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Clothes Smell Bad After Washing

If your freshly washed clothes have a bad or sour smell, some sleuthing may be called for to determine the cause. This is a guide about when clothes smell bad after washing.

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Smelling clothing in the washing machine.
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October 18, 2010 Flag

Sometimes I forget I have a load of wash in the washing machine that has begun to smell musty. How can I get rid of the smell that sometimes remains in the cloths even after washing them again?

By Mary Jean from Budd Lake, NJ

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October 30, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

With towels use the hottest water you can vinegar is good to use so is oxi clean. I use oxi-clean instead of clorox, clorox eats up the clothes oxi clean doesn't. With the clothes vinegar or oxi-clean (dissolved first). Use at least warm water on clothes.

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October 19, 20100 found this helpful

Between all of using my family, this happens fairly often. If it doesn't smell too bad, I usually just do a quick wash with warm water & 1/2 the amount of laundry soap. If it smells strong, I add borax to the wash.

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October 20, 20100 found this helpful

I have done this many times. I am a stay at home Mom but I get easily distracted by my kids and their needs, so I forget to go down there and switch loads. I remove about half of the clothes and wash again, it usually does the trick.

Good luck to you.

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October 20, 20100 found this helpful

When I do this, I rewash the load, adding 1/2 cup powdered dishwasher soap to the load, gets the smell out of smelly socks and "jock stuff" as well!

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September 25, 2008 Flag
0 found this helpful

My clothes smell real bad. I have tried washing them twice each time I visit the laundromat. I followed your instructions regarding vinegar and today when I on the train everyone started sniffing around me. When my fellow employees past my desk the smell themselves. I am desperate and need advice asap.

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I sometimes ask people if I smell funny, they say no but it doesn't sound sincere. My sense of smell is poor so I can't even tell if I do smell funny. I used to wash my clothes 2-3 times a week. I cry sometimes because I don't know what to do. I know its not B.O, my clothes just smell sour. I am afraid to wear perfume.

I am becoming more depressed every day. Today I went straight to the nearest clothing store and purchased a whole outfit and then on my lunch break went out and purchased bras because I noticed they smell really bad. Please help me or I might just lose my job.

Debbie from NY

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May 27, 20150 found this helpful

Switch you laundry detergent and liquid fabric softener. When I stopped using Tide and Downy the problem went completely away.

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October 16, 20150 found this helpful

Hi Debbie,

Look into colloidal silver. 2 cups of 10 ppm colloidal silver added to wash cycle and/or rinse cycle will disinfect clothing.

The problem is that today, natural (less harsh and less chemical) laundry detergents are not killing the bacteria during the wash. This, plus using cold wash temps (to prevent fading) are creating a breeding ground for bacteria and mildew transfer between clothes.

You can buy colloidal silver (8 oz, 16oz, 32oz, etc). Or you can buy a generator and make your own. Just google "Colloidal Silver in Laundry."

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February 22, 20160 found this helpful

laundromats just don't clean as well as they should! First, make sure your clothes can tumble and toss in the water. Packed together and overloaded they cannot get as clean as you want. Second, you can presoak. A used cat litter bucket with a lid, some Oxy and water, and overnight soaks can really get stains and smells out. Third, do you smoke, have cats, or drink alot of coffee? Those smells cling to fibers. Use a mixture of peroxide and baking soda to soak overnight. Wash bras by hand so they don't self destruct! A paste of peroxide and baking soda will take out armpit stains which are actually caused by antiperspirants. Try washing in hot water. Try washing with no detergent. If you get suds even without, you are using too much detergent and the smell is build up. If you still feel like you smell bad, ask your doctor. Kidney disease, hormonal disturbances are sometimes tipped off by a funny smell. Keep on trying!

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July 17, 20160 found this helpful

Get your water tested...I bet you have this problem every summer as I do...I live in SW Pa...and every summer my laundry smells like sulfur.

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August 25, 2015 Flag
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I washed my clothes and later used a hand towel to clean my face with. It had a bad sour smell to it. I had a cut so I used a towel again and poured hydrogen peroxide on it and noticed it started bubbling. Doesn't that only happen if there is bacteria present? I need help with this matter. Do I change detergent or try vinegar or ammonia to clean the washer? Why do my towels have bacteria on them after washing?

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    August 26, 20150 found this helpful

    I would rewash them and in the rinse cycle add a cup of white vinegar. No fabric softener. It will fix it.

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    August 26, 20150 found this helpful

    You might also try:

    Running the washing machine without detergent through two complete 'boil wash' or hot programmes - you probably have a build of excess laundry detergent AND/OR general gunk (lint, bits of paper, soap scum, etc). Most modern machines don't have a hot water rinse but the hot water cycle of the hottest programme should work to rid your machine of excess/built up detergent and softener gunk, mould, etc. There are products you can buy meant specifically for this purpose but usually the simple two hot washes followed by one more with vinegar in the dispenser where bleach or softener goes does the trick for much less money! Btw, you should run the washer empty on boil wash at least four times a year to keep it clean.

    After cleaning the machine of built-up gunk, cut down on how much laundry powder or liquid you're using per load - try dropping the amount by a quarter or third and go from there to determine how much detergent you need to get your fabrics clean and fresh smelling. Also consider skipping the softener if you're using it - vinegar works far better and is multi-purpose (cleans and deodorises machine, assists rinse water to get all the detergent out of the fabrics, softens fabrics). Vinegar is also a fabulous savings over commercially prepared softeners!

    Cleaning the filters at the hose to tap connections - small mesh screen should be under the washer ring on the hose end, use an old (clean!) toothbrush to get all the accumulated gunk on the screen - you may not be able to see how thick the film on that screen really is until you brush off some of it. Repeat at least twice a year.

