When my father passed away I found myself really missing him. Although my sisters thought I was weird, I decided to hang up one of my dad's old flannel shirts on the back of a closet door in my house. Then I decided to top it off with the fabric apron he got while he attended trade school to learn to be a machinist after WWII. It comforted me to have this hanging in my hallway, where I walked past it every day.
I never saw this apron until after he died, but I remembered seeing it in an old photo. He wore it as he stood beside some sort of machine, while in trade school. I think he must have kept that apron at work for 33 years, as he worked as a turbo prop engine mechanic. I discovered both the flannel shirt and his work apron in his hot, dry garage in Arizona, when we were getting ready to sell my parent's house.
Initially, I decided not to wash the items because they did not smell, and did not seem to be very dirty. (I also wanted to retain the slight dusty essence in the clothes that reminded me of my dad.)
At some point, the apron fell off the hangar, onto the floor, and got a little wet. I picked up that apron and all of a sudden I was hit by a very familiar, odd type of smell that I remembered from my childhood. It smelled exactly like my grandmother's basement! I have never smelled that particular, kinda funky odor anywhere else, and I was amazed at how strong it was on that wet apron. (My grandma died and her house in Minnesota was sold in 1971.)
My siblings did not believe my story, so I put off washing it for a few days so I could show it to them. Mistake! The odor started to grow and get stronger in my laundry room where I had hung it up to dry. With love and apologies to my grandma, I soaked it in detergent and vinegar for an hour and then washed it. The smell would not go away. I eventually ended up washing it several times, trying many things (Simple Green, OdoBan, vinegar, and baking soda), but they did not work. I hung it out on the clothes line for a few weeks during a dry, hot summer, then washed it repeatedly again. To be honest, this kinda freaked me out.
Is it possible for some kind of mold or other spore to have stayed dormant in the fabric of that apron for almost 60 years, only to begin to grow when it got wet? If not, what could have caused this? I do not believe that this odor came from my grandma "visiting me" since it was so clearly coming from that apron.
By Patty W. from Phoenix, AZ
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