“Is thrift shopping clean?”

Posted On Wednesday, July 6th, 2011
Filed Under: shopping, Thrift Stores

I’ve been a serious thrifter for years now and people tend to be amazed at the pieces I find {just check out some of my past Thrifty Threads posts} and I always offer to take them thrifting with me but occasionally I get a hesitant reaction. And then the person finally expresses their concern…

Is thrift shopping sanitary? Don’t you worry about bed bugs? Do the clothes smell?

These questions initially annoyed and kinda insulted me {do you really think I or any thrifter would wear dirty clothes no matter how cheap they are?}, but I realized this is a serious concern for some people.

To answer the question: yes, thrift shopping is sanitary. I know there’s the icky factor of wearing someone else’s clothing but think of it this way: When you go thrift shopping, you always wash the clothing before wearing them {here are my tips for cleaning thrift store clothes}. However, when you purchase new clothing, I bet you don’t wash them before wearing, do you? You remove the tags, put them in your closet with your clean clothes or just rip the tags off and wear them right away. You don’t know who or how many people tried on the clothes before you or if they were worn and returned to the store.

The way I see it, my thrifted clothes are clean and I know this because I’ve cleaned them thoroughly. I’ve never heard of anyone having issues with thrift stores clothes. However, there was a outbreak of bed bugs at clothing stores like Abercrombie, Hollister and Victoria’s Secret where the garments are new and “clean.”

So how do you guys feel, are you freaked out by wearing clothes that once belonged to someone else? Do people question how clean your thrifted clothes really are?

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21 thoughts on ““Is thrift shopping clean?”

  1. ha! Also, keep in mind that Victoria Secret allows customers to return underwear….yea that’s nasty!

  2. Exactly, people always give me the side eye when they ask me about my thrifted clothes.  To each it’s own but I have no problems “werking” my thrifted finds, lol.  

  3. I always throw newly thrifted clothes in the dryer on high for 40 mins- hr before i clean them. Bedbugs die at prolonged exposure to high heat. I dont believe theres bugs in my clothes but IF there is, giving them a thorough heating prior to cleaning would take care of it and give me peace of mind. Since the clothes are heated while dry instead of wet, i dont worry about stretching or special care instructions for clothing since fabric is stronger dry.
    Got the idea from a post by Cheap JAP.

    • I heat mine in the dryer too.  It gives me some peace of mind, just in case there are a couple of unwanted hitchhikers.   I’ve also heard of people stashing things in their freezer, but that takes weeks to be effective.  I want my goodies now!
      I have to say, I’ve spent more on dry cleaning items than what I paid to thrift them, but it was well worth it. 

  4. I’m an avid thrifter and sometimes you will come across an icky piece of clothing here & there.  I just bypass it and on to the next.  I keep my hand sanitizer with me at all times so I’m always prepared.  Once I get my items home they stay separated from everything else, in the bag until they go in the wash.  I wash according to the directions, but I will chance a dry clean only item in the wash on gentle cycle as long as it’s not wool (scared it will shrink), so far I have never had a problem.  As for accessories/shoes, I’ll wipe them down with alcohol, and then give them a lysol spritz.  lol.  I have never had a problem with any of my thrift store finds.

  5. I think the act of thrifting is a bit dirty.  The scent in some stores is just beyond.  There are times I wish I had worn gloves just to peruse the racks.  LOL. But like you said, cleaning thrifted clothes before wearing is the standard vs. new clothing.  I also throw thrifted pieces in the dryer as soon as I get home.  A guy from the Dr. Oz show said that will kill any germs/bugs.  It’s also great for shrinking items too.

    • True, some of the actual stores can be a bit grimy but I love the Salv on 46th St: no smell and pretty clean. When I shop at warehouse sales (Goodwill Outlet or Housing Works Buy the Bag sale), I tend to bring gloves with me. 

  6. You are so right. When I buy my clothes, I always wash them before to wear them. Some people don’t. That is nasty. regardless of whether a garment is new or second hand , washing the clothes  before to wear them is a must. 
    Great post.

  7. i’ve worked in retail, i always wash my new clothes cuz ppl are nasty @ what they return. i’ve had underwear return that had dookie stains in it, socks that were once white returned blk. 

  8. I am not the least bit freaked out about wearing thrift clothes.  I love thrifting and have been doing so for over 25 years!  I love your website and I am glad there is someone else out there who enjoys it as much as I do!  I saw you on the Nate Berkus show and I thought you were great!  I had to check out your website.

    • Thanks Theresa! Glad you loved the segment. I’ll be sure to keep up with the thrift tips and feel free to share some of your own. You’ve been doing it for 25 years, you’re a pro 🙂

  9. Hey, I’ve never seen any problem thrift shopping, but my mom despises it. She has brought to my attention that very possibly, people could have died in these clothes, and that’s why they have been donated, I don’t, nor does anyone else, know where this clothes came from and who has worn it and why they have donated it. I don’t know what to think anymore, HELP!!

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