Thursday, August 8, 2013

Prepping Patterns: Smells

The hunt for old patterns can take us anywhere, from musty garages, old homes, thrift shops to estate sales. Not everyone loves patterns as much as we do and some don't survive the years so well. Here's some advice gathered from members of the team on removing smells.

Nance from nancesnostalgia says
One thing that works for me; About a teaspoon of dried lavender herb per zip lock bag, leave closed up for a couple of weeks and test. Make sure that all the lavender is cleaned up prior to shipping as they closely resemble "mice gifts" and that could be traumatic to the customer! They are reusable too. 

Mary Beth from retromonkeys says
"I have a jar of activated charcoal for fish tank filters. I put the open jar and the stinky items in a plastic bin and seal it. I leave it for 2 weeks or so. It doesn't get rid of all of the smell but makes it tolerable."

Denise from Denisecraft says
"For patterns, I use the arm and hammer baking soda for kitty litter boxes. It works great albeit, it does make a powdery mess. Soaks up all that smell in a few days and then you just dump the white powder. I know other people use straight baking soda but I kinda like the fresh scent from this stuff. It is cheap, about 1.25 a box. A box can last a long time depending on how much you dump."

Rosie from SewBohemian says
"Silica gel works too, in those little packets or you can buy a can of it at hobby shops. Put the gel into little cheesecloth bags, tuck the bagged gel around your books, then box the books up or tub them (leave the top off) and let them sit for a couple weeks before removing. Good link here about mold and mildew and books :"
Anne-Marie from neverwares says 
"I take a 1/4 sheet of white tissue and fold it into a flat envelope shape [sort of pattern sized] add a table spoon or so of baking soda, tape closed. Shake genlty till flat and store between patterns, pages, whatever to remove musty smell. Like the charcoal etc. put everything in a box and forget about for awhile. Then let air out. Please keep in mind that not everyone can take scents that are used to mask the musty smell. Febreeze makes me sneeze violently. Also the "nice" scents can wear off and leave the mustyness still there."
Revvie1 from Revvie1 says
"I've found Damp-Rid works quicker and better than baking soda."
Cindi from CaliforniaSunset says
"For stinky smells, I use unscented cat litter (the cheap Johnny Cat stuff). It has worked for books as well as for patterns. Just use it like you would with the baking soda trick. "

"I use dryer sheets, the scented ones. I close everything up for several days, then take out the sheets and let the patterns air out (this is done out in the storage shed). When the process is finished, the patterns have a fresh laundry smell, but it's perfumey and not for everyone. I actually can't be in the same room with the whole dryer sheet thing for more than a few minutes without getting headaches but it's the best method I've found yet."
"In warmer weather I take my smelly patterns to let them sit in the sun too."
In Summary
1. Put stinky patterns in separate container.
2. Sprinkle one of the following substances around the patterns.
  • Baking Soda (favorite)
  • Activated Charcoal
  • Silica Gel 
  • Dryer sheets
  • Lavender
  • Damp Rid
  • Kitty Litter
  • Febreeze
3. Seal in container, ziplock bag, box, shed, whatever; for a long time. When you take them out they should be good to go.


4. If all else fails, use the sun. Joan from PatternsNew2U says' "On those really stinky patterns I would suggest waiting till Summer, laying them out on a patio table in the direct sunlight. My hubby is a fisheraman and he likes herring oil to put on his bait. He put the container in his back pocket. The smell would not come out no matter what I tried. I hung them on a hanger outside the sun for a day and the smell was gone. If the baking soda doesn't work try the sun.

The KEY to remember is to let your buyer know in the listing if the pattern smells at all whether it's stinky or smells like your grandmother's perfume. So get out there and get to work detoxing all those patterns! The sooner they smell good the sooner they can be enjoyed and used by everyone!


  1. So helpful. I have a batch of smelly patterns that are tucked in a container with cat litter. It's been almost a year...still smelly.

  2. Many great tips! Bookmarking. :-)

  3. Love this blog post! I have used the sun technique on patterns with the strongest cigarette smell I have ever come across. When the patterns came in the mail I nearly fell off my seat - honestly! The smell is nearly gone and now the patterns are in zip bags with lavender for the last of the refreshing.

  4. Thank you! So far I haven't noticed any smells on patterns, but there's always a first time. Good to know what to do. Have a super day!

  5. Great round-up of tips! I swear by baking soda--a bit messy, but really effective.

  6. Zeolite works too - I have found it at the hardware store in the form of 'BBQ Fat Absorber' (tasty right?). Apparently what restorers of rare books use. It got a heinous cigarette odour out of a Kwik Sew book I bought online. Same technique with the sealed bin and sprinkling over.