Linens From My Grandma’s Closet

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I want to know how to get that “not great smell” out of my linens. I wash them and put them away and they smell great, when I get them out to use them there is no smell or an “old” smell to them. Should I wash down the walls & shelves of the linen closet?

My linen closet is upstairs in my home near a bathroom but no plumbing is behind it. They don’t smell bad per se but a “nothing” smell or like they have been sitting in the closet for a long time instead of just days.
It seems to be with my towels, sheets and cases in that closet, but now that I am thinking about it, my clothes in my closet don’t retain the detergent or fabric softener scent for very long either.

Thanks,

Limpy Linens

WinkIvy says:

My grandma always had the best smelling linens. I remember going to her linen closet and standing in front of it just to smell. When I got older, I asked her why her linen closet smelled so much better than mine, and she told me she used sachets in her closet, with lavender as the scent.

What she did to make her sachets was to use old pillowcase material to make little pillows with dried lavender flowers in them. Making them is simple- you just take an old pillowcase, cut squares of fabric about 6 inches by 6 inches, stitch all around the edges and leave about an inch unsewed. Turn it inside out, stuff with the dried flowers, and sew up the unsewed portion. You can decorate it with lace or ribbons if you want, or you can just leave it plain*.

I put two in each closet, and now every time I open my closet or put new sheets on the bed or jump out of the shower, I breathe deep and remember my grandma.

*Heather says: Put the glue gun down, Martha!

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Comments

  1. Oh, Limpy Linens, I struggle with the same thing! Ivy, I look forward to trying your simple trick!

  2. I’ve had a ton of lavender for 5 years now (since my wedding), and I have sachets all over the place. I still get that smell, though. I mean, two in my closet does nothing…should I make ten more? stick them between all the linens? (I’ve washed the walls, too, just so you know).

  3. Bonnie- it’s important that the lavender is fresh. If it’s not terribly old, you can smoosh the lavender sachets to break out some new scent, but you really need to change out the sachets every 3 months or so.

  4. Lavender is great! My grandma recommended that we plant a small lavender scrub near the window of my room, and each morning when I wake up it smells great!

  5. Is linen supposed to stink? I bought some new linen napkins and when i took them out of the plastic bag, they smelled bad, like something died. I don't think my family used linen when I was a kid, just cotton for sheets, towels, etc. Could that smell be normal? I bought them online, they were an impulse item I got while ordering some things I needed. Did I get some kind of old or ruined stock? They feel clean and the paper labels are unsoiled. I've never smelled anything like that one something new before.

  6. I'd like some ideas on how to prevent that smell, period. I use perfume-free and softener-free detergent in hot water with a little bit of bleach for my bed linens. They come out of the dryer smelling great, but after a few days in storage they have that nasty smell anyway. Linens are stored on a shelf in my closet–they go in fully dry, and have the closet is clean and has good air circulation. I use lavender spray to mask it, but would rather get rid of it.

    Any ideas?

  7. yeah – same as Liz; I have a good washer/dryer. I use perfume free detergent and perfume free dryer sheets and store when fully dried – they always have a dusty smell when I know they are kept in a nice dry area. I never tried bagging them like some of the comments above – I am willing tot try anything I can't even throe these away and buy new ones – these ARE relatively new. Can it be the material?

    • Add a cup of white vinegar or baking soda (do not use them together) to the rinse cycle when you wash the sheets. The vinegar/baking soda will help eliminate any odors lingering in the fabric, and it also helps to soften the sheets.

      Also, When you are putting your clothes for storage, putting a few sugar cubes to absorb moisture will keep your clothes and materials from getting that musty smell. but it may cause to attract Ants!!!!!

      Another great idea is to place a bar of perfumed soap with the stored clothes. Then they will have a beautiful aroma when you bring them out from storage.

  8. My grandmom's linens were never put in a dryer. On laundry day we would wash them two at a time, and hang them to dry outside in the sunlight.

    Before adding the sheets to the tub, I was taught to mix in a quarter cup bleach and a quarter cup of Tide. The sheets were agitated for 30 minutes. And then rinsed 3 times before they were hung out. Grandmom had 10 sheets, all flat ("because only the lazy and the vulgar use elastic bands")

    They had to dry completely, and even then were left out to disinfect in the sunlight. I would sprinkle them with distilled water and put them in her chest freezer overnight. Ironing them was a bitch. And she had rules about that too: halved, halved, halved, and then in thirds…and pressed each time to make the appropriate creases.

  9. Has anyone thought that the shelves may be to blame? Pressed wood shelves contain Formaldehyde. Which leaves off a odor. I am afraid to put my towels back on these shelves without covering the shelves with something. Someone said wallpaper works but i am wondering if shelf liner would work?

  10. I've been dealing with the same issues through 4 different homes and the shelving is never the same. I hate having to re-wash sheets before a guest comes, otherwise I have to directly put them on the bed right out of the wash. Anyone know the root of the problem??

  11. I agree with Tracie I have lived in many different houses and always have the same smelly sheet problem….I put them away lovely fresh and clean and then before I make up the guest bed have to rewash!!!!!! I thought it was something I was doing but it must just be the nature of the beast :)

  12. I have had this problem for years. I put them away smelling good & they get a rancid smell (I have a sensitive nose) I was just thinking that maybe it was the contact paper that I line my shelves with, but after reading all of the above I'm thinking maybe not. Sure wish someone can figure this out.