How to Clean Thrifty Finds

If you're a big thrifter, you're going to have to get those awesome treasures clean.  Here are some tips to Clean Thrifty Finds.

How to Clean Thrifty Finds Pinterest Pin.

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Shopping at the thrift store, flea market and at antique stores is so much fun!  One thing that I have figured out in my thrifting adventures is that most second hand items need to be cleaned.  I am not afraid of rust and dirt, but those things need to be taken care of, for sure!  Today I'm going to share my tips for cleaning thrifted items.

How to Clean Thrifted Items

Cart full of thrifted items at Goodwill.

The first thing I do with just about everything I buy second hand is wipe it down.  Sometimes there are cobwebs, bugs and/or loose dirt that I can wipe off before it even goes into my car.  For that reason, I keep wipes in my car.  I have also found that plastic sheeting or an old sheet works great for car protection as well.

Now lets get on with how to clean the good stuff!

Wood Thrifted Finds

Wood can be tricky.  Depending on what the item is, sometimes a quick swipe with a disinfecting wipe will clean it.  

Squirt dirty wood with hose to clean.

But other pieces are super dirty.  In that case, I like to to take the items outside, scrub them with a scrub brush and dish soap and then rinse with the hose.  Then it is best to let the items dry in the sun.  With this method, I haven't had any problems with it making the wood bow and causing any damage.

Fabric Thrifted Finds

If it fits, it goes in the washer to get clean.  I wash linens and clothing with lysol sanitizer in my washing machine with regular detergent.  Sometimes it takes 2 washes to get the items completely clean.  I spot clean with stain spray.  

Use lysol laundry sanitizer to clean vintage linens.

I wash the items separately from the rest of my laundry.  I don't think I've ever bought anything too fragile for machine washing, but if that were the case, I think you could use the same products, just wash by hand in the sink.

Glass/Ceramic Thrifted Finds

Glass and Ceramic pieces are pretty durable, so most glass pieces go straight from the thrift store to the dishwater in my sink.  

How to clean thrifted glass items.

I let things soak for a few minutes, then scrub it well with a sponge.  Soapy water will usually help to take off price tags as well.  Some thrift shops use markers to write on glass but that comes off easy enough with a magic eraser.  


How to clean thrifted books.

I always wipe down the covers of books with a disinfecting wipe.  Usually that's good enough to take care of them.  If the books have an odor, see the stinky stuff section for ideas for taking care of that.  

Tarnished Brass

I love the look of aged brass- to me the tarnish is  much-loved patina.  

Clean tarnished brass with bar keepers friend.

But for some pieces, the tarnish needs to be removed.  All it takes is a some elbow grease and Bar Keepers Friend.  Don't forget to wear gloves because BKF tears up your hands. 

How to clean tarnished brass from the thrift store.

I found this little cutie brass trinket at the thrift store.  I was going to leave it the way it was, but the charm of the piece was very disguised by the major tarnish.  

Tarnished brass cleaned with bar keepers friend.

I applied Bar Keepers Friend to the trinket box.  Then I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed some more with a sponge and an old tooth brush.  I rinsed and scrubbed several times, but all of it was worth it when the brassy shine came out.

Stinky Stuff

Now this needs a category all on it's own.  Some vintage items come with that vintage scent - you know the one I'm talking about- it's usually mold and age from being in a damp place without air flow.  This scent is tricky.  Sometimes it comes out of the item with a good wipe down with a disinfecting wipe and sometimes it has permeated the item.  That's when I pull out the vinegar and baking soda.

Use baking soda to get odors out of vintage items.

  • baking soda works well for pieces that cannot get wet like paper.  I pour baking soda into a large baggie and place the piece inside for several days or even weeks depending on how strong the musty smell is.  
  • vinegar words well to reduce odors in wood pieces.  If possible, wipe the item down with vinegar and allow it to dry in the sun.  You can also place small containers of vinegar inside of furniture for several days.  

Sticker Price Tags

I wish thrift stores would not use stickers for price tags.  They are kinda difficult to remove and sometimes they remove the finish of the item.  But since no one asked my opinion (and truthfully I use stickers on a few things in my antique booth too) here is a great way to remove them.

How to remove sticker price tags from thrifted items.

Heat up the sticker with a heat gun or blow dryer.  Then use a crafting spatula to lift the sticker.  Heating the sticker reduces the stickiness and allows the spatula to slide under and lift up the sticker without damaging the piece underneath.  

How to Clean thrift store finds.

With these suggestions for How to Clean Thrift Store Finds, you can feel more comfortable and confident in your thrifting because you'll know how to clean your treasures!  

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