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Removing Odors from Clothing

Stinky Laundry In Washing Machine with Man Holding Nose

Fabric tends to pick up smells and often they are not pleasant. This guide is about removing odors from clothing.


Solutions: Removing Odors from Clothing

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Tip: Removing Musty Odor From Clothes

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I had a brand new bedspread, that picked up a musty smell from an RV we had used. I tried EVERYTHING, to get the odor out. Of course I could not use bleach on this fabric. A Musty odor is almost impossible to get rid of, once an item has been exposed, no matter how clean you get it! Ahhh, at last, I remembered that I still had some "Simple Solution Stain and Odor Remover" on hand. You can buy it at most pet stores. It's the best thing I have ever found, for removing the smell left in the carpet from our aging, incontinent kitty. It has never damaged my carpets, so I thought, why not?! So I put two cups of "Simple Solution" into a washing machine full of water with the bedspread. I let it soak for four hours and then ran it through the normal cycle. The musty odor is now gone! And the bedspread has a very light pleasant scent. I am so happy that a brand new, very expensive item was saved! I would have no hesitation to use this product on any type of furniture that may have picked up a musty smell. Musty Odor? This nasty problem will not be a problem for me ever again!

By Diane =^..^= from New Braunfels, TX

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Here are questions related to Removing Odors from Clothing.

Question: Removing Ethanol Odors from Clothing

How can I get the smell of ethanol out of my husband's work clothes and then out of my washer?

By Racheal from Ashland, KY

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Most Recent Answer

By Debbi T. 1 01/07/2014

Do not use Fabreze. It is made with ethanol. I would wash with baking soda disolved in hot water, but cold water for the wash. Let it sit. I put mine in the wash, let it fill up, agitate for about 10 minutes, than shut it off. My washer is in the bathroom so I run it everytime I go in there for the next couple of hours. Before it rinses, I add a cup of vinegar, run it, let it sit. Than rinse it.

Good luck with it.

Ethanol is a neurotoxin. It causes brain damage for me. It makes my motor-controls not work correctly.

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Question: Removing BO Odors from Clothing

My 14 year old daughter has terrible BO. I just found a bunch of t-shirts that have been sitting in a pile for a long time. Most of them are black. I washed them with regular Tide detergent and they still stink terribly. Does anyone have any laundering advice? Will the vinegar take the black color out of these clothes? I need help. I have never had a BO problem, so I am at a loss. Thank you.

Kelly from Victoria, BC

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Most Recent Answer

By Carol Swanson 35 213 03/23/2009

I normally only use cold water to wash my clothes, but I have found hot water is sometimes needed to remove odors caused by the bacteria you are describing. Teens have extra oily skin and its more of a problem for them than for adults, imho. I'm sorry I didn't know about hot water to remove odors and grease when my kids were that age. It would have helped with their bedding. Good luck.

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Question: Sour Smelling Clothing

I am looking for help with stinky sour clothing.

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Most Recent Answer

By whozis333 1 12/26/2010

The sour smell is butyric acid; it's water soluble, but some fabrics take a long time to diffuse out the stuff. One wash cycle isn't always enough. Soak the garment (overnight in a bucket of water) and maybe change the water and give it a second day. One pound of clothes, ten pounds of water, means you diminish the odor maybe 90 percent with every change of fluid.

The problem eventually will go away with just regular washing, too (but each wash is fifteen minutes of water contact, versus fifteen hours of contact if you leave it in a bucket overnight).

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Question: Removing Body Odor from Clothing

My husband works outside a lot and sweats. I wash his jeans and they still have a faint smell of sweat. I have a front load washing machine, so I can't just add something to the rinse cycle. Anyone have any suggestions to get his jeans smelling fresh in a front load washer?

By Tara from NC

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Most Recent Answer

By Jeff 1 12/28/2010

Soak in a heavy duty de-greaser like simple green or TSP (trisodium phosphate) for several hours then wash as usual. Ammonia may work too, have not used it enough to be sure. The other two will work for sure. This works even when bleach/vinegar won't. It might fade colors though.

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Question: Removing Sweat Smell from Clothing

I have read all of your suggestions and also some of your questions. But none of you said if the clothes you have the odor problem with were white or colored.

My son loads and unloads planes for a living. Like most young men in their 20s (that live on their own) he comes home from work and throws stinky sweaty shirts in the laundry. By the time he goes to wash them the odor is impossible to remove!

Then he comes to me for an answer to remove the odor. I have suggested that he not put them in the laundry wet with sweat, but to hang them up to dry first. Even then the odor is still there, but not as bad even after washing. I thought it was the laundry soap he was using, but still I found that didn't really work to remove the odor. It just masked the odor making it so the next time he wore the t-shirt it smelled even worse once he started sweating.

