Help! The Laundry Smells Like Rotten Eggs

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

I followed all of the advice in your how to deal with stubborn body odor in laundry article and my clothes still stink. There’s sort of a rotten egg odor and nothing I do gets rid of it.

How do I get rid of this sulfur smell in my laundry?

Signed,
Sick of the Stink in Stinesville

Heather says

Did you know that scent is one of the most powerful memory triggers? When I was a little girl, I went to Girl Scout Camp (Camp Loco for you South Carolinians) and they had a serious sulfur issue in the groundwater. It was so bad that neither Kool-Aid nor sweet tea could cover that eggy taste. It’s been –well, we won’t say how many years– a long time and the slightest whiff of sulfur takes me to that hot, sweaty summer.

Sulfur odor in well water has two potential sources and it takes a little bit of household detective work to determine which is the likely culprit. In both cases, Hydrogen Sulfide is the offending chemical, but how it gets into your water determines the solution to removing the offensive odor.

1.  Sulphate reducing bacteria:  H2S is often the result of bacteria doing their bacterial thing and processing organic matter into waste.

2. Hydrogen sulfide gas: If your well is in shale or sandstone hydrogen sulfide gas dissolved in the water itself is possible. You may notice other symptoms of this issue around your house – corrosion of your pipes and silverware that quickly turns black for example.

Unfortunately this sulfur compound, as you have noticed, can build up on your clothing. In order to solve this issue you’ll need to address the actual cause or you’ll quickly understand the plight of Sisyphus. I contacted the reader and asked if the smell was present in only the hot water or in the cold water, too. In her case, the odor is found in both, which was a little disheartening as this hot water only has the simplest fix.

If sulphate reducing bacteria has colonized only the water heater, it is possible to kill it by raising the temperature of your water to more than 140°F for 48 hours.

If you choose to attempt this fix, please be careful if you have an elderly relative or young child in the home. Water over 140°F can cause scalding and extra care should be taken.

If the odor returns, bacteria is likely colonizing the magnesium and aluminum anode rod in the water heater. You can try replacing it with an aluminum-zinc rod -go ahead and flush your water heater at this time. If you also utilize a water softener in your home, you’ll find that this tactic likely won’t be effective. The salts that condition the water negate the effect of using zinc instead. Isn’t chemistry fun?

Call your county extension office and ask if hydrogen sulphide gas is an issue for groundwater in your area. If indeed this is the case, you should consider treating the water before it comes into your home. Unfortunately there isn’t a simple solution and requires either aeration or chlorination of the water at a point between the well and your home. The option you choose depends on your budget and longterm plans.

If hydrogen sulfide gas is not of local concern, again it’s probably sulphate reducing bacteria, only this time it has colonized your well and pipes rather than just the water heater.

Thankfully sulphate reducing bacteria in your well can be treated with household bleach. Here is a guide that gives step-by-step instructions to determine how much bleach is needed based on the depth and size of your well and how to shock the well and your pipes.

Before starting, know that you will not be able to use your water supply for 12 – 24 hours and you should plan accordingly. Remember this includes flushing the toilets! If you choose to remain in the home during the time of the shock you can use buckets of water filled before the shock to flush your toilet. If you are also on a septic system you must use care when flushing the bleach from your pipes, you don’t want to overwhelm your septic tank. Too much chlorinated water can kill off the good bacteria in your septic system and cause it to not process the waste. Collect the shocked water in buckets and dispose of it anywhere but down the drain.

If the sulfur smell begins to return shortly after shocking your well, it is definitely time to have your well inspected. Bacteria may be entering your well through cracks or your well may need to be moved to a better location.

Once you eliminate the hydrogen sulfide from your water source normal laundering will remove the rotten egg smell from your clothing. It may take a couple of washes to completely eliminate the odor, but you’ll get there.

I’m sorry there wasn’t a just use vinegar or borax style answer to the problem.

Best of luck!

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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Heather says

Does anyone remember the movie The Money Pit? I now watch this with a knowing chuckle.

Many of you know that I moved into what I refer to as the “fixer-upper” back in October. As there are some truly awful people out on the interwebz I was not very open about the exact state of the house that I moved into, other than the sharing the fact that it was pretty rough. Some of you out there know what home renovations are like and still others know what it’s like to live in a home being renovated. The word frustrating and disheartening comes to mind.

