I figured out what happened when I noticed the bag they were stored in. It was chewed up by little teeth. So the sticky part was mice pee. I loved having that on my hands. I guess mice like to chew leather on cold winter nights. Also, the shoes were squished because I had piled stuff on top of them all winter. Goodbye shoes, I hardly knew ye.
I bought three thick, brown, bath towels and loved them. After washing them, this is what they looked like.
No, I didn't bleach them. But I had bleached the load right before this and apparently the bleach didn't release in the machine for that load. No, it patiently waited until I put my brand new towels in. Hubby says it doesn't matter because only family sees our towels, but I grimace every time I look at them. They look like they have leprosy. I honestly don't know if I can live in the same house as them.
I hope your spring cleaning goes better than mine!