    Check the washing machine user guide - the machine may have a more accessible filter in addition to the one at the hose to tap and that filter needs to be cleaned regularly as well.

    If none of the above solutions resolves your problem, a small (usually a sock) item has likely worked into an area it wasn't meant to and is quietly moulding away causing the 'swamp stench'. This is a job for a repair tech.

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    August 30, 20150 found this helpful

    This happens to me especially in summer. If I don't put the clothes in the dryer soon enough also. I found that washing the load again on hot with an oxyclean type powder added will kill the sour smell present in the clothing and towels. I also periodically wash my towels on hot with this same thing added to prevent whatever buildup happens over time. I normally wash on cold with liquid detergent. I wonder if this happens to people who consistently wash on hot?

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    February 4, 2015 Flag
    0 found this helpful

    My work clothes get washed regularly by themselves. The smells don't go even after they've been washed. Shall I hand wash it? Any recommendations would be helpful.

    By F. C.

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    February 5, 20150 found this helpful

    Vinegar and baking soda are know to absorb odors. Try putting a cup of them both in the wash, along with detergent when you wash your clothes. Also make sure your washing machine is clean.

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    February 7, 20150 found this helpful

    Some times I use All liquid detergent and baking soda. I used this even after a fire for the soot smell. Thought this might help. J

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    October 1, 2010 Flag
    0 found this helpful

    How can I get my laundry to smell good?

    By Josie from Washington, MI

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    October 2, 20100 found this helpful

    If it smells good coming out of the dryer, or off the line, you can store bars of soap in your drawers, unwrapped, and this will faintly scent your clothing. When someone gives me lovely scented soaps from the body shop, I unwrap them and tuck them into my drawers. This gives them a nice smell. I also use scented candles this way. I am just brainstorming a few ideas.

    Are you using warm water for your loads, and hot water for stuff like dishtowels? Cold water is not as good, althought sometimes it is satisfactory. Are you using enough detergent? Measure and use the recommended amount for awhile. See if that helps. Too much is as bad as not enough. Do you separate out and sort your laundry? How dirty are the things before you wash them? Do you remove clothing from the washer and hang it up or dry it promptly? If it sits, it can develop sour smells.

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    October 2, 20100 found this helpful

    You might try adding baking soda or laundry booster to your wash.

    I use this on my son's athletic items, yuck!

    You could also try soaking your smellier things in a bucket with white vinegar and water before washing them. Good luck.

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    November 24, 20100 found this helpful

    I never used Tide. I purchased Tide because it was on sale for a cheaper price. The first time I used the clothes smelled musty. The more I used it the worse the clothes smelled. Even my son picked up on it. So I found my self having to clean my washer and used a different detergent and no more smell. What I've been doing not to waste the Tide, Ii use a little and mix it with another detergent. If you have sensitive skin try using All baby detergent. It gets tough stains out and as a great mild sent. Will not be buying Tide again.

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    February 9, 20110 found this helpful

    I always use Febreze SPORT on my work and workout clothes! Works GREAT for me!

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    April 13, 2010 Flag
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    Why do my clean clothes smell after awhile? I rewashed clean clothes because they smelled and now they smell again after being in the laundry basket. Please help

    By Barbara from Youngstown, OH

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    April 14, 20100 found this helpful

    I have a feeling that the problem is in the washer. I ran the washer with half a bottle of clorox yesterday. I read a suggestion for that, someone also suggested taking the wringer out, but at my age that is impossible. The washer is old don't remember when I purchased it. I also removed that part where you put fabric softener in, after cleaning it in clorox it still smells. I also bought gain, someone suggested that. the problem is not with the clothes being dry. I think the problem is in the washer. I have towels washing now will see what happens. Thank you for all your suggestions.

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    April 14, 20100 found this helpful

    I use 1/3 cup borax in my frontloader. No smells ever.

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    April 15, 20100 found this helpful

    Also, you can clean your washer by running a load with just water and a cup or two of white vinegar.

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    Anonymous Flag
    June 13, 20160 found this helpful

    It could be the temperature. Cool washes don't kill bacteria. Put it through a hotter wash and it may sort the problem (it may also shrink your clothes but you can't wear smelly clothes, so take a chance)

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    May 15, 2006 Flag
    0 found this helpful

    I have some foul smelling clothes. I tried vinegar, fabreeze, lestoil, baking soda the works. I have to wash my clothes 2 times a week and the smell is still there. Any ideas.

    Deborah from NYC

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    January 8, 20080 found this helpful

    have you tried air drying them??

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    April 8, 20080 found this helpful

    I put two or three drops of perfume on my favorite hoodie before I put the load in the dryer. The smell stays and it smells wonderful.

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    September 7, 20090 found this helpful

    I use a cup of ammonia in the wash. This was used years ago by my grandmother to freshed blankets that had been stored away. My husband's work shirts smelled awful & this gets them fresh. Hope this helps.

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    October 21, 20150 found this helpful

    Actually, after further experimentation the colloidal silver doesn't appear to be a viable option. It does some disinfecting, but not good in comparison to ozone.

    You can buy a moderately priced ozone generator from as little as $50-250. Wash clothes as normal, run through dryer (as normal), then use ozone generator on dried clothes.

    The ones with a hose and tube stone for inserting into air tight container will allow you to put your clothes (from dryer) in a trash bag or plastic tub, insert the ozone tube, tie up the bag (so ozone doesn't escape), then run the generator for a disinfecting cycle (usually 30 mins).

    Ozone kills the fungus and mildew (that survived the washing process by oxidizing "burning" them away). Ozone is 3,000 times the power of chlorine (bleach). This is useful, because "color" garments would otherwise fade with liquid bleach. Ozone uses simply O3 (extra oxygen molecule) and won't fade (as long as you apply to dry clothes).

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