Smells like teens' spirits
July 29, 2009 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Help me get the vomit smell out of a cotton canvas messenger bag.

Long story short, I woke up one morning to find my cotton convas messenger bag covered in vomit. It must have been soaking in it for at least 7 hours. After some quick googling, I tried the following steps over two weeks to clean it but the smell still persists:

1. Washing machine with detergent and hung dry
2. Dry cleaned
3. Sprayed all over with Febreeze
4. Soaked in hot water with vinegar for 6 hours
5. 2nd trip in washing machine + extra vinegar and hung dry
6. And lastly, two days left in the freezer to try and draw out the smell

What am I missing? Is my bag doomed to a life of smelling like an awful mix of vomit, Febreeze, and vinegar?
posted by chalbe to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yeah...the bag is probably doomed. You might try a soak in Nature's Miracle, but if that doesn't's probably an ex-bag.
posted by dejah420 at 12:17 PM on July 29, 2009

Have you tried baking soda? I would make baking soda soup and let it rest in that for ages. Then wash again. Make sure your washer/dryer don't have detritus that smells like vomit (although I'm sure you'd notice this).
posted by shownomercy at 12:18 PM on July 29, 2009

Have you tried adding Pinesol or Lestoil to the wash? Maybe that'll kill the bacteria that's causing the smell. I've done this, not for vomit so I don't have direct experience with that, but it doesn't damage clothes. Also, it has a nice "clean" smell (in a doctor's office kind of way).
posted by yawper at 12:20 PM on July 29, 2009

Long story short, I woke up one morning to find my cotton convas messenger bag covered in vomit.

That is indeed a long story short.

Maybe try sealing it in a box with baking soda or charcoal for a while?
Or mix up hydrogen peroxide + Dawn dishwashing liquid (basically OxyClean) and letting it soak in the tub over night.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:21 PM on July 29, 2009

Kids 'N' Pets Instant All Purpose Stain and Odor Remover is pretty ace for getting the stink out.
posted by iconomy at 12:27 PM on July 29, 2009

You can buy this weird crap called Zeolite which is supposedly "volcanic rock." My mom bought me some I think from Bed Bath and Beyond. It works really well at removing odors. I have used it for a number of things, including de-stenching a vinyl messenger bag that had fire/smoke smell stuck in it. You may want to buy some of this and stick it in the bag and stick it in a closet for a month or so to see if the smell goes away.
posted by radioamy at 12:27 PM on July 29, 2009

If nothing else works, try that mildew-smell-removal foam at the car parts store (for car carpets). You spray it on, it foams up, you brush it (comes with brush on top), and let it dry in the sun for a while. Then throw in the wash. I found that it doesn't leave residual odor.
---p.s. who did it?
posted by heather-b at 12:27 PM on July 29, 2009

I would try Very Prolonged Soaking in detergent + water. Four or five days' worth of soaking, at least. That's worked for me to get rid of especially stubborn stains/assorted gross stuff. You might want to switch out the water every once in awhile.
posted by ethorson at 12:29 PM on July 29, 2009

Try washing soda. Looks like a giant box of baking soda and might be kind of hard to find, but works really well at getting odors out.
posted by sageleaf at 12:34 PM on July 29, 2009

Water as hot as the bag can stand without shrinking, and Oxiclean.
posted by essexjan at 12:40 PM on July 29, 2009

Response by poster: ---p.s. who did it?

As far as I can tell, that would be me. Yeah, it was some night..
posted by chalbe at 12:44 PM on July 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd give Nature's Miracle a go. It's the best thing I've found for getting rid of smells of biological origin rather than just covering them up. If that doesn't work, I concur with dejah420 that it's probably toast.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:52 PM on July 29, 2009

Would definitely try baking soda and I mean A LOT of baking soda. Put it in a small bucket and pour in at least a box of the stuff. Let it soak for like a day. If that doesn't do, well yeah I think your next step is purification through burning...
posted by whoaali at 12:56 PM on July 29, 2009

nthing a good soak in baking soda & water. One time, I left rotting food in a backpack for who knows how long, and this is how I got the odor out (granted, not the same as vomit).
posted by puritycontrol at 12:57 PM on July 29, 2009

