Why do my mom's clothes smell so bad, even after I wash them?

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I do my Mom's laundry. She lives in a senior citizen building. She's 91 years old and have nurse's aides to help with her care. She lives by herself. My question is this, when I wash her clothes, they smell so bad , I have to wash them 2-3 times before I can get the smell out. I use bleach, Lysol, and pine sol. Can anyone give me some suggestions? Thanks. wy77

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** 3 steps to clear the smell ** if you get it at a step no need to progress to the next one.
Step 1 - HOT WATER! Really boiling water is better but some fabrics can't handle it. Start dressing your folks & beds in natural fibers like cotton. Get rid of the poly stuff - it holds smells anyway. Load the clothes in the washer and fill with super hot water - my machine just doesn't produce enough heat so I boil a large kettle of water and add it to the hottest water my washer can provide then carefully add the clothes. If you are doing a large load, 2 might be needed. This not only kills many biologics but breaks up waxes & oils trapped in the fabrics. Detergent does not remove odor trapping waxes which are found in all deodorants and many skin creams and topical medications but heat will separate them from the fabric so the detergent can take it away. Wash normally but I highly recommend adding Oxiclean! Oxiclean is mostly powdered hydrogen peroxide so you can add liquid peroxide instead but you will need a full 32oz bottle to even get close to the amount in one tiny oxiclean scoop. It's a powerful scent killer! After wash check for smell while wet or air dry a piece- if it's still there - don't put it in the dryer yet! Go to step 2. If this works- put in dryer as usual.
Step 2 - VINEGAR! dunk the smelly clothes one at a time into a bucket 1/2 full of vinegar, hold for about a minute then toss back into washing machine (still drippy with vinegar is fine). Anything left in the bucket after dunking - toss in the washer. Don't worry about vinegar smell - it will wash out completely and the clothes will be softer anyway. Vinegar softens and expands fibers that's why they add it to commercial fabric softeners. This expansion and the acid helps clear out the bad smell. Rewash in washing machine like normal. If you find this works - in the future add a large amount (test and see how much you really need) of vinegar to your wash cycle and it might be done in one step. You may need a pre-soak cycle of just vinegar if it's really bad. If this doesn't work - then don't waste the vinegar in the future. If after this wash you still smell the funk go on to step 3, if not dry in dryer.
Step 3 - SUNSHINE! Still the best disinfectant known to man! Either use a window or hang outside - the sun can do more than any chemical!! Let the laundry hang or lay out fully exposed to the sun or expose air dried fabric to the sun for several hours. I have used the yard to lay out a whole months worth of clothes for sun treatment, I just laid them right on the clean grass, then i rewashed to get rid of any dirt from laying on the ground. After the sun treatment toss in the dryer (with a wet washcloth for the steam) and it will be soft and smell nice! If you NEED to go as far as sun treatment to clear the funk, you might only need to do that step periodically to keep the funk away, like once a month. It's a pain in the arse but it does work!

To clear the funk from household fabrics you can't wash - steam them with vinegar! Mix vinegar and water 50/50 in a steamer and steam the fabrics. That will smell like vinegar for a few hours but a little essential oil (of your choice) mixed with water and spritzed on the fabric while damp will not only kill the vinegar smell but scent the room nicely.
Don't focus on covering a bad smell with a good smell... that doesn't work! You end up with something like chem-lab carnations with a hint of feces or whatever and that's more disgusting.
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Try OdoBan - it can be found at Home Depot in gallon jugs for about $10. Just a splash in the wash go a long way. It not only takes away any odors, but kills any bacteria or virus that may be lingering. It's safe enough for my pets and gentle enough for any fabric that can be put into the wash.
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Dear wy77, Assuming you don't get to do the laundry more than once a week, the aides should be able to help out in between those times. While they are there, they could soak the articles in a mixture of baking soda and detergent for about a half hour, then rinse well and hang up in the shower to dry. The next aide could put the dry articles into the laundry bin for your weekly pickup. That would eliminate the odors from permanently embedding into the fabrics, and when you later use the washing machine, first use the soak cycle with the baking soda and the above suggested tea tree oil or lavender oil as well. Other from that, I would have the dryer checked by a technician. If the lint filter is not cleaned after every use, or if the dryer vent is clogged or possibly detached somewhwere between the dryer and the outside wall, this would keep odors in and also take longer to dry because of decreased air flow.
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All of the products you are using are actually sealing a smell into the fibers. Use a washing machine cleaning solution and run one cycle with NO CLOTHES, following the cleaner instructions. Clean out your dryer trap and if the dryer hose is more than a year old, replace it with a new one.

