Vintage 101- How to avoid secondhand grime

Charmaine Wong

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Buying vintage can be a great way to add a unique piece to your wardrobe. And while vintage style may be chic, secondhand grime is not.

Purchasing pre-worn clothes needs some forward thinking. Although items from the majority of op-shops and specialist vintage stores are cleaned before they hit the racks, that great find may show a few signs of having a previous owner.

Here are a few tips from Nicola Sault, owner of vintage clothing store Grandma Takes a Trip, on ways to clean those newly-bought vintage finds.

Cleaning vintage clothes

Vintage clothes may come with stains and a smell if they haven't received much care in their past life. But most stains, such as those you might find in the underarm areas, can be removed.

Sault recommends soaking clothes overnight in a stain remover then using an old washboard to loosen stains from the fabric fibres. 'It sounds bizarre but they're really good. It worked back then and it still does now.' Rubbing the area on the rough surface will help to lift the discolouration without the expense of taking it to a drycleaner.

Credit: Getty Images

If this doesn’t work the first time, don’t try to sell it online just yet. Sault admits that some stubborn blemishes may need a few goes of the ol’ washboard before they disappear.

You may think you can ‘boil’ your way out of a stain with hot water but in fact, this may make it more difficult to get rid of.

Washing in hot water will expand the fibre but then it will ‘contract’ when it dries meaning that stain could be there to stay. 'Don't try to nuke the stain.' It’s best to use warm or cold water instead.

New life through a new (in)sole

Unfortunately a lot of vintage footwear can smell like mould or even worse – a whole sweaty football team.

Sault suggests replacing the entire insole so that you know it’s devoid of any 'nasties'. But if the insole is stuck firmly in place it may be better to take the pair to a shoe repair store to replace the insole. Damaging the shoe in the process of ripping out a glued insole may just damage your purchase and cost more to repair professionally.

Personal items

Ebay won't let you sell seondhand swimwear or underwear but the vintage specialist says that you should use your common sense when it comes to buying these types of clothes.

Although most people probably wouldn't buy a piece of clothing that had questionable markings in ‘personal areas’ Sault says that if you do choose to buy these items they will need cleaning, like any other pre-loved item.

Still not sure?

If you're debating whether or not to buy a vintage item but a blemish is making you think twice you can consult your drycleaner before handing over your money.

The vintage store owner says that before you have confirmed your purchase, you can offer to leave your credit card details with the retailer while you take the item to your drycleaner or cobbler for their expert advice on stain removal or repairs.

'Don't buy something unless you're sure it's going to come out'. If not, you may end up with something that is more grubby than glam.

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