How do you clean a Thrifted jacket?

Buying pre-owned and thrifted clothing is an excellent way to save money and reduce waste. However, used clothes may require extra cleaning and care before wearing. When thrifting a jacket, inspect it closely and clean it properly to remove odors, stains, and other signs of previous wear. With some simple cleaning methods, you can freshen up a secondhand jacket and make it look and smell brand new.

Should you clean a thrifted jacket before wearing it?

Yes, it’s highly recommended to clean a thrifted jacket before wearing it. Here are some key reasons why:

  • Remove odors – Used clothes may have lingering odors from perfume, body sweat, smoke, etc. A thorough cleaning will help eliminate these smells.
  • Sanitize – Good hygiene is important. Cleaning removes germs and bacteria left behind by previous wearers.
  • Brighten – A clean jacket looks newer and fresher. Cleaning can bring back vibrancy and make stains less noticeable.
  • Check condition – Inspecting and cleaning gives you a chance to spot any tears, damage, or flaws.

Even jackets that look clean on the outside can harbor odors and germs. It’s better to be safe and clean the jacket before wearing it yourself.

How to inspect a used jacket before cleaning

Before getting a pre-owned jacket wet and soapy, inspect it closely first. Check for:

  • Stains – Look for visible stains, especially underarms, collar, and cuffs. Check inner lining too.
  • Odor – Smell jacket for smoke, body odor, perfume, or mildew.
  • Damage – Examine for tears, loose threads, missing buttons, frayed edges, etc.
  • Pockets – Empty any items left behind by previous owner.
  • Size & fit – Try on jacket and ensure it fits well and is comfortable.
  • Fabric content – Check tag to understand fabric type and washing requirements.

Make notes on any issues you spot so they can be addressed in cleaning. Identifying problems beforehand prevents damage.

Supplies needed to clean a thrifted jacket

Having the proper supplies on hand will make cleaning a used jacket much easier. Here are some recommended items to gather:

  • Mild detergent – Look for gentle liquid detergents or those specially formulated for delicates.
  • Stain remover – Pre-treat set-in stains with a stain fighting booster or stick.
  • Soft brush – Use a toothbrush, clothing brush, or other soft-bristle brush.
  • Vinegar – Helps remove odors and brighten fabrics.
  • Baking soda – Acts as a odor-fighting abrasive when making a paste with water.
  • Laundry bags – Mesh bags protect delicate fabrics in the wash.
  • Drying rack/hangers – Allows jacket to air dry flat or hanging up.
  • Lint roller – Removes surface fuzz and pet hair.

Having these supplies ready will make the cleaning process efficient and effective.

How to clean a thrifted denim jacket

For a thrifted denim jacket, follow this cleaning method:

  1. Check care tag – Confirm washing instructions and fabric content.
  2. Inspect – Look for stains and damage first before washing.
  3. Wash – Machine wash jacket alone with mild detergent on a delicate cycle. Use cool water.
  4. Treat stains – For stubborn spots, rub with stain remover before washing.
  5. Line dry – Hang denim jacket over a clothesline or drying rack. Never put denim in the dryer.
  6. Touch up – Once fully dry, use a lint roller to remove surface fuzz.

With the proper care, a thrifted denim jacket can be freshened up to look like new!

How to clean a thrifted leather jacket

Here are tips for cleaning a pre-owned leather jacket:

  1. Vacuum – Use upholstery attachment to vacuum entire surface to remove loose dirt.
  2. Disinfect – Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Spritz jacket and wipe down with a clean cloth.
  3. Spot clean – Use a gentle leather cleaner and soft rag to rub away any stains or problem areas.
  4. Deodorize – Sprinkle baking soda over the interior lining. Let sit 30 minutes before shaking off.
  5. Condition – Apply a leather conditioner to help moisturize and protect material.
  6. Air dry – Hang jacket on wide padded hanger to dry thoroughly after cleaning.

Never submerge real leather in water. The delicate cleaning process helps lift odors and soils while maintaining the structure of the jacket.

How to clean a thrifted wool jacket

Wool jackets require special care when cleaning. Follow these steps for best results:

  1. Check tag – Read fabric content and washing instructions first.
  2. Inspect – Look for any moth holes, damages or stains.
  3. Hand wash – Use mild, wool-safe detergent and lukewarm water. Let soak briefly.
  4. Rinse – Rinse wool thoroughly in lukewarm water to remove all suds.
  5. Lay flat – Roll jacket in a towel to gently press out moisture. Lay flat to dry.
  6. Reshape – Once completely dry, steam or press jacket to smooth out any wrinkles.

Never put wool in the washing machine or dryer. The fibers can shrink, pill, or become misshapen. Handle the fabric gently when wet.

How to clean a thrifted silk jacket

Silk requires the most delicate cleaning method. To clean thrifted silk:

  1. Pre-treat stains – Dab liquid detergent directly on any spots and let sit 5-10 minutes.
  2. Hand wash – Fill sink with cool water and silk-safe detergent. Submerge jacket and gently swish by hand.
  3. Rinse twice – Rinse silk thoroughly until water runs clear. Repeat a second time.
  4. Roll in towel – Gently squeeze out excess moisture by rolling jacket in a towel.
  5. Lay flat to dry – Smooth out silk on top of a drying rack or towels.
  6. Steam or iron – Once fully dry, use steam or gently iron on lowest setting if needed.

