By Jolie Kerr
Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She'll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her. Are you still dirty? Subscribe to Ask a Clean Person: The Podcast on Acast, iTunes or Stitcher, and like Ask a Clean Person on Facebook.
I'm reaching out after binge-reading 12 of your columns on Esquire. I noticed white vinegar is a common factor in your articles, for wiping out discoloration and odors. I'm trying to get the yellow/stank out of my sheets (fitted and flat) and pillowcases and I was wondering if this would work with my sheets? The ones I truly care about are normal, lightweight sheets (not flannel, though my flannel sheets also kind of smell...).
What do you recommend? I've loved reading your articles and look forward to listening to your podcast. Keep up the good work and thanks in advance!
Usually I edit out the accolades in the emails you guys send me for the sake of not turning this column into a Jolie Kerr tonguebath (though I do love the tonguebaths! I appreciate every kind word so, so, so much, you guys.) But I left the comments about binge-reading Ask a Clean Person so I could tell you about a funny thing my editor said to me when we were in the initial talks about bringing the column to Esquire: He goes, "It's the weirdest thing, I'll start reading a column to figure out how to deal with ring-around-the-collar and then, like, two hours later I realize that I'm in a rabbithole learning about how to remove a pound of butter from a car seat. I don't even have a car."
All of which is to say you're in great company—and it's really very, very normal to find yourself in an AaCP hole. And I'll let you in on a secret: The thing about these columns that's so addictive has very little to do with me. (Don't tell my editor that, though!) The thing that's so compelling is you guys, your great questions and, more importantly, the stories behind how the messes got made. There's a relatability to a Q&A-style column that works so well, and I'm forever grateful that you all trust me with your problems. Got more? Email me any time!
Okay, now let's get on with the business of saving your sheets, which is actually a pretty easy thing to do. You just need to learn about a few products beyond our old pal, white vinegar.
Eliminating Lingering Malodor
Okay, now here's where the white vinegar comes in: It's SO good at eliminating lingering odors, even ones that hang on stubbornly to otherwise clean laundry.
To use white vinegar in the wash, add a ½-1 cup of the stuff (less if you have an HE machine) to the rinse cycle—you can do that manually when the rinse cycle indicator comes on, our you can put the vinegar into the liquid fabric softener compartment, which will automatically release at the right point in the festivities. You may get a bit of a whiff of vinegar when the sheets come out of the washer, but as they dry the smell will dissipate. Don't worry about being haunted by dreams of pickled vegetables.
I think white vinegar is the best choice here because it's cheap and it works. But, some people hate the smell of vinegar so much that I want them to have options. 20 Mule Team Borax is a laundry booster, akin to oxygen bleach and bluing, that's good for both brightening and deodorizing; Zero Odor® Laundry Odor Eliminator is exactly what it sounds like; or a sports detergent, like The Sweethome's pick for odor elimination, Tide Plus Febreze Sport are all great choices for the vinegar-averse.