Jake Simon August 12 at 3:36amShaman,
I hope all is well with you and yours!
I am curious as to how you use baking soda. Do you dump it on everything or do you just put it in with your clothing like you would use it in your refrigerator?
I am looking to try using it this year and am looking for any tips you would kindly share.
Thanks for asking. Now that Scent-Lok has been unmasked, I was meaning to write something about how to kick it up old school. My method is based on an article I read probably 25 years ago. Prior to reading the article, I was going afield in wool that stank of moth balls and I smoked a pipe on the stand. I got turned around and got headed in a better direction immediately. Back at that time, there were no special Scent-Lok clothes and no scent killing sprays. I was frankly surprised when those all came on the market few years later. Baking soda seemed like such an simple, easy solution. A little bit of the stuff does an amazing job.
First let me talk about what goes on before the baking soda gets used. Right now I have a pile of dirty hunting clothes down the basement . Yes, it might be better if they were all stored in scent-tight tubs and all that. The point is that dirty clothes, left since turkey season can be cleaned up. Just don’t let them mildew.
Second, let me talk about the baking soda itself. Baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, is used in baking and in certain industrial processes. It is a gentle alkaline. The exact reason for its effectiveness on odor is unclear. However, I have used it on everything from cat pee to pit stink to cigar smoke. If you can get it on the scent and you’re willing to let sodium bicarbonate take its sweet time, it will take anything out of anything. Buying it in the supermarket in little yellow boxes gets a little expensive. However, for years I was able to find large sacks of the stuff at the local chemical supply house. It ended up costing me about $0.10 a load and a sack would last me three years or more. Most recently I found a good cheap source at Sam’s Club next to the flour. It isn’t quite as cheap as the 80lb sack, but it is still cheaper than laundry detergent.
As a detergent, it is not all that good, but nobody really wants their clothes bright and shiny when they are deer hunting anyway. If I walk through heavy wet clay and get mud stains on my pants, sodium bicarbonate will not take out the stains right away, but over time the clay and just about everything else leaves. Blood? If I get blood on my hunting clothes, I wash in regular detergent and then give them the sodium bicarb treatment I am about to describe. I use unscented detergent anyway. UV? Sodium bicarb has absolutely no UV brighteners. It will also keep you immune to elephant attack and alien abduction. Don’t get me started on this UV hooey again!
First I take a cup of baking soda and throw it in the washing machine and send it through one short cycle empty. If I have some clothes that had blood on them, I may throw those in too to wash out any remaining detergent. This cleans out the machine, and gets it ready for the subsequent loads.
Sort your clothes in the following way: Outer layers to inner layers. Do the outer layers first. The theory is the most amount of human scent will be on the innermost layers. In the first load, I’ll do jackets, bibs, pants, etc. In the last load, I put in underwear. You have to understand I have two sons hunting with me, and that is a lot of wash. It is okay if you just have one load, but if you are going to have to split it up, best to have it segregated. I usually do my socks as a separate load no matter what; I can line-dry them indoors too.
Add a cup or so of baking soda to each load. Wash on Cold/Cold with nothing but the sodium bicarb. If you can catch the load as it is going into the last rinse cycle, throw in another half-cup of sodium bicarb as it is filling. Otherwise when it is all done, go back and then run a separate rinse cycle and add in baking soda. This puts some extra chemical into the fabrics before you dry them. This extra dose of sodium bicarb may or may not be necessary. If I’m packing clothes away for a long time, I may not do it; the dry chemical will have time to work on them over the intervening weeks. If these are clothes I will be certain to wear the next week, I’ll definitely try to hit them with the extra dose.
When a load is done, I take it outside to the back yard and hang them up on the line until dry. This is usually not a problem in the summer, but as the season wears on it can be a pain. The trick is to find enough time between Sunday night and the next Friday to get the clothes dry. If it is going to be raining in the early part of the week, I may hold off doing the wash until Wednesday. I have even packed wet clothes down to camp to dry. It is a problem, but it has to be done. Do not let the clothes dry in a dryer. Do not hang them up in places where they will pick up a lot of extraneous scent. A normal suburban back yard is usually okay, but watch out for your grill and smoker. In a pinch I have used my garage.
After stuff is dry, I pack everything in either a plastic leaf bag or a plastic tub. Tubs are nice, but when I’m trying to jam gear into the back of my truck, they are not necessarily the easiest to fit. Bags compress well. As I am packing the dry clothes away, I’m sprinkling a little bit of baking soda as I go. Into one big bag of clothes I may put half a handful or so. When I was first doing this regimen, I was always overdoing this part of it. It really does not require all that much. Again, if you have the chance to do so, keep the outer layers separate from the inner layers. Keep socks separate. In fact, I usually throw them in a plastic grocery bag and take them in my regular baggage.
Now for me. Before each hunt I try and take a shower and use sodium bicarb either as a replacement for or as a touch-up after soap and shampoo. When I’m done, I throw a bit of it into my still-wet hair, work a pinch under the armpits and into my crotch and then give myself a quick dusting of the stuff while I am still somewhat wet. Then I towel off. Here is another place where I used to go wild with the sodium bicarb. It does not take all that much.
I try not to reuse clothing, and especially not the innermost layers. Down at the camp, I eat breakfast in my long-johns and then dress out on the front porch. When I come back in the outer layer I might want to reuse later in the day gets hung up to air outside. Boots are not worn in the house and get a pinch of sodium bicarb in them between uses. Any clothes that are done for the day are taken off and put in a leaf bag for the trip home.
I have a set of insulated camo, a coat and bibs, as well as a set of boot blankets, a wool balaclava, and wool sweater that never see a washing machine. In fact, I have had all three for 7 seasons and they have never been cleaned or washed. However, I wear them throughout the latter part of deer season. These present a challenge, but sodium bicarb will do wonders used dry. What I do is air out the clothing immediately after use. After that, I pack them in their own nylon duffel with sodium bicarb. I pay particular attention to the crotch of the bibs and the armpits of the coat and sweater. Over the intervening week, the baking soda does its magic. A couple of years, turkey season has been cold and snowy starting out. I used these clothes for a week or two in the Spring, aired them out, packed them away in baking soda and they were just fine come fall.
Another trick I use keeps these outer layers from getting soaked in sweat and acquiring a stink. Let’s say it’s down around 32F and it’s still an hour or so before sunrise. I take everything that constitutes my outermost layer, stored in its own duffel and schlep it out to the stand IN the duffel. This is one of those heavy nylon duffels they issue to the troops. It has pack straps. The duffel is a bit bulky, but it is relatively light and it beats wearing all that stuff on my body. I go out to my stand dressed in something like uninsulated bibs and a sweater. The weather is cold enough that I don’t have to worry about working up a sweat. I get into the stand, haul up the duffel and climb into the last layer. Not only do I keep from sweating (and stinking), but I stay warmer as well.
How effective is my method? I have been busted at 200 yards by a deer downwind when I was not observing any scent control. I have also had deer bust me on the upwind side of a stand at 70 yards. When I’m doing everything I can with the baking soda, deer pay absolutely no attention to me– upwind or downwind. I have been on the ground and had deer practically walking on me. Last year, I went through all season with only one hard bust on the stand, and this was a doe that caught me standing up to stretch.