Clothes Develop a Musty Smell if They Get Damp?

I have read a lot about mildew smell when washing clothes. I think mine may be a little different, or maybe not. Hopefully someone can tell me what is wrong. When I wash my clothes, they smell very fresh and clean, its when I get them out of the dryer that they lose that smell, and have no smell at all. Then, when we are ready to use the towels they have that musty mildew smell, and when my husband wears his works clothes and sweats it produces the same smell.


I don't understand why they go into the dryer smelling nice and come out smelling funky! They are completely dry when I take them out so it's not from them sitting or anything. Hopefully someone out there may be able to tell me what is wrong.

Thanks in advance,

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By carla bledsoe (Guest Post)
July 24, 20060 found this helpful

You don't say if you have hard water but minerals that have been "cooked" in the dryer, especially sulfur, will smell worse than they would if they were wet. If you live anywhere there was a lot of coal mining, you most likely do have sulfur. Other minerals will smell too but sulfur is the worse I know of.

Using vinegar in your rinse may help. The best bet would be an in-line water filter. You can get one for about $100. If it is only used for the washer, it should last quite a while.

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November 27, 20160 found this helpful
Best Answer

Downey fresh protect odour defense smells great coming out & comes out when u sweat so should clear it up. I love it!

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By Barbie (Guest Post)
July 24, 20060 found this helpful

seems you got lots of suggestions....the only things I can add is this, is it possible your loads are drying too slow.....maybe that there are too many clothes and the dryer doesn't dry them fast enough...either way they will sit in a damp warm stage which would cause that could try doing a load at a laundrymat, this would answer a few questions......if it's the water at your house, or if the dryer is drying too slowly, mosts laundrymats have city water and commercial dryers dry quickly.......take some in wet from home and just dry them and do a load all the way through......might help with the mystery........good luck

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By (Guest Post)
July 24, 20060 found this helpful

Oh my Gosh!! Cookwie....did they (at All) actually use those words to you? I don't care for All anyway as it doesn't clean well, but that would do it in for me!! They don't know how to win customers do they?


Anyway, I had a strange smell in my laundry also and I think it was the combination of the fabric softener and laundry detergent I was using. I have switched to Downey (I was using Costco's brand) and have not had that problem since.

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By Dede (Guest Post)
July 24, 20060 found this helpful

I had this problem a few years back, I think it was lint build up in my dryer hose to the outside. Check that out.

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By Mona from Ms. (Guest Post)
July 25, 20060 found this helpful

I have also been having this problem. My daughter told me her roomate was also having this problem but she is not.(same washer/dryer) She uses powder detergent and the roomate uses liquid. I also use liquid. I'm gonna give this a try. Then I'm gonna try the vinegar the others have suggested if that doesn't work.

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July 25, 20060 found this helpful

I would definitely check the dryer hose for lint buildup. Pull it off the back and blow it out with a wet vac or "dust" it out with a swiffer. Check the vent that goes from the wall to the outside too.


Either of those could be causing a back up if there's a lot of lint stuck in the line. It may be staying damp and backing up, throwing that wetness and odor back into your clean laundry.

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By Lynda (Guest Post)
August 2, 20060 found this helpful

I don't care for Pine oil too much, but something called, "Mint OIL" worked WONDERS for this very problem I call, "wet dog" smell. I used to be able to buy it, but now I can't find it. If anyone finds it for sale, pass it on? Only two caps to my oversized washer load worked great. I hate the smell of vinegar and ammonia, folks, and don't know how anyone can tolerate it even though it might work
wonders. I believe Sun detergent is the best cheap
LIQUID detergent I have found, leaving things O>K>
but not like expensive fragranced Tide-types. I notice that if I am careful to wash the dirtiest clothes together and wash them all twice, it works best. Also,


keeping the warm water temp hotter helps destroy
the odor causing bacteria, except for the lingerie where it lingers in the nylon/poly/rayon fabrics,which
I try to use a little creme perioxide on the crotches,
underarms, and collars for 30 min. prior to washing
using the cap to rub it in where possible. Make certain that socks and jeans are right-side out where the dirt is more easily cleaned. Guess it
destroys the bacteria, too? It works amazingly well.
Also, there are two huge bar soaps used by Mexican
laundresses and ladies from the Middle East sold at
the dollar stores that both smell good and seem to work well, although take more time. They eat lots of
garlic, onions, fish, and strange to me foods, which may be why they need soaps like this that we too need now? As we learn to eat what repels insects, like garlic and onion, we can use all the help we can get. Stress is a factor during these times which produces enormous amounts of hormones/chemicals

that we might not otherwise have during better times.

Lemon Balm plants and tea are wonderfully easy to grow plants and tea to make for stress. Relaxes naturally and is not addictive, although the plant is like mint and reseeds itself if you do not cut off blooms before it goes to seed. Baby powder helps when sprinkled on odors, remember, even for adults.
Baby oil is messy but has been used since Biblical times for LOTS of things from hair to skin, to polishing.

