Clean Clothes eBay Thrift Store

Clean Clothes vs. Eau de Thrift Store

Dollar Flipper Clothing, eBay Tips 19 Comments

The clothing you sell should be clean. Thrift stores have great deals, but much like your grandmother’s closet, some of the clothes just have a funky smell. It could be perfume, mothballs, a stale smell, or some strange combination of all of the above. I call this Eau de Thrift Store. 99% of the time, I don’t clean any clothes I buy to re-sell. When something has a funk, I have a general plan of attack.

Clean Clothes eBay Thrift Store

I really miss the days that my mom would to hang clothes out on the line.

5 Ways to Clean Clothes Prior to Listing

  1. Hang it in open air. In reality, I just hang the clothes in my garage, especially during the winter. The point of this step is to get the item out of the plastic bag so it can breathe a bit.
  2. Hang it outside in the sun. This is easiest to do in the summer. But in my house, it’s actually really hard! We have a HUGE tree in the back of the house and a bunch of trees from our neighbors in the front. We end up having a bunch of tiny windows for when our deck (in the back) or our front porch actually gets any sun. Sunlight is such a big help, though. I’m not sure if it’s just head helping the smells evaporate or if it just loosens the bonds to the clothing.
  3. Wash it – but be careful. If it’s a pair of jeans, this isn’t a big deal. Just throw it in the wash with your own clothes (or alone if it’s nasty). I’ve heard of people who are worried about a buyer saying that an item has a “smell” associated with it, but would they rather a “clean” scent or some nasty perfume?
  4. Febreze – Unscented.  This is great for any folk who are allergic to strange scents. On top of that, this literally removes the smells (well, it traps it in a bubble). I first heard the original story about Febreze in a book The Power of Habit. Febreze didn’t take off until they added a scent, but now that it’s popular, the unscented version is sought after.
  5. Dry Cleaning. This is for expensive items that I’m afraid to mess up. Think: cashmere, leather jackets, suede. These are items need to be cleaned without damaging the material. If the item is worth $100, spending some (tax-deductible) money at the dry cleaner’s is totally justifiable.





If I’m not willing to take one of these steps, it goes in the donation bin. Someone can clean it with an industrial washing machine!

Clothes from thrift stores are the biggest offenders. Garage sale clothing usually smells nice. I don’t know if it’s that the clothes are outside, or if it’s the fact that the clothes come right out of a closet into piles in front of someone’s house. One of those is the reason. I’m not sure which. Flea markets are hit or miss depending on where the clothing was sourced and how many times it’s remained unsold at the end of the day.

For anyone who regularly goes to a Goodwill Outlet (pay by the pound for unsorted/uncleaned items), I’ve heard that a washing machine is basically required, as well as gloves for when you’re looking through the items. Maybe I’ll make a trip out to Baltimore to check out the closest one!

Do you wash your clothes that you re-sell? Any tips or tricks to help get rid of the smells?

Image Creditcraig wilford

Comments 19

  1. Hanging outside in the sun helps 99%. But once a had a jacket returned for having “old” smell. That was vtg Pendleton LOBO wool jacket. It does have its “grandma close”t smell which doesn’t go away after days hanging in the open air. I still have it and hesitate if I should relist or donate it…

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      Oh man, those jackets are really cool. Have you tried just disclosing the smell in the listing? Something like “The jacket has an “old” smell due to its age. I didn’t want to have it cleaned in case of allergies, but I discounted the price so the jacket could be cleaned by the buyer as they choose.”

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  2. Good post. The thrift stores I shop in all seem to have a general funky smell to them. I use BIZ and soak the items for about 30 minutes, then add Tide and wash as usual. That does the trick for the most part.BIZ is great because it gets out any stains PLUS that funky smell. BUT I think I will use your idea of hanging them outside for awhile before I wash them as I am sure the fresh air will be a good start to getting things de-funked! Also, instead of spending a lot of money on dry cleaning, I use Dryel and dry clean my items at home in the dryer. Works like a charm!

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      That’s awesome. I’ve never tried dry cleaning my own items. I always love the Seinfeld bit. (paraphrasing) Dry cleaning can’t be dry. There’s some sort of liquid involved. Scraping something off your jacket with a fingernail, now that’s dry cleaning!

