Post-Adventure Laundry: How to Get Smell Out of Clothes
“The scent of these armpits is aroma finer than prayer.”
Stink. Funk. Putrescence. Miasmal malodorous mank. Each of us has our own finely tuned threshold for bad smells. But one thing holds true for everyone: there comes a time when our clothes become smelly enough that we wish to disown them; or at least deny our culpability in making them reach such olfactorily offensive heights.
Some of us stink extra bad. Certain folks around the office have been accused of smuggling onion sandwiches under their arms, or—to quote one person—smelling “like a sweaty horse washed with garlic soap.” They were pretty psyched when we launched our wool line, which has natural odor control. But buying new clothes isn’t the answer to dealing with the fetid funk of your existing garments.
For some tips on how to keep the stench of your current wardrobe at bay, read on:
Why Does My Clothing Smell?
– CLOTHING SMELL IS CAUSED BY BACTERIA. Body oils accumulate on synthetics more easily than on natural fibers. These body oils provide a welcome home to bacteria. These bacteria are what cause your clothes smell.
Tips for Getting Smell Out of Clothes
– POLYESTER LOVES OIL, DIRT, AND DYESTUFFS. Regular light cleaning is the best way to avoid the build-up that plays host to odor-causing bacteria.
– WASH WITH DETERGENT, NOT SOAP. Detergent has been shown to rinse out more thoroughly than liquid soaps. Soap residue picks up dirt (causing an item with soap residue to become dirty more quickly). Soap+dirt creates a “Petri dish” of sorts for bacteria to find a home on clothing.
– WASH WITH A LITTLE WHITE VINEGAR. A small amt. (approx. 1/3 cup) of white vinegar added occasionally to the wash will help neutralize built-up bacteria. Use this treatment sparingly, as regular use could cause clothing to take on a bit of vinegary smell.
– DON’T USE FABRIC SOFTNER! Fabric softener adds additional bacteria-friendly residues to clothing, making them stink faster.
– DON’T THROW YOUR CLOTHES IN THE DRIER. The odor-producing bacteria that live on synthetic fabrics are invigorated by heat. Machine drying adds extra heat, which helps re-activate those stinky little biota. Air-drying will help ensure that your clean clothes stay odor-free longer.
For more fabric care tips, check out our online Product Care tips.
Although the most energy-intensive part of a garment’s life cycle is production, laundering is the second most impactful, so reducing the number of washes saves water and energy. Anti-odor treatment keeps your garment smelling fresh and prevents the buildup of persistent odors, which allows you to increase the number of wears between washes and to extend the overall lifetime of the garment. Patagonia currently uses the HeiQ® Pure odor-control additive on select styles (e.g., baselayers and other next-to-skin applications). HeiQ Pure is a silver-salt-based odor-control additive. While some silver-containing technologies can have adverse environmental impacts, we chose this technology because it is able to provide good performance with minimal environmental impact.