It's about exploring and sharing my creative adventures (mostly sewing these days) ~
~those activities that sometimes obsess, usually inspire, occasionally frustrate
~and always provide a delightful maze to wander through.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Smoky Smelly Synthetics and (Natural) Solutions

(Extra points for finding the bird....)

My washer has been getting a workout the past couple of days!  My exploding fabric post told the tale of of delight (free fabric!) and woe (free smelly fabric :( , and I got loads of great advice from friends and readers on suppressing smoky smells.

The most often suggested remedy was various applications of good ole' baking soda and vinegar, followed by sunshine and air drying.  Also suggested were enzyme odor treatments, scented dryer sheets, Febreze  and some other name brand items that I researched and either couldn't find or opted not to spend the bucks on.

A note about most commercial dryer sheets, fabric softeners, odor eaters, etc. - you simply won't find them in my house on a regular basis, because I'm not willing to rub the toxins that are present in most of them onto my skin, and I find that some of them are an assault on my nostrils.  I was willing to break protocol for this smell, but in the end, I won't need to do it!

I've had some luck removing smoke smell from natural fibers (mostly cotton) in the past, but this time I'm dealing with a batch (a HUGE batch!) of synthetics - spandex, tulle, polyester....17 years worth of a young girl's dance costumes..., and I had a feeling it might be more challenging to remove the odor from this sort of fabric.   I don't know if that's the case - these clothes weren't THAT bad, but I think the odor was as ingrained as it was mainly because they had been packed in plastic bags and stored for a number of years.  Can't you just see those odors working their way into the fabric??? ewwww.......

So.  Everything got sent through the washing machine once (I have a front loader, so I didn't really have a viable option of soaking them first), using a variety of soaps like Borax, 7th Generation, Washing Soda, Baking Soda, Vinegar - basically every possible combination I had on hand!  I also soaked and hand washed several pieces.  Way, way, WAY too much fabric to do that with everything!   I am, after all, beginning to get a life again...... ;-)

Then everything got hung in the sun to dry for a day.  (I had to buy another length of clothesline AND some more clothespins to accommodate it all!)

At some point I realized I had some professional carpet cleaning enzymatic odor-eater that's actually called "Smoke-X" - an excellent product, and I started spraying down the washing machine with it (which retained the smoke odor in between every load!).   Then I realized I could also spray down the clothes before tossing them in the washer.

Once everything had aired and dried, and I gave it all the sniff test, this is what I did for the second round of washing:

1.  Spray down the washer and the clothes with Smoke-X.
2.  Wash them with a scoop of Baking Soda and some vinegar (roughly 1/2 c....or so.....) in Hot Water.  (*See note below about future plans)
3.  Hang to dry again in sun and wind - I'm leaving them outside for at least a day or 3.


Everything is blowin' in the wind (go ahead and join me...."how many roads......" right now, and walking down the line giving a sniff test is quite promising!  I think I can still detect a smoke smell....or maybe it's just some odd sumpin' sumpin' else....in some of the spandex-type fabrics, but those are not fabrics I'll be inclined to re-use anyway, and maybe my **favorite donation site can find a use for them.

My plan going forward is this - as I cut up the pieces I'm going to use, I'll  wash them again, using some other tips I've picked up in my research:

1. * I'm going to add some drops of Essential Oils to the vinegar bottle that lives in my laundry area.   Peppermint Oil should be good for odors, lemon or orange for whites, lavender for general wonderful-ness.   Since peppermint is pretty potent (say that 5 times quickly!), maybe about 4-5 drops in a quart; the others I'll try 6 or 7 drops.   Then add about 1/2 cup of the vinegar/EO mix to the rinse cycle.
2.  This is a tip I've been wanting to try for awhile - cut up some cotton squares, or use old white washcloths (I have bunches of these!), add about 3 drops of essential oil to the square & toss in the dryer - all natural DIY dryer sheets!  No phony scents!  No pore-blocking toxins!

* *For local SF East Bay people who have stuff to donate, I love the Emeryville Community Action Program for donations. It is 100% volunteer-run - many of the people who work there are homeless, and money is not involved - when they receive something, it is given away.  Thumbs up from me!

I'll make note of the success (or fail) rate of my 'going forward plan' as it happens.   For the moment, a big THANK YOU to everyone who offered advice, and here's to fabric exchanges and paying it forward and other generous acts!  :)

17 comments:

  1. Looks like your hard work is paying off. Just remember that smells have color. Putting the essential oils on a white washcloth is a great idea for the dryer.

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    1. Do you mean in a synesthetic sort of way? That's a great observation!

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  2. How colourful does your line look??? Must have had the neighbours wondering about your new clothing fetish...

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    1. Hee hee....I have had a comment or two.... ;-D

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  3. Gracious I hope you aren't in a restricted neighborhood- someone will send the authorities around to make sure you don't have an elephant back there. Some developments have a very strict anti-clown code.

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    1. You never fail to totally crack me up! :D

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  4. OMG you have more patience that I would ever have with all that. I love my clotheslines too!

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    1. I admit that I really love hanging clothes on a line outdoors - there's something therapeutic about it :)

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  5. Well done! the sight of those colourful frothy fabrics wafting in the fresh air, like a flight of exotic birds come to roost, is too fabulous for words!

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    1. I know, right? I want to leave them out there for days, just so I can enjoy the colorful froth!

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  6. Oh, just let the neighbors think you've joined the circus! What a riot of color! I'm glad your laundering processes have gone so well. Now I can't wait to see the colorful bustles that come out of this costume collection.

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    1. The usual gothy, steampunky colors are about to be infused with some riotous drama!

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  7. Yowza, such a riot of color!

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  8. Neighbor: "Oh, that poor dear. I think she's a closet ballerina or clown or something. She hung up all her pretend clothes, then sniffed them every so often. I wonder how long she will keep them up there? Poor, poor dear."

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  9. Your clothesline looks so joyous. I'm glad you found a solution!

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  10. What a treat to meet you today! It was so fun.

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  11. hi Jilly it's steph from yesterday!! i am so stoked to meet a very local fellow obsessive sewer - powering thru those 45 minutes to get out the door and over to stone mountain was absolutely worth it :)

    these ideas are great, i hate smells too and don't like to use the often even stinkier ultra chemically stuff. re: place to pre-soak, that's the beauty of the 5 gallon bucket! a thousand and one uses, plus line it with a couple of leaf bags, add a seat and you have a civilized toilet after the Big One hits and chaos rules the bay ;)

    Happy Weekend! (i'm sending you an e-mail) steph

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