This is where the smell of second-hand clothes comes from

Have you ever noticed that the clothes in many second-hand clothing stores smell the same? But where does that smell come from? And how do you remove it? We list it.

Second-hand clothing stores

You might recognize it: you walk into a second-hand clothing store and immediately recognize the smell. It smells musty and maybe a little spicy. But this is not rare, in many second-hand clothing stores this smell is present in the clothing. To find out where this smell comes from, writer and cleaning expert Jolie Kerr goes for the American newspaper The New York Times to investigate.

Also read: Extend the life of your clothes with these tips

Smell testing

To find out what causes the smell in second-hand clothes, Kerr buys clothes at a second-hand clothing store. She then sends this to a scent lab. Here they investigate the composition of scents and where they come from. The clothing sent is put in a sealable bag and immersed with nitrogen. This gas is then tested for the odorants present and their origin.

18 fabrics

No less than 18 substances appear to be present in the clothing. Of these substances, 12 are human. These substances come from the skin, sweat and oils. The odor descriptions that fit these substances are: sweet, sour, fatty, spicy, oily, greasy, whiskey, nutty, cheesy, sweaty, stinky feet and beer. The non-human substances that make up the smell of the clothing come from car exhaust fumes, gasoline, dry cleaning solvents, food and perfume. Specific scents fade over time. This is because other fragrances attach themselves to clothes and washing clothes can reduce odors. As a result, clothes can eventually start to smell about the same.

Remove Odors

Although the above substances may be superficially present, it is possible that the clothing will have a persistent smell. Especially synthetic fabrics such as polyester can retain odors well. Bacteria can nest better in these materials. To remove these odors, it is best to wash the clothes cold in a not too full drum. Then let the clothes air dry or put them in the dryer at a low temperature. Because according to Kerr, high temperatures can enhance lasting odors.

Also read: Getting rid of bad smells from a new mattress, sofa or clothing

Wash more often

Does the garment still not smell fresh after 1 wash? Then wash the garment as often as necessary with a special detergent against odors. Only do this if the fabric allows it. You can also soak the clothes overnight in a bucket of water and vinegar or baking soda if the fabric can handle it. Do you have a very fine or delicate fabric that smells strongly? Then wash it by hand. Otherwise you can damage the fabric.

cat litter

Have you found a nice item that smells strongly, but you can’t wash? The cleaning expert describes in the American newspaper that you can get accessories, leather jackets and shoes odor-free by burying them in cat litter. A commonly used agent in cat litter is activated charcoal. According to Kerr, this works well at removing odors. If you prefer to clean the clothing, shoes or accessories, you can use moist cleaning cloths if the materials and fabrics allow.

(Source: The New York Times, NRC Handelsblad, VICE, ScienceLink. Photo: Shutterstock)

The article is in Dutch

Tags: smell secondhand clothes

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