Stinky Jeans from Target

I purchased a pair of skinny jeans 6 months ago from Target. The disgusting smell of mothballs permeated my skin for 5 weeks and I sought medical attention. You could only smell mothballs on the jeans when they were steam ironed and it did not come out after 2 washes and 2 days soaking. After returning the jeans to Target for investigation, I received a note after 6 months of emails, which said they were unable to replicate the experience. I did keep a piece of the offending article and it still emanates mothballs after a steam iron. My mental health during this time obviously does not enter into the equation. Has anyone else had a similar experience? The jeans do not say wash many times before wearing. What on earth were they treated with and where?

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Hi @Wox, welcome to the community.

The smell on new jeans could come from a number of chemicals used in the manufacturer of the particular jeans you purchased, and include

  • formaldehyde - may used on some jeans to reduce wrinkling and staining: and
  • dyes and associated carrying chemicals

It is also possible that the jeans, if they were to be stored for some time before sale, they are treated to reduce damage from pests .

Any new garment/clothing should be washed before use. This removes chemical residues which may be on the clothing from its manufacture or storage.

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Not with jeans but with a pair of cotton pyjamas from Target some time ago. Not wanting to wash out that soft ‘new’ feel I only did a ‘gentle wash’. When I put them on I couldn’t go to sleep because of the chemical smell emanating from them.
Did take a good wash twice in a row to get rid of that strong toxic smell.

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Too late now but it would be interesting to know how many washes it would have taken!

(More accurately, are you still washing and ironing the piece that you kept?)

I have not encountered this problem myself, even with originally unwashed clothes straight from the store - and the smell of mothballs is fairly easy to detect.

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Yes, and it goes away with a good airing. I suspect it’s a chemical which smells like mothballs?

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Jeans, ironing?

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Ha ha. OK. I (steam) iron my jeans but is not against the law not to iron jeans. All good.

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I am a big fan of Target clothing, over many years, especially jeans.
I have never encountered this problem before.
I have not continued to wash my piece of the article because that would destroy my original complaint.
The mothball smell only comes out in steam ironing and therefore a purchaser is unable to detect otherwise. As lots of people dont iron these days…hooray!..I worry that it would be possible not to realise the detrimental effect that chemicals in clothing can have.
Should it be necessary to give clothes a good wash and airing before use? Should there be a ‘wash before use’ label on all clothing that has been subjected to all sorts of pollutants in the effort to get the product to the consumer?
My jeans still stink after 2 washes and a 2 day soak. Was it an unusually polluted batch of jeans?
The Target testers denial of anything untoward meant they could not have steamed the article and absorbed the stench.

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Whether there is or isn’t such a label and whether there should or shouldn’t be such a label … you just always should wash all new clothing once before first use. (Traditionally that was as much to do with shrinking as random chemicals.) Obviously this doesn’t apply to clothes that are “dry clean only”.

The problem that I see is that washing your jeans once or even twice has not solved the problem!

I don’t think you have mentioned what material these jeans are made of.

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Goodness @Person! :joy::rofl:
Jeans are called jeans because of a twill cotton fabric made in the city of Genoa and used to manufacture working trousers.
We know it as Denim.
Stretch jeans have a percentage of Elastane or similar stretchy material, plus cotton.
Manufacturers nowadays use toxic chemicals to dye or bleach fabric etc. which is causing many health concerns.

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The outside label just says Denim. An inside label says
Cotton, Polyester, Elastane…this colour will continue to fade…turn inside out…cold machine wash seperately…do not tumble dry…do not bleach…warm iron…do not iron prints or embellishments…do not dry clean…MANUFACTURED IN BANGLADESH FROM IMPORTED MATERIALS

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Thank you for all the community responses, I am new to this. I would like to add that in sending my jeans back to Target they were keen for me to send the whole item back. They felt if I took a piece I could tamper with it. I actually cut a piece of the leg off in a Target store with staff watching and using their scissors. I also responded that I needed some security too.

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Good on you for taking the trouble and following up with Target.

I like shopping at Target too. In Melbourne some stores are closing up and KMart is taking over, but there’s still a few around :slightly_smiling_face:

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Yes, thanks, I know that. :wink: The point of the question was parts or percentages that are not cotton.

Some jeans are outright cotton and polyester. (Maybe someone more expert than I can tell us whether it is unlawful to call these “jeans”.)

Some jeans are mostly cotton but have a small percentage of elastane (which inevitably fails).

Some jeans may have pockets that are polyester and cotton, while the jeans are cotton.

So it doesn’t hurt to ask, particularly given that it is apparently during ironing that the stink comes out.

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Looks like ‘steam’ ironing makes the smell noticeable?

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I was about to post that the smell associated with mothballs is due to their napthalene content, but a quick check over at Wikipedia suggests that there is another chemical now in use in some products, 1,4-dichlorobenzene, and it has a similar pungent odour.

Both are good at killing moths and other insects that damage textiles, but they can cause health issues in humans.

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You’re one of us now and I hope you’re here to stay :slightly_smiling_face: (Please don’t mind the way we joke around a bit, it’s all in good fun :laughing:)

If you’ll allow me, you’re saying that after about six months Target has told you that the’ve been unable to replicate the smell and therefore will not accept responsibility? Are you looking for a refund or to make a claim because you had to seek medical attention? Sorry I’m not clear of the outcome: have you got your jeans back, or your money back? Hope you don’t mind my questions :pray:

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Good questions! Lighthearted is good too.
They offered me a refund which I declined at the time as it may have negated some responsibilty.
I will get my money back next week but will have to seek out the manager who knows the history. I have not asked for or been offered my jeans back…minus half a leg.
Only just a week since I got their response.
As an avid Choice member I consulted the team and sent them my correspondence over 6 months with Target.
They suggested I connect with the Community and already I can see some consumer issues raised.
As I have no long term effects there is nothing to personally persue. However…smelling mothballs on your body every morning in the shower for 5 weeks was vile. My GP has record of this including the tests I undertook before the culprit was identified.
As an outcome I feel that my experience cannot be a one off? Also the need to wash clothes before wearing and labels that reflect this? And what on earth are the chemicals we are being exposed to in the clothing industry?
I love that Choice is powerful on our behalf when it is able and needs to be.

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Right, had forgotten about the amputation :joy:

Yes, it must have been a very uncomfortable experience to say the least, and it is puzzling, but I fear it’s only the tip of the iceberg on the toxic chemicals we are exposed to not only clothing but in so much else that we use regularly for personal care, for cleaning our home and car etc etc

And yes, Choice is Formidable (read that with a French accent :joy::rofl:)

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Welcome to the community.

All sorts of chemicals are used by the material and clothing industries to produce the desired look. So yes, always wash before wearing. I don’t know if you recall there have been issues with clothes from Asia containing lead based colours, and others which produced awful rashes on people who wore them often without first washing, etc.

Wash and wear!

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