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Thrift Day. Cleaning the Loot.

I can't believe I am writing this post... it's not a secret that the biggest fear people have about thrifting is the risk of bedbugs. Ugh, I just said it... bedbugs. I am impressed that I can even write the words. I went to university in Toronto and for three years lived in not particularly awesome buildings. I have experienced bedbugs and I will say that through some proactive measures, I got off pretty easy. But for years they haunted my sleep. It's only been about a year that I haven't randomly woken up during the night, ripped off the covers and started crying at Matt that I could feel the bedbugs (no, we never had them but the paranoia is insane). For a long time I never really thought about bedbugs while I was thrifting but it's hard to ignore when it is in the media constantly. Now, I want to be aware and do what I can do because the thought of bringing bedbugs into our home would kill me with guilt. I put in my iron stomach this morning and did lots of additional Internet research (you know, the kind of research that helps you graduate college) and I am now even more aware that the issue is beyond complicated and I am no by no means an expert.
But these are the steps I do to make me feel comfortable with thrifting. I have never heard of a bedbug infestation in any of the local thrift haunts I visit... and in today's day and age of instant information, I find some comfort in that. I don't think that bedbugs are a guarantee in thrift stores, but it is best to be aware and have a plan. This is what I do...

The minute I walk out of a thrift store with some loot, I give myself a high five, put on my lip gloss and tie the top of the bag nice and tight. When I get home I pop that sucker in the freezer. This is where it get complicated... there is so much research out there about the effectiveness of freezing vs. bedbugs. People have asked me if I have a special thrift freezer and yes, for the time being I do. Not because I'm spoiled like that but because Matt's Dad gave us an extra freezer and until I learn the art of becoming a Costco fiend and buying 100 lbs of frozen spinach at a time, I use that freezer to squirrel away my thrift finds. Because it is an extra freezer I don't open and close it all the time, which can cause a fluctuating temp, and I put that bag away for a good two weeks. Many of you have commented before that you run things through a hot wash cycle or through the dryer for 20 minutes... both of these are effective. I just put everything in the freezer because a)there are things I don't want to ruin with the heat (yes, I buy crazy stuff at the thrift store, you know that) and b) I am just not the person who goes home and cleans something immediately. I used to just let my thrift bags accumulate around the room until I got my sh*t together and washed and repaired it... this way at least, they are safely in one area until I wash or dryclean; an area that keeps bedbugs dormant and even kills them if the exposure is long and cold enough. Remember, I am not treating an infestation with the freezer treatment, I am just controlling what I can in case I bring a bug home.

From my freezer, I sort my goods into three groups...


Dry cleaning- I hate this part of thrifting. Nothing ruins the high of an $8 thrifted silk dress faster than a $20 dollar dry cleaning bill. Dry cleaning is expensive and often uses a potentially harmful chemical in its cleaning process... boo to both of those! In the past, however, I have taken chances on some dry clean garments and hand washed them with less than stellar results (this story still makes me a cry), so lately I have given in to dry cleaning a bit more. We did buy 10 coupons to get $25 worth of dry cleaning for $10 from WagJag (I think it's the Canadian version of Groupon, as Winners is the Canadian version of T.J. Maxx and Celine Dion is the Canadian version of Jay Z) and we have been using those very wisely. I dry clean silk blouses (because my pressing skills are weak), any blazers and dresses that are silk or overly structured. I dry cleaned this dress above because it's handmade and thus has no labelling. I don't think it's silk or anything but I realllllllly love the colours of this dress and don't want to be responsible for hurting it. If I love it, I err on the cautious side but I will take chances and gently hand wash knits... even if it says dry clean only.


Washing/Hand washing- I wash as much as I can. Jeans, sweaters, skirts... I do hand wash a lot because I hate ruining things and I need the workout of washing things in the tub (I don't have a laundry sink anymore:(...). Speaking of workouts... this alpaca sweater weighed about 20lbs when it was wet. I did some bicep curls with it before I threw it in the spin cycle. If we are still talking about bedbugs (still?), then throwing a dry item into the dryer is both easy on the garment and effective against those things that come out at night to bite you.


No washing- Yeah, I am gross. Sometimes I don't wash thrifted stuff... or dry clean it either. If this is the case, I leave it in the freezer for extra long. This especially applies to thrifted sequins... I don't trust myself to hand wash it and any good dry cleaner will warn you that the chemical process can alter the look of the sequins. I take great comfort in the fact that before myself and J. Crew came on the scene (look at me, exaggerating my sequin importance!!!), sequins were not worn as day time looks and often not worn at all. Most of my thrifted sequins have no signs of wear in them... they were either worn out for an Italian wedding in the 80's or left hanging in the closet waiting for a special day that never arrived.