The bathroom floor had water damage that had caused the flooring to badly warp and there was a hole into the crawlspace. On the advice of my exterminator -if you are local I will share his name- I made a temporary, amateur repair to the main bathroom floor. Let’s call it effective, but hideous. It looked like I had a tumour of expanding foam growing where the tub met the floor. Nothing was coming in or out, nothing, but still I had nightmares that I would step out of the shower and fall into the crawlspace.

But it was all okay, it would just be a month or two and I would be able to repair it, no big deal?

I knew that a roof would be needed within five years and I had factored that into my decision to go ahead with the move.  For a reason neither I nor the company I hired to do the work understands, my insurance company decided the roof needed to be replaced before I could insure the place. (The contractor was more than happy to install the new roof, but it was not the critical need the insurance said.) The bathroom remodel was delayed.

Significantly.

Time moves slowly in the interim between hiring a contractor and the day he shows up. I had been spoiled by the roofing experience, I got the estimate and work started the next week.

I am currently in the middle of heavy travel season with my day job, so of course the contractor was only able to begin work while I was on the road.

I have a garage freezer that I have slowly been stocking  with meat as it goes on sale and vegetables. I have fallen in love with the frozen bags of onions and bell peppers, they make my life easier, yes the foreshadowing is a bit heavy handed.  You see where this is going. . .

The workmen tripped a breaker on a little used outlet.

The one the freezer is on.

Home Ec 101 to the rescue.

I wrote a post about this years ago: The Freezer Was Left Open, Now What

I spent Saturday minimizing damage and thankfully, most of the  meat in the bottom of the upright freezer was still frozen solid. If you ever have to freeze a lot of food, this tutorial may come in handy.

And despite all of the frustration, today I have five gallons of chicken gumbo in my freezer and more importantly, by close of business today, I will have a fully functional bathroom. I still have to paint, but I don’t think anything will be more satisfying than the jig I did to test the solidity of the floor.

Has Home Ec 101 ever saved your day?

There’s A[n Unwelcome] Party In My Plants

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Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have a dilemma in that I looked up the tiny flies that are strolling around my plant soil. I found that they are called fungus flies and live on the decaying soil matter. I’ve sprayed the soil with Home Defense both bug spray and soapy water (nope), put a dish of apple cider vinegar with a drop of dish washing liquid in it to bait them (nope), and most recently, put coarse sand on top of the soil so the “babies that hatch” can’t crawl up and out and die (yech). Needless to say, they are no longer visible on that plant but the fliers have moved on to my other plants. I will never buy that type of soil again (with small wood chips or something) because I’ve never seen this before.

Is there any other way to rid myself of these without buying enough sand to put on all of my plants? They don’t damage the plants (I’m told), but I can’t stand bugs.

Signed,
There’s a Party in My Plants and They Won’t Go Home

Heather says

Fungus gnats, fruit flies, and drain flies are all pretty annoying, but mostly harmless pests. I say mostly because they are aggravating as all get out.

ThanksbutnothanksCider traps don’t work for fungus gnats like they do for fruit flies because fungus gnats don’t eat rotting plant material, they eat what grows on the material. Fungus gnats smell cider and say, “Sorry, I’m just not that into you.” Okay, maybe not literally, but close enough for our purposes.

The solution for getting rid of the fungus gnats has three parts; the most important being perseverance. Due to the life cycle of the flies, it’s going to take weeks to get rid of the little  buggers (ha ha) once and for all.

How to get rid of fungus flies naturally

Dry out the fungus the gnats feed on.

First, you’ll need to ensure that the top two inches of soil are as dry as your plants can tolerate.  Those two inches will need to stay dry for as long as they will tolerate. If possible, practice what is called bottom watering.

To start bottom watering, you’ll need to set the plant’s pot in a container of water. Ensure that the water level in the container does not rise above the top two inches of soil. Let your plant hang out in the container until you begin to feel moisture along the wall of the container in the top two inches.  You’ll want to avoid setting the wet pot on a surface that can be damaged by water until the container itself is dry.

Allowing the top two inches of the soil to dry will reduce the amount of food supply the larva have available.

Capture the breeding adults.

Gnat StixUnlike immature humans, fungus flies can’t breed until they are fully grown. This handy evolutionary trait allows you to implement step two – hopefully before the procreation happens.

Find sticky traps like these Gnat Stix. You should be able to find them in the garden section of most big box stores or your local nursery. You may want to give them a call first to make sure, though. You’ll want to place at least one sticky trap in each of your plant’s container. Replace the traps when the stickiness wears out or you can’t stand looking at the little carcasses any longer.

