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getting the stink out - removing perfume smells from cloth

 
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What's your favourite way to get perfume stink out of cloth?

I found this lovely cloth at the second-hand shop.  I cannot wait to upcycle it into a skirt.  

But...
IT STINKS!

Some sort of laundry perfume.

It used to be a wash or three would remove the stench, and an overnight soak in baking soda for the tough smells.  Maybe a day or two hanging in the sunshine if that doesn't do the trick.  But these new laundry perfumes are getting smarter and harder to get rid of.  

What's your favourite method for getting the stink out?

Some that have worked for me in the past
  • soap and water - a regular run through the washing machine
  • H2O2 - hydrogen peroxide in the 'bleach' and 'fabric softener dispenser in the laundry machine with a regular wash
  • overnight soak in water with enough baking soda to make the hand feel slippery. (this is also pretty good for set-in food stains)
  • outside in indirect sunlight for a day or 3
  •  
    pollinator
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    Oh man I don't know what to tell you that's positive. Time. I bought a real nice shell jacket at a discount store. I was chuffed to have a $100 jacket for like $12... but someone had clearly squirted on their cologne after they bundled up because it smelled like man perfume for a solid few years before it eventually wore off. Granted, I still catch a whiff once and a while.
     
    r ranson
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    This cloth smells like Unstinkables Unstopables.  Which are designed to fuse with the fibres somehow and release the smell when the cloth is warm or moving.  
     
    master gardener
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    r ranson wrote:This cloth smells like Unstinkables Unstopables.  Which are designed to fuse with the fibres somehow and release the smell when the cloth is warm or moving.  

    To wear that out, hanging in the sun on a windy day or five?
     
    master gardener
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    Wash in water
    Wash in baking soda
    Wash in borax

    The plain water wash is a good test. If the water suds up, I know I have a problem.
     
    pollinator
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    I find it difficult to believe that I'm suggesting vinegar to you?!?!

    I remember my mom always following bleached whites with a second rinse and adding white vinegar. Things smelled so much nicer, it got rid of the chlorine smell.
    I'm sure there's some acid/base neutralizing chemistry going on here that could also be the reason for the change in odor.

    Maybe vinegar could work in a way that the mostly basic/alkaline laundry stuff wouldn't? If it wouldn't affect the color, of course...
    (It seems like it was a cup into a full washing machine of water (a standard US cup, 8fl.oz.) )

    Another thought... maybe wash it with a less obnoxious scented detergent, but one that rinses away better than the "Unstoppable stuff", in hopes that whatever is in the formula to disperse the fragrance (and therefore wouldn't be present in an unscented detergent) would be able to "re-activate" or "dissolve" the stuff that's trapped in the fabric? (maybe you could "borrow a cup" from a neighbor, to not have to buy any) Repeat, and follow with your normal laundry method.

    Febreeze? I honestly don't have any experience with it, and from their ads it seems to target more "organic odors" like pets, kitchen odors, and sweaty stuff? (again, maybe bum some from a neighbor to test it?)
     
    master pollinator
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    Ugh, noooooooooo! Not Febreeze! It's the work of the devil! Seems every item of clothing I get from a thrift or from ebay stinks of some rank artificial fragrance that doesn't wash out.

    What works best for me: hang outdoors but out of direct sun for a few days. If it gets rained on, even better! Then wash with, as Kenneth said, a cup of vinegar in the rinse water. Then hang outdoors for a few more days. It still smells, but isn't be quite so migraine inducing!
     
    r ranson
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    Vinegar is another option.  I often use it as a fabric softener substitute.  I don't like soaking cotton or linen in it as acids can make the fabric degrade faster, but sometimes it is necessary.  

    Fabreeze seems to work the same way these new scents do.  It latches on to the fabrics at the molecular level.  Somehow binding to the fibres so that the scent lasts longer.
     
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    Oh yes...those newer scents are awful!

    I've bought thrift store clothes for decades, both for myself and family and my weaving business and there has been nothing as persistant as these new scents.

    I do all of the suggestions above alternately with a lot of air drying out doors....repeatedly sometimes...
    What works best for me though is washing soda rather than baking soda.

    I imagine hot hot water would help but I don't have that.

    Sometimes though, It just won't wash out and it goes back to the thrift store.


     
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    This cloth smells like Unstinkables Unstopables.  

    Bahaha! Ain't it the truth!!

    The new scents are AWFUL. No one in my family likes going down the laundry detergent aisle at the store. It's like we all get a group-sized asthma attack.

    We've become so used to the smell of ozonated, line-dried clothing, that anything with an artificial scent doesn't set well with us. We've become accustomed to "crunchy" bath towels as a sign that they're freshly cleaned, LOL.

