That stack of beautiful vintage linens up there all have something interesting in common—I purchased them all secondhand. I’m a huge fan of ‘thrifting’ for home linens like bedding, pillows, table runners, curtains and more.
If you’re new to thrifting, you may be a little skeptical—understandably. But if you believe that purchasing linens secondhand is a nasty and germ-filled affair—I’m here to reassure you that it’s not. And to try to coax you over to my side of the fence. It’s very cozy over here.
I’ve been shopping secondhand for items like blankets, towels and throw pillows for many years now. At this point I would guess that about sixty percent of the soft goods in my home have come from secondhand sources. Most from thrift stores specifically.
How I started thrifting for linens
For me, thrifting for linens started as a way of finding the vintage and antique styles that I loved, but weren’t available new in stores. Reproductions have become common over the last five years or so. But back in 2010, no companies were remaking vintage styles (especially not in my price range). I loved 1950’s chenille bedspreads and a good tattered vintage floral quilt. So shopping secondhand wasn’t about saving money or creating sustainable habits. It was simply the only way to accomplish the style I wanted in my home. This is why thrifting for linens never seemed like an odd or gross thing to do. When you’re looking for vintage bedding, you kind of expect it to be used, ya know?
Over the years, I found a lot more than just vintage chenille throws in the Goodwill bedding section. From down duvets to entire bedding sets, vintage towels to throw pillows, there have been some real treasures.
Some of my best thrifted finds
Some of my favorite bedding has come from thrift stores, like this beautiful floral quilt and sham set. I purchased it at a Goodwill for $20. It’s 100% cotton and was in perfect condition when I found it. I’m pretty sure it was never used. How gorgeous and comfy does my summer bed look?!
In fact, most of the soft goods I buy from thrift stores are in perfect condition—they’re basically brand new. This beautiful Toile de Jouy duvet and sham set was $40, also from Goodwill. And, it came with a Ralph Lauren down duvet insert inside of it. That’s a heck of a deal if you know anything about the cost of authentic down.
I’m not saying that I find these linens on a daily or even weekly basis. But if you ask me, it’s well worth a wander over to the linens section the next time you’re out thrifting. It does take patience to find the treasures, though. When you’re hoping to find a complete set of bedding in a specific size, you sometimes have to wait.
I don’t aim to meet all of my linen needs via secondhand sources, as that’s obviously a bit unrealistic. Sometimes, you just need a new set of sheets. But, by keeping an eye out on a regular basis, I’ve been able to grow my linen collection and have found some really beautiful pieces in the process.
But seriously, aren’t thrifted linens gross?
Nope. No, they are not.
If you’re still caught up on the idea of thrifted linens being gross, think about it this way. When you stay at a hotel, you’re sleeping with linens (and a mattress!) that hundreds, maybe even thousands, of other people have slept in. In contrast, thrifted linens likely come from only one previous owner an are lightly used. And YOU control how much they’re washed before you sleep in them.
There may be a limit to the types of linens you want to find secondhand, and that’s ok too. For me, vintage decorative throw pillows are ok, but I won’t buy any other type of pillow secondhand. Likewise, I have a lovely collection of vintage towels from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, but they’re just for display and the towels we actually use are all purchased new. This is really just a matter of personal preference as we love oversize fluffy white towels for everyday use and the pretty vintage ones tend to be small.
Items to start thrifting for NOW
Thrifting for table runners, cloth napkins, tablecloths and curtains is an easy place to start if you’re a bit apprehensive. These items are all abundantly available at your local thrift store and are fun to change out seasonally. I found this cute, vintage-inspired runner at Goodwill for $5.99 last year.
Pro tip: Target actually donates overstock, clearance and returned goods to Goodwill on a regular basis. This table runner was a new-from-Target item that I found at Goodwill off-season. I’ve also found brand new organic sheet sets, quilts, entire bedding sets, rugs, throw pillows, etc. Target donates a LOT of brand new linens to Goodwill, so be on the lookout. (I’ve seen this in OR, WA, FL, and VA, but I am not sure if they do this in every area, so ask your local Goodwill.)
