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Body Odor from a WWI uniform


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#1 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:55 AM

Hi every one, I have a question concerning cleaning a WWI uniform. I have two uniforms ID'd to the same man that are in wonderful condition, however they both reek with body odor. One of the uniforms is the one that my pilot wore for six months while he was a POW in WWI. My fear is that if there is enough residue to smell after almost 100 years then there are significant oils and salts that may be damaging the cloth even as I write. I have been collecting militaria for quite awhile and I have always been of the philosophy that less is more, and that it is usually best to leave well enough alone. In this case though, these uniforms are pretty stinky but they are extremly rare aviators tunics and I'm very concerned about damaging them if I clean them. A freind suggested submersing them in a watered down Woolite solution to take the edge off, but I am very hesitant. What do you all think?

#2 Polygon

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:58 AM

I don't know, I would be very hesitant touching them in any way with chemicals. I'd be more inclined to leave them as is really.

#3 Bluehawk

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 06:00 AM

Woolite is a fairly neutral solvent, and probably wouldn't damage the garments - but may not work to remove the odors.

I'd be tempted to take them in to a specialty cleaners, someone who services difficult or especially delicate fabrics. If they cannot do it, they'll probably know how or who can.

#4 Gil Sanow

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 06:01 AM

Why not consult the textile specialist at your local or state historical society? If they suggest cleaning, use the same company that they use. I did this severl years ago and never regretted doing so.

G

#5 IMPERIAL QUEST

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 06:07 AM

Being the purist that I am....I say the stench is part of the history. :unsure:

#6 Bugme

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:12 AM

Being the purist that I am....I say the stench is part of the history. :unsure:

Unless of course it's in 'your' house and all your guests walk in sniffing the air and give you the old: You need a bath look. or worse, ask how many cats you have... and you don't have any. http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/pinch.gif

I'd have to agree with Gil, consult with the professionals. Once you try something that you thought would work and it doesn't... you get to live with the regrets.

#7 trenchbuff

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:27 AM

Tom,

Just how bad is it? I mean if its something a dog would roll around in...you got a problem. If not maybe put it in a sealed chest with either mothballs or cedar and after a couple weeks air it outside for the day. If that doesn't work it needs to go to the cleaners. I've never had a single problem with the cleaners I use.

Mark

#8 shrapneldude

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:37 AM

NO WOOLITE!!!!!!!!!
A friend of mine had a great WWI uniform and his wife put Woolite on it. When he went to sell it he had people calling him a fraud and all sorts of mean names. Why? Because Woolite, in moderate ammount, can make an item glow under blacklight. Same is true of some dry cleaner chemicals.

Best bet, in my book, is spray a very light ammount of febreze on it, and if it works without damaging the uniform, spray more.

#9 mrhell

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 07:53 AM

Just thinking out loud here, but how about sprinkling the offensive areas with baking soda? I would think between that and some later squirts of Febreze should help lower the stink level. http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/yucky.gif

#10 chrisdumford

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 09:36 AM

I have used fabreeze on several of my old uniforms. It does not stain the fabric in any way and works well to remove odors. You may have to treat them more than once. All of my WWI uniforms have been treated as such.

#11 IMPERIAL QUEST

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 09:47 AM

Unless of course it's in 'your' house and all your guests walk in sniffing the air and give you the old: You need a bath look. or worse, ask how many cats you have... and you don't have any. http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/pinch.gif

I'd have to agree with Gil, consult with the professionals. Once you try something that you thought would work and it doesn't... you get to live with the regrets.



If they don't like the smell of history, then they don't have to come over... ;)
I would not trust ANYONE with a garment or uniform that is super rare. Even if it is insured, and the people are competent - accidents can and do happen. Then what...you may collect $$$, but you still will never be able to replace it.

An alternate idea, as Chris mentioned would be febreze it or place it behind glass in a case.

BTW...I find the fact that odor of nearly 100 year age is still offending, generations later...WOW.

#12 Bugme

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 10:14 AM

If they don't like the smell of history, then they don't have to come over... ;)

Forgive me, I am such a fool, who could argue with that type of thinking. I could see the look on my wife's face when I tell her guests: Hey, if you don't like the smell of history, go home! :lol:

On the febreze idea, I'd give that one the first try and base your next step on what happens with that.

Edited by Bugme, 21 October 2008 - 10:15 AM.


#13 Gil Sanow

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 11:52 AM

Well, I guess if you are goinfg with the Febreeze idea anyhow, there might be another option. Recently I have seen a product advertized which claims to give the effect of drycleaning in a home clothes dryer. I think it is some sort of fabric sheet which is tumbled with the clothing to be freshened up.

I have not tried this, but if airing the offending coat out on a sunny, windy day doesn't work, I mght try it. I think I would turn the coat inside out and put it in a mesh bag to protect the patches and expose the lining where most of the odor probably is.

I assume NO RESPONSIBILITY if it doesn't work!

If you try it, do let us know how it worked.

