Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Vintage Clothing Care - How to Get Rid of the Smells!

When I am cleaning a huge load of Vintage Clothing, I use a variety of cleaning techniques - Handwashing, "Dry" Cleaning Only (using my own dry cleaning formula), regular wash, and more. But definitely the most challenging items are the ones with an odor all of their own! These items I usually put aside to deal with by themselves on a sunny day when they can be dried outside. Sometimes the smelly offenders are those lovely double-knit polyesters from the 1970's that can easily put put in the washing machine with a splash of white vinegar and detergent and (fingers crossed) they will emerge fresh and clean.

But sadly most often the worst offenders are the best of the 30s and 40s dresses that have been stored away in a musty attic, sometimes soaked with body odors, nicotine, and mold.
  • First I take the garment and store it (dry) in a ziploc bag with several cups of baking soda - mix together and leave at least 24 hours. The baking soda absorbs much of the nicotine smell, which doesn't wash out well, and is especially useful on beaded sweaters that you may not want to risk even handwashing. BTW - this also works great on nicotine smells in handbags, and even furniture - just sprinkle a generous amount in bags or drawers and leave.
  • Once the nicotine smell is taken care of, a simple soak in cool water and white vinegar first, then with a gentle soap usually takes care of the rest.
  • Sometimes a spritz of lemon juice or lavender oil at the end, and then hang outside on a fresh sunny day.
This routine works on most of the worst pieces - but remember sometimes you can't save them all.

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