Removing Odors from Clothing

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

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Stinky Laundry In Washing Machine with Man Holding Nose
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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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The vinegar will NOT take the black out. My gram has used vinegar on my gramp's black pants for years and she says the vinegar actually keeps them black longer. As far as the smell, switch the vinegar to lemon juice. If you can't line dry, try not using dryer sheets because sometimes the scented sheets can smell sour. If you do use dryer sheets, make sure they are the same scent as the detergent.

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Ditto on the baking soda. I use about a half a cup along with my regular detergent and it really does the trick. A bit of detergent and baking soda in a presoak also helps. Borax is great for odors too, though you might check for color fastness first.

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Ammonia does take the color out of some materials. I used it on my kelly green bathroom towels, and now they are an olive color. DO NOT use ammonia on your black things. Baking soda should do the trick. Ammonia will take the smell out very well, but it does cause color fading, and don't believe anyone who says it does not. It is not as bad as bleach, but it will. Baking soda is much milder.

I have heard that vinegar in the rinse also works, but I have never tried it. Just don't use vinegar with ammonia or baking soda, as they neutralize each other, and all you will have is salt water.

Does your daughter have problem perspiration as well as BO? My sons did. One uses Mitchum as it works better than all the other brands, and another had to use a product called Drysol. Ask your pharmasist for advice.

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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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I am looking for help with stinky sour clothing.

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Wash them with a cup of vinegar added to the washing machine. Vinegar also kills germs.

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Try drying them outside instead of in the dryer.

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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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Use ammonia in wash & soak after agitating then let sit for a hour or more depending on smell. Then rinse out. Fill wash tub with water with same clothes, add vinegar abt 1/2. Cup then run thru wash cycle as usual. This noally takes.care of any odor. Have used this method many years successfully.

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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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I agree with the poster who said to use one cup of white vinegar. I have a top loader, and not sure how well a front loader soaks, when we have smelly laundry, I fill up the washer, and put the vinegar in, then let the clothes soak over night, then spin that water out, then wash as regular. If your front loader won't let you soak well enough, try putting the jeans in a five gallon bucket filled with water, and about a half cup vinegar.

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Baking soda mixed in with the detergent or borax and detergent works wonders, also. I do the laundry for my mom and sister who are both in a nursing home and there are accidents and this totally takes out all of the smell and leaves them fresh smelling. I also have a front loader. Good luck!

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Do you have a Sam's Club near you, and are you a member? Sam's sells a deoderizer called Odoban. It works for laundry, scrubbing floors, cleaning almost any surface. I have a front loader also and I just put a little in with the soap and let it go. The clothes come out smelling so good. Also, I saw an episode of Myth Busters that said vodka gets the smoke smell out of laundry. I would think if it works for smoke it would work for sweat.

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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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Murphy's Oil Soap. I learned this trick when my ex was a dump truck driver.

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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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My child had an accident in his jammies and I hadn't noticed. I didn't do laundry for a few days and now I can't get the poop smell out of his pj bottoms. Any suggestions?

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    One-third cup of baking soda and 1 cup of white vinegar in your washing machine will take out odors in clothes. Make sure you let the washer fill with water first. This mixture will foam up for a few seconds. I've used this for many types of clothes (polyester, cottons, polyester and cotton, and it works great.

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    This is a guide about removing odors from vintage clothing. Clothes that have been stored for years can have a variety of odd smells.

    Close up of a rack of vintage clothing

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    This is a guide about removing odors from clothing that was left in the washer. Mildew can grow in damp clothes that have not been dried promptly leaving a stubborn smell.

    Woman crouched in front of a front loading dryer smelling a shirt

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    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.

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      I think what happened was the washer had no where to pump the water so it mixed with sewar water but didn't really leave the machine. If you live well away from the nearest neighbor, run a separate line out into the yard for your washer water just on top of the ground. It's grey water. Just move the end periodically where the water comes out with force.

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      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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      I realize this answer is years later. My 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 the 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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      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.

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

      By Peggy S.

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      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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      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.

      Thanks.

      By Azmat

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      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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      My elderly mother washed her clothes with a container that had fuel oil in it instead of laundry detergent. How do I get fuel oil smell out of her clothes?

      By vmccook from Tunkhannock, PA

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      GO to the local auto parts store and pick up a bottle of 'pink stuff' (real name) this pulls the smells of kero, gas etc from clothes, car rugs etc. Ria

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      This guide is about removing musty smell from clothing. Allowing clothes to be damp for too long can result in a funky smell.

      Basket of musty smelling clothing.

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      My daughter washed her clothes for the first time. Unfortunately, after she removed them from the washing machine she must have put them all on top of each other - expecting they would dry. She called me frantic - her clothes have a terrible odor. What should she do now?

      S Wilson from Palm Desert, CA


      Sour Smelling Clothing

      Regardless, if you want something that usually works, 1/4 C. bleach in a washer of hot water (if not a synthetic fabric) works. OR 1 capful of original Lysol works well, too, although hard to find. (10/21/2006)

      By Lynda

      Sour Smelling Clothing

      Part of the problem of sour smelling clothing is due in large part to soap or detergent residue left behind when washing in hard water. You cannot rinse out all of the soap or detergent in hard water therefore leaving it in the clothing. Detergents are high in pH and therefore part of the problem.

      Solution: Install a water softener and use pure soap products. Brighter, softer laundry with a clean fresh smell. Solve the problem and forget about fixing the symptom.
      (09/13/2007)

      By Kelly Johnson

      Sour Smelling Clothing

      We tend to not want to do laundry and so we also tend to over load the machine to save time and money. By having an over sized load the clothes do not get clean well enough and they do not rinse the soils complete, try a smaller load and smell the difference. (07/09/2008)

      By Indiana Home Inspector

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