Keep at it.

Here’s where the perseverance part comes into play. You’ll need to keep using both of these techniques for a few weeks after the fungus gnats first appear to be gone.

Why?

The next batch of eggs and larva are hanging out in the soil and are just waiting for you to water your plant from the top and ring the bell signaling dinner is ready at the fungal buffet.

Another option is to get a medium the gnats don’t want to hang out in and cover the soil in each plant, this is similar to the sand technique you mentioned but with a different material. I haven’t tried this technique so I can’t vouch for the effectiveness.

I hope this helps.  Thank you for writing in.

Check out these other Pest Related Posts

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

 

Fixing Scratches in an Enameled Cast Iron Sink

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Dear Home Ec 101,

I have a fairly new (less than 1 year old) cast iron Kohler sink, it is the shiny black one, the manual recommended using the Kohler cast iron sink cleaner and I have used it regularly and I have used a plastic mat on the bottom of the sink, to try to prevent scratches. Yet I have some minor scratches. Is there any way to safely remove the scratches from my sink without harming the enamel?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Again I LOVE your site and by the way I am hooked on Method products!! Love them!!

Signed,
Scratched in Scanlon
Heather says:

Take a deep breath, I have good news for you, dollars to donuts those are not actually scratches in your sink. I highly doubt you were sitting there with a chisel and hammer purpose trying to gouge your sink. That’s pretty much what it takes to mar the finish of a quality enamel finish. What you are actually seeing is called a “pot mark” and it’s just a scuff from the sink taking a tiny bit of metal off of your cookware.

It’s a lot like when somebody just barely grazes your car in a crowded parking lot and leaves a bit of their paint on your car. A bit of buffing is all it takes to get rid of their carelessness and it’s pretty much all that is needed here, too.

Go ahead and use the recommended cleaner, but find a cork, perhaps from last night’s wine-braised pot roast? Apply the cleaner full strength to the scratch on the cast iron sink and then use the cork to gently scrub the marks away and your sink will look good as new!

Pot marks will likely become a source of irritation over the years, but at least you now know that you have not inadvertently scratched your shiny, new sink. It’s going to look good as new for a long, long time.

Good luck and please let me know how it turns out.

Oh and thanks for letting me know about Method, I’ll be sure to pass that along.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Garage Refrigerator / Freezers, Winter, and Your Food

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have a refrigerator in my garage and for the last few weeks I have noticed the freezer isn’t as cold as it should be.
Should I be worried?
More importantly, is the food safe? The vegetables seem a little soft.
Sincerely,
It’s Frickin’ Freezin’ , Mr. Bigglesworth

Heather says

Garage refrigerators can be very useful for food storage, if you have a bunch of kids, they are also useful to keep the kids from running in and out every time they want a drink.

Unfortunately when the temperature drops below 40°F or 4°C the freezer may not maintain the proper temperature.

Why?

Refrigerators are designed for typical household use. The “average” house is expected to be in the general vicinity of 70°F or 21°C or “room temperature.”

Unless you have a high-end refrigerator freezer combo, which is unlikely in a garage refrigerator scenario, the freezer does not have its own thermostat.

The thermostat in the refrigerator portion of the appliance controls the temperature of the entire unit with the logic being, if the refrigerator portion is 40°F the freezer will be at 30°F or below.

In the winter your garage may be much closer to 40°F. Over time the thermostat in the refrigerator tells the motor, hey, we don’t have to run so often. All is well in the refrigerator portion of the appliance, but that freezer is going to slowly approach the temperature of the garage. There is no thermostat back up in the freezer to say, “Hey, we have a problem here, we should be running more often!”

If the garage temperature is only close to 40°F to 30°F for a day or two, it’s really not going to matter. Refrigerators are very well insulated to keep the cold air inside.

The food in your freezer has been beginning to thaw. If it has been over a short period, this won’t matter food safety-wise. If the freezer has time to thaw completely, you’ll need to follow the guidelines in The Freezer Was Left Open, Now What. (Observing whether or not there are ice crystals etc)

Food that is safe is not always good.

Repeated thaws and freezes will destroy the cells walls of the food destroying the integrity and texture of the food. While it may be perfectly okay to eat, I would understand calling it a loss and starting over with the most compromised ingredients, unless you have recipes where the ingredients are cooked to the point that texture is not an issue.

Sometimes life is a series of annoying lessons; I hope that this one wasn’t too expensive.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com