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

Answers 1 to 10 of 43
Top Answer
When the washer first fills up stop the process and add baking soda to the water and let them soak for awhile. Or maybe instead of baking soda you might use vinegar to soak them. Then wash like normal and see if that helps. Otherwise I have no words of wisdom for ya.
Do they smell the same before they go into the washer? Or is the washing process adding a bad smell?

I would think that anything washed in Lysol or pinesol is going to have an objectionable cleaning-day smell.
I agree with using baking soda. I also use tea tree oil to sanitize and freshen my clients' laundry. You sure you don't have a problem with the washer?
waltony77, Why are you using lysol or pinesol? Those are not laundry detergents and they smell awful.

Ruth, where to you get tea tree oil?

Sounds like my next door neighbor. Her hubby is a "miner" working in the NYC underground tunnels. Don't know what he digs for. I call him Mole. I can smell him from 1/2 a mile away. She uses Lestoil, cheap powder detergent, and packs the washer because the machines are expensive.

Last Sunday she complained the clothes come out dirtier and was letting the Dominican attendant have it. I suggested she use Gain and lavender fabric softener, and to refrain from packing the washer so the detergent do what it's supposed to: remove the dirt and the smell.

I became the target. That she's been doing laundry all her life; that it's none of my business; that I should focus on my own crusty clothes, blah, blah, blah.

My suggestion? Try the tips I gave Magda. Or buy new clothes if you can afford it.

When I was seeking a way to eliminate the odor of old urine in my uncle's clothes, it was suggested to me to add a hit of shampoo (particularly one with a distinct fresh smell) into the wash and I was surprised how well it worked. So now, when I am washing anything that needs to be 'deodorized' I add a hit of shampoo. Just something else for you to try...
I have a friend who does home staging and has dealt with a bunch of elderly homeowners & their family or estate and the "smell" . She said that it seems to be a combination of the medicines they take (diabetes homes have a wine smell) and palmitholiec acids that increase as we age and both get on our skin and shed off via our skin cells and embed in clothes, furniture, carpets, etc.

When my mom moved into IL, her house was closed off for about 2 mos. When I came back the odor was really intense. Took about a year+ of having the house with windows, closets, drawers, etc. left ajar and getting rid of whatever fabric covered items that we could to get it somewhat "younger" in odor.

Oh another thing she said, our brain recognizes "citrus" as youthful, especially grapefruit. So she uses citrus based room deodorizers, like Fresh Products Omni
gel in older homes, it's a commercial line but you can order on-line.

With my mom, all her stuff is the same fragrance from room deodorizer to hand lotion that I get at Bath & Body Works. Right now it's White Citrus, clean fresh and very affordable as they always have those buy 3 get 2 free promos.

Agree with the others on NO to Lysol. Her clothes aren't really getting dirty, she's not sweating or doing work, it's more freshening them by washing them so a gentle detergent like Ivory flakes will work better. For sweaters, I hand wash them in the BB&W Fresh citrus shower gel.
First of all, I'd like to thank everyone for their suggestions. My mother clothes smelled bad because of urine and feces. She won't wear her depends and when she does have them on, she takes them off to go to the bathroom or has soiled them. She sits around in soiled night gowns until someone makes her change them. I find that the bleach, lysol and pine oil don't smell that bad ( it's just the funk). I have used white vinegar in the rinse cycle and fabric softener. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. wy77
I am old enough to raise my babies with cloth diapers. Yes -- gasp -- we actually washed and re-used diapers. Yuck! But ... washed with regular detergent and bleach they came out fine. No lingering smell.

I recall that my grandmother's apartment had a distinctive smell, as igloo describes. I received an afghan from that place, and it smelled just like "Gramma." One wash in Dreft on gentle cycle and the smell was gone. (I was almost disappointed. I loved being reminded of Gramma.)

I am sorry and surprised that you are having such a persistent problem. I really would ditch the household cleaners in favor of detergent which is designed to work on fabric and to rinse out cleanly.
jeannegibbs - tea tree oil is now fairly commonly found in the healthy products section of larger grocery stores. I get mine from health food / supplement stores, or natural markets like PCC, Whole Foods, etc. Trader Joe's carries it as well. Heck; I even found it in the Grocery Outlet! :-) It's magical. You can also use lavender oil in the same way.

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