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View Full Version : Why Do Our Bed Linens Smell Musty?


DMark
09-07-2008, 08:49 PM
We wash them with nice smelling laundry soap, put in laundry softener and when we pull them out of the dryer, they smell fresh and clean.
Then we fold them, put them in wire drawers (air flows all around) and yet, when we unfold the bed linens, they have a distinct musty odor that takes a day or two to go away! No, they are not stored near dirty clothes hamper, no there are no old sneakers in that area...so it is a total mystery to us. Plus, we live in Las Vegas, so humidity is most certainly not a factor.

Granted, these are not 1000 count thread linens...just the average bed linens you buy at department store, on sale. 100% cotton.

Would it be the dye of the linen or what?

(Feel free to post any snide, witty comments - but if someone has a real answer to this question, would love to hear it!)

MadPansy64
09-07-2008, 09:08 PM
No idea, but when we were in Vegas, I noticed the same thing. Some days I blamed it on that damn Vegas dust settling in back corners of the linen closet, and some days I blamed it on the cheap wannabe weird-ass "cedar"* shelves in said linen closet. I kind of suspected it was really our karmic punishment for renting a yuppity McMansion, but you have a very nice, non-McMansiony house.

*not real cedar. Maybe plain ol' white pine dyed orange and soaked with fake cedar scent. Or maybe some weird off-brand cedar-type wood.

AuntiePam
09-07-2008, 09:50 PM
Does anything else from those drawers smell musty, or just the sheets? Are they stored with other linens that aren't freshly laundered? Hell, I got nuthin'.

Store them somewhere else for awhile. Then you'll know if the problem is with the fabric or with the environment.

Green Bean
09-07-2008, 10:13 PM
My all-purpose remedy for weird odors in fabric is to put a cup of borax in and wash on hot. Works great. A little bleach in the wash water can help too--bleach is good for killing bacteria and stuff.

Beyond that, I got nuthin'.

jsgoddess
09-07-2008, 10:51 PM
Are you absolutely certain that you are drying them completely before folding? Sometimes the heat of the dryer can disguise the damp. Is it that sort of odor, the "Dammit, I left the clothes in the washer for three days!" odor?

kayT
09-07-2008, 11:21 PM
Maybe the soap or softener has a fragrance that turns icky with age. Some do. I try to use only unscented stuff and my sheets never smell musty, no matter how long they have sat before using.

Harry1945
09-07-2008, 11:49 PM
My guess is that it's from the humidity your A/C has pulled from the air in your room. What little there is of it is absorbed by the fabric, and the room cools down, and you have musty, basement conditions in your linen closet.

Ruby
09-08-2008, 12:51 AM
I asked this very question a while ago and got the same "puzzled look" responses. I was beginning to think I was imagining the musty smell.

My sheets definitely smell bad when they've been in storage. I don't know if it's the fabric, the detergent, the softener , or what. Although the odor is similar, I'm confident that the sheets are dry before going into the closet. I've even noticed the smell when sheets have been on a bed for a long time, such as a guest bed.

Nothing else in my linen closet sits as long as the extra set of sheets so I've got nuthin for comparison.

DMark
09-08-2008, 01:13 AM
Does anything else from those drawers smell musty, or just the sheets? Are they stored with other linens that aren't freshly laundered? Hell, I got nuthin'.

Store them somewhere else for awhile. Then you'll know if the problem is with the fabric or with the environment.

Nothing else has the odor, only the sheets and pillow cases.
Never happens with towels or shirts or any other clothing.
We stored them in drawers with little chips of cedar...didn't work.
We stored them on top shelf of closet...didn't work.
That is why we bought those special wire baskets, thinking the air would keep them from smelling musty...didn't work.

It is just so odd...like I say, they smell fresh and clean when they come out of the washer and again out of the dryer...and yes, they most certainly are dry. But then fold them neatly, stack them wherever you want, and when you go to change the bedding, bam - that same, nasty, musty odor. Again, after about a day or so on the bed, the odor is gone.

...it has to be in the dye or somethin'...oh well, thanks all for your help, and glad to hear a few of you have the same problem.

kayT
09-08-2008, 01:49 AM
Here's a thought: the sheets might be treated to make them permenant press; maybe that's the source of the odor.

DMark
09-08-2008, 02:20 AM
Here's a thought: the sheets might be treated to make them permenant press; maybe that's the source of the odor.

Yes, they are perma-press sheets. That could be the cause?
My shirts and pants are all perma-press, and they don't have that odor...thankgod.

Harmonious Discord
09-08-2008, 06:49 AM
It must be something embedded in the threads of the material that takes time to release. You wash out what is currently on the the outside of the thread and dry it. It smells OK. It sits for a while and the odder causing chemical that slowly releases from the threads starts to build up on the outside again. It could be a treatment or something the threads are composed of. It's the only thing that makes sense. This means you need to get some different sheets to get rid of the smell you hate. I've had a throw pillow that had some odder you couldn't wash out. The pillow went in the garbage. I couldn't breath if I was near it.

Kalhoun
09-08-2008, 07:03 AM
I've got the same problem. I always attributed it to my ultra-icky water. I guess this is a normal thing, though.

