I totally get how that thrift store smell can turn you off from thrifting entirely. However, spending a few dollars at your local dollar store or on Amazon can totally change that.