Vintage Fabric Question

by UglyCuteDesigns on September 22, 2011 · 16 comments

in Vintage Sewing

Pictures are coming, but does anyone know how to get the smell of old people out of vintage fabric?  You know, that musty smell in everyone’s grandmother’s house.  My mom and I just bought LOADS of fabric at an estate sale today and even after washing, it still smells funky.  
Any suggestions????
I’d greatly appreciate it!  
Thanks!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Erin September 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Have you tried soaking it in Biz first?

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Linda September 22, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Oxyclean should do it or perhaps a little white vinegar in the rinse water.

Congrats on the haul!

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Kristen September 22, 2011 at 11:16 pm

When I can't get the musty odor out of estate sale fabrics I spray it with a bottle of scented water – I use a fir needle essential oil, but you could use a lavender oil spray, then iron it while it's wet. It has worked 99% of the time, and the smell left behind is herbal and fresh.

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Anonymous September 23, 2011 at 12:03 am

Try soaking it in water with baking soda; it's gentle plus removes odors.

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Lucy September 23, 2011 at 12:28 am

Fresh air, and sunlight! Just hang it outside for a few hours and it'll really help. You could spray it with lemony water as well before you hang it out.

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Catholic Bibliophagist September 23, 2011 at 3:04 am

I've never tried this, but I have been told that a product called Nok-Out removes odor, as opposed to merely masking it.

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SEW RED HOT September 23, 2011 at 6:59 am

I buy heaps from op shops and agree, sometimes that smell does linger even after a wash.
A good long bout on the washing line in the fresh air and sunshine does wonders!
I've hung it out damp from the machine sometimes and thought *pee-ooh* its still stinky, but after a few hours in the sun, its perfect!
Good luck, I love vintage fabrics!

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Fran September 23, 2011 at 8:10 am

Sunshine and a fresh stiff breeze!

From an old Person………..

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Miss Tessa Melissa September 23, 2011 at 8:21 am

I'm sorry, Lucy, but if you are going to put the fabric in the sun to air it out DO NOT spritz it with lemony water! That will bleach the fabric! It would only be slight, but still! However, I do like the idea of putting it out and spritzing with a water/lavender oil mix as Kristen said…..

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stonemaven September 23, 2011 at 10:05 am

1/4 cup of vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washer, then line dry in the sun. Repeat if needed. The combination will remove even tough odors. It saved a cat urine soaked blouse I salvaged.

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Rebecca September 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

Thanks everyone for the great ideas! I totally forgot about the vinegar solution, but the rest are new to me so Thanks!!!

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Bella September 23, 2011 at 11:24 am

Fresh air & sunshine like Fran says. If not, a dryer w/ Bounce or something?

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nava September 23, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I wash with baking soda for the detergent and vinegar in the rinse, and then line dry. Any acrylics/manmade fabrics I do not hang in direct sunlight, otherwise they get crunchy! Good luck :)

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Molly September 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Baking soda and white vinegar are always popular options, don't use them together though – they counteract each other!

I would avoid hanging anything in direct sunlight, especially, as Tessa Melissa said, if it has been treated with lemon juice. Likewise white fabric treated with oxygen cleaners (like Vanish, Oxi-Clean etc) have a tendency to go yellow and direct sunlight will fade brighter colours and patterns.

Although sunlight has sterilizing qualities, its the fresh air and a breeze that does all the work.

(For airing vintage suits I turn them inside out and hang them outside out of sunlight – it can also make sweat stains prominent and cause the lining fabric to crisp up).

I you find mildew spots, a long soak in Milton followed by wash really helps.

I would also say, don't tumble dry since you can't be sure of the fabric composition, these fabrics weren't designed for tumble-driers after all and the heat may damage them.

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Little Black Car September 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm

MythBusters got cigarette smoke out of a coat by spraying it with vodka and letting it air out. Worth a try, even if the odor isn't from smoke.

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Kiki von Tiki September 24, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hanging out for a few hours in the fresh air always does the trick.

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