Although it's still a fairly unconventional way to find clothing, shoes, and other buried goods, dumpster diving can be incredible if you're willing to get a little, well, dirty. Once you've taken the dumpster plunge, there are some pretty crucial rules to follow for how to clean your dumpster dive clothing treasures. Because even if something looks (and probably is) brand spanking new, you still don't know exactly where it came from and want to make sure it's totally clean before rocking it.
I remember my first dumpster diving adventure was during my freshman year of college. My friend Harrison was a pro at the dumpster dive life (he would rock a J. Crew cardigan, Nike tennis shoes, and REI cargo pants — all from dumpsters) when he asked if I wanted to join him one night. I was a little hesitant, but trusted him and knew that he would know how to successfully find some great things. We put on grungy, but sturdy clothes, wore long gloves, and got to work sifting through a variety of retail dumpsters. The good news? I left with a pair of cute Toms!
Below you'll find the absolute essentials about cleaning new dumpster dive clothing finds, but I want to make a quick side note to check the legality of dumpster diving in your area. It's generally fine unless you see obvious "No Trespassing" signs, but definitely chat with your local police department if you're not positive!
1. Seal Your Possible Treasure In A Bag
Heavy Duty Bags, $6.28, Ziploc
What looks like a super find in the dark (i.e. new sweater? yes please!) might actually have bugs, unpleasant stains, etc., that you otherwise wouldn't see in the dark. Sealing it in a bag gives you a little safe distance to evaluate the item in better light when you get home.
2. Wash & Dry Clothing Solo On The Highest Setting
Since you really don't know how clean something is, it's a wise idea to wash and dry a new item by itself on the highest settings possible on your washer and dryer. Not only will you get out possible stains, but the high heat settings on dryers can kill bed bugs just in case something is (gasp ew gasp) infected. P.S. This rule also applies to shoes!
3. Dry Clean ASAP If It's "Dry Clean Only"
Maybe you'll get lucky and score a totally amazing new sweater that's "dry clean only." If that's the case, you still need to get it properly cleaned before you wear it. So follow the same steps above and seal it in a bag until you can get it to dry cleaned.
Those are the basics! Otherwise, dive on and have fun!
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