All of us owe a big salute to our farmers who provide our tables with food. These are hard-working men and women who do the kind of jobs that can leave lots of dirty clothes. For those who manage hog, cattle or poultry farms, there is a distinct animal confinement odor that clings to work clothing. So here's some help to keep everything smelling fresh and clean.
To prevent the odors from permeating the rest of your laundry, wash work clothes separately. There are three methods to help control odor.
Fill the washer with warm water and add 1/2 cup non-sudsing household ammonia. Completely submerge the smelly work clothes and soak in the solution of ammonia and warm water for at least 30 minutes. Then wash as usual using a heavy-duty detergent (Tide and Persil are considered heavy-duty). Do not use or add any chlorine bleach. Ammonia and bleach combined produce toxic fumes. If the odor remains, repeat the process.
Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda
Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to control the odor. However, you must be careful because it can cause bleaching and color removal if poured directly on fabrics. Fill the washer with warm water and add one cup hydrogen peroxide and one cup baking soda, mixing well. Completely submerge the stinky items and soak the clothes for at least one hour.
Use this solution right away because hydrogen peroxide loses its potency rather quickly. Do not mix in advance or store in a closed container. This works well because the oxygen molecules in the hydrogen peroxide neutralized the hog or animal odors by bonding to the odor-producing molecules and altering them to allow the odor to be flushed away.
After soaking, wash the items as recommended on the care label with a heavy-duty detergent.
Distilled White Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar is not as effective as ammonia or hydrogen peroxide and baking soda but it will work—it just takes longer. Fill the washer and add two cups distilled white vinegar to warm water. Submerge the clothes and soak them for at least three hours. Wash as usual with a heavy-duty detergent.
Remember that no matter what you use as a soaking solution, follow up with a complete washing cycle.
Drying Washable Clothes
The work clothes should be line dried, preferably outside. Ultra-violet rays from sunlight will help neutralize the odor. If the odor molecules have not been completely removed during the washing routine, using the high heat of the dryer may infuse the odor deeper into the fibers. If you must dry the clothes in a dryer, choose a lower temperature and remove the clothes while still damp to finish air-drying.
Dry Clean Only Clothes
For non-washable clothing, air thoroughly away from direct sunlight and then take the garments to a professional dry-cleaner. Share your problem (they will probably guess from the aroma), and a good professional should be able to help you.
Carpet and Upholstery
Most farmers know to shed their work clothes in the mudroom or garage. But if the odor makes it way into your home, it can cling to carpet or upholstery. If the contamination is limited to a small area, you can use one of the same cleaning solutions for washable clothes to treat the area. Just mix in smaller quantities.
- One part ammonia to six parts water
- One part hydrogen peroxide and one part baking soda to six parts water
- One part distilled white vinegar to four parts water
Be sure to sponge the area thoroughly and then blot repeatedly to remove the solution. Finish with a rinse with plain water to remove residue. If the area is large, rely on a professional upholstery/carpet cleaner to treat the problem especially if you need more stain removal tips.
To air out the house, open all the windows and use circulation and venting fans. Place bowls of distilled white vinegar around the room to absorb odors.
Morim Ashkan, Guldner, Gregory T. Chlorine Gas Toxicity. StatPearls [Internet], 2020