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Clothes Smell Bad After Washing

Category Laundry
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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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

October 18, 2010

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 gerry from Budd Lake, NJ

Answers

October 18, 20100 found this helpful
Best Answer

When I've done this, I re-wash the load, adding Oxy-Clean. Just in case you use cold water when washing, Oxy-Clean needs hot water to dissolve. I let the load sit and soak for a while before finishing the cycle. This seems to take care of the problem for me.

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Anonymous
October 19, 20101 found this helpful
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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I have made 2 rules for myself. 1) I cannot put any clothes in the washer or dryer unless I first set my loud kitchen timer for 35 minutes. 2) When the timer goes off I must drop what I am doing and go directly to the washer or dryer.

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With these 2 rules, clothes are never left in the washer and I can take the clothes out of the dryer while it is still spinning, which means less wrinkles.

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October 19, 20100 found this helpful
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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 30, 20100 found this helpful
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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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By 0 found this helpful
September 25, 2008

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

Answers

September 25, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

One thing you might consider is where you are storing your clothes. Could that possibly be the source. Have you tried a different laundromat? If the water in your area is pretty hard try adding some Arm & Hammer Washing Soda to each load to help your soap work a little better.

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You could also try adding about a 1/2 cup of 20 Mule Team Borax to your wash load. And before you go crazy find a close friend to confide in who can help you tell if the smell is your "not so good sniffer" or a real odor.

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September 26, 20080 found this helpful
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Could it be your car seats?? Have they gotten wet or mildewed and you are sitting in it? Or, maybe it is mildew in your dresser or closet??

Can you try opening up all the windows in the area where you store your clothing and air it out good? Is it carpeted? If so, how does the carpet smell? Do you maybe live in a damp basement?

And, when you dry your clothes, are you sure you are getting your clothing good and completly dry??

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By June (Guest Post)
September 26, 20080 found this helpful
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I have had that problem sometimes. I have finally resorted to washing every load for about 15 minutes with about a tablespoon of baking soda. Then I just wash them as usual. I found that we were piling our clothes (including our wet towels) in the hamper and letting them stay for a day or two until I could get the laundry done.

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This was causing them to sour. We started to spread out our towels in the laundry room to dry between laundry days, too. All of this has helped dramatically.

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September 26, 20080 found this helpful
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Wash your clothes and towels separately. Put a quarter cup or LESS of bleach in with the towels. That's probably where the odor is coming from. The bleach will kill any mildew spores that have started to grow. Hang up the towels to dry in the bathroom until your next shower. Then toss them into the laundry basket. This should prevent any mildew from starting. Borax works well, too, but it's kind of pricey. Stick with the less expensive products like the bleach or baking soda first. Arm and Hammer makes a laundry detergent with the baking soda already in it. Again, not very thrifty.

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By Uncle T'Dub (Guest Post)
September 27, 20080 found this helpful
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We have had this problem in the past and along with the other ideas above, I have found that washing the garments (clothes or towels) in the hottest setting your washer has along with a good detergent I.E. Tide w/ Bleach or equivalent and approximately 3/4 cup of Simple Green cleaner/degreaser works wonders. I personally think the body oils cause most of the odors and the "degreasing" action of the Simple Green (which is also biodegradeable) and hot water remedy the problem.

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By (Guest Post)
September 27, 20080 found this helpful
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Nine and ten, sour smelling clothes are because you leave them in the washer too long after the cycle is over before drying them. Even for just 15 minutes, they will sour especially if you are doing them in a hot local laundromat. GET THOSE CLOTHES OUT AS SOON AS THE CYCLE IS DONE!

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The weird thing is, you can't tell it until you put the clothes on and they warm up from your body. I can't STAND that smell! I am highly allergic, it makes my head hurt. I had a kid in my class that had sour clothes and I had to talk to his mother. She was none to pleased but I just couldn't take it any more. I was sneezing my head off!

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By Misty (Guest Post)
October 13, 20080 found this helpful
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I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but about one a month I run a "mock" load of laundry to clean my washer. You put the setting of your washer on HOT wash/Cold rinse and add a cup of bleach to the washer. Let it soak for 30 minutes to an hour, and then let it cycle as necessary. The bleach will kill any odor causing bacteria in your washer.

Next, make sure as stated above that your drier vents are clear from lint. It has been said that mice and rats can climb into the vents and die. After a few days they begin to smell and the smell will come out on your clothes.

Then, when you wash your laundry for the next few times, add vinegar or 1/4 cup BORAX power (which can be found with the laundry detergent) to your next few loads of laundry.

Lastly, don't forget to dry your towels, wash cloths, and any clothing that might have gotten wet throughout the day COMPLETELY before throwing them in your dirty laundry hamper or basket. The wet clothing will cause mildew and make all your clothing in the hamper or basket smell bad.

Good Luck resolving your problem, and let us know if any of our suggestions works.

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By 1 found this helpful
December 2, 2016

My clothes seem to smell okay when they are washed. The problem I run into is that when I start to sweat or my clothes get wet by rain or moisture from any sort, they stink. The smell is an awful sour smell. I tried borax and vinegar and new detergents. I even cleaned my washer as instructed. No luck so far. Please help.

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By 0 found this helpful
May 15, 2006

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

Answers

May 16, 20060 found this helpful
Best Answer

First, find out the source of the odor and try to eliminate that. Unless it's the water itself- high iron content? Try presoaking and prewashing, in Gain Detergent with bleach- then a regular wash, and two rinse cycles, using extra liquid fabric softener on the last rinse. Better yet, (IF you can hang clothes in fresh air to dry) is to rinse with a cup of white Vinigar added to rinse cycle. Seeing as how you live in NYC, I'm wondering if the odor is from environmental industrial air pollution, especially if you live near or work in an industrial park area?

