Why am I allergic to my clothes???
November 6, 2018 6:52 PM   Subscribe

There are particular clothes I just got that are setting off my allergies and I can't figure out why. (I have an allergy test in the works, but I have to wait for the results.)

Recently I was at a clothing swap and got a whole bunch of clothes, and before I wore them I gave them all a thorough wash with a washing liquid that's meant for sensitive skin/deals with dustmites. There were a few things that were still setting off allergies, so I washed them AGAIN, but it hasn't helped, so I don't know what's up.

When I say "set off my allergies" I mean that they give me a scratchy throat and in one case make my arms red. Nothing life-threatening, but yknow I'd like to not have a sore throat by wearing clothes. I have done an allergy test (because of this) but have to wait about a week for the results - I do know that I'm allergic to dustmites, but we're checking out for cat dander and pollens.

The particular pieces of clothing causing this reaction are made of the regular sort of fabric you'd find with other clothing, like cotton or a poly blend. I have other clothes that are similar and are fine, so it can't be just that. The anti-allergy washing liquid I used has eucalyptus oil and as far as I know I'm not allergic to eucalyptus - also, nothing else that I've washed with the same liquid is causing problems. There's nothing else new in my life that could be causing issues at the same time.

What am I missing? Can I salvage this?
posted by divabat to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do any of the fabrics have:
-wool or anything with lanolin
-flame retardant
-UPF treatment
posted by phunniemee at 6:58 PM on November 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

If it was a clothing swap, you're almost definitely reacting to something that is still on the clothing. Try washing them a couple more times (including in warm water, hot if the clothes can handle it) to see if this helps. Cat dander especially is hard to remove from things. Good luck, hope you figure it out!
posted by DTMFA at 7:04 PM on November 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seconding DTMFA. I've bought used clothes that had been drenched in perfume and had to be washed several times to get it out. Other chemicals and irritants may be as persistent.
posted by dilettante at 7:13 PM on November 6, 2018

You could try washing with vinegar? Sometimes that helps reduce dye odor on brand-new clothes. I have no reason to believe it will help you here, but it won't hurt.
posted by amtho at 7:22 PM on November 6, 2018

Could the original owner have been using a bug spray that you're allergic to? Some people spray that stuff on their clothes as well and their skin.
posted by DSime at 7:49 PM on November 6, 2018

Dye seems the likely culprit.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:03 PM on November 6, 2018

Definitely not wool or latex. Can't really speak for flame or UHF but I think not, they're just normal dresses. They're black & white, no fancy dye. (They don't have the label remaining otherwise I'd check that)

I did do a hot wash as one of those washes but I'll wash them again!

Interesting idea about the bug spray, I'm not sure! This was part of a larger group so I don't know who originally donated what.
posted by divabat at 8:15 PM on November 6, 2018

Try washing them on a long cycle or two with just white vinegar and warm water.
posted by erst at 8:25 PM on November 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Probably those awful scented dryer sheets. They coat the fabric with some kind of bullshit and it doesn't come off for a few washes. I have had to use borax before.
posted by fshgrl at 9:28 PM on November 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

Can I do the vinegar/borax/etc wash by hand, and if so how? I don't have a washing machine at home so I go to the laundromat, but they might not be so into the idea of me putting random things in their machine.
posted by divabat at 1:15 AM on November 7, 2018

Sure you can. Just put the clothes in a tub of hot water, pour a bunch of vinegar in there, and then agitate them by smooshing and wringing them with your hands for a while. Then give them a good rinse when you're done to get the vinegar out.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:37 AM on November 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

I met someone in passing who had an entire costume made out of organic cotton. She was allergic to synthetics, even the super soft blends.
posted by ayc200 at 6:04 AM on November 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

Can I do the vinegar/borax/etc wash by hand, and if so how? I don't have a washing machine at home so I go to the laundromat, but they might not be so into the idea of me putting random things in their machine.
Oh yeah, absolutely. A long soak in a sink/bucket/bathtub/whatever you have available with white vinegar and water and occasional agitation in the form of "stir it up really well like once an hour or something" will do the same thing as a wash cycle, as far as the vinegar treatment is concerned. After that, drain it to the point where you can transport it to the laundromat without making a mess, and then wash it with no detergent.
posted by erst at 11:35 AM on November 7, 2018

Me and my kids are all super-sensitive to detergents, among many other things. I had some troublesome clothing years ago that was also second-hand. I'm not entirely sure what part of the process did the trick, but I remember washing them in both strong regular detergent that I normally wouldn't use, AND a wash with dawn dish soap, then a rinsing wash or two, then one with All Free & Clear, which is what we normally use. (It was almost certainly overkill, but I was REALLY frustrated, and had my own washing machine. Something in that process solved it; the hives stopped showing up from those clothes.)
posted by stormyteal at 6:06 PM on November 7, 2018

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