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How to Freshen and Clean Thrift Store Finds

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A pair of Ann Taylor trousers could cost $100 in the store, but find that same pair of slacks at a thrift store and the price will likely be $10 or less. And that’s a happy day! Shopping at a thrift store is a great way to find high-end clothing for less than clearance prices at a typical retail shop. Another perk? Those one-of-a-kind vintage finds.

Don’t miss out on some great bargains because of the discomfort of buying merchandise that has been worn by someone else.

With a little elbow grease and a few tricks, it’s easy to make those clothes feel (and smell) like new again.


Always carry baby wipes when shopping at thrift stores! If something you like contains a possible stain or mark, give it a wipe. If the stain starts to come away, it’s a good bet that you’ll be able to work on it at home. To care for those “gently used” clothes at home, follow these tips:

  • Use Woolite or another gentle detergent on anything vintage. If there is a stain, use your fingers to work a little Woolite directly into it before washing.
  • To pull old grime out of old clothes, give them an extra long soak in the washing machine: Loosely load clothing into the machine, fill the tub with cold water and add a small amount of Woolite. Then raise the lid to keep the washer from spinning and let the clothes soak for at least an hour before allowing them to run through a normal wash cycle.
  • For stubborn stains, use a clean, soft-bristled toothbrush to gently work Woolite into the area. Let sit for 20 minutes, then scrub again. Make sure to work with the grain of the fabric. Be gentle with vintage clothing because it may have delicate fibers that can break with excessive scrubbing. Wash the treated garment again and hang to dry.
  • For extra freshness, add a cup of white vinegar to the wash after the tub has filled. It will neutralize even the strongest odors and soften clothes at the same time.


Don’t be afraid to buy shoes at thrift stores. Just check to make sure the soles and heels aren’t worn unevenly, and that the inside of the shoe doesn’t look like it’s been worn to the point where it molded to the previous owner’s foot and will be uncomfortable to wear.

Use these tricks to care for thrift store shoes:

  • Freshen by cutting a dryer sheet in half and slipping one half into each shoe. Keep the dryer sheets in the shoes whenever they aren’t being worn to keep them smelling fresher.
  • Raid the kitchen for a banana to make leather (or faux leather) shoes look new again. Rub the shoes with the outside of a banana peel. It leaves a nice sheen and rubs away scuff marks, and the oils from the peel help make the shoe more supple.
  • Spray the inside of shoes with Lysol or other disinfectant spray to kill germs. Avoid spraying the outside of the shoes in order to prevent leaving spots or faded marks.


  • Use the wand attachment of the vacuum cleaner to suck up any crumbs, lint, little bits of paper or other debris from the bottom of a thrift store purse.
  • Baby wipes can be used to clean up little marks on the purse lining.
  • Freshen the handbag by placing a dryer sheet inside.
  • If the purse is leather or faux leather, make it shine by rubbing it with a banana peel.


Rubbing alcohol is the ultimate way to clean and disinfect. But take care with fake jewels or painted jewelry: The rubbing alcohol could leach out the color or damage the finish. Instead, dip a Q-tip in water and add a drop of dish soap to clean jewelry that might be damaged by rubbing alcohol.

This is a guest post by Shaunta from Reno, NV
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