Editor’s note: On November 17, 2022, the Laundress issued a safety notice about all of its products, recommending that you “immediately stop using all The Laundress products in your possession. We have identified the potential presence of elevated levels of bacteria in some of our products that present a safety concern.” Its investigation is ongoing, so until we hear otherwise, we do not recommend that you purchase new products from the Laundress or continue to use the ones in your possession.
I never worried that much about deodorizing cleansers until my apartment building caught fire a few years ago. Nobody got hurt, but the combination of smoke and the water used to put out the fire made the apartment smell unbearable — along with all of my clothes, curtains, and bedding. I took refuge for the next month or so with generous friends as I searched for a new place, but I couldn’t escape the cigarette and mold smell that followed me in my belongings.
I knew from my mother’s sage advice and a lot of googling that regular white vinegar could remove the smell, but I wasn’t interested in also making all my stuff smell like easter eggs and sauerkraut. So I kept looking, until one day, while shopping for fancy shampoo at C.O. Bigelow (my therapist’s office is around the corner), I came across a bottle of The Laundress Scented Vinegar. I sneakily opened the bottle and was encouraged by the fresh aroma of clean laundry. I felt my shoulders relax and I closed my eyes for a second to enjoy it. This was an extremely stressful time, and the scent actually calmed me down. I bought two bottles right away.
The Laundress Scented Vinegar is made with vinegar (obviously) and the brand’s signature scent No. 247. According to the label, that’s a mix of eucalyptus with notes of pine and hints of rose, lily of the valley, bergamot, ylang-ylang and thyme. It’s very concentrated, so the relatively high price tag ends up getting stretched pretty far, even if you are using it to deodorize every piece of clothing you own.
I followed the instructions and diluted it by adding a ¼ cup of scented vinegar to a big sink full of warm water (later I moved the whole process to the tub so I could fit more clothes in at a time.) Then I waited 30 minutes before wringing things out and dropping them in my friends’ washing machine. It took a long time, but when I finally finished everything a few days later, my linens and clothes smelled like fragrant essential oils instead of a campfire in a damp basement. Two years later, they still do.
Now I keep a bottle of the stuff under my bathroom sink and use it to remove the aroma of sweat from sports bras and leggings I accidentally left sitting in my gym bag and anything else that’s too delicate for the machine. I have also used it to clean the tub, freshen up the toilet, and clean the throw pillow my dog puked on. This stuff even saved me when I spilled fish juice on my fancy napkins. The bottle says it’ll also remove odors from stinky dishwashers, clean windows and other hard surfaces; brighten the colors of faded clothes; and get rid of spots on glassware. I’ll probably never use it for all those things (I don’t even own a dishwasher), but when I do find new odors that I can’t get rid of, I know the first thing I’ll try.
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