Where to thrift for vintage linens
So, I’ve obviously convinced you by now, and you’re ready to hunt for some new-to-you linens. If you want vintage specifically, where should you look?
Aside from thrift stores, antique stores are also a great resource—for throw pillows and quilts especially. I have a growing collection of vintage linens like needlepoint pillows and cotton tablecloths. Most of these items have come from antique stores. I do occasionally find them for a really great deal at a thrift store, though. My best deal ever was a cute mid-century needlepoint pillow for 10¢ at a rummage sale eight years ago—score!
When you’re looking for something very specific, online marketplaces like are a great place to search, too. Think Etsy, Mercari, and Facebook Marketplace. Last year I scored the Pottery Barn buffalo plaid duvet set that I’ve been eyeing for years. I got it for less than half price from a seller on Mercari. It was brand new and still in the original packaging! Total steal compared to buying new at Pottery Barn. These marketplaces are a great place to test the waters if you’re still iffy about ‘thrifting’.
Are you ready for the bins?
On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a seasoned thrifter and want a real challenge, I urge you to give the Goodwill Outlets a try. Yes, the BINS!
Linens are the item I most commonly find there. I’ve found a few antique quilts in perfect condition (along with lots of tattered ones, which I also bring home to love). The bins is also a great place to find antique rugs.
If you’re a total newbie to Goodwill outlets, please watch a Youtube video of someone hunting at the bins so that you know what to expect, because it’s not a normal thrift store and honestly, your first time will be a bit of a shock if you’re not prepared.
Do bring your own gloves, hand sanitizer, and a bottle of water that fits in your purse. Speaking of your purse—bring an older the shoulder option so you have both hands free for rummaging. You’ll want to go earlier in the day and plan to stay for at least an hour or two to make the trip worth it (items are priced by weight, so you usually want a full cart—it’s cheaper than a half-full one).
Tips for caring for vintage, antique and secondhand linens
So, you found some pretty soft goods secondhand and excitedly brought them home. Now it’s time to wash them. And I have some tips to share with you about washing secondhand linens—especially vintage ones.
For most items purchased secondhand, a quick wash cycle with oxyclean will have it feeling fresh in no time. For delicate or vintage items, special care may be needed, so read on.
Removing stains from linens (or any fabric items)
I have a few tips for getting stains out of vintage (or any) fabric. My number one tip is always baking soda and an old toothbrush. Lightly dampen the item, pour a liberal amount of baking soda on the stain, and scrub away.
Recently I bought a large brimmed white hat from the San Diego Hat company for $2.00 from Goodwill. It had a huge tomato sauce stain on the brim (let’s hope it was tomato sauce). Two minutes of scrubbing with the toothbrush and baking soda and poof! The stain disappeared.
This trick is magic. It’s removes tough stains from everything including vintage tablecloths, clothing, shoes, carpets and more. Plus it’s all natural, ridiculously cheap and easy to rinse off after treatment. There’s also no harm if it doesn’t work—it’s not like the stain will get any worse by trying this method.
Borax is my other stain removing secret weapon. For light colored fabrics, washing on the warm setting with some Borax usually removes any minor stains. For darks and brights, you’ll obviously have to wash on cold but the Borax can still make a big difference.
Always air dry vintage linens
My last tip is to always air dry vintage linens—especially items like printed tablecloths, napkins or runners with lace details or anything made of cotton or linen. The heat of modern dryers is really harsh on these items and air drying with lengthen it’s lifespan.
What tips do you have for finding vintage linens secondhand? What’s your favorite thrifty linen find? I’d love to see them, please share!
If you’re looking for more thrift related content, go check out my post all about why I keep a thrift list (and why you should, too). Or find lots of vintage thrifting inspiration in my apartment tour post or Thrifted Thursday posts here and here.
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I LOVE the needlepoint pillows! Another good place to get linens is estate sales and auctions. You can sometimes get box fulls for next to nothing.