Dear Home-Ec 101,
I bought some new jeans and they smell strongly of chemicals? Could you please tell me what that awful chemical smell is on some new jeans?
Also, how can I get rid of that chemical smell? I tried adding 1 cup of vinegar to wash with laundry detergent 3 times, and they still stink!
I really love the way the jeans look, but I don’t want to go out with them on and worry that people can smell me. I hope you have a solution for me.
The smell you are referring to is most likely formaldehyde.
I used to work for Old Navy, and I would come home reeking of formaldehyde.
My dad would tease me about smelling like a mortician because that’s a really common chemical used for embalming.
In clothing manufacturing, formaldehyde is used because, in theory, when combined with urea (Yes! That’s definitely in pee! Ewwww!), it makes the clothing more wrinkle-resistant and stain-resistant. It is a disinfectant, I mean, what self-respecting germ could survive that? For you chemistry nerds out there, here’s a Wikipedia article on formaldehyde.
So, what’s the best way to get rid of the smell? Borax and/or baking soda. When I worked at Old Navy, I would use baking soda to wash my hands when I got home. It usually worked. Borax is stronger and not something I’d recommend for use on skin.
In your case, I’d probably use a cup of baking soda per load of new clothing. It may take several trips through the clothes washer as some companies are now using even stronger disinfectants and pesticides to protect the clothing during storage. Those chemicals are a beast to strip.
You are not imagining the funk.
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