According to B.A. Thorp, vice president of process technology at James River Corporation, the smell comes from starch or other sizing materials:
“This product is less expensive than popular spray starches and can have an unpleasant odor and can cause some skin discomfort. . . . “
So why add the starch? Starch keeps the sheets wrinkle-free for display purposes. Although the sizing is used in the finishing of linens, and helps provide a more pleasant feel and sheen, if it weren’t for the need to seduce shoppers in the store, the sheets could be washed by the processor.
At least all these finishing materials are water soluble. Connie Parker, of the National Association of Institutional Linen Management, reports that one trip to the washing machine will dissolve and eliminate all the offending constituents. And in the process, of course, rendering them sweet-smelling.
(Submitted by Troy Schwartz, Troy, NY) [Published in What Are Hyena’s Laughing At Anyway?, David Feldman, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 200 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016, 1995; pp. 57-58]