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Sarah Aguirre

Reader Question-Removing Fishy Smell From Clothing?

By March 31, 2005

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I'm a professional fish cleaner, as taught by my two wonderful aunts. I don't have a problem with dealing with the smell until afterward. Because we're standing at tables and get into our work, we tend to get lots of 'guts' stains on the tummy area of our shirts (which isn't so bad because we have designated 'fish clothes'), and the smell from the fish is locked into the fabric. We have tried everything from dishwasher detergent, to lemons, to salt, to baking soda trying to get the smell out. Nothing seems to work, what can we do?

Baking soda can be a great tool to remove laundry odors. Another big part of removing odors from laundry is water temperature. If after washing your clothing in the hottest water recommended for the fabric and adding baking soda and your own laundry detergent, the clothing still smells fishy, you may have to opt for a soaking. Fill a large bucket with very warm water. You can add baking soda, laundry detergent, or a laundry odor eliminator product. Place the clothing in the bucket, using a clean white towel to hold the clothing down. Soak for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Wash the clothing normally and then try line drying in the sunlight. These extra methods will help you get out even the most stubborn fishy smells.

Comments

May 30, 2009 at 1:58 am
(1) dr r says:

naturesfresh.net has odor removing and cool outdoor stuff as well hope it helps

October 16, 2010 at 8:52 pm
(2) Bobbie S says:

can tell you what worked for me. My daughter spilled cod liver oil on the hem of her slacks (a cotton/poly/spandex blend). She stuck them in the washer with a few sweaters (cotton/nylon blend) and a little cotton dress, and everything came out smelling strongly like fish. So we tried, and failed, with the following soaks in the washer: a strong vinegar solution; Dawn liquid detergent; Borax; baking soda; the Orange stuff; the Green stuff; Odo-Ban. NOTHING worked and this whole process took us 3 or 4 days of soaking/washing/repeating. Lastly we tried filling a small bucket half full with water, and adding a pint of lemon juice. Soaked each item, SEPARATELY, overnight, then washed each item separately, and hung them outside to dry in the sun. Could still smell fish in the sweaters and very strong still in the pants, but the 100% cotton dress was finally odor-free. She had decided to toss the 2 sweaters and pants, but I went ahead and left them outside. Within 2 days the sweaters were odor-free, but not the pants. After about 6 days, I had forgotten about the pants, and went to get them on trash day to toss. The fish odor was gone! I washed them, dryed them in the dryer and there is absolutely NO TRACE of the fish odor left. I don’t know if it was the lemon juice (which we had washed out after soaking) or the sun, but I’m leaning towards the sun. Because the pants were a blend, they didn’t fade. I spent about $15.00 on all those other products, but the lemon juice cost about $1.50, and the sun was free. Hope this helps!!!

January 12, 2011 at 10:37 am
(3) Dawn says:

My husband accidentally left fish oil vitamins in his pants & they went thru the washer…Everything in the washer smelled awful! I soaked everything in washer with 1-2c white vinegar and warm water for several hours which helped some but didn’t eliminate it. I repeated the vinegar soak two times followed by a regular wash cycle. Everything smelled OK coming out of the washer but as soon as the dryer warmed things up the fish smell was still there!?! I decided to try something as a last ditch effort before throwing the clothes out…I soaked everything once more in water and vinegar for 3 hours, squeezed out excess water and the sprayed everything heavily with “Natures’s Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Remover” and let soak overnight. This is a product I bought at Petsmart to clean up pet stains and odors. Its an enzymatic cleaner and figured if it could break down the source of cat & dog urine, it might work on fish oil…IT WORKED! Even after removing from hot dryer-no smell!!!
FYI to clean the dryer of fish oil smell – I sprayed it w/white vinegar and let it sit for an hour with door closed, washed the lint filter with hot soap and water. Then I wiped everything down with hot water on a rag & ran the dryer empty…the smell was gone.

December 6, 2011 at 8:58 pm
(4) Natalie says:

Thanks ladies this is now wash no. 4- will try the lemon juice!!

