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Removing the New Smell from Clothes

Removing the New Smell from Clothes

Giving (and receiving!) new clothing is a favorite holiday activity, but the “new” smell that comes along with new clothes often signals the presence of toxic chemicals.

Find out the simple solution for getting rid of both the smell and the chemicals, right here:

Unless the clothes are 100 percent organic, wash new clothes or bedding first before wearing or putting on the bed. That “new” smell is a potent mixture of chemicals such as formaldehyde and urea resins, and they should be removed. The chemicals are used to “finish” fabric for a range of purposes including stain resistance, mercerizing, keeping them from wrinkling, and even sometimes for disinfecting. Most contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which, like formaldehyde, are often sensitizers and suspected carcinogens.

The formula I give here is what I use to successfully remove this new smell from clothing. It will also work for low-level chemical contamination from normal household substances such as perfume.

Place the clothes in the washing machine with enough water to cover. Sprinkle one small-sized box of baking soda (or 1 cup) into the washing machine. Soak the clothes overnight. When convenient during the soaking, agitate the machine for a few minutes. Launder as usual. Repeat the method until the clothes donít smell anymore.

Some imported clothes are now impregnated with long-lasting disinfectants; you can identify these clothes by the smell alone. It is very hard to remove it, and the method depicted above doesnít work. The best thing is to not buy the clothes; Iíve started asking catalog companies if their clothes are disinfected.

Read more: Home, Household Hints

By Annie B. Bond

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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Better Basics for the Home

Simple solutions for less toxic now


+ add your own
6:39AM PDT on Apr 19, 2014

My husband recently bought some socks. They smelled like the store but nothing else. I always wash new clothes separately before wearing which was a good thing because these socks smelled like oil/kerosene when I took them out of the washer. I hung them up to dry and rewashed them. The smell was even worse than the first time. I would have taken them back to the store but didn't have the bill. I won't be throwing out any bills until after I wash an item.

2:19PM PST on Jan 12, 2014


2:04PM PST on Jan 12, 2014

Glad to see that I'm not the only one who notices this nastiness.

1:41PM PDT on May 16, 2013

I have used Ecover detergent for delicate clothes for several years --love that it was all natural including a mild natural fragrance. But I bought a new bottle on Sunday--put in the detergent and a load of clothes and went upstairs. I started smelling toxic perfume--first thought it was drifting in the open windows as I have neighbors who use toxic dryer sheets--went to the basement to finish the laundry and realized the smell was from my washer! I looked at the label and saw it is now listed as fragrance not plant derived fragrance as it was previously. I was so angry-- I wrote to the company to complain and have not heard back from them. I washed the clothes with the cheaper natural stuff I use for the rest of my laundry(towels, husbands work clothes etc), added baking soda and did an extra rinse with vinegar--still just as strong. Repeated that --still odor. Went out and bought a commercial detergent with no fragrance--washed twice with that. soaked with baking soda and rinsed again with vinegar. There is still a toxic odor! Help! What can I do now?

7:19AM PDT on May 15, 2013

Thank you for the share... I had to learn the hard way when it comes to washing new clothes before wearing them... I did this once because I needed go to a job interview. I bought the blouse and wore it that same day without washing and I suffered a nasty rash (contact dermatitis) on my armpits. I suffered for 2 weeks, it was horrible.
So we are not only getting the smells out, but also all the bad chemicals that can harm our bodies. very informative, thanx

1:42PM PST on Mar 4, 2013


7:30PM PST on Dec 16, 2012

Thank you :)

3:17PM PST on Dec 16, 2012


12:16PM PST on Dec 16, 2012


12:41PM PST on Dec 15, 2012

good reminders

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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