Silk fibers are very delicate. Handle the fabric with care and never wring, twist, scrub, bleach or place silk in the dryer. This will cause irreparable damage.

How to remove odors from a used jacket

Eliminating odors is a key part of freshening up a pre-worn jacket. If smells still linger after washing, try these extra steps:

  • Vinegar rinse – Soak jacket in a vinegar and water solution for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Baking soda scrub – Make a paste with baking soda and water. Gently rub into armpits, collar, and cuffs.
  • Freeze overnight – Place jacket in a plastic bag and freeze. Freezing can help kill odor-causing bacteria.
  • Air dry outside – Hang jacket on line outdoors. Sun and fresh air helps odors dissipate.
  • Activated charcoal – Place charcoal packs in enclosed spaces with jacket to absorb smells.

For very stubborn odors, take the jacket to professional dry cleaner. Their commercial machines, chemical solvents and expertise can efficiently eliminate embedded smells.

How to remove stains from a used jacket

Stains are common on secondhand clothes. Here are tips for tackling them:

  • Identify stain – Figure out the source if possible. Different stains require different techniques.
  • Pre-treat – Apply a stain remover stick or spray. Let sit before washing.
  • Blot, don’t rub – Use clean cloth to gently blot and lift the stain.
  • Use cold water – Hot water can set some stains. Use cold for best results.
  • Increase detergent – For heavy staining, use extra detergent and let soak before washing.
  • Try whitening products – Detergents with optical brighteners and hydrogen peroxide can whiten discoloration.
  • Repeat as needed – It may take several cycles of pre-treating and washing to fully lift out a stubborn stain.

For tough set-in stains that resist removal, take the jacket to a professional dry cleaner. Their commercial cleaning fluids and equipment are best for deeply embedded stains.

Tips for removing specific stains

Oil-based – Use dish soap, borax paste, or cornstarch to absorb grease. Rinse well.

Ink – Rub with alcohol or hairspray before laundering. Or try lemon juice or milk.

Sweat & deodorant – Make a paste of baking soda and water. Let sit before washing.

Mold or mildew – Treat with diluted bleach or lemon juice solution. Then wash.

Wine – Blot immediately with club soda or white vinegar.

How to repair minor damage on a used jacket

Here are some easy fixes for minor damage:

  • Missing button – Replace with matching button in the same size and color.
  • Torn lining – Use fabric glue or iron-on patches to repair interior tears.
  • Loose threads – Trim down any loose dangling threads with sharp scissors.
  • Scuffs – Buff away leather scuffs using shoe polish in a matching color.
  • Loose beads – Re-attach any loose beads or ornaments with clear nail polish or glue.

For more advanced damage like ripped seams, large holes, or major tears, seek a professional tailor or seamstress. They can mend the fabric damage properly.

How to freshen up the outer fabric

Once the jacket is clean, make the outer fabric look its best:

  • Steam – Use a garment steamer to smooth out wrinkles and refresh the fabric’s texture.
  • Nap brush – For wool, cashmere, velvet, etc gently brush against the nap to revive the pile.
  • Waterproof spray – For leather, suede, nubuck, etc apply a protective water repellent coating.
  • Whitening – Use whitening or optical brightener spray to eliminate dullness and yellowing.

Proper finishing gives thrifted jackets a renewed vibrancy. It removes dinginess for a like-new appearance.

What to do if a thrifted jacket is too big?

If a used jacket is too roomy, consider these easy adjustment options:

  • Take to a tailor for darting or slimming the silhouette
  • Sew shoulder pads into overly large shoulder area
  • Replace buttons with smaller ones to slightly reduce width
  • Try inserting bra strap clips or elastic thread loops at back for cinched-in look
  • Add belt at waistline for a more fitted style
  • Wear thicker layers or sweater underneath to take up space

For significant sizing issues, the jacket likely needs sizeable alterations by a tailor. If the cost is too high, it may be best to try to re-sell or swap the oversized jacket for one that fits properly.

What to do if a thrifted jacket has a persistent odor?

Baked-in odors can be tricky to remove from thrifted clothes. If a smell remains after cleaning, try these heavy duty odor removal methods:

  • Soak in vinegar solution for 1-2 hours before washing
  • Seal in bag with charcoal for 24-48 hours to absorb odor
  • Sprinkle liberally with baking soda, let sit overnight before vacuuming
  • Place outside in direct sunlight for a full day
  • Have professionally dry cleaned using chemical solvents

For very stubborn smells that conventional washing cannot eliminate, the jacket likely needs a deeper cleaning process with commercial-grade products. A professional dry cleaner has the best chance of successfully deodorizing a very stinky thrifted jacket.


With some simple cleaning methods and care, thrifted jackets can be refreshed to look and feel new again. Carefully inspect for stains and damages first. Then use proper techniques based on fabric type to hand wash or machine wash the jacket. Treat any lingering odors, make minor repairs if needed, and finish by steaming and freshening up the outer fabric. With a little extra effort, pre-owned jackets can have a new lease on life. Just be sure to properly clean and freshen up any thrifted garment before wearing it yourself.

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