Debra Lynn Dadd

getting pesticide out of clothing


My clothes all smell of pesticide from being stored in my condo that reeks of pesticide (recently bought it, cannot live in it, have recently had it baked out by professional bake-out contractors, still not good enough, I keep working away at it).

I know soaking clothes in vinegar may help. Am currently trying a 48 hour soak. Has anyone had experience with this? How much white vinegar should I use?




Debra :-)


I have had no experience with pesticides, but I would use LOTS of baking soda rather than vinegar. My logic is that pesticides are fat soluble so perhaps they are fat-like and fats combine with baking soda to make soap. I'd use vinegar after you have washed several times with baking soda. That seems to work for me when I am trying to get rid of odors.

Maybe try synthetic detergenet plus baking soda. I would use synthetic detergent because it is more like pesticide than natural detergent, and like dissolves like. Then, if you are making progress after a few cycles of this, use natural detergents and baking soda to get rid of the synthetic detergent. Rinse at the end with vinegar in water.

My second thought is to try something like Citra-solv which is a solvent based on citrus oils. Personally, I don't think I could stand to be around it and would wear gloves and a mask. Then wash that out with a few cycles of detergent and baking soda. I think I'd call the company and ask before I tried it, though.

My third thought is to use the Miracle II products and lots of baking soda. You can Google to find info and sources of Miracle II. They claim to be able to get anything clean and it is supposed to be nontoxic and more. Some websites sell it cheaper than others. You should be able to find someone who has used it with pesticides. Admittedly they are a little overly-enthusiastic but I have found it to be a great product and use it for dishes, produce, cleaning, etc. They even suggest bathing in it. They don't have a laundry soap per se, and the soap is pretty foamy so I haven't tried it in the washer. It is a great degreaser and great for hard water deposits. I'd probably start by hand-washing a small item, soaking it in the soap and neutralizer in water and see how it worked. I'd probably do it several times and then line dry it. And then maybe one more cycle. You might be able to use it in a top-loading washer. I think it could foam all over the place, so maybe use the small load cycle. Personally, I would try Miracle II first. It's quite expensive, but you can get a fairly small bottle. I buy it by the gallon once every year or so. It wouldn't hurt to talk to several people who sell it and get their ideas.

It's tempting to wash, rinse, wash, rinse, etc. but I find that with new cottons with strong odors I need to wash and rinse, wash and rinse again, and then hang to dry and then wash and rinse and hang to dry again, and maybe again. A lot seems to dissipate in the drying.

These are just thoughts, but if you haven't figured anything else out, they're worth trying. You'll also want to clean the washing machine out well by running it empty with detergent and either vinegar or baking soda afterwards. Good luck!

POSTED BY MARY :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 05/14/2007 2:25 PM

A few months ago I discovered that I had made the mistake of buying non-organic quilts that had pesticide in the cotton batting. I used them for several years, being exposed constantly for that long! I had very severe sleep problems. (My symptoms were of ethylene glycol - antifreeze - and I learned on the Internet that this is sometimes used to kill bugs in cotton crops.) These quilts contaminated the bed and bedding. I got rid of the quilts, sunned (for a day) the mattress, pillows and all of the rest of the bedding outside that I had hoped to keep and use. Then I washed all the bedding with plenty of baking soda (one or two cups per wash) and natural soap. Washed the pillows with not good results. I used the soak cycle and hot water, then used an extra rinse. Dried them all on "hot." This seemed to work.

Soaking fabrics with vinegar seems to take out the formaldehyde, but I'm not sure about pesticides. I've soaked fabrics in vinegar for many days but this is not scientific. I don't really know how long it would take to get rid of any kind of toxin with vinegar.

If I were to do it all over again, I would have concentrated on only sunning the mattress (which is fine today - it's cotton and pure latex, etc.). I was exposed over and over with this horrible pesticide and if I hadn't spent so much time trying to save a few blankets and sheets and continue to be exposed, I would have been better off. Although the remaining (washed in baking soda and soap) bedding is fine for me to use, eventually I bought all organic cotton bedding and natural wool pillows and now I sleep like a baby!

POSTED BY SVE :: WASHINGTON USA :: 05/14/2007 2:26 PM

Whenever I bring any new fabric into my house I soak it overnite in my bathtub with hot water and powdered milk. Keep the bathroom door closed because within a few hours you wil notice a strong chemical smell. In the morning I run it through the washing machine and I no longer have a problem.


