Yucky-smelling microfleece
November 2, 2013 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Chemical/burning-rubber odor on new microfleece garments. What causes this, and how can I remove it?

I've only noticed this on items from relatively inexpensive retailers (Old Navy, The Children's Place), and then it seems to apply to only some (not all) garments of any given cut--- like, I bought two fleece hats recently, one smells like a tire fire, the other one doesn't, despite their having been treated identically in every conceivable way since I got them. It could be my imagination, but I could swear the smell doesn't kick in until after the garments are washed the first time. I do a very gentle wash, though-- warm water, Tide detergent, line drying in the sun-- so it's hard to see how that could be creating or leaving any kind of smell.

I've seen the occasional product-page review complaining about this issue, so I don't think it's my imagination; but Googling doesn't turn up much info on what could be producing the odor or how to get rid of it. Any ideas? Thus far, I've tried plain detergent, borax, and vinegar, with no success at all.
posted by Bardolph to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
I've noticed that smell on some cheap stretchy jeans from places like Old Navy and Forever21. It's not possible to get it to go away (I've tried every fabric de-scenting trick in the book, and I'm pretty good at laundry).

I'm guessing it's a bad batch of fabric from time to time during manufacturing, and since it's low-quality cheap clothing, the quality controls aren't too strict.
posted by erst at 11:25 AM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

The smell could be from sizing. Or, since it's an artificial fiber, could be from the fiber itself. Formaldehyde is often used as a sizing chemical, to reduce wrinkling. Some formaldehyde is apparently not water-soluble. (See article linked below)

This article covers a lot of the same methods of odor removable you have tried, but a few others. Otherwise, you may have to just get rid of it.
posted by annsunny at 11:49 AM on November 2, 2013

I've had very good luck with Sno Seal Sport Wash for de-stinking biological smells like rancid UnderArmour and stale dog beds. I haven't tried it on chemical smells, though. You can buy it at Wal-Mart but it's in the hunting/outdoors section, not the detergent aisle, or at Campmor.
posted by workerant at 1:51 PM on November 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

This doesn't seem very logical because you're treating the items the same way, but maybe you should consider the possibility that the Tide detergent is somehow contributing to the smell. The most annoying laundry challenge I've ever done battle with has been getting the offensive chemical odor out of clothes that had been washed in Tide. It might be worth switching to an unscented detergent to see if the smell fades. Expect it to require multiple washes though, because that stuff is stubborn.
posted by Corvid at 2:32 PM on November 2, 2013

Have you considered buying a different material? Polyester fleece is essentially feathered plastic.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:00 PM on November 2, 2013

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