    I usually wash our thrift store clothes as usual, with our unscented laundry detergent. Then line dry as usual. That's usually enough to make the fragrance tolerable, though not gone completely. It usually takes a few washes to disappear.

    I like the idea of vinegar, too.

     
    gardener
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    This is why I stopped thrift shop shopping for clothes. The 3 days of work necessary to make them wearable killed my desire to buy a 'good deal". It's also why I stopped using a laundromat and bought a portable washer.  Contamination from leftover product from the last person who used the machines would stink up my clothes.

    Seemed to be something different worked  each time. I often found dish soap worked well to remove it, seems to be a fat based scent to make it "stick". Sunlight and rain (think a week or two on the line in thunderstorm season) helped.  I liked to stop my washer mid-cycle and just let it soak in the diahsoapy water. I have used borax, don't recall if it helped, but I definitely tried it. Alternating vinegar and baking soda treatments. Oxiclean. It always seemed to take 3-4 washes with different products to kill the last of the scent.

    You do sheep wool cleaning, right? I wonder if the products meant to degrease sheep wool might work?

    A few things ended up back at the thrift store, I never got the smell manageable enough.

    Good luck!
     
    gardener
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    I know this struggle all too well. I am on the verge of giving up on thrift stores for clothes because of it. I've tried all kinds of things and made a thread about it here: How to remove toxic gick smell from thrift shop clothes?
    The most effective for stubborn smells in my experience has been soaking in dish soap, then wash with regular laundry, line dry until it stops stinking. Alas, this hasn't worked for a lot of things. As suggested in the above thread, I tried this Odorklenz laundry additive. It deodorized some things no problem. Others, not at all. I do wonder if it would work better if I had hot water in my washing machine, since the instructions say to use warm/hot.
    But I'm pretty sure some of the new fragrances they're using are just insanely persistent. I remember trying all of the above and leaving stuff out on the line for weeks in the snow and rain. No improvement. I do think that synthetic fabrics are harder to get the smells out of, but also suspect most of the folks here lean towards natural ones anyway. Which can still be crazy difficult.
     
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    I think the only detergent I've encountered that is as bad as or worse than Febreeze is Gain. That stuff is like the superglue of gick-stink! I bought a beautiful, bright white,  king-size, chenille bedspread, thinking of all the wonderful things I could make from it... Only to have a full blown asthma attack, instantly upon pulling it out of the heavy plastic bag it had been stuffed into! So far, I've washed it with my meliora Lavender and clove laundry soap at least 6 times, and have easily gone through a gallon of vinegar. We're finally getting a lot of sun, so I think I'll try again, try the borax, and bake it outside, in the sun for a day or two.

    I must say, I feel vindicated. I'd begun to think I'd lost my mind; it couldn't possibly be actually as bad as it felt to me, right? W00T! Thank you!
     
    steward
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    I'm here to commiserate, too. For some reason, my daughter's dresses are the worst offenders when it comes to perfume-stank. I've had a few times that they made the whole load of laundry smell so bad I had to wash it again. If I go into her closet now, I'm sure some of her pretty dresses will still stink.

    I use baking soda as well as line drying. And it's still not always enough.
     
    pollinator
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    This stuff is everywhere. I just bought a secondhand book off ebay that stank of this stuff. I had to vinegar the cover and leave it outside in the sun for a few hours just to be able to read it.

    When it comes to clothes I have been using the same techniques as everyone here, especially leaving things on the line outside.  The longest "air wash" on the line so far has been 4 weeks. I still washed it again.  

    One thing I have noticed is that it works best to wash things in really mild soap that is not scented at all.  Even natural scents like real lavender seem to make the clothes retain the nasty chemical scents for longer.    

    The other thing I find is that these chemicals include something that is supposed to make clothes feel "soft" but which actually makes them feel slimy.  When the scent is gone, the slime goes too.    
     
    r ranson
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    I've been wondering.

    Old style perfume used to just sit on the fabric and wore off over time.  But the new style has a different chemistry that allows it to bond with the fabric in such a way that washing and wearing won't diminish the stink.  That's probably why traditional stink removal systems don't work.  

    If we could understand how it bonds to the fibres, then maybe we could find a way to break that bond.  
     
    Carla Burke
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    One would think it would bond more readily with synthetic fibers, than natural ones... I wonder if we can use that as an experimental starting point?
     
    Jay Angler
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    Has anyone tried *really* hot or boiling water? Or actually boiling the clothes in a big pot on the stove? It might still need something like a little dish soap to keep the toxin suspended in the water long enough to get the cloth out and rinsed?

