deodorizing fabrics and accessories

deodorizing fabrics and accessories

clothing, bedding, cleaning tools, grooming tools and accessories can all harbor odors and microbes

it is possible to successfully deodorize your body then quickly reintroduce odor causing bacteria and compounds from the underarms of an old t-shirt

hairbrushes, toothbrushes and washing items can also harbor opportunistic microbes and rancid oils

all personal items should be kept as clean and dry as possible

disposable and difficult to sanitize items that inhabit moist environments such as toothbrushes and shower caps should be replaced regularly

towels and wash cloths should be washed after every use to eliminate these as a source of odor and microbes

also consider the bacteria harboring properties of personal items that touch the mouth and may not be sanitized regularly such as drink bottles, lip brushes, lip balms, vapes, whistles, other

cotton fabrics

cotton fabrics deodorize well which is why they are commonplace in medical institutions such as hospitals

cotton blend fabrics deodorizing ability is proportional to the amount of cotton in the blend. 80% cotton deodorizes very well while 40% cotton deodorizes less well.

There are several steps to deodorizing cotton fabrics

  1. wash in hot water with a biologic (with nzymes) detergent to remove fats, proteins and starches
  2. soak in one of the following for at least 4 hours to eliminate stubborn microbes (bacteria, fungus, parasites) and odor compounds
    • undiluted white vinegar (ok for whites and colors)
    • undiluted vodka, gin or other white spirit (ok for whites and colors)
    • isopropyl alcohol diluted to about 75% (ok for whites and colors)
    • hydrogen peroxide diluted to about 3% (whites only)
  3. dry quickly (within 3-4 hours) and thoroughly to minimise microbe return. drying options include
    • tumble or condenser dryer
    • in a moderate to strong breeze
    • in direct sunlight

note – household bleach may be used to soak white clothing but the chlorine content may cause yellowing of the fabric

exposing white fabrics to direct sunlight for long periods can cause yellowing of the fabric

synthetic fabrics

polyester and other synthetic fabrics are impossible to completely deodorize

polyester and other synthetic fabrics are impossible to completely sterilize and deodorize

the reason why is unclear

it appears to be related to the poor water absorption of synthetic fibers

this makes it difficult to transport microbes and odor compounds out of the fabric

this is one of the reasons why polyester smells worse than cotton

the poor water absorption of polyester also leaves the skin moist enabling bacteria to thrive and multiply

cotton and other natural fibers such as wool and silk readily absorb moisture leaving skin drier

Science has discovered that micrococci bacteria flourishes on synthetic fibers but not cotton which might also have a contributing factor to odor

There are several options for dealing with smelly synthetic clothing

  1. discard it
  2. deodorize as much as possible as per cotton fabric guidelines, then only use for very short periods of time in very cool conditions such as at night in winter
  3. deodorize and wear a cotton garment underneath. The cotton garment should absorb moisture absorb moisture rather than the garment and minimize worsening of existing garment odor.
  4. deodorize then apply disposable protection such as panty liners (cut to size) to the area of concern. The panty liners should absorb moisture rather than the garment and minimize worsening of existing garment odor

note – there are also some fabrics derived from natural fibers, such as some wool, bamboo and viscose that are very heavily processed

the structure of heavily processes natural fibers tend to resemble synthetic fibers and retain the same moisture and odor properties

the presence of pilling on washed fabric is a good indicator of its synthetic-like fiber content

wool, silk, delicates and precious fabrics

precious fabrics are almost impossible to deodorize without risking damage

wool, silk, delicate and precious fabrics are impossible to completely sterilize and deodorize without risking fabric damage

wool and silk can be gently washed and soaked for no longer than 10 minutes with a very gentle non biologic (without enzymes) detergent

Wool and silk can then be dried on a flat mesh or absorbent surface in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight

Afterward deodorizing wear with an undergarment or protective lining to prevent the fabric from touching the skin or hair

plastic, metal and wood accessories

deodorize accessories to keep hair body and breath odor free

wood and metal are naturally antimicrobial

however oils and debris can build up on any surface and this build up can harbor odorous compounds and microbes

to deodorize plastic, metal and wood

  1. scrub and/or thoroughly wipe down with warm soapy water to remove fats, proteins and starches
  2. towel dry then air dry quickly and thoroughly
  3. wipe down with one of the following to eliminate microbes and odor compounds:
    • undiluted white vinegar
    • undiluted vodka, gin or other white spirit
    • isopropyl alcohol diluted with water to 60-90%
    • hydrogen peroxide diluted with water to about 3% (plastic only)

bathrooms and kitchens

bathrooms and kitchens are natural places for microbes to build up
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bathrooms and kitchens are a natural host for microbe and odor build up

deodorizing involves removing oils and debris buildup from surfaces and neutralizing existing odorous compounds

  1. remove soap scum, debris and most odor from surfaces with a wet cloth dipped in sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) powder
  2. wipe down with undiluted vinegar mixed with a few drops of uncolored essential oil such as lavender or lemon in a spray bottle to eliminate microbes

repeat step 1 at least once per week to keep surfaces free of scum and debris

repeat step 2 at least twice per week to keep microbes in check

to eliminate any visible mold and fungi, spray directly twice per day for 3-4 weeks with one of the following:

  • undiluted white vinegar
  • hydrogen peroxide diluted to about 3% (plastic only)


deodorize shoes to keep feet odor free

enclosed footwear is prone to hosting odorous compounds

leather is a natural antimicrobial breathable fabric that tends to wick moisture away from the feet

synthetic footwear tends to encourage moisture and microbial buildup leading to bad odor

cotton and canvas footwear tends to be breathable and easily washable

if footwear is durable enough for the washing machine then follow the cotton fabric guidelines to deodorize

if footwear needs to be hand washed

scrub in hot water with a biological (with enzymes) detergent to remove fats, proteins and starches

  • rinse thoroughly
  • soak in undiluted vinegar for at least 4 hour
  • allow to thoroughly air dry

if footwear cannot be washed with water

  1. spray each shoe interior thoroughly with on of the following
    • isopropyl alcohol diluted with water to 60 – 90% or
    • undiluted methylated spirits
  2. leave shoes opened to dry thoroughly in a cool dry place
  3. repeat after every wear for at least three weeks and allow to dry thoroughly before wearing again

washing machine

the damp odor from microbes in a washing machine can transfer to clothes and cause an individual to emit a damp odor

to eliminate the odor run a tub clean cycle or hot wash cycle with one of the following:

  • 2 (front loader) or 4 (top loader) cups undiluted white vinegar
  • 1 cup household bleach
  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 cup 99% isopropyl alcohol

you may need to repeat the wash one or two more times to eliminate build up

regularly deodorizing the washing machine will keep both the machine and clothes smelling great


keeping pets clean reduces the overall load of microbes in your proximity helping you to keep odor free
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pets can also harbor microbes and odors which can transfer to humans under certain conditions

ensure pet has a good quality balanced diet to promote strong immunity against microbes

address any pet dental conditions and optimize the pets diet for good dental health

if the pet doesn’t self groom implement a regular hygiene schedule to clean the pet or have it professionally cleaned


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