Q: I am wondering how to remove the odor left behind on clothes by fabric softeners. I have tried very hot water for the wash and the hot setting in the drying, thinking that the high temperatures would break it down. Our grown kids use it heavily, but we never use it in our house, due to my wife’s allergic reaction to many smells.
— Bill Rockwood, Silver Lake
A: Actually, high temperatures can bond the fragrance to the clothing’s fibers and dyes, laundry expert Mary Marlowe Leverette says in an article on About.com. Leverett, a former Clemson University extension agent, suggests these steps for removing fabric softener fragrance:
• First air out the clothes outdoors or in a breezy, sunlit room, preferably one with lots of plants to absorb the odor. You can create an artificial breeze with a fan. Depending on the strength of the fragrance and your wife’s sensitivity, you can air the clothes for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks.
• Next, soak the clothes overnight in a washing machine filled with water and one cup baking soda. When they’ve finished soaking, allow the clothes to complete the washer cycle, and then wash using unscented laundry detergent. Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle, stop the washer and let the laundry soak for an hour before completing the rinse cycle. Use an extra rinse cycle if your washing machine has one, but don’t add anything to the extra rinse.
• If possible, line-dry the clothes outdoors. Dry white or light-colored clothes in the sunlight, but dry dark colors in the shade to prevent fading. If you must use a clothes dryer, use a low temperature.
• Repeat the steps if necessary.
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