    No, Carla, you are *NOT* the only one who gets driven up the wall by those scents! I don't get a full-blown allergic response to those sorts of smells, and so far, unless there's a lot of formaldehyde, I don't get the "exhaustion" response either, but they make me want to run for the forest to recover!
     
    pollinator
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    I see some people have mentioned baking soda, and some have mentioned vinegar, but have you tried using both? Soak the garment with baking soda first, then use vinegar to rinse with until it stops bubbling. I've gotten some unbelievable stuff out of carpet that way. The reaction between the two is what forces stuff out of the fibers.
     
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    This as a part of a bigger article. The answer to the problem is two-fold.  1. The stink actually penetrates the fibre the material is made from and 2. the vehicle that transports the stink is water proof so no amount of washing actually gets rid of the transport micro-particles.  As a trial, put some silicone cream on your hands and then try top wash it off.  It takes multiple washes and there is still a residue left.

    "Other ingredients in these products are emulsifiers. Most brands have one, two, or a combination of several different types, which include emulsion polymers, macro-emulsifiers, and micro-emulsifiers. Macro-emulsifiers can be compared to a lotion, containing a mix of oil and water. Emulsion polymers use tiny drops of silicone, and micro-emulsifiers have such small particles of oil that they actually penetrate the weave of the fabric instead of merely being deposited on top of it. Emulsifiers can be either cationic (positively charged) or non-ionic (not charged). A combination of both of these is often included.
    Many newer formulas of fabric softener use polydimethylsiloxanes (PDMS), which are silicone derivatives. They lend softness and make ironing easier by “lubricating” the fabric. Since most ingredients in these products aren’t water soluble due to the emulsifiers, many brands have to be added to the final rinse cycle of the wash to be most effective."
    (https://www.homequestionsanswered.com/what-is-fabric-softener-made-of.htm)  

    What will work?  Isopropyl alcohol also known as rubbing alcohol will soften and remove the gick in softeners.  Methylated Spirits or denatured alcohol will do much the same.  One big problem is that both are highly flammable and toxic to inhale.  So the way forward would be to soak the fabric in either but do it outside, away from ignition sources and then leave to dry/ evaporate and wash normally or soak then hand wash, the evaporating alcohol may cause an explosion risk in a washing machine.

    I reason that if they are advertising it, there is something designed to make a profit for someone.  Not necessarily that it actually works or that it is good for humanity.  Silica is the natural product where as silicone is  what is made from it and it is not that good for the food or life cycles.
     
    Sarah Elizabeth
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    Wow, Paul.  That is such a helpful post.  It also explains why I experience clothes as feeling "slimy"  (as per my post above).

    I am going to try Isopropyl alcohol/rubbing alcohol on some towels that were gifted to me that I have not yet been successful at getting the smell out of even after a few washes.  

    Silicone is interesting.  The specialist doctor of Ecological Medicine who helped me for many years in detoxifing from severe, life-changing environmental allergies, told me that the only substance he knew of for which there was no known way to detoxify the body was silicone.    

     
    pollinator
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    I suffer with rhinitis and I have noticed more and more people smell very strongly like laundry detergent.  And it gets up my nose - literally.

    A long time ago when you could stay in hotels (pre covid days) we booked in to a country hotel. It was late and the bed linen stank of detergent. Being tired I climbed into bed and the next day woke up with a major headache and swollen sinuses.

    Housekeeping were unable to provide any linen that did not stink.  We took the pillow cases and rinsed them out over and over again in bicarbonate of soda (that is 1 of 3 ingredients in my toiletries) to no avail.  I felt like I was being a hypochondriac.

    The answers in the thread explain a lot.
     
    Paul Fookes
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    Sarah Elizabeth wrote:  Silicone is interesting.  The specialist doctor of Ecological Medicine who helped me for many years in detoxifying from severe, life-changing environmental allergies, told me that the only substance he knew of for which there was no known way to detoxify the body was silicone.



    Silicone is certainly a troubling substance.  "The plastics industry considers silicone a plastic, and so do we, regardless of much of the green marketing claiming it is not a plastic.  Technically, silicone could be considered part of the rubber family. But, if you define plastics widely, as we do, silicone is something of a hybrid between a synthetic rubber and a synthetic plastic polymer. Silicone can be used to make malleable rubber-like items, hard resins, and spreadable fluids. We treat silicone as a plastic like any other, given that it has many plastic-like properties:  flexibility, malleability, clarity, temperature resistance, water resistance." https://lifewithoutplastic.com/silicone/

    On the other hand, silica is an entirely different kettle of fish. It is what makes up most sand and is in a number of leafy greens.  This is a reasonable article on silica: https://www.epainassist.com/diet-and-nutrition/7-health-benefits-of-silica-and-its-side-effects
    Health-Benefits-of-Silica.jpg
    Graphic of Silica's Health Benefits
    Graphic of Silica's Health Benefits
     
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    I'm the exact same way! Gain is a product of the devil! I've actually changed my shopping pattern in my grocery store because I'm near someone wearing clothes with that horrific smell.