His work shirts are blue and I'm worried that anything I use will cause bleaching or fading. That would be my worst nightmare knowing he only gets 3 to 4 t-shirts a month. So what is the best thing anyone has found to take the odor out and not fade colored clothing?
Thank you.

By Wendy W. from FL

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Most Recent Answer

By Lizzyanny 9 1,219 10/05/2013

Try Borateem (Borax) My target odor is cat pee, but it works wonders. I use 1/3 cup in the wash cycle for a front loader. I also use vinegar in the rinse cycle. It will not fade colored clothes.

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Question: Removing Odors From a Costume

How do you remove underarm odor from an article of clothing that can't be washed or dry-cleaned (a costume)?

Angel from Seattle, WA

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Most Recent Answer

By Liz B 1 08/06/2015

I realize this answer is years later. Son is in charge of entertainment dept, dancers etc..their costumes get very sweaty and are very elaborate so they cannot be just washed. Dry cleaning bills are very pricey for garments like this and sometimes dry cleaning damages them. The dancers swear by vodka. Spraying and just letting item sit out in fresh air or even better the sun. I concentrate on the pits and blot with a white towel. High concentrate alcohol may also be used. The least water content the better, I found 91% alcohol at major dept store. But vodka is usually best. Cheap vodka is OK.

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Question: Septic System Backed Up Into Washer

With all the rain lately my septic tank overflowed and when it did it went into my washer when my laundry was washing. I had to rewash it three times and my brother said they smelled fine so I wore an outfit from it. Now I'm out in public and I smell like when the septic tank overflowed. I sprayed perfume to hide it; also I won't be able to wash clothes cause I'm leaving to go out of town in few hours. I need advice on what to do.

    By abbyg17 [1]

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Abigail A. 13 936 11/22/2015

    1. Get your septic tank pumped. You waited too long to do it and that's why it backed up.

    2. Don't bother with perfume. It will just smell like somebody crapped in a flower garden. Buy a new outfit to travel and wash your clothes in a laundromat while away.

    3. When you get home, consult a septic expert about both pumping your septic and what to do about your washer.

    If septic backed up in your washer, your tap water may not be safe. Be careful.

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    Question: Removing Body Odor from Laundry

    Some people do not change clothes and linens very often. Body oils and what not get into the fibers. Shampoo in the washer seems to work, but only if washed again all the time. Sheets, long sleeve shirts, and pillowcases stored awhile in rotation seem to retain the odor. Thanks for any help. Oh, I only use the clothesline outside for drying.

    By BL

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Abigail A. 13 920 02/17/2015

    Have you tried adding washing soda to the wash? Look for the Arm and Hammer brand at your local store. You can also try adding baking soda. If these don't work, try a powdered oxygen booster such as OxyClean.

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    Question: Removing Odors from Towels

    How can you remove the smell of oil from bowling towels?

    By Peggy S.

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Monica H. 1 01/13/2015

    Try using white vinegar in the rinse cycle. It works great for removing oil, grease, and odors from clothing. Baking soda works great for removing odors as well.

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    Question: Removing Cooking Odors from Clothing

    I am new to the harsh winters of Canada and am starting to get used to the idea of heavy outerwear like woolen jackets with inner linings, etc. I am also Indian, so our cooking stinks sky-high, unfortunately.

    I need a solution to remove the smell of cooking/food from my heavy, outerwear without washing them. These are almost new stuff, but I hate that they smell of food whenever I go out to work or shopping.

    Please help. I would like to have some solution where I can put some stuff in the dryer with these jackets and that takes out all the odor. No washing needed. Only deodorizing.


    By Azmat

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    Most Recent Answer

    By drnesbitt-nepean 1 11/13/2013

    For starters, try airing them outside for a few hours. Choose a windy day if possible. Or .... if you have access to a dryer, use a home dry cleaner (ie: Dryel) that can be found in most grocery or department stores in their laundry detergent aisle.

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    Question: Removing Armpit Odour from Dress

    I own a dress that I really love, but unfortunately it really smells like armpit. I want to know how to get the smell out, but I'm afraid to use some of the suggestions I've read about because it's handwash only. I'm afraid it might be too delicate for some of the treatment methods. (Also quite a few methods that I've found require machine wash.) I was hoping someone may have a solution that will be effective without damaging my dress. The dress is one of my favourites so I would prefer solutions that probably won't damage it. Sorry if I sound really picky, I just really like that dress. Any suggestion?

    By Tonie

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    Most Recent Answer

    By KaelaB 1 11/24/2014

    White Vinegar! Soak that dress in a strong solution of white vinegar and COLD water for a few hours then either dry clean or hand wash. Vinegar will remove the smell. I have used white vinegar to soak out the smells from all my laundry issues, including my husbands suits! I soak them for about an hour then I spin them dry and take them to the laundromat. Vinegar will remove home odors, too. Simmer a solution of vinegar and water on the stove while cooking things with strong odors and it cleans the air.