I hate that! Maybe the key is to have one set of sheets.

buttonjockey308
09-08-2008, 08:59 AM
Are you absolutely certain that you are drying them completely before folding? Sometimes the heat of the dryer can disguise the damp. Is it that sort of odor, the "Dammit, I left the clothes in the washer for three days!" odor?

This is what my first thought was. I've been known to leave things in the washer for too long and jsut come along three days later, pour another bit of soap in and rewash because of the smell. :smack:

There is some credence to the perma-press theory though. They use a kind of starch that in some clothes I've owned, sometimes smells musty or even slightly fishy. Try and hang them dry and see if you have the same problem.

DMark
09-08-2008, 11:10 AM
Are you absolutely certain that you are drying them completely before folding? Sometimes the heat of the dryer can disguise the damp. Is it that sort of odor, the "Dammit, I left the clothes in the washer for three days!" odor?

After our dryer fire (I posted that wonderful story a few years back) we have been very careful to be nearby while the dryer is on, and take things out when they are done.

We have even tried laying the linens on the guest bed and then folding them the next day. Smells fresh and clean while we fold and pack them away, but then....

Well, it looks like there is no easy answer to this. And I don't even know if it would help to buy new linens. We have probably six complete sets, from various manufacturers, for our bed, and another 4 or 5 sets for the guest bed. They all have the same problem...and again, only bed linen - no strange odors on any other items of clothing or towels or whatever.

jsgoddess
09-08-2008, 11:45 AM
Well, it looks like there is no easy answer to this. And I don't even know if it would help to buy new linens. We have probably six complete sets, from various manufacturers, for our bed, and another 4 or 5 sets for the guest bed. They all have the same problem...and again, only bed linen - no strange odors on any other items of clothing or towels or whatever.

I'd try some experiments. The easiest: Do a soak on the linens in the washer with a fairly strong mix of water and ammonia. Let them soak for an hour or so, then drain and wash normally. You could also do this soak in a tub if it's inconvenient to do in the washer.

Most people don't change sheets every day, so sheets get a lot of oils on them that clothing and towels don't get. Those oils might be binding so well to the fibers that they are waterproofing them and preventing the detergent from getting to the trapped mustiness. I had this happen with a pillowcase. Ammonia will cut through the oils better than anything I've ever used.

If they are white linens, you can try the same thing with a water and bleach mix. I know you know this, but don't mix bleach and ammonia!

A second trial would be to take one set to a laundromat and see if their super strong appliances make a difference.

And a third trial would be to switch to an unscented detergent. If you did, I'm guessing you might find that the fragrance is actually just hiding the mustiness from you and then when the fragrance fades, the mustiness is smellable. That's just a guess.

Kalhoun
09-08-2008, 11:56 AM
After our dryer fire (I posted that wonderful story a few years back) we have been very careful to be nearby while the dryer is on, and take things out when they are done.

We have even tried laying the linens on the guest bed and then folding them the next day. Smells fresh and clean while we fold and pack them away, but then....

Well, it looks like there is no easy answer to this. And I don't even know if it would help to buy new linens. We have probably six complete sets, from various manufacturers, for our bed, and another 4 or 5 sets for the guest bed. They all have the same problem...and again, only bed linen - no strange odors on any other items of clothing or towels or whatever.

I bought new sheets to correct my stanky sheet problem but it didn't help. THey still smell musty after one or two washings. I hate that!

Kalhoun
09-08-2008, 11:59 AM
After our dryer fire (I posted that wonderful story a few years back) we have been very careful to be nearby while the dryer is on, and take things out when they are done.

We have even tried laying the linens on the guest bed and then folding them the next day. Smells fresh and clean while we fold and pack them away, but then....

Well, it looks like there is no easy answer to this. And I don't even know if it would help to buy new linens. We have probably six complete sets, from various manufacturers, for our bed, and another 4 or 5 sets for the guest bed. They all have the same problem...and again, only bed linen - no strange odors on any other items of clothing or towels or whatever.

I don't know if you have the space to try this experiment, but try washing them and then hanging them on heavy hangers in a closet. See if they come out smelling musty.

I'd try this but I have about 75% less closet space than most houses, and my closets are full to the max.

lindsaybluth
09-08-2008, 12:08 PM
Do you have a front-loading washer? If so, do you routinely (once a week) run an empty load on hot water and bleach? The way front loaders are designed (wonderful water saving machines they are) is that the water is never "fully" spun out - there always remains a little in the base.

Therefore, it's best to leave the door open when not in use (to have as much evaporate as possible) as well as run the machine empty of clothes, on a hot setting with bleach weekly. Gets out whatever yuckiness (be it mold or bacterial growth) may be lurking in the machine. If you're skeptical, stick your head into the open (and un-bleached) machine, and take a big whiff.

I noticed the musty smell mostly lingered in towels and linens; clothes were moreso free of the smell. Hope this helps!

Auntbeast
09-09-2008, 10:20 AM
A couple years ago, All Small & Mighty came out. At the same time, they were consistently publishing coupons that made them free, so coupon queens stocked up on them.

Everyone loved the detergent for a while, but after extended continued use, a funky smell developed. It goes away if you wash with a different detergent a few times. I don't know that consumers ever figured out what caused it, but it was an extremely common malaise. It may be that all of your clothes smell like that after a time, but they don't get as closely packed or stored as long as the sheets.