      1. Hanging outside has worked for me so far. I only wash if there are obvious stains and I have not paid to dry clean anything yet.

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          Yeah, it’s definitely the best option if you have the sun. I just don’t have a lot most of the day, and we also have a winter season which limits it too. If you have a sunny area where you can hang things, it makes a big difference.

  3. I go to the Goodwill outlet fairly regularly and the stuff here (in MN) is for the most part not gross. The worst thing that happens is there will be a bin full of wet clothes (very rarely but it does happen). That is horrible and the only time I wish I had gloves. If you go to the outlet be sure to let us know what you find! I got a pair of rag & bone booties this week which was super exciting 🙂 One of the Goodwill stores near me uses this horrible spray stuff. They just wander around with the bottle spraying it EVERYWHERE. The smell is a mixture of cleaning/sweet/terrible and still somehow has that ‘thrift’ smell underneath. The stuff smells 10x worse than anything I have gotten at my outlet.

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      That’s awesome. As a father of small children, the gross stuff doesn’t scare me that much. I really want to hit one up, I just need to make a day trip out of it. And I need to make sure that I’m through my big piles that I already have if I’m going to get a ton more stuff!

  4. Love all the tips! For things that I don’t want to wash, like bins with sweaters or throws, I scatter a few nice scented fabric softener sheets in the bins. Cheap and really do absorb odors without leaving an offensice scent.

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  5. Interesting topic, Chris. The smell of thrift stores used to be the bane of my existence when I was a kid under the power of a Mega Thrifting Mom back in the 1970s! When I first started selling on eBay, I used to wash and iron EVERYTHING, but that quickly became too expensive and WAY too much work to keep up long term. Today, I mostly spot treat stains (I have become an expert in this department, LOL!) and sometimes just run a pile of clothes through the dryer with a hand towel soaked in Febreze, the mystery fluid. I have found that just being stored in bags/plastic bins makes stuff smell weird, so I stopped bagging clothing and just stored clothes (90% of my stuff is women’s clothing) in bins with a few dryer sheets thrown in.

    For the first time EVER, I just had an item dry cleaned. Last year, I was cruising mom’s hot spot thrift shops in phoenix when she approached me with a skirt that she thought “looked good.” I cringed at the $5 price tag – because I HATE spending more than $3 on an item; my goal is always to sell 10X the price I paid — but I bit the bullet to make Mama happy. (I did not know the brand at the time, and I usually do my research on an item BEFORE I buy it, but in this case I just went ahead and shelled out $5. Imagine my surprise when I got home and discovered that Shamask maxi linen skirts in the bias-cut style were sold out at Neiman Marcus — where the retail price was $859!!! No WAY, right? I did shell out another $7 to have that sucker cleaned and pressed to perfect newness. I am SO curious whether eBay shoppers are aware of this brand. Dresses and suits from this maker are in the thousands!!

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      I’ve never heard of that skirt, but wow! I’d probably have bought it for the material. Linen is normally expensive! Great find. Hope it sells for a lot!

  6. Thanks so much for your post! My sister-in-law and I recently teamed up to start selling on eBay, and name brand clothes from thrift stores are definitely prominent in our shop. I had always wondered about what to do with the “Eau-du-Thrift”. The Febreeze trick is great (I’m always terrified that I’ll damage an item in my washing machine).
    Happy thrifting 🙂

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      Awesome! I try not to wash anything unless I need to. I’d rather the one-off customer complaint due to an odor that can be fixed through dry cleaning expenses/refund than having to wash everything!

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  8. have you tried baking soda? 🙂
    I once bought a gorgeous vintage blouse and when I opened the package in my room- oooooo boy… I hung it up (it was at night when I got home from work) and I couldn’t sleep. The smell was pretty overpowering. I have to move the blouse outside my bedroom.
    So I handwashed it the next day, sun dried and hope for the best. The smell was still there. About 40%. So I took a clear container, put the blouse inside, place a small cup of baking soda beside it and seal it. I chose a clear container so I could monitor if there’s bug crawling out or something.
    And viola! Like magic haahah

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