Getting Rid Of That Thrift Store Smell

June 23, 2018

It’s probably happened to you–browsing thrift store racks, you spy a diamond in the moth-nibbled rough. You grab it before the other thrift hounds, check out, and bring it home, only to realize it’s fragranced with eau de Goodwill. What is that smell, anyway? Jolie Kerr investigated for The New York Times:

… what makes those smells so universal? To find the answer, it turns out, we must only turn to Depeche Mode’s 1984 classic, “People Are People,” because that smell? That smell is us.

After taking some items to Procter and Gamble labs, Kerr found the common element is body soils. Not what I wanted to hear, but what did I expect, really? The good news is, for many items, these odors can be mitigated if not completely removed. According to the experts Kerr consulted, dry cleaning is less effective than washing in water and soap yourself (so this may not be effective for tailoring, which can be ruined by laundering).

There are some best practices to follow when laundering vintage clothing, or anything that’s especially rank-smelling. Machine washing will be the best choice for most garments, and if you go that route, stick with cold water, don’t overstuff the machine and opt to air dry the clothes, or machine dry using the no- or low-heat setting. High heat drying can amplify lingering smells.

Kerr recommends Dr. Bronner’s soap, and for accessories? Kitty litter, which contains activated charcoal, a good odor remover.

Read more here. And check out our clothing care and maintenance tips.