Unless your entire home and garden are treated organically, there will probably be a time when chemicals and pesticides are used in and around your home. Whether you apply the chemicals yourself or leave it to an expert, there may be times when your clothing and carpet are exposed to pesticide, herbicide, or other chemicals. It is important to handle exposed clothing and areas correctly to remove odors and avoid contamination of other fabrics.
If full-strength or concentrated chemicals in liquid or powdered form have been spilled on clothing, handle the fabric only while wearing gloves to prevent absorption through the skin. These clothes should be discarded. No amount of washing will remove the residue to make these garments safe to wear again.
If you have new clothing that has a strong chemical smell, don't be surprised. Many clothes manufactured overseas are treated with formaldehyde and other chemicals to prevent mold, mildew, and insect damage on their slow boat ride to America. That's why it is important to wash all new clothes before wearing. You can use the same cleaning techniques recommended here to remove the odors.
How to Remove Chemical Odors From Washable Clothes
Whether you're a farmer, a home gardener, or exterminator, clothing that has been exposed to pesticides and chemicals should be handled carefully. All washable clothing that has been worn during the use of pesticides or chemicals should be washed separately from the regular household laundry.
First, rinse all pieces in plain cold water. This can be done in a laundry sink, large bucket, or plastic tub, under an outside hose or in the washing machine. Then wash the garments in the hottest water temperature recommended on the care label using a heavy-duty liquid detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty because they contain enough enzymes to break apart the chemical molecules). Add one cup of baking soda to the washer drum to help neutralize odors.
It is very important to not overstuff the washer because the clothes need plenty of room so that water can flush the pesticides from the fabric.
Garments should be air dried to avoid contamination of the clothes dryer and to avoid the possibility of fire if any chemicals remain in the fabric.
When the washing cycle is complete, run a cleaning cycle with the washer empty to decontaminate it for your next load of family laundry.
To remove any lingering odors after following the washing directions, soak the smelly clothes in cool water with two cups of baking soda for at least four hours or overnight. For heavy odors, fill the washer with warm water and add 1 cup of non-sudsing household ammonia and allow the clothes to soak for several hours. Drain the washer and wash as usual.
Do not use any chlorine bleach during the soaking or washing as dangerous fumes can form.
Chemical Odors and Dry Clean Only Clothes
If dry clean only clothes have been directly exposed to a chemical, they should be taken to a professional dry cleaner. It is extremely important to tell the cleaner about the exposure and what type of chemical was involved.
Do not try to use a home dry cleaning kit because dangerous fumes or a fire can form if you mix the cleaning products with the chemicals in the dryer.
If there is no direct exposure but a clinging chemical odor, dry clean only clothes can be hung outside away from the direct sunlight to air. You can also try placing the smelly garment in a large, sealable plastic tub or bag with an open box of baking soda. Let the garment remain sealed for several days while the baking soda absorbs the odors. You may need to repeat this several times (with a fresh box of baking soda) before all of the odors are gone.
Remove Pesticide and Chemical Odors From Carpet
If your home has been treated and the odor is overwhelming, air out the house by opening all the windows and using circulation and venting fans. Place bowls of distilled white vinegar around the rooms to absorb odors. Once the house smells back to normal, change any air filters in vents and vacuums (don't forget to dispose of the vacuum bags) to get rid of any lingering odor molecules.
For lingering odors on carpets, sprinkle baking soda along the baseboards and any likely areas of pesticide application. Allow the baking soda to absorb odors for 12 to 24 hours and then vacuum well. Dispose of the vacuum bag in an outdoor trash can or sealed plastic bag.
What You Need to Know About Protecting Yourself When Using Pesticides. Penn State Pesticide Education Program.