Prairie View

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Update on Cleaning Smoke-infused, Soot-stained, Damp Fabrics:

I'm not sure what's with this giant font.  I just now saw it--several weeks after it was originally posted.  I may try to track down the problem later.


Here's what I learned in the process of doing a number of loads of laundry after the fire at Dwight and Karen's place.  For the first installment on this topic, read this.

1.  I was horrified to read, after I had followed most of the earlier recommendations, that stains should always be addressed before washing to remove odors.  In practical terms, what this means is that pre-treatment of stains should happen before even normal washing and air drying is done.  I had reasoned that as long as I don't use hot water and do use line drying, I won't be "setting" any of the stains.  Meanwhile, the clothes would be much more pleasant to handle and treat, if the bulk of the grime were removed first.  Besides, since these clothes were wet from the water used to fight the fire, they either needed to be dried or cleaned promptly, to keep mold and mildew from forming.

2.  The enzyme treatment is a different "animal" from all the usual laundry products.  It's actually a combination of enzymes and friendly bacteria.  The enzymes cause the bacteria to multiply, if other conditions are ideal.  In order to be activated, the enzyme/bacteria liquid should be dissolved in warm water, and the grimy clothes are added.  The longer the clothes soak, the better, since the stain/odor-banishing bacteria can multiply with gusto during that time, and do their good work on both the stains and the odor.  Obviously, if you are dealing with multiple loads, you'll need some soaking tubs to avoid tying up your washer indefinitely.  Soaking up to a week is OK.  If I had done that, I'd still be washing.  On the other hand, maybe some of those stains would have come out instead of stubbornly resisting all my attempts to dislodge them.  About 1/2 cup of enzyme liquid is added to each load.

3.  Most of the other laundry products will kill the enzymes and beneficial bacteria, so the two kinds of products should never be mixed.

4.  Essential Oils added to the laundry water are a good thing for neutralizing odors.  Again, they should not be added to the enzyme soak, but may be added to other laundry detergents.  I think the mixtures Purify and Purification are excellent, but if they are unavailable, I would try any citrus, Tea Tree oil, and Pine oil.   A total of ten drops to one load was suggested by one experienced user.  

5.  In my experience, banishing odors was easier than removing stains.  Cindy's white baptismal dress was the biggest challenge.  Maybe I should say it was the thing that I most wanted to rescue.  It almost worked.  Before I gave it back I could hardly be sure that I was seeing straight.  Is that a gray-brown stain or is it the way the light falls on the fabric? If I can't tell for sure, does it even matter which it is?

I think now that if I had a similar task to tackle again, I would load up on solvent-type cleaners (they're not easy to find--except for alcohol) and Spray and Wash stain spray, straight 3% hydrogen peroxide (for use on whites) and use them in that order till I could see the stains budging.  Then I'd do the detergent-soda-essential oil wash and vinegar rinse--with a plain rinse following.  Bleach-safe clothes could be run through a laundry cycle containing bleach.  After it was air-dried, I would do a long enzyme soak.  After air drying again, I would asses the situation for stains and odors, and then treat stains again if necessary, and do a detergent/essential oil wash again after stain treatment.  I'm  not sure that it would have to be done in this order, but I'd for sure want to keep almost everything except the soiled fabrics far away from the enzyme soak water.  Maybe that's what should come first--the enzyme water soak.  Now I'm equivocating again.  

The enzyme treatment does not leave clothes with the greatest smell.  For sure, there's no perfume present and the smoke odor is gone, and what's left is only mildly disagreeable.  

After I had finished with the clothes, none of them smelled like smoke, and most of them looked clean.  The garments that had the most remaining stains were fleece robes and nightgowns, and one cream-colored pull-over sweater made of synthetic fibers.  Some towels also had a few stains I couldn't remove.  


1.  The recognition that multiple washings would be necessary was on-target.  

2.  Getting out stains was a bigger problem than removing odors.  

3.  Essential oils are able to bond with the cells of odor-causing substances, and their usefulness is clear in my  mind.

4.  Dry wet clothes if they can't be treated right away, but don't delay too long to get started with the stain treatment.  I read dire warnings about delay, and I think I might believe them.

5.  Let go of perfectionism.  Not every stain is worth many dollars in products and many hours of effort.  

I pray I never need this information again.


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