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How To Wash And Disinfect Second Hand Clothes

Whether you picked your second hand clothing items up at a thrift store, a yard sale, they are hand-me-downs, or you found them in (or next to) a dumpster… it is very important to clean and disinfect (sanitize) second hand clothes so that they are germ-free, hygienic, and safe to wear. Especially if those items are swimwear or intimates. Here I show you the various ways of how to get those clothes ACTUALLY clean and stain free in just a few simple steps.

how to clean and disinfect thrift store clothes
How to wash and disinfect second hand clothes.

Believe it or not, I’d say about seventy percent at least of the clothes in my personal closet right now are second hand.

I am so lucky that I have been blessed with hand-me-downs galore lately too because I lost so much weight recently that I literally didn’t have a single item of clothing that still fit.

Even my shoes went down a full size (which I know is completely crazy, I didn’t know I was carrying that much fat in my feet 🙂 (my free fitness series can be found here…btw).

Clothes can be pretty expensive so it’s important to make them last as long as possible.

I am lucky to have the knowledge under my belt of laundering clothes for the last couple of decades and I now have a regimen that I do whenever I get second hand clothes in the house.

Keep in mind that I frequent thrift stores, as well as yard sales, so I come into second hand items on a very regular basis.

How to wash thrifted clothes:

There are lots of “correct ways” of doing laundry, I just wanted to share with you all the ways that I do it so that you can determine if it is the way that you want to do it, or it may give you some ideas to improve on your daily laundry routine too.

How to disinfect thrift store clothes:

This method is to disinfect those second hand clothes without using bleach. I hate using bleach when it comes to doing laundry…even for my whites.

I always seem to accidentally ruin something when I use it, so I pretty much avoid bleach like the plague…which saves me money not having to replace our clothes.

Luckily, a few years ago, I ran into a product that I like quite a bit that can be used for every type of laundry (I use it to disinfect our towels, blankets, whites, all colors, swimwear, lingerie, & even cloth diapers can get disinfected with it too) and I trust it to disinfect/sanitize really well.

If you haven’t used Lysol Laundry Sanitizer, you should buy a jug and see what you think. It’s super easy to use and your clothes come out smelling nice and fresh.

In order to make sure that those second hand/thrifted items get the full disinfecting power you will either need to fill up your sink, or a bucket, with some cold water and use two capfuls of Lysol Laundry Sanitizer for every gallon of water that you use.

Then you just allow it to sit and soak (submerged in the water/lysol mixture) for fifteen minutes.

Then you can just dump it out and wash your clothes as you normally would.

I personally just dump it all into the washing machine (when soaking in a five gallon bucket or less) and run a rinse cycle before I add my detergent & run the normal washing cycle… but there are more than one right way to do things.

How to get stains out of second hand clothes?

I am a big fan of two products that can get out almost every single stain that I have come across… even grease that has been baked in by the dryer, if you can believe it.

The first one is your typical OxiClean… which some of you will be like “duh!”…but some of you will actually realize that it can clean even better than you thought that it did if you know an extra little trick or two that my cousin taught me back when my oldest kid was just a baby.

An OxiClean soak will get out almost anything that you can think of without damaging your colors.

I especially love that it will get out almost any bodily fluid (especially poop or blood) that just don’t seem to want to come out otherwise…

The secret to getting the most out of an OxiClean soak is the duration of time that you soak it for.

My cousin told me that sometimes she will soak her kids yucky stained clothes for as long as 3 whole days… yes, you read that right…THREE WHOLE DAYS!

I have never really felt the need to soak my stuff for more than a day or two, but sometimes time gets away from you and it’s good to know that you won’t have ruined anything if it was left to soak a bit longer than you were expecting….

Though I think that those of you that are lucky enough to have a utility soaking tub in your laundry room are the ones that would actually ever be an issue for.

Warning! For the rest of us that need to do our OxiClean soaking in a bucket/tub… please just make sure to keep the body of water away from little ones (toddlers) and small pets.

When I was a youngster we had a baby pig that tried to drink out of a 5 gallon bucket and the poor thing fell in and drowned in there.

It was super traumatic to find my little friend dead and waterlogged, so keep in mind that there is danger there and filled buckets need to be left out of reach.

Ok, so to do your OxiClean soak with warm water, fill the bucket/sink up about half way and then add a full scoop per gallon of water.

Stir it up a bit to activate the OxiClean and then add your clothes to the water/Oxiclean mixture…making sure that everything is submerged.

Leave this to soak for a minimum of an hour, but for most, non delicate items I suggest a full day or so. You can stir it here or there but really it just needs time to “do its thing”.

Then of course when you are done, drain the sink/dump out the bucket and wash and dry clothes as your normally would.

Please note: Certain clothing items tend to bleed color when washed or soaked in warm water. If you go to soak something that you are worried about any dye bleeding it may be a good idea to throw a Color Catcher Sheet into the water before adding the clothes.

These Color Catcher Sheets will also trap excess dirt/grime from stains that are really bad.

To do the OxiClean soak with cold water, you will need a container of some sort that will hold around four cups of liquid.

Using the container, fill it about 2/3rds of the way with warm or hot water then add your OxiClean (use the one full scoop for every gallon that you will be using to soak with in your soaking tub/bucket) to this container and stir (or if it has a lid, shake) well.

Allow this mixture to cool (OxiClean has to have warm water to activate it…similar to the way that yeast works when baking), then fill your sink or bucket half way with cold water and mix the previously prepared OxiClean solution into the water.

Stir and then add your clothes. At this point you can follow the rest of the instructions that I gave for soaking with warm water….then wash as you normally would.

For those of you that are wondering about the other product that I love for removing stains, especially grease stains that have already gone through the dryer.

You actually may just want to read the entire post/tutorial that I did years ago that teach you all about it. You can find that here.

Over the years I have used these stain removing methods to save clothes that many others had thought were ready for the garbage.

Please keep in mind that if you are living in an area that requires a septic tank that I do not suggest you use antibacterials/disinfectants on a regular basis for clothes washing…

It will also kill the good bacteria in your septic system (the ones that break down waste and toilet paper).

I have several other tips for septic system care, so make sure to check them out here, if it applies to you.

how to deep clean thrifted clothes
How to wash and disinfect second hand clothes.

If you would like any more info on any of the products that I mentioned in this post, feel free to head on over to that products website and do your own research (here are some direct links,,

This post is not sponsored in any way, these are genuinely the products that I use and love and just wanted to share what in my opinion is the best way when trying to figure out how to clean and disinfect second hand clothes…or any clothes for that matter… new clothes are dirty too… believe it or not, and should at the very least get washed, like you normally would, before wearing them.

That’s pretty much all I have to share with you guys today. If you liked these tips, make sure to check out my entire cleaning section and share my posts via social media.

I really do appreciate the support! ~Sarah

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How to clean and disinfect second hand clothes, a tutorial.
How To Clean And Disinfect Second Hand Clothes.

Best way to get stains out of used clothes.
Best way to get stains out used clothes.

*This post was originally published on this site in June of 2021, and has since been updated to improve user experience, social shareability, as well as to remain relevant.