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By Nancy (Guest Post)
January 20, 20070 found this helpful

JJ I sure hope you find an answer to your question because I am battling the same war. If I find a soultion I will let you know!

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By simon (Guest Post)
September 6, 20070 found this helpful

Well, I know what your all going through, as I've been having this problem for ages now. I've tried changing detergent brands/scents and I just can't rid the smell of wet dogs.


I am doing my drying in between writing this, and I can smell that wet funky smell from my lounge. If I come across an answer that actually works, I'll be sure to let you folks know. But for now. Happy searching.

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September 9, 20070 found this helpful

Hi all, I found the source of my problem It is from the washing machine- the water that runs into machine is stagnant so I have to run water into the machine, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to first load of clothes then it seems to help. Also have found if you use Laundry detergent with Fabreese or other odor removers in them that when they dry in dryer they smell okay when come out but after a while they smell like wet dog.Line drying is okay but if you use the dryer they end up stinking. It also helps to leave lid open on washer when not in use. I got a brand new washer and as soon as i washed the first load i could smell the musty smell. Our town water man informed me it had to do with hoses and water sitting in them.smell the water when it comes into the basin of your washer and smell if there is a musty smell. Worth a shot.
Hope this helps.

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September 9, 20070 found this helpful

I use to live on a farm with a well and we had to Shock the well once a month with a gallon of bleach to kill off bacteria in the well . I would check local hardware store or menards for additive to clean wells . also buy a water softner that helps.good luck

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By sarah brown (Guest Post)
March 5, 20080 found this helpful

this has happened to me and several people i know. it's liquid fabric softener, either in the middle if the aggitator or the downey ball!!! it doesn't rinse well enough and keeps all the funk inside. It also grows mold inside because it never gets rinsed. a friend of mine checked her washer after i told her about this and sure enough, covered in black stinky stuff!! also, don't use too much detergent, it can do the same thing. i know we should conserve and use cold water, but i swear warm water helps too because it rinses things better than cold and reduces the smell. as with other things in my busy life, my rule for laundry products is simplifiy!!

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By Paul Flynn (Guest Post)
March 9, 20080 found this helpful

Washing machine odor is transferred to towels and clothing and is almost invariably caused by overuse of detergent/fabric softener. The problem is not model specific but is noticed more in front load washers because of the lesser amount of water used. Detergent and fabric softener builds up on the inside of the plastic outer tub and fungus grows on this buildup - causing odor.
If bleach, vinegar or baking soda won't remove odor
I sell a washer cleaner at
that is completely natural and also removes mildew smell from towels and clothing. There is a money back guarantee on it and one order has enough for 24 treatments.

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By Michelle (Guest Post)
October 16, 20080 found this helpful

I know it has been a long time since the original post, however I just found it today. My sister brought me hand-me-downs for my 3 yo and the trash bag must of had a hole. The entire set of clothes (33gal bag worth) was damp and everything stunk! I washed 2x, no help. I use essential oils for sickness, etc., etc., and I thought 'Hey, they are suppose to kill bacteria,' i.e. mold, (I hope), so I put 20 drops of Lavender, 20 of eucalyptus and 20 drops of a cleansing blend with lemongrass, rosemary, and tea tree.

I added them b4 the laundry went back in and didn't use soap. It couldn't hurt and it's cheaper than buying a whole new wardrobe for someone who will only wear them for 6-9 months. So far(3 wks), they smell lightly floral with no hint of mold/mildew. It may still be there, I don't know. I do know that even when they get washed and dried again, there's no yucky smell. They just sorta smells like grandma's house. I hope this helps the next person with stinky clothes!! :-) Michelle

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August 22, 20130 found this helpful

I live in the country with well water. We have hard water, sulphur and iron. We can't use bleach because it reacts with the sulphurand turns everything brown. I have has the problem of musty towels. They smell fine until they are wet. The only thing that I have found that works is Charlies Laundry soap. And I also buy the Charlies Booster, which is specifically for hard water. I do not have the problem with the towels or any of our clothes anymore. I love the stuff!

I do still have a problem with my husbands stinky, dingy, greasy, sweaty clothes form work, he is a mechanic and wow do they smell. His clothes I can't seem to get clean no matter what I do. I have tried it all. The thing that I have read is hard water actually takes from your detergent to soften the water so there is less to clean the clothes with, but If you use too much detergent it can make your clothes stink too. Anyway, hope it helps Charlies Soap and Booster is on Amazon and at

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August 25, 20130 found this helpful

The reason clothes stink after they get wet is because soap makers use enzymes and not phosphates now days because the epa has ruled that phosphates are not environmentally friendly. You can't prevent it. You may try to cover it up with perfumes, good luck.