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    Question: Removing Underarm Odor from Clothing

    I see many suggestions for removing underarm odor from clothing, but these are all followed with laundering in the washing machine. What to do for clothes that cannot be washed in the washing machine, like rayon blends?

      By Ballroomdancer [1]

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      Question: Removing Awful Smell from New Dress

      I have a dress (material 45% polyester, 35% viscose, 15% cotton and 5% elastane) which has a lining (95% polyester, 5% elastane). As per instructions, I hand washed and dried in on the hanger (I live in apartment). Now the dress has a horrible damp smell. I repeated washing, but the smell remains. The instructions said not to soak for a long time in water. What should I do please? Thank you.

      By Elisabeth T

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      Question: Removing Sweat Odour from a Vintage Dress

      I have a beautiful dress from the 1960s that was actually made from antique fabric probably from the 1900s-1920s. I would like to sell it in my shop only it has really bad under arm odours that I cannot get rid of. I do not think it is suitable to be hand washed so I would like to know if there are any other options. Many thanks.

      By Sam from London

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      Question: Removing Xylene Odor from Clothes

      How do I remove xylene odors from jeans?

      By Brian

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      Question: Removing Fish Smell in Clothes

      I work in a seafood market and my clothes really smell like fish. Even after they are washed with vinegar or baking soda and run through an extra rinse, the odor still lingers. The clothes are all black, so bleach is out. Help!

      By Pam

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      Question: Removing Musty Smell from Clothes

      How do I get the musty smell out of clothes that are stored in a dresser for a long time?

      By Pat N.

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      Question: Removing Persistent Odor from Vintage Apron

      This a question for a scientist of some sort: Is it possible for a piece of material to retain a very distinctive, basement-type odor for almost 60 years? It did not smell while dry. The odor only appeared after 3 months of hanging in my house. This may sound crazy, but it's true.

      When my father passed away I found myself really missing him. Although my sisters thought I was weird, I decided to hang up one of my dad's old flannel shirts on the back of a closet door in my house. Then I decided to top it off with the fabric apron he got while he attended trade school to learn to be a machinist after WWII. It comforted me to have this hanging in my hallway, where I walked past it every day.

      I never saw this apron until after he died, but I remembered seeing it in an old photo. He wore it as he stood beside some sort of machine, while in trade school. I think he must have kept that apron at work for 33 years, as he worked as a turbo prop engine mechanic. I discovered both the flannel shirt and his work apron in his hot, dry garage in Arizona, when we were getting ready to sell my parent's house.

      Initially, I decided not to wash the items because they did not smell, and did not seem to be very dirty. (I also wanted to retain the slight dusty essence in the clothes that reminded me of my dad.)

      At some point, the apron fell off the hangar, onto the floor, and got a little wet. I picked up that apron and all of a sudden I was hit by a very familiar, odd type of smell that I remembered from my childhood. It smelled exactly like my grandmother's basement! I have never smelled that particular, kinda funky odor anywhere else, and I was amazed at how strong it was on that wet apron. (My grandma died and her house in Minnesota was sold in 1971.)

      My siblings did not believe my story, so I put off washing it for a few days so I could show it to them. Mistake! The odor started to grow and get stronger in my laundry room where I had hung it up to dry. With love and apologies to my grandma, I soaked it in detergent and vinegar for an hour and then washed it. The smell would not go away. I eventually ended up washing it several times, trying many things (Simple Green, OdoBan, vinegar, and baking soda), but they did not work. I hung it out on the clothes line for a few weeks during a dry, hot summer, then washed it repeatedly again. To be honest, this kinda freaked me out.

      Is it possible for some kind of mold or other spore to have stayed dormant in the fabric of that apron for almost 60 years, only to begin to grow when it got wet? If not, what could have caused this? I do not believe that this odor came from my grandma "visiting me" since it was so clearly coming from that apron.

      What gives?

      By Patty W. from Phoenix, AZ

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      Question: Removing Mink Odor from Clothing

      How do I remove the smell of mink in clothes?

      By e.g. from Canada

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      Question: Removing Smokey Odors from Clothing

      I need to remove a smokey odor from some clothes that I have. The fabrics range in materials, but a few items are either supposed to be hand washed or dry cleaned. Is there anything I can do to them besides spraying them with febreeze? I did hear of hanging them above a tub of hot water with vinegar in it, but I'm not sure if it'd cause them to develop a new odor. What would you suggest? Thanks.

      Dawn from Cincinnati, OH

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      Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the comments that were provided then.

      Archive: Sour Smelling Clothing

      I have sour smelling t shirts. I have tried everything: laundry odor eliminator, color safe bleach, extra fabric softener, extra fabric sheets, and small loads, immediate placement into the dryer.

