A rack of colorful vintage clothes

How to Remove Bad Smells From Vintage Clothes?

Vintage clothes can be a lot of fun, whether you model your style on the 1970s or just like to go out occasionally to 1980s-themed events. You can often find some excellent quality vintage clothes in thrift stores or on online vintage stores like eBay or Depop, but you’ve probably noticed that they often come with a distinctive odor. This is usually caused by lingering residue from sweat, skin and the oils associated with them. Clothes tend to accumulate all the smells they encounter during their lifespan; even regular washing doesn’t remove this entirely. Then, once they are hung up in a thrift store or vintage clothing shop, they may hang there for a while in a warm environment, causing the odors covered up by cleaning products to return. If you’ve encountered this problem and want to learn how to wash vintage clothes without damaging them to eliminate those lingering smells, then read on for some tips and advice.

Tips for Getting Rid of Vintage Clothes Smell

You might be tempted to simply throw your new purchases into the washing machine, but this could be a mistake if you want to clean vintage clothing. The fabric in vintage clothes can be delicate due to age, and they could be made from all-natural fibers, which don’t stand up to machine washing as well as some modern artificial fibers. In addition, a lot of old clothes can’t be washed in water at all as they are prone to shrinking. These tips should do the trick and not ruin your vintage clothing.

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is an excellent item to have in your kitchen cupboard as, aside from its obvious primary use, it’s fantastic for removing all kinds of odors. For example, you can leave an open container in your fridge to remove lingering food smells or on your carpet when a spillage has caused a musty smell. It’s also very gentle, so it’s suitable for getting that lingering odor out of those vintage clothes. These five simple steps are all you need to follow to clean vintage clothing with baking soda.

  1. First, sprinkle dry baking soda into a suitably-sized plastic bag.
  2. Place the item of clothing in the bag.
  3. Close the bag and seal it with a knot.
  4. Shake the contents gently.
  5. Finally, leave the clothing in the bag for a couple of days before removing it and shaking off the baking soda.

Use Newspaper

If you have an item that absolutely can’t be washed, such as a blazer or jacket, you can use newspaper to remove musty smells. Stuff the pockets and sleeves with newspaper and place the item in a sealed plastic bag. In a day or two, the newspaper will absorb the musty odor.

Use Vinegar

Another household staple for cleaning and removing odors, vinegar can be used in one of two ways to clean vintage clothing and remove that musty thrift store smell. For clothes that are delicate or can’t be washed conventionally, use the first method; if you have a cupboard or storage closet that can be sealed, hang the item of clothing above a bowl of vinegar, taking care the fabric doesn’t come into direct contact with the vinegar. Then leave the article of clothing to hang there for a night or two. If the vinegar smell lingers, hang it where it can air out.

On less delicate clothes, you can use vinegar in a spray, which is an excellent method for stubborn odors. First, hang the garment up and spray; once the vinegar evaporates, the smell will also be gone. Then open a window and let the vinegar odor clear. This method can also work using vodka.

Use a Laundry Odor Eliminating Booster

While all of the above methods work well, they all take time, and sometimes, if the garment is not too delicate, you just want to get it clean quickly. So, how to wash vintage clothes in your washing machine and ensure there are no lingering musty odors?

Fresh Wave’s odor-eliminating laundry booster is just the product you are looking for when it comes to getting rid of those hard-to-eliminate odors. It’s perfect for eliminating difficult odors from smoke odor, mildew odor, food odor, sweat odor, and much more. And it’s not just for laundry: you can also use it to deodorize carpets, walls, kitchen counters, dishwashers, garbage disposals, and almost any surface.

When you want to clean vintage clothing, that musty thrift shop odor can linger even after a regular wash. So, once you’ve checked the garment is suitable for machine washing and won’t shrink in water, pre-soak them in the bathtub using cold water and Fresh Wave’s odor-eliminating laundry booster. Then, once they’ve soaked for at least thirty minutes, put them in your washing machine at a suitable setting.

Washing and Drying Tips for Caring for Vintage Clothes

As indicated above, not all vintage clothes are suitable for machine washing, some are too delicate, and some will shrink if you use water. The unfortunate answer here is that if a piece of vintage clothing smells particularly bad, don’t buy it unless it can be machine washed. This is because the methods above will mask or remove odors, but they do very little to remove grime which will begin to smell again later on.

So how to best clean vintage clothing in your machine without causing damage? Well, there are a few tips you can follow. Firstly, use cold water where possible, as this is less likely to cause shrinking or damage to the fibers. Secondly, don’t overstuff the machine; the water and cleaning agents can get around a garment much more easily if there is more room, and items won’t rub against each other so much, which causes more wear.

Of course, you then need to dry your garments. The best solution is to allow your vintage clothes to air naturally outside on a washing line, allowing any lingering odors to disperse with the wind. If this isn’t possible due to weather or lack of space, you should dry vintage clothes on low heat, as drying at high heat can cause any lingering smells to re-emerge.