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By KarenP (Guest Post)
May 16, 20060 found this helpful
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I always use a little Pinesol in my wash water. You don't smell it on your clothes when dry but they smell fresh & clean. My towels always smelled mildewy until I started doing this.

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September 7, 20090 found this helpful
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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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By 0 found this helpful
April 13, 2010

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

Answers

April 13, 20100 found this helpful
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When you go to wash your clothes, towels, etc., put 3/4-1 cup white vinegar in the water with the detergent and fabric softener. This will get all the leftover detergent out of your items and keep the fabric softener fresher, longer in your clothes. And it doesn't hurt the items at all.

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April 13, 20100 found this helpful
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Seasonal temperatures and humidity changes in your home will cause clothing to begin to mildew much quicker. I've had to rewash clean clothes to get rid of the smell as well. I started adding 1 TBS of baking soda to the wash and that helped; transfer to dryer immediately and dry thoroughly. I also use Febreeze liquid in my wash sometimes. Changing to a front load washer was the best solution. Clothes are air-tight in a front load vs the lid gap in a top load.

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April 13, 20100 found this helpful
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You must be new to TF or you'd know this is a problem many, many people have. I used to have this with my towels which smelled clean after washing and drying, but smelled like mildew when they got damp again. Now I use vinegar in my wash instead of fabric softener and make sure they're dry before removing from the dryer. This cured it for me.

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Anonymous
June 13, 20160 found this helpful
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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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April 19, 20040 found this helpful

How do you get the smell out of nylon shirts? I've worn one twice and now the stench is unbelievable. (None of my other clothes smell this way....)

Lee

Answers

By Lois (Guest Post)
April 19, 20040 found this helpful
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My Fashion teacher who is involved in theater told us to keep costumes fresh from daily wear. They would spray the underarms with a mix of water and vodka. I don't know the portions but it would kill the smell and freshen the garment for daily use.

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By julie walker (Guest Post)
April 19, 20040 found this helpful
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Place your shirt in a bucket and fill 1/2 full with cold water. Shake in 2 cups baking soda and stir. Add 1 cap ERA liquid landury detergent and stir. Leave in cool place for 24 hours and then wring out by hand. Launder as usual with warm water laundry. In future, remember that some NYLON garments don't allow for body breathing and should not be purchased. It is a good idea to purchase a washable blend.
Good luck this worked for me in the same situation when I was younger.

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By Becki in Logansport, Indiana (Guest Post)
April 26, 20040 found this helpful
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I would soak it in a mix of 1/2 cold water, 1/2 vinegar, then let it drip dry outdoors. If you can let it hang in the sun and fresh air (on a clothesline or balcony) for a day or longer, that would probably be a big help! (I never heard of the vodka suggestion -- interesting!)

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By 0 found this helpful
August 25, 2015

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
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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 30, 20150 found this helpful
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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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Anonymous
April 24, 20160 found this helpful
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This happened to me and it was because I was using too much laundry detergent and putting too many clothes in the wash. Cut back on the clothes and the laundry detergent

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October 19, 20110 found this helpful

I have well water and all the laundry after a wash and dry is fine, but if it ever gets damp again from sweating or anything it then has a very rotten spoiled smell to the clothing. My husband's shirts after work smell like rot, what can I put in the wash to keep this from happening?

By Stephanie

Answers

October 19, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Try adding vinegar to the rinse cycle of the washing machine. When the clothes dry you won't smell the vinegar and it keeps bacteria levels down and works to soften the clothes.

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October 20, 20110 found this helpful
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I would try some baking soda in with the wash cycle and vinegar in with the rinse cycle. There is also a new product you add to the rinse that stays active for a long time. It is new but I cant recall the name of it. I would let the clothes soak in baking soda water then rinse with vinegar and then wash with detergent and baking soda; rinse with fabric softener and vinegar.

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October 20, 20110 found this helpful
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Oh boy did I have a problem with that! I tried borax, baking soda, biz, pine sol and anything else I could think of. I wanted to use bleach but my husbands work clothes were navy blue. Then one day I washed them with just tide and some cheap lemon ammonia that I bought at Big Lots. After that everything seemed fresh again! So far so good. Trust me when I say I tried Everything! Good Luck.

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February 4, 20151 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 7, 20150 found this helpful
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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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By 0 found this helpful
July 31, 2016

This sounds a little weird, but every time I do my laundry, afterwards they end up smelling bad. The weird part is that I know what I smell like after I've been sweating. When I take them out of the washer, they seem to smell clean and fine. It's when I take them out of the dryer that I notice the smell. It's not super strong, but strong enough to notice. I end up covering myself with perfume to try and at least mask it. But it's become a problem that is bothering me.

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February 11, 20150 found this helpful

Recently I discovered my clothes have started to smell sour like vinegar. I use Gain detergent and fabric softener along with baking soda. What else can I do?

By Laken M

Answers

February 11, 20150 found this helpful
Best Answer

1. Run your washer with bleach to kill bacteria in your washer.
2. Use white vinegar or Borax in your wash instead of baking soda. Don't overload your washer and put clothes in the dryer right away. Don't let them sit.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 11, 2018

I live in a rental unit. The laundry room is shared with 2 other families. Most of the time after washing and drying my clothes they smell like they where washed with sewer water. The clothes are apparently stain free and washed with good detergent. I never let the clothes sit in the machine after washing, they go in the dryer. The clothes after being dried feel greasy and have a bad sewer smell to it.

I go to bed and if my sheets have that smell I do not sleep properly and often have headaches. We exposed the situation to my landlord and he doesn't care. My question is, is it possible my clothes are washed with sewer water some how? and can that be the cause of my headaches?
Thank you!

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