Consumers say it’s important to remove odors from clothes, but for 49% of them, dealing with lingering odors in their already-washed clothing and towels is an ongoing battle. Lingering odors and impossible smells are the #1 unmet laundry need for many people we’ve talked to. But what causes it? Our scientists have spent years studying what causes musty smells in clothing and how to get them out for good.
Body soils, like other greasy soils, are very sticky and bind to fabric fibers easily(similar to cooling bacon grease). This makes them some of the toughest soils to remove. And often, despite washing, many of these soils get left behind on fabrics. Unfortunately, all it takes is little leftover body soil to break down to begin to cause a stink.
If your clothes look clean but still smell bad just out of the wash, it means they’re not truly clean. That’s because stink and odor are caused by body soils invisible to the naked eye, but not to our noses. Our bodies are in constant contact with clothing, towels, and other fabrics that trap our body’s soils over time, causing that stinky and musty smell. For example, our body produces the following body soils in a 24-hour period without exercise:
Modern laundry trends are now making it more difficult than ever to clean away body soils. Things like synthetic fibers, cold water used in high-efficiency (HE) washing machines, and large-capacity HE laundry machines are allowing body soils to remain on just-washed fabrics.
Pros: Vinegar has a low pH (typically between 3-5), which helps it dissolve away metal and mineral residues that can bind body soils to fabrics. Because of this, it can help decrease malodor caused by the breakdown of body soils trapped in fabrics.
Cons: Adding vinegar to the wash along with your regular laundry detergent might interfere with the detergent's cleaning performance. That’s because detergents, especially ones that contain stain-busting enzymes, are optimized for a specific pH. Also, standard white vinegar in stores is mostly water and only 4-5% acetic acid. That means you would need 5 cups or more to lower the pH level enough to see any benefit.
2. Baking Soda
Pros: Baking soda has a high pH (10.3) when dissolved in water which can swell cotton fibers and loosen trapped body soils. This can help decrease malodors caused by the breakdown of body soils bound to fabrics.
Cons: Adding baking soda along with your laundry detergent can decrease your laundry detergent’s ability to clean away low-pH sensitive stains like coffee, tea, wine, and others. Also, some dyes in colored fabrics are pH-sensitive, which means exposure to high pH can fade their color. You should avoid using baking soda in the rinse as it can cause the formation of carbonate crystals on fabric, making them rough and stiff
3. Chlorine Bleach & Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach
Pros: Bleach is the best way to remove deeply embedded odors from fabrics, but must be kept separated from the stain fighters in regular laundry detergents until the time of the wash. If combined too early, it can decrease the cleaning performance of the detergent. Chlorine bleach is powerful enough to remove deeply embedded odors, but it can’t be used on colored or synthetic fabrics.
Cons: Bleach is not color safe and cannot be used on synthetic fabrics. It also must be kept separate from stain fighters in regular laundry detergent and combined at the time of the wash to keep form deactivating them and decreasing laundry performance. Hydrogen peroxide bleach can’t remove odors deeply embedded in fabrics.
THE THING WITH EVERYDAY PRODUCTS…
Each everyday product has qualities that are beneficial to musty odor and stain removal, but none of them can do it all efficiently or effectively. There’s also the problem of certain products not being safe on certain fabrics. When you’re not sure of what’s safe and what’s not on certain fabrics, the risk of ruining your clothes and wasting money is too high. Ultimately, there needs to be a better way. One solution with all the laundry cleaning and odor-removing benefits without any of the drawbacks, like color or fabric safety. Luckily, now there is.
Meet Tide One Wash Miracle…
…a fabric-saving laundry solution that can help you remove trapped-in and impossible odors from all your towels and fabrics. To learn more, click here.