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How to Remove Odor from Vintage Clothing

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The beauty of thrifting is being able to find that one hidden gem, unearthing that little special something from a whole lot of nothing. Unfortunately though, everything—everything, regardless of whether it’s a something or a nothing—reeks of that stale “old clothes” stench that’s somehow only unique to vintage shops. It’s not a pleasant smell, either, unlike say, a good decades-old book from the library. It’s a rank issue that no amount of airing, washing, or fragrance-spritzing can mask. Luckily, there are a few fairly well-known (and one relatively unknown) smell-dissolving solutions from basic household items that can cut through the scent.

Baking Soda

You know how leaving an open box of baking soda in the fridge can kill odor? The same idea applies here, though the execution is a little different. Sprinkle a small amount in a plastic bag (without holes!), toss in your item, seal the bag, and let it sit for a few days. 

Distilled White Vinegar

When it comes to eco-friendly at-home cleaning solutions, distilled white vinegar is always listed. Always. Its natural grease-cutting acidic properties can neutralize the most potent of smells, including your vintage clothes. Fill a spray bottle with distilled white vinegar and spritz all over, concentrating on concentrated offensive-smelling areas. Then, let it air out. 

Coffee Grounds

Consider this one a tried-and-true home remedy—our market director, Wendy Wallace, once put this one to the test. The result? Success. She dumped a pound of ground beans into a plastic bag from the grocery store, hung it untied inside a garment bag along with her vintage piece, and zipped it up. The scent was gone within a week. 

There you have it—now nothing will be in the way between you and your one-of-a-kind vintage finds.

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