Keeping with the smelly theme... t-shirts!
September 28, 2016 4:51 AM   Subscribe

I recently bought two white t-shirts from jcrew factory. They claim to be 100% cotton on the tag. I have worn each twice now and I swear that half way through the day I smell TERRIBLE. Think onion cheese. (sorry) What the heck is going on?

It is only these two t-shirts that this happens to. I am actually not sure it is both or one of the shirts as they are identical and I can't tell them apart. There shouldn't be any inherent 'funk' to these as they were purchased new and it happened the first time I wore them after washing them.
No change in deodorant, activity levels or weather.

I actually have had some bad experience in the past w jcrew factory clothing being shit quality- but is stinky fabric a thing to add to my gripes? Does anyone have an explanation? Is there something inherent to this 100% cotton fabric that when mixed with my body makes a terrible smell?
posted by KMoney to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I know that smell. It's fabric sizing. (It's kind of a cross between starch (for making the sewing easier) and scotch guard (to keep dirt from sticking to it in transit/in the store)) Wash it a couple of times and it should go away. Your body heat can heatset it into clothes, so it's always a good idea to wash things before wearing. Some manufacturers use a crap-ton more than others.
posted by sexyrobot at 5:08 AM on September 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

It might be the dye. Wash the shirts, adding a cup of white vinegar with the detergent.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:14 AM on September 28, 2016

Also, wash a few times + no dryer! The dryer bakes the coating into the fabric, taking longer to wear off/wash out.
posted by jbenben at 6:14 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

The idea that body heat can "head set" something into the fabric seems sketchy to me, as does the notion that washing it without drying it would do the same thing.

Without trying to start an argument, is there a real citation for these ideas?
posted by uberchet at 6:46 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Soak in water (say, about 8liters?) with a cup of white vinegar and a few tablespoons of table salt. Has the double function of setting colors so they don't fade (do this with clothes you want to keep bright!) and releases most new-clothes smelly substances. Soak at least 5 hours, more if you can. Then wash with a tiny bit of detergent to get rid of the vinegar smell.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:47 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Heat set not head set and yes it's totally a thing... also for dyes and silk screening. Body heat won't set it as much as say, an iron, but it will (in combination with body oils and sweat) make sizing take longer to wash out. #Iworkinacostumeshop
posted by sexyrobot at 7:41 AM on September 28, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Heat setting is definitely a thing for dyes and other color applied to fabric. And the procedures that heat-set a dye will also leave you with lingering sizing - which does smell awful, even without additional stinky dyes. My experience largely comes from sewing (some of the calicos you get from fabric stores are sized so hard you could get paper cuts), but my mom used to make me do the whole vinegar soak - wash - hang dry - wash - low dryer - iron routine in the 80s (most of the clothes you got from Express and similar were crispy enough to crack when you bent them, or made of rayon and fumes) to keep my reds from running and my blacks blacker longer.

I do think there are some formulas of sizing or starch that literally get rancid. For these t-shirts, I'd suggest the vinegar soak (warm water, not hot, then rinse well in lots of cold water) and hang them in the sun if you can, just get as much UV as possible on them so turn them a couple of times if you need to, and then sniff test to see if there's still lingering funk. You could try baking soda in the wash after that, or Oxyclean.

But I have a couple of kitchen towels that got rancid oil into them and nothing has ever gotten it out. Cotton can do that.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:01 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]

(sorry for the typo re: "head set" -- obvs I meant "heat set".)
posted by uberchet at 8:44 AM on September 28, 2016

Lyn Never, I was able to get grease smells out of dishtowels by boiling them in a pot full of water with some dish detergent in there, then laundering afterwards. You wouldn't believe what the water looks like when you're done. That might also get those T-shirts clean.
posted by Slinga at 11:16 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've found that adding borax to the washing machine does wonders for getting rid of smells.
posted by 445supermag at 1:09 PM on September 28, 2016

I do think there are some formulas of sizing or starch that literally get rancid. 

oh yes, this too. Starch is basically agar and can grow all sorts of nasty molds and bacteria (probably why a lot of people are allergic to sizing). This happens a lot in tropical countries (heat+not a lot of air conditioning), esp 3rd world areas of China and India, which is where (big surprise) most of the world's fabric is made. Check the 'made in' label and let us know. Indonesia?
posted by sexyrobot at 2:41 PM on September 28, 2016

Isn't it funny that onion cheese sounds awesome to eat but disgusting when wafting off of anything else but food. I am on board with the others in that it is probably a fabric sizing that will need to wash out. The sun usually does a good job at oxidizing bad smells out of clothing.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:29 PM on September 28, 2016

Best answer:
But I have a couple of kitchen towels that got rancid oil into them and nothing has ever gotten it out. Cotton can do that.

Dawn dish soap (the original blue one) is awesome at removing grease stains.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 7:35 PM on September 28, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you all! It's funny bc I actually ironed one of the shirts before I put it on to get some wrinkles out... must have got that smell started with that too. Makes a ton of sense now. :)
posted by KMoney at 8:35 PM on September 28, 2016

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