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Smelly Laundry? These Tips Can Help!

When you take fresh clothes out of the washing machine, they should smell wonderful- like


fresh clean laundry. But this isn’t always the case, sometimes the clothes can smell like mildew or worse. The smell alone might make you think about throwing away your clothes. 

The smell is caused by a buildup of bacteria and mold, and it can be caused by many things. No matter what the issue is, you will be able to fix it with one of the suggestions on our list.

Here is everything you need to know about the smells from clean clothes and how to fix the odor.

What makes your laundry smell bad?

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Body Odor

One of the main causes of smelly laundry is body odor. Lots of people think that body odor is caused by sweat, but this isn’t the case; sweat doesn’t actually smell! 

Body odor is actually caused by bacteria on the skin that helps to help break down skin cells and sweat. These bacteria are called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and they easily transfer onto your clothes to create the smell of body odor.

Washing Machine Build Up

Another cause is washing machine build-up. This build-up is made up of biofilms, which are bacteria that grow under a protective layer. When your clothes go through the washing machine, they pick up the biofilms and start to smell. These bacteria are resistant to low temperatures, but a hot water wash can help to tackle them.

How to De-Smell Your Laundry

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1. Don’t put off washing your clothes

Your clothes will start to smell if you leave them sitting in a pile for too long. As the clothes are unclean, mold will quickly start to grow – even if they aren’t wet. Mold can start to grow on food or drink stains, and it will grow quickly if the room is too warm or too cold. Avoid this by washing your clothes as soon as you have enough for a full load.

2. Don’t put off drying your clothes

Often people leave the damp clothing in the washing machine for hours after the wash is finished, but this creates the perfect warm, damp environment for mold to grow. Make sure you take your washing out of the machine once it is done, and avoid leaving it in overnight.

3. Avoid putting damp clothes in the laundry pile

Don’t put damp, dirty clothes in the washing pile. This will encourage mold growth on all of your clothes, which could leave permanent stains. Try to wash anything that is damp or wet immediately, but if you can’t, hang them out to dry. This will stop them getting too smelly before you wash them.

4. Use bleach on light washes

Bleach can help to remove and prevent the smell of mold from your washing machine, so use bleach in your white washes to make sure your clothes smell clean. Make sure you don’t put any bleach in your other washes, though – unless you don’t mind your clothes being lighter!

5. Consider using ammonia

Like bleach, ammonia can also prevent mold. Add half a cup of ammonia to your wash, but make sure you don’t mix it with bleach; the mixed fumes are dangerous to your health.

6. Occasionally use vinegar in your wash

You can make sure they smell great again by adding vinegar to your wash. Use detergent as normal and then add the vinegar during the last rinse of the cycle. Don’t worry – this won’t make your clothes smell like pickled onions!

7. Dry everything thoroughly

Heavy items, such as jeans and towels, often take longer to dry, but it is important to make sure everything is fully dry before going back in the wardrobe. Be sure to fully dry your clothes in the dryer or on an outdoor clothes line.

8. Dilute your liquid fabric softener

Fabric softener can cause a buildup of slime in your washing machine, which can result in a stinky washing load. Dilute the mixture before putting it in the machine to reduce build-up.

9. Make sure the water is hot enough

Hot water will kill smelly bacteria, so wash stinky clothes on a high heat when you can. If your clothes still smell afterward, the problem might be your hot water heater.

If your hot water heater is set below 140 degrees, your hot water tank may start to grow smelly iron and sulfur bacteria. If this happens, you will need to flush out the tank and pipes to clean them. You can raise the heat afterward, but be careful; very hot water from the taps is a safety hazard for young children.

10. Rewash clothes that have been left in the washing machine

Everyone has accidentally left damp clothes in the washing machine. If you have done this, you may have noticed that the clothes smelled like damp and mildew. Solve this problem by re-washing your clothes on a high heat to kill any bacteria.

11. Leave the door open when you’re not using it

When you leave the door to the washing machine open whenever you’re not using it,  air can enter the machine to help dry out excess moisture, reducing the chances of mold or bacteria. You can also open the soap drawer to increase air flow. Make sure to wipe out any excess soap when you open the drawer!

12. Check your home

If you are still struggling with smelly clothes after trying everything on this list, the problem might be your home. Problems like poor drainage, limited ventilation and cracked mortar will all encourage mold growth on your clothes – even when they are dry in your wardrobe. Repair anything like this to keep the air in your home warm and dry, instead of damp and cold.

How to wash your washer

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If you find that smelly clothes are a persistent problem in your life, the problem may be your washing machine. Many people don’t realize that washing machines can get dirty, but they can – and they do!

Over time your washing machine will experience a buildup of hair, dirt, bacteria and soapy detergent. You can give your washing machine a deep clean by washing it out with a cleaning productive such as Affresh Washer Cleaner, SmellyWasher cleaner, or Tide Washing Machine Cleaner. These products will get rid of washing machine build-up, so your clothes will go back to smelling fresh after every wash.

You may also need to check that your washing machine is still in full working order. Find the owner’s manual and find out how to access the drain trap. Drain traps quickly fill up with hair, lint and slimy gunk, which could be the cause of your problem.

Happy Laundering!

Bloomwell 2017 Everyone Needs These


Chamila J. Denawaka et al: “Source, impact, and removal of malodor from soiled clothing,” Journal of Chromatography A (March 2016).

John R. Dean, PhD. Smelly laundry? It’s all down to chemistry. May 19, 2016, Elsevier. https://www.elsevier.com/connect/smelly-laundry-its-all-down-to-chemistry

How-to Guide. How to make your stinky laundry smell better. August 28, 2009, She Knows. http://www.sheknows.com/home-and-gardening/articles/810736/how-to-make-your-stinky-laundry-smell-better

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