Dear Home Ec 101,
I recently bought a linen type shirt. I think it is linen. Anyway, it has this scent that smells like fish. The shirt is dry clean only. My mother has bought clothes that have had this scent, and I’ve always been turned off by it. I really like this shirt, but my students tell me I stink, and I’d like to keep the shirt. HELP! How do I get rid of this scent?!
Mr. Stinky Fish Shirt
I suspect some processing method caused your shirt to smell like a fish. It’s not a specific thing I have faced, but I have faced a somewhat similar problem before, and I’ll tell you what I did.
I used to be a Renaissance Festival actor. One year I played a French princess, and my gown had to be yellow. I searched high and low for a yellow that wouldn’t look terrible with my skin color and finally found one. Difficulty? The fabric was dry clean only. Meh. I hate dry clean only.
Long story short (too late!), I went ahead, bought the fabric, made the dress (with a whole lotta help from my dear mama), and it turned out beautifully. However, after a weekend of mud and heat and general funk you might find at a ren faire, the dress smelled like…well, you can imagine. It was a bad scene.
Now, I’ve never been a huge believer that just because a garment or fabric said “Dry Clean Only”, that it really meant that it was dry clean only. But if I washed the dress and it was ruined mid-season, I wouldn’t have time to make another gown. I used Dryel on the dress.
It worked- sort of. The gown smelled less bad, but I could still smell it a little bit, if I was sniffing the fabric. By the end of the next weekend, it smelled worse than ever. People back during Henry VIII’s time smelled pretty bad, so I was period, but for today’s time, smelling like a horse’s backside isn’t really appropos.
Finally, I broke down and washed the gown with some Borax. It was a risk- I could have ruined the entire gown. But I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. Luckily, my dress came out of the wash fine, and it smelled clean. Whew!
This very long story for what really comes out to be a short answer. Try using Dryel, and if that doesn’t work and you’re willing to risk ruining the shirt, wash it with some Borax. It’s a very real risk that you could ruin the shirt- I’ve ruined a couple of dry clean only skirts by washing them. However, sometimes the risk pays off. It’s up to you.
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