    I use unscented detergents when I buy them - my cousin makes soap so I tend to make detergent from her soaps - and I rinse with white vinegar as my "softener."

    I think most of the suggestions I would make have already been made, with the exception of the new Oxyclean odor killer formula. I'm not sure the exact name.... Hanging stuff on the clothesline for several days and re-washing a few times seems to help most.

    Shelley in Michigan
     
    Heather Sharpe
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    This might be a totally off the wall idea and not work..but seems worth suggesting. Silicone type chemicals are often used in conditioners and hair products to get that freakishly smooth, slippery feel. Clarifying shampoos strip that silicone gunk out. While perhaps not as permie as some of the other solutions, seems like it would be better than wasting tons of time, energy and resources trying to remove the stink, possibly to no avail. I don't have the ability to try the experiment myself at the moment, alas. Obviously it'd be best to try one that didn't have its own weird smells. I don't imagine that clarifying shampoo would damage most fabrics, but I don't know too much about it either. Just a wacky idea that sprang to mind and thought I'd share.
     
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    I am scent sensitive so this is even worse for me. I have tried hot water (if fabric can tolerate) breaks down the stink better, soak in baking soda water in washer before washing, lots of Clorox 2 for stains seems to help, and air dry in the sun. Sometimes I hang in a spare bedroom for a week or 2. Not sure if dry cleaning would help? Helped with a wool sweater I had. Depends on the fabric.
     
    Sarah Elizabeth
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    Hmmm.  Looks like I am going to have to backtrack on my enthusiasm about the possibility of using Isopropyl alcohol/Rubbing alcohol. Back in the 1980s we used rubbing alcohol ear drops to prevent ear ache after swimming but it looks like it will cause problems equal to or worse than the stinky chemicals and it is an environmental allergen.

    What about using another sort of alcohol that would be more natural and permie-friendly?  

    I don't know the answer but I would find it difficult to empty a bottle of good vodka over some towels in the name of recycling.

    On another note,  scents seem to come out of natural fabrics, particularly wool, more easily than synthetic fabrics. Maybe the lanolin in wool protects it from absorbing the stinky chemicals.

    PS. Yes, silica.  Entirely different and a wonderful natural element found in many good foods.  

     
    pollinator
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    Hi there,
    I honestly don't know if this will work because I don't have any sense of smell (severe deviated septum). But I used to work in a hardware store and these 2 older dudes were regular customers. But most of the time they just bought a couple boxes of 20 Mule Team Borax. I finally asked why they liked that brand. They both had similar answers.....

    They had both been doing taxidermy for years. If they happened to get/come across a dead animal that was apparently in good condition but already stunk to high heavens on a hot day.... they would cut the side of the box wide open and lay the animal on top of it and place it in a plastic bag for a couple of days. They said it did an excellent job of getting rid of the smell. So I've been using it on my gardening clothes ever since. It even says on the box it is good at eradicating odors. You could try that or just use it in the washing machine. But, like I said I don't smell so.... just saying.
     
    r ranson
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    The cloth I'm working with now lost a lot of its smell with the overnight soak with baking soda and a few drops of unscented laundry deterg followed by a vigorous wash and rinse.  Hand to dry in the direct sunlight (because sunlight degrades everything)

    Ironing on medium seemed to get out almost all the rest.  This is good news.

    Thinking more about these chemicals.  It's interesting how it fuses with the fibres.  Dyes do that.  Would the bond be like a dye?  Would a dye or stain remover have any effect?

    They cannot be absolutely permanent, or no one would buy more of the product.  From a marketing point of view, I suspect this isn't going to last.  But... while it does, how about reproducing the conditions it is supposed to release stink?  Movement, heat, moisture... all the things that happen when being worn.  Humans are usually a bit acidic so the next time, I'll try a stronger vinegar.  
     
