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Musty, Sour Smelling clothes

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Jan 20, 2013, 01:04 PM
Musty, Sour Smelling clothes
I am debating whether to try to launder the clothing from my aunt's estate before trying to sell. It would probably be 7 or 8 full loads. A lot of water, detergent and dryer time to try to clean something that may or may not sell, but they've been in a house that had sick pets in it and the clothes seemed to have absorbed the pet odors. After my aunt went into assisted care the clothes stayed in an the unregulated temperature home (hot in summer, frigid in winter) for two years. Now they are very, ahem, mephitic smelling. They sure won't sell if presented unwashed. I did give some to a woman who was a neighbor of my aunt and she subsequently informed me that she washed the clothes she took three time and couldn't get the smell out. I also took three 60 gallon trash bags to a local thrift store and they wouldn't accept them. Seems a shame to scrap all those stylish clothes. Here's the lot, piled up on the back porch:

Jan 20, 2013, 02:08 PM
One thing about you Weakestlink, you don't give up easily- you're always trying to get something out of items most of us wouldn't hesitate to pitch in a heartbeat. The neighbor said she washed items 3 times and still had the stench, the thrift store wouldn't accept them for the same reason. Animal shelters wouldn't want stinky items either. Save your time and energies - time to trash it all. Thanks for introducing me to a new word "mephitic "- have never heard that before. Good luck.
Jan 20, 2013, 02:11 PM
I guess it's my heredity - my patents were avid "pickers".
Jan 20, 2013, 03:00 PM
A big dumpster in the driveway would be your best friend. The effort you are going through to try to sell, donate and rehome things that no one wants is going to make you ill.
That is just too much for any one person to take on. Life is short, get rid of everything that does not walk away on its own. Her life is ended, but you are still here.

Live without guilt, trash the stuff and move on.
Jan 20, 2013, 03:16 PM
I, too, hate to throw things away, but if they smell that bad after three washings, they may be contaminated from the ill pets...ewwww; scary to me! I'll have to look up that word you mentioned.

You have all our permission to throw it out and move on.

Take care... (((Hugs)))
Jan 20, 2013, 06:39 PM
Spanish Revival
Synonyms for Mephitic:
stinking - smelly - noisome

But anyway. If you're asking Opinions, I say toss everything and don't look back.
Jan 20, 2013, 06:43 PM
If you HAVE to try to wash them...put cidar vinegar in the rinse instead of softener. That may well cut the "smell". It works pretty good for musty smelling towels.

"The soil is the source of life, creativity, culture and real independence." David Ben-Gurion
Jan 20, 2013, 06:48 PM
I too hate to give up anything that seems salvageable, so I would test just a small batch of clothes before washing everything or giving up on the whole lot.

Your profile indicates that you're in NY, so it's not the best time to try to air out the clothes, which may or may not be of help, if the odors are so entrenched. Sometimes fresh air can do wonders!

If you're storing them in a garage or basement, add plenty of bowls of baking soda on a proposed test batch to see if it will absorb any odors. Cat litter is also good for odor absorption. I stored a lot of clothes for 2 years in an outdoor storage shed without climate control, accompanied by several little trays of cat litter, and absolutely nothing had any odor. But that is different than a sick odor.

What kind of detergent did you use? Have you tried Tide? There are also natural detergents that you could make, but I don't have links offhand to recipes. Something with an odor absorbing herb might help.

Whatever you do, let the clothes air dry in fresh air; don't use a dryer!

Are the clothes predominantly synthetic or cotton? I think synthetics are harder to clean than natural fabrics, and hold odors longer.

If you do get the odors out do you plan to sell them at a garage sale? After my sister died I spoke with several people regarding what items sell best at garage sales in my area (Michigan) and was told that clothes don't sell well at all.

After washing the clothes and letting them air dry, I just donated them to charities.

Good luck.
Jan 20, 2013, 06:53 PM
Another thought...some churches accept donations that they hand out for house fires/floods, etc. You might contact a couple of local ones to see if they do that and if they would take them with the smell.

"The soil is the source of life, creativity, culture and real independence." David Ben-Gurion
Jan 21, 2013, 12:16 AM
Idaho Resident
weakestlink, Yes, it seems a shame to just toss good fabrics, but, when they are no longer "good" due to age, smell or whatever, those fabrics have run their course and served their purpose. Take a moment to just imagine how your aunt enjoyed them when new and then take a moment to realize that that "moment" has come and gone. It is time to send them to the landfill without guilt.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Idaho Resident,
Jan 21, 2013, 10:39 AM
They seem to be mainly acetate, polyester and other synthetic fabrics.
Jan 21, 2013, 10:55 AM
Time to let go of the clothes, esp those synthetics that you're dealing with.
Jan 21, 2013, 11:22 AM
Pitch them, but I've heard white vinegar can eliminate odors in clothing. Add a cup to the wash, maybe with the most promising looking load.

I wouldn't put a lot of effort into it though, used clothing isn't a big seller, especially old folks clothing.

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Jan 26, 2013, 02:31 AM
Acetate, polyester and other synthetic fibers are almost impossible to get old bad odors out of. Absolutely no one is going to want to wear old stinky clothes, even after a flood or other disaster. The chance of getting much money for the cloths is pretty much zero. I am sure you don't want a stinky bunch of cloths piled on your back porch any more. I would get rid of them by putting them in the trash.
Jan 26, 2013, 04:21 AM
It is sad but I agree--get rid of them in the trash.
Feb 09, 2013, 01:19 PM
I did four full loads of washing my aunt's clothes. Some actually turned out very well.