G

#14 Belleauwood

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 11:57 AM

PLEEEZE,

What kind of alpha male collector are you?? The dirt, the stench, the smell of mothballs...... It's like napalm in the morning!! - Hanging outside for a 365 day calander in bright sunlight and seasonal climate has always worked wonders for my collection. Giv'er a try and call me next year. Jobs help too!.

Dennis

#15 Croix de Guerre

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 01:30 PM

:P Connor says he is gonna throw up on Roland Neel's uniform the first chance he gets!




PLEEEZE,

What kind of alpha male collector are you?? The dirt, the stench, the smell of mothballs...... It's like napalm in the morning!! - Hanging outside for a 365 day calander in bright sunlight and seasonal climate has always worked wonders for my collection. Giv'er a try and call me next year. Jobs help too!.

Dennis



#16 trenchbuff

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 02:45 PM

:P Connor says he is gonna throw up on Roland Neel's uniform the first chance he gets!

I think Connor may be on to something. Baby puke isn't as bad as 90 year old BO.

#17 Mr-X

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:23 PM

I like Gil's idea of seeking the opinion of a museum expert.
Why not contact the people at the Smithsonian or some such museum.
They will only give you more ideas.

Edited by Mr-X, 21 October 2008 - 05:24 PM.


#18 FightenIrish35

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:29 PM

If it doesnt drastically smell I wouldnt personally seek cleaners and what not I would take some baking soda and after one use of it I would wait a week about and seek if the smell is still there. If it really is unbearable i like the meusum idea,you cant go wrong with information from an expert. http://www.usmilitar...tyle_emoticons/default/thumbsup.gif

#19 Bob Hudson

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:33 PM

Febreze does work wonder - if you live in a nice climate (which pretty much means Southern California :) ) a nice dose of Febreze followed by a couple days hanging outdoors does miracles without damaging the fabric (this is not recommended for folks in west Texas, Kansas or other locations where winds storms are a way of life).

#20 BEAST

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Posted 21 October 2008 - 05:52 PM

CdG,
I had cabinets built that I keep all of my uniforms in and it reeks of moth balls. Just for you, I will move a couple of my other uniforms and you can send me your pilot's uniforms. After a few months (or years), I will be happy to return them (or a reasonable facisimile) to you! What do you think?!?

Oh yes, just to make sure everything has a similar smell, feel free to send any other item(s) from these groups including supporting documentation! Just remember, we're here for you!

With friends like this, who needs enemas?! :lol:

On a serious note, I would do nothing unless it will actually do damage to the material. If so, then I go along with Gil and recommend contacting a textile expert who can recommend their cleaners.

Edited by BEAST, 21 October 2008 - 05:55 PM.


#21 Dave

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 07:01 AM

I agree with using Fabreeze and natural breeze... I have an allergic reaction during prolonged exposure to mothballs (sucks!) so when I get in a uniform that has a heavy moth smell, I spray it down and then leave it to air out in my garage, with the occasional trip outside when the weather's nice and the sun isn't hitting the area. I've had pretty good luck this way...after pulling out some of my heavier moth-smelling uniforms when I got rid of my collection, they didn't even smell...or at least didn't smell different than their brethren!

Dave

#22 vintageproductions

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 11:25 AM

I knew a collector that just bought uniforms out of rag mills. If any of you have ever dug around a rag mill you know the wonderful smells that come with it. What he would do is put a fabirc softener dryer sheet in each sleeve and store them this way. He swore by it to get rid of the smells.

#23 Jeff Ashenfelter

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Posted 22 October 2008 - 05:56 PM

I also use the dryer sheet trick to store my berets that may have an odor. I place about a half sheet inside a zip lock storage bag then place the beret inside. They last about a year which pretty much takes care of any mildew or cigarette smoke smells. Jeff

#24 teufelhunde.ret

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 07:18 AM

Why not consult the textile specialist at your local or state historical society? If they suggest cleaning, use the same company that they use. I did this severl years ago and never regretted doing so.

G


I agree with Gil, go this route first before taking matters into your own hands. Even if they cannot recommend PROFESSIONAL SERVICES, they can certainly offer you PROFESSIONAL ADVICE. s/f Darrell

#25 37thguy

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Posted 28 October 2008 - 02:43 PM

You guys may call me crazy, but I've used the same guy at a dry cleaners for about 25 years now. I have NEVER had a problem with anything he's done. Problem is he's getting ready to retire and I'm still buyin'! He's never crushed a vegetable button, ruined a patch or shrunk a uniform. He will even wait till a cooler day in the summer time to wait to do a tunic just so the solution in the tanks will cool down to avoid shrinking.
My advise: Find an older guy that's been doin this awhile and give him something that's not a treasure and see what he does with it.

These have all been cleaned and pressed. They look just like 90 years ago.

PS- Sweat and oils are the chief attractant of moths and other critters eating on all that wool. Smell may be original to the purist, but I prefer mine, cleaned, pressed and with no holes when I open my closet.

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