Q: I use Febreze to freshen clothes between washings, but it irritates my throat. What can I use as a substitute?
—Terri, via e-mail
A: According to the Procter & Gamble website, “Febreze is a product for use on household items and clothing that aren’t dirty, but don’t smell clean.” Though it can be used on clothing, Febreze was designed to eliminate odors on “soft” household surfaces such as mattresses and boxsprings, carpet and rugs, curtains and drapes, pet areas, and upholstered furniture. Febreze is made from ethyl alcohol (distilled from petrochemicals) with added fragrance. Either ingredient may be causing your symptoms. As I was looking for the Febreze website, I came across a posting on a message board from someone who worked in a pub, where his clothes picked up a lot of odors. He used an atomizer to spray vodka on his clothing, and the odors disappeared. Ethyl alcohol and vodka are the same ethanol—one made from petrochemicals and the other from grains. Even if you are sensitive to the petrochemical alcohol, you can probably tolerate the grain alcohol.
You can also try hanging clothing outdoors in the sun or simply tossing them in the washer. You can rinse away odors without soap by adding baking soda to the wash water.