Vintage Clothing Care

Anna Alexandra, Guest Blogger and Brand Champion


I’ve been an avid thrift shopper for over 20 years! Since my first foray into secondhand shopping in eighth grade, I was hooked. I quickly realized that vintage clothing need to be treated a little differently than clothing purchased at most modern retailers. Vintage clothing, though often better quality than modern clothing, can sometimes be more delicate due to the aging process. Threads wear thin, zippers get worn out, and years of hanging, forgotten in a closet, can sometimes take a toll on the garments. However, these clothes still have a lot of life, and can be enjoyed for many more years to come! I’ve developed a few methods of preserving vintage clothing that I buy at ​Arc’s Value Village​.
Whenever I return home after an exciting thrifting spree at ​Arc’s Value Village​ (I particularly love the Richfield location), I want to wash the treasures I found right away so I can show them off as soon as possible! Washing vintage clothing can be time intensive, but the results are worth it. Here are my most-used tips and tricks to washing most* vintage clothing:

Anna’s laundry room

1. The number one rule when washing vintage clothing is to use a gentle detergent, and not very much of it. Brands I like to use are often found at my local co-op and have a common theme: little or no fragrance, and eco-friendly ingredients. Some examples are Seventh Generation and ​Ecos​. 2. Wash your vintage clothing on the gentle or delicate cycle. 3. I almost always wash my clothes in cold water. This prevents colors from running or fading. 4. I throw a dash of ​white distilled vinegar​ into most loads of wash. This helps keep the clothes fresh, and removes unwanted fragrances from the previous owner. 5. Using mesh laundry bags can be very helpful in keeping the shape of your clothes and making sure they don’t get tangled with other items in the washing machine. There’s nothing worse than taking something out of the washing machine and finding a snag. 6. Sometimes, when the garment is particularly fragile, I will hand wash it ​very gently. I soak the garment in a solution of a little bit of detergent and white vinegar overnight. The next morning, I rinse the garment thoroughly and repeat the process once more. This is useful for fabrics like silk or wool, or for fancy items like gowns or sequined clothing. 7. Do not machine dry vintage clothes. Either hang them on a line (okay for polyester or cotton), or lay them flat. This will help to prevent shrinking and loss of fibers.
8. When your vintage clothing has been washed and is dry, it’s best to store it folded. This keeps it out of any sunlight, and folding your vintage clothing flat can help keep the shape better than hanging it in a closet. 9. Instead of ironing vintage clothing, I prefer steaming as it’s a bit more gentle. 10.Bonus step but not always necessary: If the item has metal zippers, hand painted buttons, or sewn on decorations like rhinestones, etc., remove them before washing. Metal elements on clothing can actually rust when drying, and the paint can come off of buttons. You can easily sew these back on later.

*The methods listed above have served me well, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t accidentally ruined a few things over the years. Unfortunately, some vintage clothing deteriorates when washed for whatever reason. If that happens, please recycle the fabric at the Hennepin County Textile Recycling Center​ versus throwing it away, which is bad for the environment. If you happen to find antique clothing (I would classify this as pre-1940’s) at ​Arc’s Value Village​, you may want to refer to ​this article​ by the Smithsonian which discusses the preservation of antique textiles.
I hope these tips help you keep your vintage clothes bought at ​Arc’s Value Village​ in tip-top shape for many more years of enjoyment! Do you have any vintage clothing tips you’d like to share? Comment below.


Anna Alexandra is a Brand Champion for ​Arc’s Value Village​. She’s been a loyal customer for over 10 years. If you’d like to follow along on her thrifting adventures or see how she styles vintage and secondhand clothing, check out her ​Instagram​ @annazzon