Try soaking your clothes in oxiclean to get the odors out. My Mom recently had great luck removing a gasoline odor from a load of laundry. (a dirty rag got in with the wash) She tried everything she could think of. After she used the oxiclean, everything was as good as new.

If you have a lot of clothes, you can soak them in your washer. If it's just a few items, a clean bucket will do the trick. You have to make sure to disolve the oxiclean in hot water before adding clothes. Here's how I do it. I put about 3 scoops of oxiclean in my bucket (6-8 for the washer) then I fill it about 1/3 of the way with the hottest water from my tap. I stir or agitate to disolve then fill the rest of the way with cold water. Add the clothes and stir or agitate and then just let them sit. You will need to stir or agitate them every once in a while since they tend to float to the top after a while. I would let them sit overnight and then let the wash and rinse cycle run through. You may want to add some vinegar to the fabric softener cup for a clean rinse.

Oxiclean can irritate eyes and skin so you may want to wear gloves and take neccessary precautions. It is still a safe product to use, though.

I belive that oxiclean is not recommended for wool or silk but it works great on cotton and blends. I have had one or two occasions where oxiclean lightened or slightly changed the color of one or two items but they were play clothes so it didn't matter. I've soaked many light and dark articles of clothing with much success.

Best of luck to you. Let me know if this works for you.


POSTED BY CLAUDINE :: OH USA :: 05/14/2007 2:30 PM

Hi Everyone,

Thanks so much for your feedback. Really helpful.

My 48 hour vinegar soak did not work.

Recently I have been trying "Smells Begone" and having some luck. "Smells Begone" is a "non-toxic" spray deodorizer that I buy at Bed Bath & Beyond or in gallon bottles from the website. The bottle says one can use 3 oz. in the final rinse, but I have used one cup in a small load in the washer and soaked it overnight with Planet detergent (the only kind I can use) and a cup of white vinegar, then running it through the longest wash cycle in the morning.

I have never tried a dried milk soak. How much powdered milk do you use, Claudine, in the bathtub?

I do have a couple of cotton patchwork quilts which now smell of pesticide and really need to get the smell out, as I love the quilts. So I will try milk if Smells Begone fails.

I use Oxiclean Baby Soaker frequently--I have been allergic to an unknown chemical in many detergents (Costco detergent has it in it) for about 6 years (at the time I was using Granny's detergent which was pure petrochemicals, despite the labelling) and I pick up the residual chemical on my clothes (despite trying to sit on towels and garbage bags wherever I go) and often in clothes I buy that have been tried on by others, and soaking them for several days in a solution of 2-3 scoops (dissolved in hot water) to 2 gallons of hot water does get the detergent residue out most of the time. It does not get out the pesticide smell.

I have also used CitraSolv. I love the smell of it! But it did not get the pesticide smell out, only took out some of the fabric finish, so my sheets were no longer soft.

I have also had a problem with the wrong caulk used in my bathroom in my other house and the result was that the formaldehyde and ethyl acrylate fumes from the caulk went into my whole house, especially my closets and I have had the worst time getting the smell of the ethyl acrylate (and there is a fixative chemical in it to make it keep smelling, per a chemist friend; I did get the smell of formaldehyde out, with vinegar) out of my clothes. I put some cashmere sweaters out in the sun for several weeks and that worked for cashmere, but not for the cotton items I put out. I tried Oxiclean, CitraSolv, as well as baking soda and vinegar (not together) and none worked. So, maybe I should try the milk bath for my cotton sheets and the few clothes I have not yet sent to the thrift shop. I also have 2 cotton patchwork quilts left that smell of ethyl acrylate that I refuse to part with.

Never a dull moment when one is chemically sensitive! Thank you all for responding--I don't feel so alone.

POSTED BY JULIE V. :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 05/15/2007 4:07 PM

Sorry, I got the names wrong. Barb in North Carolina, how much powdered milk do you use per bath tub? Also, could I do this milk bath in the washing machine?

POSTED BY JULIE V. :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 05/15/2007 4:07 PM

I am mcs, this is what I do to lessen "smells/chemicals" from new clothing, which would include pesticides: In a medium bucket of hot water, add equal parts of baking soda and borax (1 cup), stir until disssolved. Add new clothing, agitate and soak for a few hours. Sometimes I add a teaspoon or so of Seventh Generation Unscented laundry soap. I can smell the release of chemicals, recommend a ventilated room. Rinse THOROUGHLY a couple of times, then launder as usual. May require a second treatment; especially darks or fabrics that need warm or cool water. I've used this on cottons and my husband's gym clothes. Originally found it on the internet...

