Funky (smelling) fibers.
January 29, 2008 12:34 PM   Subscribe

How do I de-stink the armpits of my sweaters?

I tend to wear sweaters frequently in between washings. Recently I've been wearing a couple of heavier-weight sweaters pretty often, in and out of significant temperature changes. This, combined with prolonged use, has caused the armpits of a couple of these sweaters to remain stinky, even after washing.

Any tips or tricks to dissolve the funk? I've seen this thread, but as all the sweaters in question are black, and a myriad of fibers (one is acrylic/cotton, one acrylic/mohair/nylon, one acrylic/nylon/wool), I want to use something that won't bleach, fade, shrink, or otherwise damage the fibers. I assume vinegar would be safe, but other remedies like peroxide are a bit more questionable.

Also, I don't have access to Febreze, Oxy Clean, or any other spiffy US-oriented cleaning agents, so simpler remedies appreciated.
posted by the luke parker fiasco to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Yeah, seconding baking soda.
posted by amro at 12:39 PM on January 29, 2008

I think baking soda works well, although the stink staying even after washing is tough. I think it's because your sweaters all have acrylic in them. All natural (wool, cotton) sweaters breathe much easier so they're less sweaty, but they also wash better.
posted by bluefly at 12:50 PM on January 29, 2008

I've successfully deleted pitstink by putting a dryer sheet in each 'pit of a of wool cardigan I don't want to wash.

As for things that can be safely washed, I've been successfully experimenting with enzyme cleaner that's made for pet-related cleanups. (I'm not sure of the brand I bought here in Canada but I think different companies make it.)

Incidentally the US there's a Shout brand enzyme cleaner that's fantastic as well -- I buy it whenever I'm south of the border. Again though this is obvy just for stuff I put in the washer.
posted by loiseau at 1:07 PM on January 29, 2008

Piggyback question: How is acrylic simultaneously so good at holding onto the stench through the washing, and then so good at emitting the stench after? I'd think it would either absorb and then lock in the stench, or be able to be washed well if it emitted well.
posted by explosion at 1:21 PM on January 29, 2008

Best answer: I have an old Dear Abby (Ask Heloise? Something like that...) column that recommends an overnight soak in the saltiest saltwater you can make. You're supposed to keep stirring table salt into hot water until no more will dissolve, then add the stinky clothes. The next day, wash as usual. I've had some success with this method, though not as much as I would like. It also recommends holding the smelly area in the fumes over an open bottle of ammonia, as a last resort. This may or may not be color/fabric safe.

With the synthetic shirts I wear while backpacking, I've found the most important component of keeping stink at bay is to avoid heat, especially the dryer. I don't know how you're drying your sweaters, but I'd recommend laying them out flat rather than tumbling in a machine.
posted by vytae at 1:30 PM on January 29, 2008

I have the same problem, particularly with cotton tee shirts and acrylic jerseys. Some kind of enzyme-based spot stain remover will really help, the kind you put on as soon as you throw the sweater in the laundry basket for washing (I would use Frend direct cold wash). Then use an in wash anti-bacterial deodoriser (I use Canestan, Nappi San also make one) and really good enzyme-based laundry detergent that is appropriate for your machine and washing conditions (I use Drive liquid). Avoid anything aimed at just covering the smell with artificial scent, e.g. fabric softner, because that's just going to make it worse. You want to break down and remove the current smell and kill any bacteria etc that will give more smell in the future. Out of all those things I think the Frend is the most important, a good stain remover can work wonders.
posted by shelleycat at 1:34 PM on January 29, 2008

I use white vinegar. Dilute 50/50 with water, and spray on before washing.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:55 PM on January 29, 2008

I'm not sure about pit stink, but other stinks can be removed by using Lysol in the laundry. The liquid all purpose style, it will have directions for laundry use on it. I have used this when a house fire stinkified all my clothes. Regular washing did almost nothing, Lysol knocked it right out.

Also seconding soaking in enzyme laundry detergent.

I have found that ammonia works great for "freshening" laundry as well. But I have also noticed a peculiarity with it, and maybe I'm nuts. You need the ammonia to be in direct contact with the affected stuff. If it's diluted first, it doesn't work. Soak it in pure household ammonia for a couple minutes and wash it. Should work.
posted by gjc at 5:15 PM on January 29, 2008

At better sporting goods stores, they usually stock a sort of laundry detergent that is formulated for taking stink out of sports clothes. Sport clothes (bicycling shirts, basketball shorts, shoes) are almost always made out of synthetic materials like your sweater is. So, I would try a sporting goods store and ask if they have any specialty detergent. In the US, we have Win and Atsko. I bet you have something similar.
posted by fujiko at 7:51 PM on January 29, 2008

Two cups of white vinegar in a bucket of water, soak clothes for a night, wash like you do normally. Works for me!
posted by Skyanth at 4:46 AM on January 30, 2008

PS: that is two cups of VINEGAR in one bucket of WATER, not the other way around, as a friend of mine thought. Man did that dude smell sour.
posted by Skyanth at 4:47 AM on January 30, 2008

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