I hope this post doesn't make you flee thrifting. If you read my blog regularly, you know that this is the opposite of what I would want to happen. It is because I thrift so much that I have pretty strict rules for myself... Back in the day I, along with every other Canadian teen, worked at Tim Hortons.... the words 'it is better to be proactive than to be reactive' were burned into my brain at work. I took that lesson and applied it to thrifting. I also learned to banter with customers while making coffee but I shall save that great skill for another post...

Next week back to the happier side of thrifting!


Sofia said...

Love your thrift day posts. Such great tips for one of my favorite pastimes.

From Suns To Moons said...

Your sequin theory is spot-on. I think our parents' generation was also very much into "saving" all of their best clothes for special occasions. My mom would wear her nicest dress/shoes/purse once a year, if she was lucky enough to be invited to a wedding that often. I wear my best stuff as much as I can! I don't want to see it go out of style or not fit me anymore because I was "saving" it but my mom always tells me to change into my "house clothes" when I get home! So I guess our kids won't have as much gently-worn stuff to thrift as we did, eh?

Allison said...

Love these tips! I also use Dryel to care for alot of my thrift finds that I don't want to spend the dry cleaning money on. Its an at home dry cleaning that does a decent job of dry cleaning for a fraction of the cost. If its super structured or super dirty, I use the real thing, but in other cases, I Dryel it!

Anonymous said...

oh my goodness! i didn't even think about the possibility of bed bugs! thanks for bringing awareness!

Nana Erin said...

"Celine Dion is the Canadian version of Jay Z"



Oh man.

Emily (tomorrow never knows) said...

I guess I'm kinda gross 90% of the time because I don't go to the dry cleaner if I can avoid it (read I NEVER go to the dry cleaner) AND I usually throw anything that isnt dry clean only in the wash... and then one time my silk shirt shrunk... oooooooooops. who knew cold water would do that??? Grrrrr
Moving on..... I have NO PATIENCE. If i find an awesome piece, i practically want to wear it home. Soooo yeah... i never thought too much about bedbugs, maybe i should? i donno man... maybe its the farmgirl in me. and "in the media constantly"? ??? whats this about? ok im gross. there it's off my chest [and it left some bugs in its wake]

GFS said...

"Celine is the Canadian version of Jay-z"...this is why you are a friend in my head!

Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous said...

I've always been a fan of Celine's greatest song: "Quatre-vingt-dix-neuf Problems."

In the museum world, we freeze everything. Not only does it combat the bedbug problem, it also eliminates odors, fungi, other insects and most bacteria.

BESOS LYNN said...

I am bed bug obsessed! I love the freezer idea. I too have an extra freezer in my garage,score. I will try your ideas, thanks. BTW, we have a $1.99 cleaners, no matter what the item its $1.99 to clean it, within reason. They don't do a great pressing job, but I feel like the items are cleaned properly. I hope so anyway.

London said...

You post made me itchy, but informed. I might have to give this thrifting a try now that I know not only what to look for, but how to get rid of what I am not looking for. Danka!

ps. I am new to your blog, but had to say I too am a landscaper at heart after my summer job. Can't get enough.

Marilyn said...

Good info. Thanks! :)

Jameil said...

O.M.G!!! Thank you soooo much for explaining Winners! I've been in American agony for MONTHS every time I read Winners. I'm thinking it's this great shopping secret no one will tell me about!!!

Turophile said...

Thanks so much for the tips! I've just been dipping my toe into thrifting for the first time last week and immediately put everything in a freezer, I tip I learned to protect my knitting. Wish I had my own special freezer. Thanks much for this excellent series!

Jill said...

Love the sequin jacket! I swear I have zero luck with thrift stores. I feel like I am missing out and I live in a major city that should should be packed with gems. Need to start looking more!!

Anonymous said...

May have to get my own freezer now. DH's is full of face and I definitely do not trust stashing my thrift finds in there. I have used the home dry cleaning kit (found at my local grocery store) and very rarely pay for expensive dry cleaning.

There are also things I NEVER buy at a thrift--stuffed animals, bedding. Reluctant to try on hats.

Artfully Awear said...

Thank you for the great tips! I, too, am a thriftaholic and it changed my life when I bought a clothing steamer. It works great for things I can't wash (i.e. sequins). Happy thrifting!

Dee said...

I just recently found your blog and you inspired me earlier this week to finally hit the local thrift store. I am pretty heeby-jeeby about washing things asap. I have kept the items that need dry cleaning (silk dress, sweater & vintage fake fur) in the bag, in the coldest room in the house but I like the freezer idea. Thanks for the inspiration & tips (and the Celine/Jay Z laugh-out-loud).

the other emily said...