I've found a soak in borax helpful for sour milk and pee smells.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:01 PM on July 29, 2009

Mythbusters fixed a skunk smell on my dog with 3 ingredients I had lying around the house: Dawn dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda. I don't know that its applicable here, but on everything I have ever tried to remove scents odors and underlying odors it has worked. I should note that the scent was ingrained in the dog - like he picked up and shook the skunk... and the scent afterward was completely gone - and never reappeared (other than when he played with the second skunk... which resulted in me repeating the process)

Ratios (sort of):
Dawn + Soda to a thick blue-white paste - think yogurt consistency if it came in blue raspbery flavor....
added the hydrogen peroxide to thin back to dish liquid consistency
posted by Nanukthedog at 1:14 PM on July 29, 2009

Be careful with hydrogen peroxide. It will bleach some dyes.
posted by 517 at 1:18 PM on July 29, 2009

Wow it'll be a pretty tough messenger bag if it still looks the same as it used to after all those steps.

I had a pair of jeans that smelled deliriously funky after spending some time in someone else's dryer. I couldn't get the smell out with vinegar or repeated washings. Finally I decided it had to be due to some kind of bacteria or mold that was still stuck in the cuffs if I could get a whiff of it as soon as I walked into the room where it was hanging.

I soaked it in a cold water with a heavy dose of Lysol (much more than recommended on the bottle, probably well over a 50% concentration) for 10 minutes. Afterwards, I washed it in the washer (alone) with cold water on the heavy cycle without any other detergent. After it hung-dry, the lemony smell basically overtook the horrible stench. If you put your nose up to it, it was still there, but you'd really have to go looking for the smell.

I did this a few more times just to make sure I had it covered. It's basically gone now. And as far as I can tell, it didn't muck with the color or durability of the jeans.
posted by twins named Lugubrious and Salubrious at 1:41 PM on July 29, 2009

Whichever prolonged soak you use (baking soda, vinegar, nature's miracle), set the bag in the bright sunshine to dry. Bright sunshine is great for getting odors out of fabrics. Why? I have no idea. I've heard variations on the theme that sunshine kills mold; kills bacteria; kills germs; whatever. The drying in the sunshine does seem to work wonders, however.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:48 PM on July 29, 2009

Once upon a time, I was able to get the stench of barf out of an enameled cast iron pot* with Nature's Miracle, no problem. I think I did a combination of the Nature's Miracle, and some Dawn dish soap with water. Heavy on the NM. Seriously, we should have stock in that stuff considering how much we use (we purchase it in gallon-sized quantities...three dogs, two kids).

It's also worked for endless quantities of kid bedding post stomach bugs, etc.

Go to Petco/Petsmart. Invest in a big bottle. It's not cheap, but totally worth it. Big white bottle with a ton of red writing all over it, near the housebreaking stuff.

*Very drunk ex-boyfriend on the floor in the kitchen. No way I was mopping the floor, too. Who the fuck knew cast iron retained smells?
posted by dancinglamb at 2:22 PM on July 29, 2009

If you know anyone who works at an elementary school, they might be able to get you some Vo-Ban. This is the junk they throw down on fresh vomit when a kid barfs up his peanut butter and jelly after recess. I think it's supposed to be used on fresh vomit but it has a bunch of enzymes in it (maybe similar to Nature's Miracle) that might still be useful, if you were to soak them together.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:29 PM on July 29, 2009

My dad was a school custodian, and he passed on to me the magical miracle of D-Stroy. I use it on my cats' puke and it works miracles. I've never used it on human barf but it was made for that so it's worth a shot.
posted by slmorri at 3:02 PM on July 29, 2009

Try a quarter cup of baking soda per quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide and a little liquid detergent (It's a skunk smell remedy, according to the Indiana University School of Medicine.).
posted by gargoyle93 at 5:30 PM on July 29, 2009

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