Project Prepper, Part 23: Removing That Military Surplus Smell

“I’m sorry! I thought the vinegar would get rid of the smell!”

I was saying this only a short while ago this evening to my girlfriend, who fled the lower part of our house for the less-smelly refuge offered by the second floor master bedroom.

You see, she just got a whiff of two vintage East German military laundry bags after coming out of the washing machine.

It wreaked pretty bad. Even after I took steps to get rid of the smell.

I’ve been buying military surplus for a number of years now. It’s been my experience that items from former Eastern Bloc countries are incredibly “fragrant.” Czechoslovakia and East Germany readily come to mind here.

In anticipation of those two laundry bags from the former Communist state arriving, I conducted a little research into eliminating, or at least minimizing, that military surplus smell. In the past, I just ran the surplus items through the wash a couple of times. That helped a little. After moving to the new house, I did this plus aired the items out in the detached garage for a couple of months. More improvement.

This time around, I gathered a number of suggestions for combating the stench from the Internet. Ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, Febreze, OdoBan, OxiClean, and even airing out the offending items in the garage for up to a year were some remedies suggested.

I went with adding a cup of distilled vinegar to the wash since I knew we had a gallon of the stuff tucked away somewhere around here.

This afternoon, the bags went into the laundry machine with detergent, color-safe bleach, and a cup of distilled vinegar added when the rinse cycle began, as this was recommended by a few different people out in cyberspace.

Pulling them out of the washing machine, I noticed the military surplus stench was not only still there, but more intense. I headed upstairs from the basement utility room, at which point my girlfriend’s nostrils got a full blast of good old-fashioned Cold War Communism.

As the post intro suggests, she’s not too pleased with me. I feel bad.

After the unprovoked East German assault, I threw the bags back into the washing machine and drowned them with only a cup of distilled vinegar. I added another one at the rinse cycle for good measure. I just got the bags out a short time ago to air dry, and while the smell is still there, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as before. Proponents of the vinegar method claim there might be a vinegar smell (there is- slightly) until the item dries out.

Judging by the intensity of the fragrance, I’m not going to hold my breath concerning vinegar successfully eliminating the odor.

Actually, I probably will.

I’ll update the post later and let you know of the final results. In the meantime, any reader suggestions on dealing with that intense military surplus smell?

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Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 Clothing, Europe, Gear, How To, Military, Project Prepper

2 Comments to Project Prepper, Part 23: Removing That Military Surplus Smell

  1. Vinegar works for me. I soak them overnight in vinegar and warm water. After soaking, I just wash them normally with detergent. You could also try using chlorine dioxide if it still didn’t work.

  2. Chad Fulton on December 15th, 2013
  3. Thanks for that recommendation Chad Fulton. I plan on updating this post in the next couple of days.

  4. Editor on January 8th, 2014
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