Feb 09, 2013, 03:55 PM
Is the smell all gone?
Feb 10, 2013, 03:17 PM
All but two pants. I may have to toss those. I washed in cold water and tumble dried on medium with a softener sheet.
Feb 10, 2013, 03:39 PM
Florida Farm Girl
Good for you, weakestlink. You've salvaged a lot of those clothes and even if you don't get a lot for them, somebody will be able to use them.

Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain.
Feb 10, 2013, 04:03 PM
Do you have a soak cycle?
I'd try that on some pieces.
I love my soak cycle for outdoor wear!
Feb 11, 2013, 06:22 AM
I have a really old Whirlpool top loading washer. It was in teh house when my parents bought it ijn 1975 and who knows how long it was there before that (had to have it repaired a few times). It doesn't have a "soak" cycle per se, my mom used to just let it fill, then shut it off and turn it on again when she though it had soaked enough.
Feb 11, 2013, 12:06 PM
Originally posted by weakestlink:
It doesn't have a "soak" cycle per se, my mom used to just let it fill, then shut it off and turn it on again when she though it had soaked enough.

Ahh... I miss the days when the user had control over the machinery instead of the other way around. If I had to wash DH's grubby workclothes in one of today's washers, I'm positive I wouldn't be able to get them as clean, between the inadequacies of the detergents and the shorter cycles/inadequate water fill of the machines. If you need to do more than run lightly soiled clothes through a rinse for quick 'refreshing', you're sunk.

WL... I commend your tenacity at salvaging those clothes instead of immediately sending them off to the landfill. Job well done!
Feb 12, 2013, 06:30 AM
Weakestlink, I see why you wanted to attempt to salvage some of the clothes! The ones you posted look like very nice items.

It seems you may be doing this already, but I was going to mention picking out some of the more up-to-date pieces and seeing what you can do with those. I do agree with the use of vinegar. I tried that a couple times on a brand new pair of pants that smelled horrible due to the dye within the fabric! Brand new!
I actually used the vinegar in with the detergent and the odor was pretty much gone!

That being said, I still would not hesitate to pitch the majority of the items simply because the money and time you are putting into the cleaning/etc, will certainly come nowhere close to what you will get out of them. Sad but true.

Hey, just thought of something...
If you have a Craigslist in your area, you might advertise (it's free) about the clothes there. Explain that they do have an odor and would need to be cleaned.

You never know...someone who might need the clothes and is the correct size just might be willing to take them (or some of them) off your hands for free. Just a thought~

"Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened"
Feb 13, 2013, 03:10 PM
I did post them on Craig's List and in a local but widely-circulated classified magazine. No "bites" yet.
Feb 16, 2013, 04:41 AM
They're very pretty!
Feb 17, 2013, 01:11 PM
She had good taste in clothing.
Jun 18, 2013, 03:57 PM
Update on the clothes: I've now had a few tag sales. Not many people look at the clothes and they are deceptively heavy. No matter how taut I string the clothesline between the maple tree and the metal post out front, after 20 or so garments, it practically sags to the ground. I had to make several trips carrying the clothes to hang them up. I think I sold 4 items. Then I took them around to the local thrift shops - there are three new ones I tried. One is more of a boutique, one is a church-run business and the other is kind of a shelter-run charity house. The boutique took about a dozen, the church shop only took about 4 items and the shelter would only take blouses - no pants or suits. So now I've still got about 2 dozen garments nobody wanted.
Jun 18, 2013, 06:45 PM
You certainly have more patience than I do. Personally, I would pack those remaining 24 pieces in large trash bags, tie them up, and drop them off at Goodwill. Then get back in the car and step on it!!!!
Jun 19, 2013, 02:36 AM
I agree. Is there a goodwill or Salvation Army near you?
Jun 19, 2013, 06:43 AM
There's a SA about 10 miles away, but I heard they are not accepting clothing right now. There are clothes drop-off bins around, but I'm not sure who sponsors those. I just makes me wonder why I see people fighting over clothes at some garage sales, but at mine no one seems interested.
Jun 20, 2013, 01:31 PM
every church around here, (upstate NY) the transfer stations, and some other muni type places have the yellow clothing drop off boxes. The clothes that are salvagable often go to 3rd world countries such as Haiti or to places that are expeiencing disasters such as earthquakes etc.

They ask that clothes be useable, not rags, but people DO put stuff in there that can't be used. Sorting the stuff provides work for disabled people or persons otherwise not able to mangage regular work.

Our useable clothes either go to freecycle for the stuff that is truly gently used and to the yellow boxes if it's basically to cover someone's nake#ness.

If you just can't sell the last bits, manybe it's time to do the yellow box thing.

Life is GOOD!!
Jun 21, 2013, 08:45 AM
Waverider ;)
Very few people are interested in old clothing. I never even look at clothes at garage sales, totally not interested. My beloved mother loved clothes and shopping. When she passed away I donated 12 large black garbage bags full of her clothing to the Salvation Army or other places that accept clothes. Many of her clothing still had price tags on them. I tried to salvage anything I could. I tried on many things I thought were pretty, but alas, they didn't look good on me at all. My mother had great style. I did save her mink coat (I almost sold it, so glad I decided to keep it for myself, never wore it yet) I saved all her costume jewelry from the 70's! My DD wore a necklace from my mother's collection and discovered her friend HAD THE EXACT SAME NECKLACE! (new) I would try to save jewelry and other old things, but clothing is hard to get rid of (let alone 'sell'), especially if it smells. Toss it if it still smells. Salvage what you could, good luck!
Jun 21, 2013, 10:10 AM
I still have her furs - there a real mink jacket and hat and a fake leopard coat and a fake (maybe fox) coat. They are all in fairly good condition except the mink jacket. Some of the pelts are pulling apart in the shoulder areas.

Apr 26, 2014, 02:53 AM
I trully appreciate your patiency and your desires to achieve what you want and for which you are giving all your efforts.