This (still) stinks
January 21, 2019 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I've switched to aluminum free deodorant and am now learning the struggles of clothes with actual body odor on it after wear. How do I get the smell out, especially from dry clean only clothes?

It's usually subtle but I can tell it's still there. I have a number of items I wear for work that are business/suit material, and even when I take those to the cleaners, some of them still come back smelling of body odor. Those are the hardest items of all since sometimes I am in high pressure situations and my body reacts with sweat from nerves. I can't stick them in the washer so I'm stumped as to what to do if the dry cleaner can't get them clean.

Any tips on how to get the smells out? I'd prefer natural options where possible, though I realize I may be pushing it.
posted by amycup to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Half and half vodka and water in a spray bottle. Old theatre wardrobe trick. Spritz, allow to dry.
posted by wellred at 9:42 AM on January 21 [8 favorites]

Wear an underlayer, preferably something that rests completely between your skin and the garment, covering the whole area. So, an undershirt with at least enough sleeve to cover the whole armpit of the suit, not a tank top. Wear something thin and breathable (e.g., Uniqlo's Airism fabric or a tissue cotton t-shirt or merino wool in winter).

Alternately use dress shields (Amazon's selection). Keeping the sweat, oils and odor off the fabric as much as possible in the first place is preferable to trying to remove it.

Also, keep baby/makeup wipes and a deodorant in your desk or bag. Freshen up throughout the day. You might try Lush's deodorant powders, too, for mid-day refreshing.
posted by crush at 9:48 AM on January 21 [4 favorites]

I have a lot of silky shirts and dresses for work and have found that I need to hand wash the items to release the body odor before then having them steamed or fully dry-cleaned. It adds an extra step, but at least my clothes smell fresh.

I'm now eager to try the vodka/water trick!
posted by icaicaer at 10:12 AM on January 21

The vodka spray definitely works. I spray it on my clothes before I throw them in the hamper and as-needed.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:32 AM on January 21

Dress shields are the proper name for what I had learned of as "pit pads": small cotton pads that you put in dry-clean only clothing to absorb sweat, etc. They can be thrown in the regular wash, even bleached if necessary. The ones linked above appear to be disposable; here's a link about reusable dress shields (from someone who also had first heard of them in the context of theatre costuming, and they were called pit pads).
posted by jb at 10:32 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]

Vodka spray hasn’t worked for me on my wool tops and cashmere sweaters that only wash on cold (I’ve actually started to wonder if the labels are 100 percent honest because even straight vodka multiple times and spending a few nights hanging on a sub zero balcony doesn’t seem to shift ALL the smell) : -( I’ve started wearing an undershirt and that has helped loads.
posted by catspajammies at 12:36 PM on January 21

Vinegar sprayed on armpits before washing usually works on my washable clothes (don't own dry-cleanables).
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:56 PM on January 21 [1 favorite]

I use rubbing alcohol for this and it works better for me than vodka or vinegar. As soon as I remove an item of clothing, I generously douse the armpit area with rubbing alcohol and throw it in the hamper. The alcohol doesn't damage any fabrics that I've used it on (synthetic or not) and it evaporates on its own. For something that has an unusual dye, you could spot test it first at the hem, but I've never had damage to fabric from doing this. Then, I launder or dry clean as normal. If you're not going to launder right away, do the same and then hang the garment to dry before returning it to the closet. This has even eliminated odors that persisted after multiple washings and tumble dryings.

Most of the odors are being caused by bacteria. So, if I notice that I'm having a run of particularly bad stink or my deodorant "stops working", I do an overnight treatment on my armpits using straight tea tree oil for a few days. Do not do this right after shaving if you shave your armpits. After washing the armpits, apply straight tea tree oil to the entire armpit surface. You'll smell like a conifer tree and there is some initial tingling, but otherwise, no issues. I leave it on overnight and then apply my deodorant as normal in the AM. A few days of this (usually 3) will kill off whatever stinky bugs you have colonizing your armpits. Also, I've found that if I allow my armpit hair to grow out to about an inch or so, I get much less stink happening, which is counter to what I had assumed.
posted by quince at 1:20 PM on January 21

To comment on dry cleaning, it's generally not very effective on odors, according to cleaning expert Jolie Kerr, so that is expected.

Do note that unless it's silk or rayon or something really finicky, you can definitely hand wash it. Jolie recommends a spritz of white vinegar and water or vodka and water (as mentioned above). It might then benefit from hand washing in a mild detergent and even an overnight soak.
posted by radioamy at 4:09 PM on January 21

When you start to notice odor in the offending garments, soak them in warm water in the sink with 1 small scoop of oxygen bleach overnight. Not chlorine bleach. Odor will be killed and armpits will revert to neutral.
posted by oxisos at 9:35 PM on January 21

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