      Please help me!


      -- 10/18/2004
      Add some pinesol or any pine cleaner to your laundry. Any brand!

      It works wonder!

      By Bobbie
      -- 10/18/2004
      Try straight vinegar in the wash. Like a cup.
      By Lori
      -- 10/18/2004
      If its only these items and not the rest of your wash have you tried soaking them in Nappy soaker for 24-48 hours then washing in a hot wash. Drying in sunlight should also help.



      By Jo Bodey
      -- 10/18/2004
      Soak in baking soda solution.
      By William
      -- 10/18/2004
      Did not see where you have tried using white vinegar in the wash and rinse cycles to get rid of the sour smelling tees. It works every time for me and you don't have to use fabric softener in the dryer or rinse either. If they are really sour, load machine and put in vinegar, let soak for 15-30 and then turn machine on.
      By Plh549
      -- 10/19/2004
      I use distilled vinegar in my laundry. It takes sour odors out and is also suppose to be a natural fabric softener. One would think the laundry would smell like a salad dressing but it doesn't.
      By Green18Chick
      -- 10/19/2004
      When I bring stuff home that has soured, I first soak it in baking soda water, about a cup and a half in the washer, I let it soak overnight, then I wash the clothes in normal laundry soap, then for rinse I put a cup of vinegar with about 20 drops of essential oil in.
      Good Luck
      By Tracey
      -- 10/21/2004
      Try laying them on the grass in the sunshine.
      By Karen

      Archive: Sour Smelling Clothing

      I have clothes that have a sour smell. I work for a pet groomer, so they get wet, then dry, then wet and dry and by the time I get home they smell sour. It won't come out when washed. I have tried baking soda, Fabreeze, Pine Sol, vinegar, I just can't get the smell out. What can I use?

      Krys from Milton, Florida


      RE: Sour Smelling Clothing

      Am wondering if there is anything you could use to pre-treat (wash, rinse) the clothing, so that it doesn't pick up the smell from work.

      Another thought is for you to use separate clothing for work and make sure it can stand up to the vinegar, hot water and long soakings. These treatments can fade the design and weaken fabric quickly. Possibly nurse's or medical technician's outfits might last. Or contact a uniform supply company. and see what they have to offer. You need a sturdy, tough, boilable fabric or your wardrobe bill will be out of sight. (06/09/2006)

      By Holly

      RE: Sour Smelling Clothing

      I had this problem, I left clothes in washer and forgot for a week. They smelled yucky so I soaked them in laundry soap, 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup borax and then let them sit for a day then drained water and washed with laundry soap and vinegar borax mix and problem solved. Good luck. Also maybe a few drops of lemon dish soap or ammonia for laundry helps. (06/09/2006)

      By meoowmom

      RE: Sour Smelling Clothing

      I use household or foaming ammonia. It's the same product and it will be on the shelf with other laundry boosters. Use about half cup in a wash load, with your regular non-bleach detergent, dry outside if possible. DO NOT USE CHLORINE BLEACH OR ANY OTHER PRODUCT WITH AMMONIA. This will remove dried-in sweat from farmer's clothes; underarm stains from teen's uniforms, and sweeten any garments that have been lying around wet. Like vinegar, it smells awful, but dries with no smell. And it will not damage your clothes. (06/10/2006)

      By mygaley

      Archive: Musty Smell on Clothing

      I have some clothing that was in storage and became damp. So far there isn't any mold just a musty smell. Is there a way to get this smell out?

      Debra from Wilmington, NC


      RE: Musty Smell on Clothing

      Easier than you could ever imagine. I had some sleeping bags that smelled very musty from storage. I tried all kinds of laundry supplies, then I told my brother what I was doing and he told me to add 1/2 cup baking soda to the wash water, and 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse water. It worked and it was cheap and already on hand. (02/14/2006)

      By brenda thompson

      RE: Musty Smell on Clothing

      A method I have used with clothes that are not washable is to hang the clothes out of doors for days at a time. Recently this was successful with a sheepskin jacket which would have been very expensive to dry clean. (02/15/2006)

      By Julia

      RE: Musty Smell on Clothing

      I live in Indiana and don't have this problem. However, it seems to me that all those silicone packets (usually labelled don't eat) might be a help as they are good at protecting electronics, they might help keep moisture off clothes. (06/04/2006)

      By eresatay

      RE: Musty Smell on Clothing

      Put offensive clothes in plastic bag put cotton balls dipped in pure vanilla AROUND but not on clothing tie bag up and leave this way for several hours. This idea is best used after washing clothes in vinegar and 22 mule borax wash and vinegar rinse. (11/27/2006)

      By marisa

      Archive: Musty Smell on Clothing

      I have a very small closet space in my room, therefore I have to store my clothes in my basement in a closet during the off seasons.