Getting Rid of Smell in Vintage Fabric

Last year my mom send me a huge pile of vintage fabrics, after the first excitement I noticed two problems. One was that they came in varied and non-standard lengths, and the other problem was a very musty old smell that still hung in the cloth even after two washing cycles with disinfectant.

Tips against smelly vintage fabric

The internet of things had various suggestions for treating the musty old smell of vintage garments. Two seem to be the most effective.

Vodka and Vinegar.

Vinegar

I soaked the fabric for two nights in my bathtub. Fill the tub with cold (or warm) water and then pour 1 liter of clear vinegar into it (like pickling vinegar or simple white vinegar). Avoid any dark vinegar to prevent discoloration. Depending on how bleach safe the colour of the fabric is you can make the solution much stronger (e.i. add more vinegar).

It is usually recommended to test on a small piece of fabric if the fabric can handle the vinegar treatment and doesn’t bleach.

Vodka

Vodka or for that matter any form of clear alcohol (Schnaps). Pour the alcohol into a spray bottle and spray the fabric with it. Then let it air out. Repeat as necessary.

After the Vinegar or Vodka treatment you still might want to wash the garment or fabric with disinfectant. The smell entirely left my fabrics and I could enjoy sewing with it and more importantly wearing it.