Urine Smell in Clothing

melodydf1953September 23, 2009

I do laundry for my aunt who is in a nursing home. She sometimes has "accidents" and her clothing is put wet into her laundry basket (I go once each week for the laundry and another day to take it back). I have to use a detergent for sensitive skin for her (Purex), but I also put white vinegar in the wash and rinse cycles. When the weather is nice I hang everything outside to dry and then put in the dryer to "fluff" it for her. The urine smell does NOT come out. I even have to leave my dryer door open to air it out. I asked one of the nurses what to use and she said "we use bleach". But I can't put bleach on her nice clothing and hate to use it since her skin is so sensitive. Any ideas what to use?

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Use 20 mule team borax. It prevents the breakdown of urea into ammonia by inhibiting the enzyme called urease, ammonia is what makes the clothes smell. Add a cup to a load of laundry. This really works, I have a toddler who used to pee the bed often, sometimes the sheets would sit for a few days before being washed, borax took the odor out and it would never come back. I wouldn't put the vinegar in the wash cycle, vinegar is acidic, the laundry detergent is a base, the vinegar cancels out some of the ingredients in the detergent making it less effective at cleaning. You can still use it in the rinse to help rinse out soap residues, and soften the clothes. Borax is fragrence free, and fine for sensitive skin.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 6:27PM
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I agree with the above poster about vinegar in the wash cycle. Laundry detergent is alkaline to get your clothing clean, and vinegar is an acid. Things like Borax and Washing Soda are both alkaline and will push the PH higher, thus aiding detergents to work better. So by making the wash cycle very alkaline it will aid in getting the laundry clean. I would then use vinegar in the rinse cycle. If you use it in the wash, it actually makes the detergent a moot point in some regards and ineffective.

I had a cat that used to do nasty deeds, and just by using vinegar in the rinse cycle it cut those odors out completely from the laundry he made dirty with urine.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 9:33PM
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In the past I've used Bac-out from Biokleen along with my regular detergent (at the time) and the enzymes in it did a very good job at getting out urine odors from nighttime potty training gone awry.

Recently I've switched to Vaska detergent which does a really great job eliminating the odors all by itself, while also removing all the ground-in dirt my kids inflict on their clothes Apparently, even the SF Giants use it for their uniforms now!

I can break out at the drop of a pin and so far the new detergent has not caused any issues.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vaska detergent

    Bookmark   September 23, 2009 at 10:57PM
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melody, would it be possible for someone to put her wet clothing into a 'soak pail' during the week?

If you could fix it up similar to a diaper pail when you are there -- like 1 cup borax dissolved in a 5-gallon pail of hot water -- and someone could put her wet clothes in it throughout the week, it would keep the odors from becoming 'set' into the clothes.

One-eighth cup of Clorox in the pail would keep the water and clothes from souring, and would be washed away when you washed the clothes.

If you didn't have to transport the clothes to wash them, you could just dump the clothes and soak water into the washer and run them through the spin cycle to spin out the soak water before washing them.

In your situation, it sounds like you (or someone) would have to wring them out before you could take them to your house.

White vinegar in the final rinse cycle does strip all detergent out of laundry, thus reducing irritation on sensitive skin.

I sympathize with you in this dilemma. My SIL experienced something similar to this when she washed her grandma's clothes when her GM was in a nursing home. The staff would have done it, but SIL insisted on it and did a good job.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2009 at 10:51PM
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Is there a reason she's not wearing adult diapers? That would solve a lot of problems.

Another couple thoughts would be dishwashing detergent makes a great laundry booster and presoak. A good soaking in baking soda will help with odors too, but I am also a fan of Borax. It's really underrated in my opinion. You might experiment with some different detergents too. I've never had good luck with Purex when there was anything more than very minor cleaning required.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 1:02AM
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For my sensitive skin, I've found Arm & Hammer powder, which has baking soda in it, with hot water, and 1/2 cup vinegar in the fabric softener cup, does wonders. Maybe someone could tell me if one should still add Borax to the A&H.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2009 at 11:28PM
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The best thing for the urine smell is to do a prewash first with no detergent, maybe 1/2 cup baking soda in COLD water. Then add your detergent (I used All Free Clear)and wash in the temp of your choice. Then I used Downy Free liquid softener. Personally, I don't like vinegar but then I know some don't like softeners. The reason I like the softener is so the sheets/gowns would be soft to the skin. I wouldn't hang those outside simply because they tend to be stiffer than when dryer dried and that can bring on more chances of developing a bedsore. I always used Extra Rinse too. I tried Borax also and it was OK but about the same to me as the soda. I have used nothing in the Prewash and you will be surprised at how the plain water helps get out the smell before the washing.
I took care of my Mother for over 5 years at home so I do have experience with this. I lost her recently and miss her so much. I wish you the best with your Aunt and just be glad that you can help with her.

BTW The "diapers" do not always work. They do help, but can and do leak.

Also try pouring some vinegar in the toilet with some urine and see if it doesn't seem stronger(the smell).

Let me know if you try the prewashing and how it works for you.The COLD water helps neutralize the urine, then the detergent is in fresh water and not mixed with all the urine for a better wash..

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 1:06AM
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Since I use the Persil I don't need anything else to get the pet urine smell out of their linens.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 2:59AM
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I would think a detergent like Dreft would be a good choice-it's recommended for cloth diapers.


Here is a link that might be useful: Dreft

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 9:02AM
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I used Arm & Hammer for years (still have a bottle) and whenever I used it, I frequently had to use Borax, dishwashing detergent and other additives so there's no problem using them together if you need the performance boost.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2009 at 10:41PM
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You can soak it in a solution of diaper wash or sanitizer containing sodium percarbonate. Or mix 1 tbsp household ammonia and ½ c warm water and sponge on stain. Then rinse thoroughly.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 12:49AM
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When my cat wants me to know she's not happy she'll pee in the laundry. I think it's the hardest odor to get rid of. I have found that Totally Toddler works the best at getting the stain and the odor out. You can find it at babies-r-us in the laundry section. Some regular stores (usually big-box type) have it. I spray it liberally on the clothes and wash in at least warm water. It's taken the stain and odor out of a white sweatshirt!

    Bookmark   September 27, 2009 at 3:28PM
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I would suggest the borax too. I have an elderly cat who we just discovered has renal failure -- she's gone on the towels we had at the back door to dry off the dog when she comes in wet and on some laundry. I also do laundry for my mom, who is in an Alzheimer's care facility. I tend to use the borax -- it is what is added to Dreft for baby diapers.

DH swears by baking soda, and that generally works too. I haven't had any problems getting rid of that odor.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2009 at 9:40PM
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