The Real Reason You Should Always Wash Items From A Thrift Store

When you pick up a cute vintage dress or a nearly-new sweater at the thrift store, do you wash it first thing? Or are you impatient and eager to wear your new find right away? If you're a wear-before-washer, you might want to reconsider. Some of the obvious hazards from thrift store finds are contamination by sweat, smoke, or mildew. Plus, don't ever underestimate the seriously nasty threat that is bed bugs. 

The Environmental Protection Agency considers bed bugs to be a public health issue, and their bites are linked to serious allergic reactions, skin infections, and even mental health issues. What's more, the pest control experts at Terminix offer the unwelcome news that adult bed bugs can survive for five whole months between bites, and yes, according to Oklahoma State University, thrift store finds can come with these unwanted hitchhikers.

If even fear of bed bugs doesn't motivate you to launder your thrift shop finds right away, though, here's a chilling warning from a thrift store employee on Reddit: In the boxes of donated items, this Redditor says they have found "used condoms, lube, poopy diapers, literal poop just chilling in bags of clothes, bags of poopy underwear, and water bottles full of pee." Ew. With that horrible mental image, do you think you can even get yourself to shop at a thrift store again? Bet if you do, you'll know to go armed with industrial-strength sanitizer (and maybe a hazmat suit).

How to properly clean your thrift store finds

Assuming you can get over that Reddit comment in time for the next 50 percent off everything sale at the Salvation Army store, we just know you're going to launder everything you buy as soon as you get it home. 

For anything that's relatively sturdy and/or possibly contaminated, the Jessoshii beauty blog recommends you wash it in the hottest water possible, and dry it on the highest heat — in fact, if you're looking to kill off any potential bed bugs, half an hour in the dryer on high should do it (via Beach Pest Control). Dry cleaning will also kill most germs and pests, and is recommended for more delicate items or ones marked "dry clean only" — although, again, if bed bugs are at all a possibility, even those items should spend half an hour in a clothes dryer prior to dry cleaning just to make sure they're all baked to extinction.

Non-launderable items such as shoes, hats, and purses may be wiped down with rubbing alcohol or another disinfectant to kill any germs. As for unpleasant odors (ugh, flashbacks to the Reddit post again), baking soda sprinkled on clothing or a half cup of distilled white vinegar added to rinse water should help to kill these. At least we fervently hope it will, since otherwise... ugh, the horror. Just the thought of that stink, and its source, is enough to make you want to stay in your (newly-purchased) pajamas forever and ever.