Hope this helps.

POSTED BY ALONNA :: FLORIDA USA :: 05/15/2007 4:24 PM

I was recently on a website that indicated it was ineffective to "wash out" formaldehyde from clothing, and that the application of heat to the clothing released gases that were harmful. Interesting. I guess that could possibly explain why no one is able to get rid of this chemical smell from cotton. My advice is to buy your clothes from a country that regulates the amount of formaldehyde allowable, or buy formaldehyde free clothing. Such a shame we're all getting ill.

POSTED BY CAIT :: CALIFORNIA USA :: 06/09/2008 11:06 AM

To Cait from California: You can wash out formaldehyde smell from fabrics. There are two forms of formaldehyde on some cotton fabrics - fixed and unfixed. The unfixed formaldehyde is what smells and can be washed out with regular washing. The fixed formaldehyde is attached to the cotton and cannot be washed off. Also, because it is fixed to the cotton, it is relatively harmless, odorless and will not leach off onto the skin. It is there to help the fabric perform better and help the wrinkles come out easier. The United States regulates formaldehyde levels in many items. But, the problem is that many of the items we buy today (clothing, linens, etc.) are not made in the U.S.A. I wonder if the government regulators in China are monitoring how much formaldehyde is being put on items that come to the U.S. for us to buy? I also wonder if these are the same regulators who monitor the baby milk produced in China?

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: I don't agree. The formaldehyde resin that is fixed to the cotton can still outgas formaldehyde. The "unfixed" formaldehyde is coming from the fixed formaldehyde resin. Don't assume formaldehyde levels are safe just because they are being regulated.

POSTED BY JMS :: ALABAMA USA :: 09/26/2008 5:31 PM

I have found lemon juice helpful in laundering petroleum-product laden new clothes.

Also, there is a product called Bac-Out, it is a lime enzyme cleaning liquid and I put it in a spray bottle and spray it on the spots that are left on my sheets from my massage practice/massage oil. Given this, I would imagine it would work for anything oil based. Good luck.

(and it's a lot easier to be around than Citra-Solve for me personally)


I recently read an article that said, it's very hard to get formaldehyde out. Vinegar doesn't work. Wash in cold water, then air out in the sun, this is the only thing that breaks it down. Formaldehyde bonds with the fibers when you heat the cloth. Don't buy no-iron, it's the formaldehyde that makes it so. Please go out of your way to buy organic clothing, there is plenty to choose from, they last much longer too, saves the workers and the environment for your kids.


Thanks for all your great comments about getting pesticide and formaldehyde out of clothes. I think white vinegar -- 4 cups or so per wash -- gets formaldehyde out (I use cold water in the washing machine), so does soaking overnight with 2 cups powdered milk in hot water.

With regard to pesticide, I have found ammonia -- 4 cups janitorial-strength per load -- wear a chemical mask or hold your breath -- in the wash works great with cold water, if you don't get sick from the ammonia fumes. I use regular ammonia, but full-strength, on a sponge to remove pesticide residues from surfaces; ammonia also removes plasticizer smell from new plastic storage boxes. Again wear a charcoal mask or hold a folded-up towel over your nose and mouth to do this. Ammonia and vinegar together are also very effective in the washing machine: vinegar is acidic and ammonia very alkaline, so together they balance the pH of the wash.

I am very chemically sensitive but I have been treated for ammonia with NAET technique, so am not overly sensitive to it, other than the fact that the fumes are very toxic to everyone. I hold my breath. don't use ammonia with Vellux blankets--they fall apart. You can use vinegar with those blankets. I tolerate the Vellux blankets well once I have washed them with white vinegar.

Julie in California

P.S. I ended up getting the pesticide out of my condo by gutting it entirely and re-constructing it. From then on, I have been getting the residual pesticide smell out of my clothes, bedding and furniture. Never a dull moment when you have chemical sensitivities!


I hear that hydrogen peroxide helps to eliminate pesticide. I regularly use it in my wash (you can buy it as an alternative to clorox bleach, in health food stores). I learned this from a doctor here in NM who is highly knowledgeable about MCS and pesticide risks.


POSTED BY SYLVIA :: NEW MEXICO USA :: 07/15/2009 6:19 AM


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