Clothes Still Smell After Washing - What Can You Do?

December 31, 1989 | Blog

You are not alone if your clothes still smell after washing. There are several reasons this could happen, from a dirty washer to damp clothing and using the wrong amount of laundry detergent.

If your freshly washed clothes have odd lingering smells, the tips in this guide will help you identify the common causes of this problem and how to fix them.

Dry Clothes Properly Before Washing

Poor laundry storage habits can lead to unwanted smells in clothing items. Like many people, you may be guilty of tossing your dirty laundry into the hamper, whether or not they are damp.

Here’s the thing, though.

Damp environments are the perfect breeding places for foul-smelling bacteria. And heaping dirty and damp clothing in your laundry basket limits airflow and increases the chance of a lingering bad odor after washing.

If your clothes still smell after your wash cycle, you are probably storing your wet clothes and dirty laundry the wrong way.

To help improve the smell of newly washed clothes, make sure to dry them properly before stowing them away until laundry day.

And by proper drying, we mean air drying them.  

You don’t want to put damp sheets, towels, or any clothing item in the dryer when they are dirty. No doubt, heat can kill bacteria, but a clothes dryer is not designed to remove dirt.

Hang dirty clothes out in the sun to air-dry. This will eliminate bacteria and prevent offensive smells.

Clean Your Washer

If your clothes don’t smell fresh when you take them out of the washer, it may have been a long time since you cleaned your washer.

Cleaning your washing machine goes beyond wiping down exterior surfaces. A buildup of residue, limescale, mold, and bacteria are real culprits, and these things typically lodge in areas you can’t reach easily.

A dirty washer can transfer the odor accumulated over several months onto your laundry, leaving your clothes smelling like sewage.

To checkmate this, make sure to clean your washer regularly. Consider putting it on your calendar so you don’t forget. Remember to never compromise on high-quality deodorizers for washers.

Our OdorKlenz Washing Machine Deodorizer contains fast-acting natural ingredients to neutralize odor-causing residues in washers. Consider getting this deodorizer if you want a chemical-free, fragrance-free solution that removes odors at the source.

Don’t Overload Your Washing Machine

Washers have specific load capacities for a reason, and you’re less likely to get a clean wash if you go above your machine’s capacity.

Your washing machine needs enough space to move clothes around to do a thorough washing job. If you load too many clothes at once (perhaps to save time), you’ll end up with poorly washed clothes that don’t smell nice.

Your best bet?

Stick with your machine’s recommended load capacity.

Don’t Leave Wet Clothes Inside Your Washer

Leaving your clothes in the washing machine for too long can cause lingering smells when you eventually take the clothes out.

We get it ― sometimes, you get too busy and forget your clothes in the laundry overnight. That’s okay if it happens occasionally, but remember, a dark, damp place is ideal for mold, mildew, and bacteria to thrive. In other words, your clothes will take on a permanent foul odor if you frequently leave them in the washer for too long.

Consider setting up an alarm each time you do laundry so you can remember to take out the clothes when the washing is complete.

That said, you will need to get a powerful laundry additive for your clothes if you often forget them in the washer. We recommend using the OdorKlenz Laundry Liquid Additive along with your regular detergent to get rid of any stuck-on odors from your clothes.

Use the Right Amount of Laundry Detergent

Many people tend to add extra amounts of laundry detergent in their washers when washing really dirty clothes.

women smiling during laundryBut loading up on extra detergent is a mistake.

Adding excess detergent makes it hard for the washing machine to properly rinse your clothes. This is particularly the case for new HE-friendly washers. Instead of cleaning your dirty laundry, the detergent residue gets trapped in your fabric, leading to unpleasant smells.

Avoid using too much detergent, even for extremely dirty laundry. A more effective washing method is to use the prewash setting on your machine (if yours has it) or wash a load twice using the correct amount of detergent.

On the flip side, using too little detergent means your clothes will still smell after washing since you didn’t add enough cleaning agent.

No matter the quality of your laundry detergent, using too little or too much will produce less than effective results. Always follow the dosing instructions on the laundry detergent bottle or packet to avoid guesswork.

Wash Your Clothes Using the Hot Cycle

High temperatures will kill most bacteria, which is why they don’t survive boiling water. If you sweat a lot, the bacteria on your skin can interact with sweat to cause stubborn odors that stick to fabrics. This can be difficult to clean with normal water, making your clothes smell after washing.

Thankfully, there’s a simple solution to this problem.

Use the hottest heat setting on your washing machine when washing your dirty clothes. This is especially necessary for clothing items that tend to collect lots of sweat and body odor, like gym clothes and other stinky workout clothes, work clothes, and children’s play clothes.

But first, check the tags on your clothes before washing them with hot water. Not all fabrics can withstand extremely hot water, so be sure about the recommended water temperature for each material to prevent damaging your clothes.

Store Your Clothes Properly

Lastly, your clothes will have a lingering stale or musty smell if you don’t store them properly. Clothes need proper airflow to retain their fresh smell after a wash cycle, so consider hanging them in your closet rather than folding them.

If you prefer to fold your clothing, ensure they are kept in drawers with enough space between each clothing item instead of packing them in tight storage.