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    I use soap berries sold as soap nuts for as much of my cleaning as possible to avoid the perfumes.  It seems to reduce or eliminate the smell from my wife's laundry.  Because the bag of soap nuts remains through both the wash and rinse cycles and dryer if used it has multiple chances of attacking the perfume.  https://econutssoap.com/collections/eco-nuts-organic-soap-berries
     
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    Do you happen to know what’s added to the Oxyclean to make it odor eliminating?
     
    nancy oliver
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    Great idea and it's cheap to! I buy so many thrifted and used eBay clothes are they almost always wind up with something stinky
     
    Debbie Ann
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    When you add  water to oxyclean it simply turns into hydrogen peroxide.
     
    r ranson
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    Samantha Hall wrote:Do you happen to know what’s added to the Oxyclean to make it odor eliminating?



    If memory serves, it's a few types of salt and hydrogen peroxide.  

    This triggers something in my memory - salt was a pre-industrial cleaning substance for removing grease (apply dry and it pulls out the grease stain) and for tough stains and smells when added to the pre-rinse water.  

    We could be on to something there.  I wonder... Sea water does a lot of this stuff, has the natural ozone, salt, add the sunlight to water and we get hydrogen peroxide reactions.  Next stinky cloth is coming to the beach with me.  
     
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    The Unstoppables product is made from a clay that disintegrates into the water during the rinse cycle, leaving the scent behind.

    I use Oxyclean or peroxide and even Dawn to get rid of the smell.

    I recently got a couple of sheets from the thrift store.  I like to use them to make tops that seem to wick moisture better than  most cotton material for garments  sold in at the large chain stores.

    I think these sheets had 2 different  scents of the Unstoppables used on them. As a consequence, they HAD to be washed.

    I set the  washer to HOT water; used 1/2 a cup of non scented laundry detergent, 1/2 a cup of dawn, 1/2 a scoop of oxy clean ( I was out of peroxide),1/2 a cup of baking soda. And that  combo got rid of the scent, and lifted out anything else that was left in the fabric as well that may have bound to the binder in the Unstoppables.

    My husband wanted to get some of the Unstoppables, and I started reading the ingredients list;  half the stuff I am allergic to; and started wondering just what was being let loose in the water table from the product.  When he realized  just what all of the chemicals that went into the product were, He said nope, forget I brought it up! *LOL*
     
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    I have to return half the thrift clothes I buy because the scented detergents/dryer sheets give me a headache, sore throat, and anxiety.

    EPSON SALTs often do the trick, soaking the item in warm water overnight. Vinegar gets 2/3rd of it out. Maybe both together.  
    Frank
     
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    People here who have posted about using plain ol' white vinegar are correct! It works like a charm.
    Using Vinegar to Eliminate Laundry Odor Re: https://www.disabled-world.com/assistivedevices/household/tips/fabric.php
    For everything except pet urine smells - put white vinegar into both the fabric softener and the bleach dispenser of your washing machine, with the normal amount of laundry detergent. Run the load normally, and you should have success!
    Also Try
    Adding a 1/2 cup of white vinegar with the detergent when you wash your clothes gets rid of any odors that tend to stick to the clothes. This trick also helps rid laundry of cigarette smell.
    Wash your clothes as you usually do, but add 1 cup of white vinegar to the final rinse. This will neutralize any odor in the clothing and will also remove any residue left in the fabric from the detergent. It will also act as an amazing fabric softener. Promptly remove the laundry when the washer has finished and either hang it to dry or place it in the dryer.

    There are lots of relatively inexpensive books that list all the uses for white vinegar in addition to cooking with it.   See here: https://www.google.com/search?q=the+vinegar+book&oq=Vinegar books
     
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    As a person with a synthetic fragrance allergy I can say this a great thing to see discussed here! Thank you all! I will look through my groups for more info but honestly the above comments cover it.

    Short answer, some never come out.

    The work to get them out makes it an investment.
    I use Charlie's Soap after a soak in vinegar water then hang outside for a few days. That is for some accidental  scent exposure like hugging someone with perfumes or heavy acented lotion, and accidental wash and run though in a foreign dryer, or something picked up by lending an item.

    As of right now the scented products that are being used commonly for clothes, upholstery, and even spaces are made to LAST. It is meant to stick in the fibers and cover any other smells even of in storage for months. Dryer sheets and fabric softeners are the worst.
    For these items at this level it is never safe for me to use and so I don't even try to extract it. I can usually tell. Even products like Scent Away (made for hunters to eliminate human smells on their outdoor gear) doesn't seem to take care of these anymore.
     
    r ranson
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    Scent Away sounds interesting.  
    I'll have to ask my hunter friends about that.  
     
    Tick check! Okay, I guess that was just an itch. Oh wait! Just a tiny ad:
    Explore the possibilities: Permies.com where you can work from home, on the road and on the farm
    https://permies.com/wiki/209054/Explore-possibilities-Permies-work-home
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