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December 12, 20130 found this helpful

The smell is caused from mold which can be killed by chemicals or heat. Use 1:1 white vinegar to gallon of water or boil water and place into pot for 2 minutes after removing from heat. Source: 10 year mechanic in humid region

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November 15, 20150 found this helpful

Have you tried drying your clothes outside in the direct sunlight rather than using a dryer. You'll save on electricity and the sunlight will kill a multitude of smelly odors.

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February 20, 20170 found this helpful

Discovered this smell first when we lived in the city and my husbands clothes smelled like it. Now we have lived in the country for 15yrs and have only smelled it in our clothes off and on for the last 5 years (coincidentally when we got a front load washer). But it's not all the clothes! Only the odd item in a load will have it! Certain fabrics, like jerseys, are more prone to smell, but any item or fabric can seem to smell for no perceivable reason whatsoever. Hunter's scent free, human scent removing laundry detergent used to soak affected items for a few hours or more then washed in the same with hot water seems to ward it off for a wash or 2. Just wish I could find the source of the smell so I could eliminate it! Have cleaned the washer with vinegar and clean it at least once a month. Makes no difference. And if it was really the cause then all my clothes would smell, and they don't.

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June 22, 20170 found this helpful

Yes i have the problem more with dark clothing and towels as well as certain fabrics as I've noticed. But usually all items are darkly colored. Several of my family members have this problem as well and we all live in the country but have city water. I clean houses for a living and i do laundry at various locations and my customers clothing doesn't smell like this outta the dryer. They all live in the city. They also have "He" machines and seem to all use dye and fragrance free detergents as well as dryer balls instead of softeners or sheets in the dryer. So ive read most all these replies and im beginning to think that i have very hard water, use too much Tide and downy and I'm gona clean out my dryer vent hose. If this works I'm going to need to get the existing smell out of the clothing we have already laundered bc ive had this problem for years. Praying this works bc i wear all black to work EVERYDAY and alot of my casual clothing is dark so I smell this ALL the time. It's sickening.

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August 11, 20180 found this helpful

I literally give up. Im so close to throwing out my whole wardrobe and butch my new. Either that or Im going to buy a new washer and dryer. When the clothes come out of dryer they smell great. I get to work and at the first drop of sweat I smell like a hamper full of wet clothing! Its terrible! Ive never had this problem until recently (last 2 months). When this used to happen here and there it was only because my wife would leave the clothes sitting in the washing machine too long before putting them into dryer. Thats what used to cause it for me. matter what I still get that odor. So embarrassing!!!

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October 4, 20170 found this helpful

Please, Please, Please help me!!!!!
I have odors stuck in my work uniforms. This has been going on for 2 months solid. I washed my uniforms at a laundry mat and used gain detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. When the laundry was done it smelled really good to me.. but when I get to work the smell is very strong and overpowering. It makes people sneeze, they hold their hand over their nose, they cough, some even feel nauseated. I have washed with vinegar, baking sofa, borax, glovia detergent made for cloth diapers, hex sport detergent, oxiclean, just to name a few remedies. I have tried any and everything I could find online. I have put them under a sheet with coffee open so it could absorb the smell. I have put them outside in the sun for extended periods of time. Whatever I do doesn't work. It either smells like what ever I use, ex. When I put them outside I smelled like a little boy that had been playing outside all day or when I washed them in vinegar I smelled like I'd wasted vinegar on me. Baking sofa makes it smell like mildew which is a much worse smell.. could it be my body. I bathe and bathe and bathe to make sure. I've never been a nasty person. I just moved into a house, could it be the water in the house! I just don't know! I'm going absolutely crazy.. I've missed worked, I've spent so much money and time you would not believe! I got a whole new set of uniforms.. but if anything that had the previous smell comes in contact with my work uniform, it takes on the smell I'm trying to get rid of. For example, a pair of socks I washed with the new uniform made the entire uniform stink. It's so bad that I had to get New bras and underwear. I have separate laundry now, the ones I think has less of the smell are in one basket and the ones I know have a strong smell are in the other.. but eventually they all end up stinking. Even if it's a new uniform, the smell will get into the uniform from my bras and underwear. When I'm active at work, it's like it's activated more and more as the day goes on! I go home from work crying because it's so embarrassing and I work very close with the public and people are so tired of smelling me. I was working 2 jobs and I quit one because I was being teased at work because of this.. it was a great paying I'm think about quiting this job! I can't continue like this. I do not know how to fix this. Please help me!

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January 23, 20180 found this helpful

Try sanitizing the machine with bleach then do your wash load

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August 21, 20190 found this helpful

New style washers or detergent designed for them

Step 1
Moved into a new home and had a whole house charcoal filter and water softener and clothes still smelled after I would start to sweat, its a moldy smell. Lint isnt the problem as others suggested, new home. Older model washers didnt have this issue and before moving into a new home and purchasing new appliances I never had this issue. Ill try using a washer machine cleaner to see if this helps before changing to powder detergent. Let me add that Im a master plumber and I ran service calls for this problem in homes that only had new style was her machines. So its either the new style machines or the detergent that is designed for them.

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