One of the most common questions I get from my readers is how to disinfect their thrifted and second hand decor, so I thought it was high time I address this in a proper blog post! I actually have TWELVE Tips for Cleaning Vintage Finds.
First of all, we need to get one thing straight. This one is hard for people to swallow sometimes, but we need to get this one out of the way.
The world is full of germs. There. I said it. I try not to think about it too much because it starts to make my skin crawl.
You are not going to be able to eliminate all the germs in your life and really, that’s Ok, there is reason to believe that germs help to stimulate our immune systems.
And, the truth is, if a Twix bar falls to the ground, I’m all about the “five second rule” and forget that germs exist. So, its a little relative even for one person.
Now, I understand there is a huge difference between my family’s germs and other peoples’ germs. Am I right?
Whenever I move into a new place, I have to scrub and scrub and disinfect and reline shelves until I am satisfied. And I hate to say it, but a 100 year old home doesn’t ever get cleaned as well as a newer home. So, even after my three hours of cleaning the upstairs bathroom with bleach after we moved in, it didn’t really look that much better.
I just felt better, you know? Now when the bathroom is dirty from our family, I still don’t LIKE it, but it doesn’t give me the willies the same way it did when it was total stranger’s dirt in there.
Ok, now that we go that out of the way, let’s talk about how to handle cleaning vintage finds, so when you find that gorgeous basket or that velvet feather pillow you don’t have to cringe about where it might have been all these years!
Washing Machine- Let’s start with clothing. Now right off the bat, I’m veering from my title and talking about items that aren’t necessarily vintage, but rather, “second hand”. Our family has used strictly second hand and hand-me-down clothes for the past decade and it has cut our clothing budget down by 90%! From my experience, a good dunk in the washing machine with lots of your favorite soap (mine is Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Lavender Soap) is enough to make them feel like they have always been yours. If that doesn’t work to make them smell fresh and clean, I would probably not keep them. This goes for blankets, sheets, curtains and even feather pillows, as well!
Lysol Spray or Rubbing Alcohol- Use this for anything that doesn’t do well in water, for instance, shoes, baskets, even vintage books. Just spray lightly on those books, OK?
Dishwasher- I know everyone has their own standards for washing dishes, one of my aunts would die before she put a wooden spoon in the dishwasher! But, at least once, I am going to run my thrifted silverware, dishes, mason jars, etc through the dishwasher on hot. If it can survive the initial initiation into my home, it probably wasn’t meant to be.;)
Mrs. Meyers All Purpose Cleaner– I like to buy this concentrate in the lavender scent and then mix my own spray bottles. One of the Mrs. Meyers concentrate lasts us all year. So, it’s a great investment! Use this to wipe down any hard surfaces that you can’t put in the dishwasher. I especially love this cleaner for wiping down furniture before I paint.
Oxyclean– Use this for any stains that you are nervous about using bleach on. It uses oxygen to take stains out and is especially nice for vintage linens.
Shop Vac– I use this little cordless one from Dewalt for everything! It is extra perfect for vacuuming out upholstered furniture and the inside of drawers in thrifted furniture. As a side note, I will usually line my drawers with paper- even wrapping paper works- so that they feel new and clean for storing my things.
Tooth brush- No brainer here, but don’t mess around trying to clean out little knocks and crannies when all you need is some Mrs. Meyers and a tooth brush. Save your old tooth brushes for this task and it will save you time, as well.
Magic Erasers– These first came out when I had toddlers in the house and I think the angels sang. I seriously considered giving them as Christmas gifts to all my fellow mom friends at the time! I since have learned that they are made from a pipe insulating material and can be purchased dirt cheap from knock off brands. Use these for getting any tough marks off hard surfaces, they are especially good for dealing with painted pieces.
Hemp Oil– I keep this on hand to condition, clean and restore raw wood and leather pieces.
Goo Gone- Use this to take off stickers, price tags and labels.
Febreeze-I love this specifically for upholstered items that I can’t get the smell out of. Febreeze doesn’t just cover smells, it actually has a chemical reaction and neutralizes the chemicals that are causing the offending smells.
Kitty Litter– Now this is one that I have yet to try, but apparently, it works wonders on ridding things of that horrid, musty smell. I would love to try this in steamer trunks and vintage suitcases!
So, don’t be afraid of bringing home your thrifted finds just because they seem dirty. In very rare cases you will have a decor item casualty because of your cleaning techniques. But, more often than not you will get to enjoy your new vintage items for many years to come- and not be grossed out by them!