Now - do not pack the machine. Use 1 cup of plain old borax, 1/2 the usual amount of a good organic detergent. Although more expensive, the typical commercial & cheaper generic detergents rely on salts and do not clean as well, they cover up smells with filler labeled as "scent" and make the problem continue. Use HOT water (above 150 degrees - you will have to kick up your hot water heater about 1/2 hr before doing laundry but it is worth it). Rinse twice - add 1 cup of vinegar into the second rinse. Use a quality organic dryer sheet (like Mrs Meyers) if you want softness & scent.

The smell is due to a combination of crud that is attached to the fibers and all of the excess solutions you are using. It may take a few washes but if you do this everytime you will be surprised at how nice they come out - and suddenly it will be obvious it's a product build up & bacteria smell - not the person. You might also invest in a Ultraviolet Light wand and run it over upholstered surfaces & bedding before & after you vaccumn. - yep - bacteria buildup smells. so does mildew, mold and lysol just covers it up. Good luck

A daughter who has been there - done that and learned the hard way. :-)
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I make sure that all clothes are free of visible signs of BM by rinsing out by hand as soon after the accident as possible -- just as I did my children's cloth diapers when they were babies. I do at least 2 loads of laundry every day (doingeach parents clothes separate from the others) and start by putting their clothes through a rinse cycle followed by a wash/rinse cycle using All hypoallergenic detergent and Arm & Hammer baking soda. During the rinse cycle, I use a little Downy (fragrance varies) fabric softner. That erases all smells and keeps their clothes smelling fresh.
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@boz...mature person? Is that a politically correct term? LOL. Made me laugh.
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You've gotten some good ideas already.
Don't over fill the washer.
Soak the clothing and rinse in the washer before going through the wash cycle.
Try some of the laundry soaps suggested (I like Meyer's old fashion laundry soap, works wonderful)
Using vinegar, baking soda and other options suggested are worth a try.
Consider using fabric softner
Smell check before placing in the dryer and if odor still there resoap and wash.
If all else fails you may just have to purchase new clothing.
Now about the ofor of older folks homes. I've found that a lot of the time that odor is trapped in fabric (funiture,drapes, pillows, clothing) and dust. Shampoo the furniture with a standard home shampooer, clean the floors, wash the clothing, bedding, and then dust. Pay attention to the details....door and window jams, top of the refig, vents, ceiling fans, light fixtures... areas that dust is often over looked. If a home is other wise clean and still has the odor start with the detailed dusting. My experience is that dust hold these odors and it is amazing what detailed cleaning can do. Of course if the home isn't otherwise clean (as many of the mature are not able to keep it up as before) the once over detail clean should do the trick. You may need to replace a matress or put a plastic cover on and then a quilted cover over that. I'd always start with the deep clean dusting and washing the simple things like blankets, throw rugs, etc... and go deeper in the cleaning only if needed. That way you can see at what level does the odor go away for future dealing with the odor in that mature person's home.
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The first day I worked for one couple, I found wet laundry in the washer, so I tossed it into the dryer without inspecting. Little poop marbles rolled out. Just a story to lighten your day. ha ha.
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I have to mention this....my mom got poop on her house slippers this week and after three washes I couldn't get the smell out of the rubber soles. I soaked the shoe in a bucket of water, borax and vinegar and the smell was gone! Thank you for that suggestion!
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Thanks to all for some really good ideas. wy77
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