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Cleaning a coat that can't be washed or dry-cleaned: How?
February 22, 2010 11:33 AM   Subscribe

How do I get a stench out of a coat that can't be washed or dry-cleaned?

I have a heavy canvas coat, with lining and insulation of wool and polyester, respectively (and some nylon in the sleeves)---it's similar to this LL Bean Town & Field Coat. Its care instructions expressly forbid machine washing, "spirit or chemical cleaners", and dry cleaning---It says all I can do is "sponge with cold water" and "use small brush to clean soil and stains."

At some point in Pittsburgh's long January warm-spell, i took it off, put it in the trunk of my car, and forgot about it for a couple weeks. Now it stinks, very strongly, of exhaust, to the point I can't wear it (and now that it's warming up again, I'd really like to...). How do I get the stench out if I can't wash it or have it cleaned? I don't think just water by itself is going to take care of this....
posted by FlyingMonkey to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (21 answers total)
 
I would wash and brush it, then hang it to air outside for a few weeks.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:35 AM on February 22, 2010


put it in a large paper bag and then pack it in a larger plastic bag or crate full of unscented plain clay kitty litter. also, hang it outside for as long as you reasonably can during dry weather. couple days and nights would be good.

also also - contact LLBean for washing instructions. I'm guessing you could probably hand wash it or wash it on gentle using a large frontloader in cold water with something super mild like ivory snow or woolite. the main thing is not to destroy the waxed finish.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2010


Try hanging it outside in the fresh air and sunshine for a couple of days. That should do it unless it actually was soiled by chemicals in your trunk.
posted by srbrunson at 11:37 AM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You could still give it to your dry cleaner. Despite the name, it's not the only thing they do.
posted by halogen at 11:40 AM on February 22, 2010


LL Bean has AMAZING customer service, I think you should call them and ask for advice.
posted by katypickle at 11:51 AM on February 22, 2010


A coat you can't clean sounds like a huge pain in the ass. I would take it to the drycleaners, and if that doesn't work, find a machine washable coat.
posted by electroboy at 12:12 PM on February 22, 2010


Also, it doesn't sound like the coat is actually from LL Bean, so calling them might not be helpful.
posted by electroboy at 12:13 PM on February 22, 2010


@toodleydoodley: "Dry weather" is something Pittsburgh isn't likely to see much of for a couple months, unfortunately... Especially since the one place I have to hang things up outside is under a porch that's covered in about 18" of rapidly-melting snow right now...

@srbrunson: From the smell of it, it's exhaust gas, not anything that was in the trunk itself, that's the problem here.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 12:26 PM on February 22, 2010


Your drycleaner may be able to steam clean it.
posted by devinemissk at 12:30 PM on February 22, 2010


Maybe you could try spraying Febreze on it. They have various products for different materials.
posted by violette at 12:52 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconding Febreze or other odor eliminator. I had a very similar situation: A coat that I couldn't wash that smelled terrible.

I got this stuff because it was cheaper than Febreze and said "professional strength" on the bottle. (Maybe Febreze would work even better, I have no idea.) Then I took the coat outside and sprayed the outside down and let it dry out there. The next day I turned the coat inside out and sprayed the inside and let that dry outside as well.

The result was a coat that smelled faintly like the odor eliminating spray. Believe me, it was a huge improvement. Well worth the $4 I spent on the bottle of odor spray.
posted by thebergfather at 1:08 PM on February 22, 2010


If my experience with a stinky coat after using the snowblower is any indication, it won't last forever. I agree that giving it a few days with plenty of air circulation and some kind of odor eliminator (be it febreze, diluted vinegar in a spray bottle, kitty litter, etc) should do the trick.
posted by cabingirl at 1:16 PM on February 22, 2010


I think I read right here at Metafilter an old trick in the theater is to spray vodka on smelly costumes that are too expensive to dry clean, I've never tried it but you can give that a shot, if it doesn't work at least you can turn to spray bottle on yourself and drown your sorrows!
posted by any major dude at 1:24 PM on February 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Put it in as large a paper bag as you have (so it's not bundled too tight), then put the bag into a sealed tupperware with teabags, kitty litter, baking soda, baby powder, dry rice, and other dry, odor absorbing objects. Leave it somewhere warm for a week or so.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:03 PM on February 22, 2010


I think I read right here at Metafilter an old trick in the theater is to spray vodka on smelly costumes that are too expensive to dry clean, I've never tried it but you can give that a shot, if it doesn't work at least you can turn to spray bottle on yourself and drown your sorrows!

Mythbusters tested it:

"Myth: Vodka can remove smoke smell from clothing. Kari created automated smoking machine, a tube with holes to hold lit cigarettes, stuck inside of an 'airtight' box. They smoke-infested two jackets inside the box and took them to the laundromat. One of the jackets was spritzed with a spray made of 1 part vodka to 3 parts water. Grant was once again the official smeller. His verdict: the vodka-spritzed jacket smelled better."
posted by iviken at 2:07 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Neutral Grain Spirits definitely work to get smoke smells out. A little masking scent like a drop of vanilla (pref. without caramel color) can help too.

I once descented the entire inside of a smokers car this way. Been smoked in for years and afterwards smelled good.

I would definitely try it on a concealed area for colorfastness or any other damage.
posted by Seamus at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2010


White vinegar.

I was once in a wedding where the bridesmaids dresses were made by a seamstress. The only problem was the seamstress smoked like a chimney. The dresses wreaked of smoke. We put all the dresses in a closet with a bowl of white vinegar in the bottom of the closet. We left them there over the weekend, and presto! No more smoke smell! I use white vinegar for basically everything now.
posted by Term of Art at 4:27 PM on February 22, 2010


Dry Cleaners Secret sheets (at any grocery store). Just put it in the dryer on low heat for 20 minutes.
posted by marimeko at 5:52 PM on February 22, 2010


@toodleydoodley: "Dry weather" is something Pittsburgh isn't likely to see much of for a couple months, unfortunately... Especially since the one place I have to hang things up outside is under a porch that's covered in about 18" of rapidly-melting snow right now...

but the porch has a roof? just hang the coat out of the line of blowing rain - as long as the air can go through it. I think your main objective here is to steer clear of heat and solvents, since the jacket is waterproofed with wax.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:29 PM on February 22, 2010


Remember that "spirits", that is ethyl alcohol, is expressly forbidden as a cleaning agent. This leaves out Fabreze, vodka or grain alcohol spritzes. The waxes sealing the fabric could dissolve in the alcohol.

Personally, I think the bag with an odor absorber like kitty litter is well worth trying.
posted by bonehead at 10:59 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm the OP's wife. While the coat does smell somewhat of exhaust, what really is the killer is kind of a mold-smelling smell.

The coat smells like a sock that's been dipped in a puddle and then stored in a locker in a Greyhound station.

@toodleydoodley -- there is no "out of the line of blowing rain" at our house in the winter, even though our front porch has a roof. It's a hilltop, it's Pittsburgh, and when it rains Chez Monkey, it rains horizontal.

I'm thinking maybe freeze it in the freezer for a few days to kill anything that might have colonized it, then sealing it up with a bunch of odor-absorbing items, then hanging it with white vinegar, then hanging it in the middle of the attic with the windows open a crack.
posted by kataclysm at 8:55 AM on February 24, 2010


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