I'm definitely still guilty of leaving the house littered with tied-up bags of vintage goodies for days at a time. I think I'm as paranoid about the B-word as anyone, but maybe I'm just lucky because despite my lack of caution, I've never been bitten. Admittedly, I was a little more hesitant to shop in secondhand stores in NYC after last summer's bedbug media storm, but I like to keep my thrifting small town (i.e. cheap) anyway.

At this point, my thrift finds just go through a regular (cold) wash and tumble or hang dry before wearing - I rarely find things that must be dry cleaned anyway.
the other emily

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great tips... I'm a little itchy and paranoid now; but at least informed.

And the Timmy's mantra, fantastic! I've served my own time in the visor and hairnet. I've got mad coffee conversational skills.

Daisy said...

I never would have thought about bed bugs and thrifting. Ewww, Now I do.
Great post!

Wendy said...

You're smart to err on the side of caution with cleaning. Yesterday, I stopped at my local tiny-town thrift store and found a vintage wool coat in camel for (wait for it) $2.50!!!!! I took it home and did my usual dryer thing first to kill the bedbugs, then, as is my custom with most dry-clean only stuff, I threw it in the washer for a delicate, gentle cleaning. It came out of the washer fine, but it had that wet wool smell, which for me is a little too much like wet dog smell. Well, I must've been tired (my army husband has been away for a month and my kids and dogs are killing me)because I thought to myself "would it REALLY hurt to throw it in the dryer just this once?" and decided (insanely) that the answer was no. Let's just say I'm glad it was 3 times too big to start because it is salvageable, but it shrunk like nothing I could've imagined. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

crochetgurl said...

This may be a dumb question, but when you put a dry thrift item into the dryer, will it leave behind germs in your dryer?

FutureLint said...

Too right on that handmade dress - the colors are fabulous! Unfortunately I have learned some hard lessons from washing things wrong, but I think I've got it all figured out now!

Kelly said...

This is a great primer that I hope helps get the thrift-averse over their discomfort, even if that means more people picking over my local Goodwill.

Celine Dion as Canada's Jaz-Z HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!

Amanda @ Life with A.Co said...

I don't want to write much, but do want you to know I read this and appreciate it. Good tips - as per the uuuge(ual).

A.Co @ A.Co est. 1984

Anna said...

Great tips! I have not been so careful in the past when cleaning thrifted items- I used to just throw it all in the washing machine. I have learned (from some lovely bloggers) that OxyClean works well for handwashing.

LyddieGal said...

Hummm the freezer...
I hate drycleaning as well, I never do it, but i thrifted this velvet blazer and it does need a cleaning of some kind - what would you recommend?

Chic on the Cheap

Mich said...

This is good to think about! Sometimes I haven't washed something cuz i was so eager to wear it and that is sooo bad!!

also - i hear ya with the bedbugs paranoia!! When I went to New York in October, I kept hearing all these horror stories and the first night in my hostel i got barely any sleep - i swore i could feel them!! but no. there was nothing. (thank goodness!)

Anonymous said...

Thankfully I've never ever had a problem with bedbugs...but this post is making me super itchy, haha.

HuntGatherFashion said...

Excellent post. It's a crappy topic to have to bring up, but the dreaded BB infestation needs to be addressed, especially if you reside in a major metropolitan city. Better to be cautious than sleepless! I am also a thrifting obsessed person and I ALWAYS take my items straight to the dry cleaner, steam them, or pop them in the dryer for an hour before they even come in to my home. Love to thrift, but gotta be smart about it. Also, Timmy's next to my neighborhood VV, LOVE!

Col said...

Please provide your address. I need to break into your closet and steal this sequin jacket. I have to have it!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tips! I'm completely new to thrifting, but want to do it more to spare the environment. I had a question: how do you clean a thrifted leather purse?

Anonymous said...

Just a tip ... get a front load washer and use the handwash setting.... and then hang to dry or lay flat. I never take anything to the drycleaners anymore. The LG front loads are amazing. You can even get one with a steam cycle.... it just steams the clothes for a fresh up!

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Author said...

Have you ever thrifted something leather? How do you clean that? I found an awesome leather jacket AND a leather skirt recently while thrifting, and I ended up not buying either of them because they were a little stinky, and I've got no idea how to clean them. You can't dry clean them, so what can you do? Is there any way to get that smell out, or should I just save my $$$ for new stuff if I want leather? What is your strategy?

Anonymous said...

Hi I just wanted to let you know my son just picked up his nice wool coat from the cleaners, and his friend sitting in the passenger seat about one hour after the coat was picked up from Parkers Cleaners saw bedbugs on the coat, 4 of them. Prior to the time the coat was taken to the cleaners my son wore the coat every day as he loves this coat. There is no way the bed bugs were in the coat before it was taken to the cleaners, they would have been biting my son. So be aware that you can get bed bugs from the cleaners. I also read that online a few times today that you can pick them up at the cleaners, so be careful!!!! Susan

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