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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Odors from Stored Clothing

By Dr. Laundry March 5, 2009

Q. Can any of your products help me in saving some clothes that have been in storage, and now have an odor? Some are cotton and some are polyester, knit and dry-clean only.

A. A little more information on the type of clothes, colors and fiber types would have been helpful.

Generally, I recommend that any clothes removed from storage be thoroughly washed in the hottest water listed on the care label using detergent and the appropriate bleach. Odors may be a sign that something wasn’t completely removed before the clothes were put away.

I do find that a lot of colored items can be bleached. To find out if these items can safely be bleached, I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test (add 2 tsp. Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 to 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute, and then blot with a towel). No color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item.

Want to proceed? I would also consider doing a quick liquid bleach soak (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in a gallon of cool water for 5 minutes), then wash immediately in the hot water using detergent and 3/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1.

If you can’t bleach them, then try washing in the hottest water recommended on the care labels using detergent and an oxygen bleach like our Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster or even a short 1/2 hour presoak in the oxygen bleach before the wash. Always check for success on any visible stains before they go into the dryer. You may need to re-treat them.