Do Charity Shops Wash Clothes Before Selling in Australia

In the heart of Australia's charitable endeavors, the world of thrift shopping and second-hand treasures is a realm that transcends fashion and consumerism. As you peruse the racks of your local charity shop, you might find yourself wondering about the journey these donated clothes have taken before landing here. The question lingers: Do charity and thrift stores wash the clothes they sell? Delving into this often-overlooked aspect of the second-hand market reveals a fascinating blend of practicality, sustainability, and the power to make a difference.

Are Donated Clothes Cleaned by Charity Shops?

Behind the scenes of your favorite thrift store, a meticulous sorting process unfolds as donated items are carefully inspected and evaluated. However, the answer to whether these clothes are washed before hitting the sales floor varies. While some charity and thrift stores do take the extra step of laundering garments, many rely on the responsibility of donors to ensure clothes are clean and presentable. This approach stems from a combination of resource constraints and the desire to allocate more of the funds raised to the charitable causes they support.

donate clothes on charity shops
Every day, they receive bags of clothing contributions directly from the general public. According to a 2021 report published by Charitable Recycling Australia, an average of 12.1 kg of clothing is donated per individual in Australia. The country's charitable organizations handle a staggering amount of over 310,000 tonnes of clothing annually – an impressive volume!

Upon arrival at the store, charity shops visually assess each item, and if they believe it can be sold, they affix a tag to it and display it on the store floor. Prior to being placed on the sales floor, the items are not subjected to a washing process.

These charitable entities operate within constrained budgets. Laundering garments involves expenses and would also consume valuable time and space, resources that these charities are already in short supply of.

Hence, it is unsurprising that anything visibly soiled or damaged is discarded. Anything that successfully makes its way to the shop floor has not undergone a washing procedure before reaching that point.


Should You Wash Clothes Before Donating?

The adage "treat others as you wish to be treated" applies aptly to the world of clothing donations. A simple rule of thumb is to donate items that you would feel comfortable wearing yourself. This means ensuring clothes are clean, free from stains, and in good condition. Washing or laundering clothes before donating not only reflects a sense of respect for the recipient but also contributes to the overall quality of the thrift shopping experience. By taking this small but impactful step, you contribute to the sustainability and dignity of the second-hand market.

It's important to consider that upon receiving donations at a charity, they undergo a manual sorting process carried out by a member of their staff. This sorting procedure is entirely manual and lacks automation. Do you genuinely wish for your unwashed garments to be handled by a charitable worker? Prior to donating, take the time to wash your clothes, neatly fold them, and then make your contribution. If your intention is to genuinely assist someone through your donations and prevent contributing to environmental harm by avoiding landfills, it's crucial to take the additional measure of ensuring that the item is in a condition suitable for resale.


Why Do Clothes from Charities and Thrift Stores Smell the Same?

Second hand clothes often emit a consistent scent due to the presence of shared components ingrained within the fabric – such as skin particles, perspiration, and bodily oils, which our bodies naturally exude. Additionally, these clothes harbor particles commonly found in our daily surroundings. These findings stem from a 2018 article by The New York Times, which detailed a Procter & Gamble study centered on selected vintage clothing items.

facts about second hand clothes
Through laboratory research, the study revealed that among the 18 compounds identified in second-hand clothing, 12 were linked to bodily secretions, including skin, sweat, and oils. The remaining compounds were associated with external elements like cigarette smoke, alcohol, gasoline, and cleaning agents. Consequently, this uniform aroma persists across various stores, as it originates from the natural components of the human body and the familiar scents inherent in everyday life.

Keep in mind that charitable organizations do not launder clothing before presenting them for sale in the store. Therefore, it's not surprising that garments might retain traces of bodily fluids and environmental odors.

Certainly, you might encounter some differences in the scent experience. Certain stores might employ techniques like clothing sprays. Take SwapUp, for instance; we ensure that all items undergo thorough washing before being featured on our online store.


Your Role in Australia's Charitable Landscape 

In the vibrant tapestry of Australia's charitable landscape, the journey of donated clothes from your closet to the racks of thrift stores is a dynamic and multifaceted process. As you continue to explore the second-hand market, remember that your actions as a donor and shopper play an integral role in shaping this unique ecosystem. While charity and thrift stores may not universally wash clothes before selling, the responsibility to uphold the principles of respect, sustainability, and quality rests with each participant. With every pre-loved purchase and donation, you contribute not only to your personal style but also to the collective effort of making a positive impact on both the environment and the lives of others.

Also read: Where to Recycle Worn Stained & Damaged Old-Clothes Australia

Back to blog