Here's How to Make Sure Your Thrifted Finds Are Clean Before You Wear Them

Although Goodwill can be a great option for thrifting, making sure the things you pick out are clean can be a real concern.

Kori Williams - Author

Jul. 5 2024, Published 11:00 a.m. ET

A wide shot of a Goodwill location during the day.
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It’s no secret that thrifting is more popular than it’s ever been. It's an enjoyable, sustainable way to hunt for clothes or accessories. The inventory you have access to tops what’s on mall shelves easily. Thrifting is also a great way to bond with friends and save money!

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One of the most popular thrift store chains in the U.S., Goodwill, has been a staple for people of all incomes. It has everything from clothing to household goods to supplies for new hobbies.

Although these products may be new to you, they aren't brand new, and you want to be safe with anything you put on your body or home. But does Goodwill wash clothes, or are you footing the bill for that?

A Goodwill storefront.
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Does Goodwill wash clothes?

No, Goodwill doesn't wash anything. MERS Goodwill points out that nothing is cleaned after you drop off your donation. Toys aren't wiped down. Marks aren't removed from furniture. Everything is as is, and you must wash them when you're home.

However, Goodwill does encourage those donating to clean the items before bringing them into the store. Because the store cannot enforce this rule, however, it's a good reminder to clean items after you purchase them.

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A closeup of clothing in a washing machine in the middle of a cycle.
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Goodwill isn't the only store that doesn't clean its products. Items purchased from a department store are not cleaned beforehand, either. What you're picking up off the rack "brand new" may have been returned by another customer beforehand. Stores aren't known for running a quick cycle before things end up back on the shelf.

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Do thrift stores wash clothes?

Although every thrift store is different, it's unlikely that thrift stores take the time to clean every piece that comes through its doors. Especially considering all the fabrics and washing instructions the pieces come with that would make quick cleaning difficult. The Sensible Fay points out that some chain stores do sort through the clothes to get rid of things that are dirty or could be a hazard.

A pair of light-wash jeans with grass stains next to stain-treating products.
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However, some smaller boutique thrift shops or some that specialize in certain merchandise have more control over what they accept. This means it's more likely they have the resources and time to have certain levels of quality control. If you're curious about what regulations a particular store has, be sure to contact them directly.

Here's how to wash thrifted clothes.

According to Today, there are a few things to look out for when you wash thrifted clothes. To start, deodorize the new items. You can either hang them outside for a couple of hours or use a steamer to get the job done. Sustainable stylist Roberta Lee told the publication to pretreat stains and fix any issues with buttons or zippers before you wash the clothes.

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Various clothes on a clothesline on a sunny day.
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Afterward, check the labels on everything in your haul for care directions. Some things may be dry clean only without you realizing it. And some things will last longer in your closet if they are hand-washed.

When drying clothes, Lee points out that it's better for the clothes if you can air dry them. Some items made of wool or cashmere should be laid flat to dry.

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