Buying second hand can sometimes be a bit of a gamble. Maybe you fell in love with a gorgeous 1970s prom dress and were surprised by some funky smells in the polyester the first time you wore it, maybe your sunscreen left a weird orange rim on your favorite band t-shirt, or maybe you’ve found mysterious stains on that second hand lolita dress you grabbed online. Vintage and thrift clothing make up a huge percentage of my personal wardrobe, I love unique pieces and it’s great to give unwanted pieces a second life- over the years of buying these items I’ve learned some tricks for fixing common issues.
Polyester is Super Funky- Synthetic fabrics can trap odors, unless the previous owner rinsed the dress after getting home from the disco it may have some lingering smell. Oxyclean washing detergent is a heavy duty option for this, if the item is fairly tough (as in not dripping in lace or beads or a wedding dress) fill a bucket with cold water and add the oxy powder and let it soak overnight. You can also make a paste with oxy to apply to the armpits or wherever the funk lingers. White vinegar is a more gentle option, spray it directly on the stinky parts, let it dry and then wash the item as you normally would, repeat if needed.
A Little Musty- Sometimes your new vintage piece smells like a thrift store, that cloud of “other peoples’ clothes” that is ubiquitous to big second hand shops…. Regular baking soda is incredible for neutralizing smells in clothes, just throw maybe 3 tablespoons into the water as your washing machine fills (along with detergent or on it’s own). For delicate items fill a basin or sink with cold water and baking soda and soak the item overnight, repeat if necessary.
Orange/Yellow Sunscreen Stains- Avobenzone is an ingredient that is in a lot of suncreens and when mixed with the iron in your sweat it creates stubborn orange or yellow stains on fabric. The only thing I’ve found that works for this is to soak the stain through with lemon juice and then cover the wet spot with salt, let it sit and dry overnight (with the salt etc in place), rinse and repeat if needed. Do this before washing for best results!
Weird Stains- Got a stain of unknown provenance? Try the magical “farmers stick“! Don’t let the weird as hell anime scarecrow chase you off, this greasy laundry stick is a magic wand for stain removal. Wet the fabric where the stain is, grind in the stick to make a lather, scrub, wash, repeat if necessary (before drying).
Hopefully some of these tips will help maximize your thrift shopping! It’s great to keep clothing out of the landfills as much as possible, and thrifting is a fun way to add some really unique styles to your wardrobe without spending a lot of money.