How to Get Thrift Store Smell Out of Clothes


We love a fun thrifting find. But the musty, thrift-store smell that can accompany such treasures? Not quite as lovable.

Thrifting is fun, good for your wallet, and good for the planet. Buying clothes at thrift stores is a great way to prevent textile waste and update your wardrobe on a budget without contributing to fast fashion. As old trends circle back around, you can create an outfit that’s straight out of a magazine. Whether you’re a new or experienced thrifter, you may be familiar with one of the few downsides–the musty thrift store smell that often accompanies vintage clothing. Don’t worry–we’re here to teach you how to get rid of thrift store smell so you can wear your new-to-you items with full confidence!

The Best Way to Wash Thrifting Finds

The first thing to do with your new thrifting find? Wash it! We recommend washing the item in cold water. Try a detergent designed to combat odor, such as our Active Wash or Stain & Odor Detergents. These detergents contain enzymes that target the sources of even the most stubborn smells.

Avoid drying with high heat, as heat drying can amplify and lock in lingering smells. Instead, allow the garment to air dry, or dry it on low or no heat in the machine. (Don’t forget Wool Dryer Balls to shorten the dryer time!) Depending on the age of the item and the level of odor, you may want to wash the garment twice.

The Spray Method

If washing it isn’t quite cutting it–or for items that can’t be washed, like purses or shoes–try the spray method! Grab your favorite scent of Dropps Revitalizing Mist, thoroughly spray the item, and then let dry. The anti-odor technology will tackle the source of the smell, leaving just the light, freshly-laundered scent of your choosing behind. Not a fragrance person? Not to worry! Try an old costuming trick and fill a spray bottle with vodka (the cheaper the better). The high alcohol content will deodorize the item, and the odor should evaporate with the alcohol when it dries.

Air Them Out

Sometimes items just need some fresh air! Hang your garment on a hanger or clothesline outdoors or by an open window. If the item is musty from simply sitting on a garment rack for a long time, this should help shake those smells out. Sunlight is a natural deodorizer, so let that item get some UV rays if possible!

Freeze It

Maybe that new-to-you shirt is dry clean only, or you simply don’t want to get it wet. Try putting it in the freezer! Freezing your clothing is an easy and effective way to deoderize. Simply put the garment in the freezer before bed, and wake up to a fresh, odor-free item. We particularly like this trick with denim!


Tips and tricks abound, ranging from the simple (hanging your item in the direct sunlight) to the silly-sounding (burying the item in kitty litter that contains activated charcoal). (Pro Tip: Both of those methods do work). Do you have a secret method for how to eliminate that thrift store smell once and for all? Let us know!