March 24, 2013 at 5:49 am
(5) Sue says:

OMG, Dawn…. I am living your nightmare right now. My daughter has done the same thing. And she is allergic to prawns and so HATES the smell of seafood so her school uniform smelling like that is repulsive to her (and to me!). Thankfully it didn’t taint everything else in the wash – for which I am VERY thankful.

March 27, 2013 at 4:58 pm
(6) julie says:

OMG thank God I’m not the only one with this problem! I washed a very large load of clothing with a fish oil pill in a pocket and can’t believe how strong the smell is! Thank you all for your advice, I am going to try the vinegar/baking soda/pet-odor spray…NOT what I expected to do with my day off!

April 12, 2013 at 10:20 pm
(7) click here says:

It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to new updates and will talk about this website with my Facebook
group. Talk soon!

August 20, 2013 at 11:32 pm
(8) Dano says:

I’ve done this a couple of times to myself, and tried every
darn remedy. I’ve learned there’s no quick way, but this is what I do.Try not to ‘set’ the oils in a hot dryer (it’s not impossible, but harder to get the aroma out). I find an out of the way place outside and hang up the offending clothes outside to get air time. 3 weeks is a good start, longer helps.
If you’re short on patience, you probably should throw money at other products (that I could never get to work). You can smell the diminishing odor over time. When you have to sniff pretty close to smell the odor, it’s getting time to bring the clothes back to the laundry machine.
I add enzyme (you can buy some for about $15 at petsmart, or make your own from the web – I made some with lemons, it’s moderately fun). Soak and agitate the clothes occasionally for some hours (overnight is better) in the washer with your enzyme cleaner. Then lightly wash to rinse the cleaner. I hope this helps.

August 20, 2013 at 11:34 pm
(9) Dano says:

I’ve done this a couple of times to myself, and tried every
darn remedy. I’ve learned there’s no quick way, but this is what I do.Try not to ‘set’ the oils in a hot dryer (it’s not impossible, but harder to get the aroma out). I find an out of the way place outside and hang up the offending clothes outside to get air time. 3 weeks is a good start, longer helps.
If you’re short on patience, you probably should throw money at other products (that I could never get to work). You can smell the diminishing odor over time. When you have to sniff pretty close to smell the odor, it’s getting time to bring the clothes back to the laundry machine.
I add enzyme (you can buy some for about $15 at petsmart, or make your own from the web – I made some with lemons, it’s moderately fun). Soak and agitate the clothes occasionally for some hours (overnight is better) in the washer with your enzyme cleaner. Then lightly wash to rinse the cleaner. I hope this helps.
Dano

August 21, 2013 at 9:02 pm
(10) Kimy says:

I came along your blog today and couldn’t figure out how we got fish smell in our last batch of camping clothes. Well to my astonishment; I’d left a fish oil vitamin in my pocket. Now I’ve cross contaminated so many clothes; it was hopeless. So I will now try your suggestions; so sad, as I only had about 20 clothes, but then it washed and dried and both the washer and dryer need to be cleaned. So I have about 3 loads of laundry instead of one. Good news is I found what caused it and the bedrooms fishy smell is gone. Urgh… Thanks so much; I appreciate all the suggestions, ideas and replies.

September 27, 2013 at 5:44 am
(11) Car storage solution available in Gold Coast says:

The content which you have shared is appreciable as the ideas which you have provided can be useful while purchasing a new home.

March 25, 2014 at 6:39 pm
(12) Kathleen says:

I accidentally washed a fish oil capsule in my white load. I removed the smell easily by running the load a second time with orange oil instead of detergent and vinegar instead of softener. Worked like a charm.

April 2, 2014 at 11:58 pm
(13) Krista says:

So happy to run across this thread. I volunteer with an organization that rescues seals and sea lions. To my dismay, a co worker sprayed elephant seal formula on my sweatshirt. That wasn’t bad but when she washed it with towels containing salmon oil…………..uugghhh. I hate to throw it out and buy a new one. I really appreciate the hint of not heating it up in the dryer. Will suggest this for everyone when we do laundry there. lol

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