Should You Wash Thrift Store Clothes Before Reselling Them?

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Nothing hurts worse than picking up a beautiful wool jacket at a thrift store, only to find out that the original owner threw it in the dryer and shrunk it.  Or a fleece that is pilly beyond belief.

In fact, sometimes I wish people would donate their clothing without washing it. Except for when they do and it stinks like B.O. or has nasty bloodstains.

But I digress.

The debate as to whether to wash thrifted clothing before reselling it on eBay or Poshmark is an age-old debate. On the one hand, it could waste water, add time (both washing and drying), and throw off your workflow. On the other, you don’t want to send someone a manky clothing item. At the end of the day, however, there’s really only one option.

All clothing that is sold on eBay should be clean and free of odors, stains, etc. If a piece of thrift store clothing requires washing, it should be thoroughly cleaned before you photograph and list it.

However, I need to add a caveat: many people who buy clothing on eBay wash it as soon as they receive it. If you are going to spend the time washing it, include a note in the listing and package saying something like, “This item has been freshly laundered and is ready for wearing.”

However, needing to washing the clothing before you list it opens a whole new can of worms. Is it actually washable? Is it dry-able? Is it worth paying for dry cleaning? After all, it’s probably better to list a dirty item than to ruin it in the washing.

Luckily, knowing how to correctly launder clothing before listing it will save you a ton of headaches. Here’s what we do:

We have even sent out pristine clothing, had customers try and wash it, and then return it after they ruined it.  Believe us, you don’t want to be the person that ruins your profits but literally washing them down the drain.

We get asked all the time, “Should I wash clothes before listing them on eBay?”  The answer is usually YES!  But only if you do it correctly…

How To Wash Thrift Store Clothing For Resale

wash clothes from thrift stores for eBay and poshmark
  • Follow the label’s instructions:  Check the label of the item before you wash it.  It’s basically instructions from the manufacturer after all. If it says “Dry Clean Only” it’s probably right and I wouldn’t risk washing it. However, if it says “Dry Clean Recommended” you’re usually safe to hand wash it gently and dry it flat. If it says that washing is okay, let’s move on!
  • Sort, sort, sort:  You’ve probably known since you were a kid to wash like colors together. But what about like fabrics? If you break it down simply, think of there being three types of fabrics:  heavy (towels, denim, jeans, etc), delicates (fine items, bras, lingerie), and softs (t-shirts, polyester items, cotton, etc).  If an item is heavier, it will be more abrasive it is when brushing up and rubbing against fabrics in the washer.   Denim against denim will do little damage;  but if you have denim rubbing against soft cotton, the cotton will be broken down more quickly and will not last as long.
  • Use gentle soap: Use a natural or gentle soap. Not only will it be easier on the fabric but it will be less likely to leave residue behind.
  • Opt for cold water:  Washing with cold water is much easier on fabrics than warm or hot water washing.  A fabric’s color is retained more by washing it in cold water.  Hot water is typically used in whites (socks, underwear) and for towels.  That is fine, but wash everything else in cold water.  You will save your clothing and save on your hot water heating bill.  Bonus!
  • Proper prep:  Before you wash an item, zip up the zipper,  secure buttons, tie up strings, and use a delicates-bag for fine items like lingerie and bras.  Taking these steps helps to prevent damage from the interaction. 
  • Take it easy:  Pick the most gentle washing cycle for each load.  Common sense says that the less twisting, tugging, spinning, and pulling happens in a washer, the happier your fabrics will be.  Gentle treatment of fabric creates a longer life span.
  • Don’t overstuff:  Just because a washing machine boasts it can wash 22 pairs of jeans in one load, this is not a good idea.  Overstuffing your washer forces the fabrics to rub more which is the main cause of wear and abrasion.  Let them swim freely in the water and they will be happy and last longer.
  • Only Airdry: While you should definitely check the clothing label, we like to be on the safe side and we hardly ever dry anything. One of the biggest ruiners of clothing is drying them in a hot dryer. It makes them crunchy, shrinks them, and makes them pill-up.


Long story short, yes, wash pretty much everything that comes from a thrift store, whether you’re planning to list it on eBay, Poshmark, or keep it for yourself.

While Goodwill doesn’t wash the clothes they sell they assume that they’re clean when they come it. Most aren’t. So while I don’t wash everything before I list it, I do make sure that every piece of clothing that I ship out is clean and ready to wear!

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