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Your Guide to Cleaning, Altering, and Caring for Ukay Clothes

Your Guide to Cleaning, Altering, and Caring for Ukay Clothes

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Filipinas go crazy over ukay-ukays. Similar to the concept of thrift shops and flea markets, ukay-ukays consist of donated and disposed of clothing – either sourced locally or abroad – that are being sold for a quarter (or even much less) of its original price.

Those who frequent ukay-ukays are familiar with the cramped racks and the dusty air, but the ukay queens see this as the perfect opportunity to hunt for gold. Ukay-ukays are famous for carrying high fashion brands that would cost you a leg and an arm if you bought them straight from the mall. You could find every trend imaginable from every decade if you looked hard enough. If there’s a style you want to try, but you’re hesitant about splurging, ditch fast fashion stores and head to your nearest ukay-ukay instead.

Clothes from ukay-ukays are cheap thrills. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Read on to find out how you can clean, alter, and care for your ukay finds.


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I love ukay-ukays, that’s a fact. But what I don’t love is dirty clothes.

You should expect that any piece of clothing from an ukay-ukay is going to be filthy. These are clothes that are passed on from person to person and have probably sat boxes before arriving at the store. Some clothes stay on the racks untouched for months; hence, the sneezes you get when you enter.

The best thing to do with your haul is to clean them – real good. Here are three methods:

  • The good old washing machine. Sometimes, ukay clothes just need a spin in the washing machine after you buy them. Add a fabric conditioner to give your clothes a fresh smell.
  • Boil them in hot water. My grandmother used to hate it when I bought clothes from ukay-ukays. So, to compromise, I would boil my latest haul in a large basin with water.
  • Hand-wash with antibacterial soap. The last and the most tedious is using an antibacterial liquid or solid soap when hand-washing your own clothes. Some mothers might not want you mixing in your ukay finds with the family’s weekly laundry, so this could be the most viable option for you.


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One of the biggest problems I have with is the lack of dressing rooms or, worse, an absence of one. Sometimes, the line is too long that I’ve mastered the art of estimating my size by just pulling a skirt over my waist.

During times that I overestimated my abilities, however, I resort to altering. Altering is also ideal for minor stitches that you might not have noticed before purchasing the item. You can either 1.) go to a tailoring shop or 2.) sew the clothes yourself.

When visiting a tailor, it’s best to give them your measurements before leaving and tell them exactly what you want to be changed.

See Also

It’s time to put your home economics class to good use. You can either use a sewing machine or do the alterations by hand. If you don’t remember how to sew, look for YouTube videos dedicated to altering (or even creating) clothing. My favorites are Coolirpa and Annika Victoria.

Proper Care

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Just like any other piece of clothing, your ukay finds need care. Some clothes from ukay-ukays can be a little delicate, especially since they’re aged pieces.

Keep an eye out for future tears and holes – this usually happens when I over-wear my thrifted pants and shorts. Store your ukay finds neatly and avoid leaving them crumpled. For heavy fabrics, hang them in your closet. For soft and stretchy fabrics, on the other hand, fold them and place them in drawers.

You’d think buying clothes for cheap would lead you to caring less for them. In reality, other than the knowledge that I can find stylish clothes for less than a hundred pesos, shopping at ukay-ukay has taught me to become more responsible with my clothing and to treat them with respect.

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