For any man who considers himself an enthusiast of classic menswear, scouting second-hand shops, consignment stores, or online auction sites like eBay, can be a great way to find vintage items at a fairly economical price that still give you that signature classic look.
While the benefits of buying vintage clothing are numerous, there’s one particular drawback that affects a great majority of these items despite how well their construction and integrity have held up over the years, otherwise. This drawback, of course, is that distinctively musty smell that seems to cling to almost all old clothing.
There can be some variation between individual garments, of course, which is to say that some vintage garments can smell decidedly worse than others. It’s a spectrum really, everything from a whiff of wool, or perhaps your grandmother’s attic, to something that’s reeking of cigarette smoke, food, mothballs, or other offensive scents.
Unfortunately, though, the key source of all of these odors is actually a potent cocktail of organic compounds. In other words, substances from our own bodies. A 2018 study on malodor conducted by scientists at Procter & Gamble came to this conclusion after taking a random sample of vintage clothing, putting it in a resealable container filling the container with nitrogen gas and then seeing what changes had occurred to the gas after approximately two hours time and here’s what they found; 18 key malodorous molecular compounds, 12 of which were derived from so-called body soils including dead skin, perspiration, and oils. Left to ferment over time, these organic compounds were the primary source of foul odors. The other six compounds, by the way, were traced to environmental contaminants like car exhaust, gasoline, dry cleaning, solvents, food, and perfume.
How To Remove Foul Odors
Your first instinct might be to take these garments to a dry cleaner but in fact, this is a temptation that you should resist. The solvents used in dry cleaning simply aren’t as effective at removing odors as the secret ingredient we’re about to mention, especially when it comes to odors that are sourced from organic compounds. More specifically, odor elimination involves masking, encapsulating, or changing the molecular structure of the odor molecule that has attached itself to the fabric.
You’re probably not going to find it in your laundry room instead, you should head to your liquor cabinet. That’s right! When it comes to treating odors on your vintage garments, vodka will be the thing that does the trick. All you have to do is pour the vodka into a spray bottle and then spritz it on to the clothing in question. This is because the alcohol in the vodka directly interacts with the odor molecules on the clothing encapsulating and reconfiguring them and then when the alcohol evaporates, it takes the odors away with it .
Few Things To Keep In Mind:
- Don’t dilute the vodka with water. The odor fighting power of vodka comes from its high alcohol content so adding water to the mixture is simply going to cut down on the vodka’s effectiveness.
- You don’t have to use top-shelf vodka for this application. The cheapest bottles that are available on the market will sometimes be grain alcohol with vodka flavoring but as long as you make sure that you’re actually getting vodka, a cheap bottle will do. Just make sure it doesn’t have any added flavoring like fruit, for example. If you or a member of your household does require that the vodka not be drinkable, you can add about a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to the bottle to denature it. Whatever the case may be, just make sure that the bottle is labeled clearly.
Though that signature musty smell may have been hanging on to some of your vintage garments for who knows how long, it is fairly easily removable from them. Skip the dry cleaner and make a trip to the liquor store instead. Remember, clean responsibly.
Were you aware of this handy deodorizing trick and do you have any related tips that you could share? If so, let us know in the comments section below.
Thanks to the Laundry Evangelist’s Laundry Camp for many of the tips shown in this video. If you ever have the chance to visit it at the Mall of America, you should do so