Clothes Stink After Washing? Try These Tips for Cleaner-smelling Laundry

Let’s face it: we’re all busy. Between school, work and family, there isn’t much time left in the day left to tackle an ever-growing list of chores. So when your clothes stink after washing, it can be a real bummer. 

If your clothes smell bad after washing, consider these tips to help banish the odor and get back to fresher-smelling laundry–and a shorter to-do list–after just one wash.

Dry Your Clothes Thoroughly

You might not realize it, but your first defense against smelly clothes starts before you even get to your washing machine. How you store your dirty clothing before laundry day can impact its smell after washing. Damp clothing and dirty clothing that is packed together without proper airflow are breeding grounds for nasty-smelling bacteria, mildew or mold —all of which can contribute to bad odors that linger after the wash. 
To combat this, make sure your dirty clothes are dry before tossing them in a basket. Hang sweaty gym clothes or used towels on a towel rack, over the edge of your tub or even outside on your deck or patio to dry all traces of moisture before storing them in your dirty clothes hamper.

Clean Your Washing Machine

Sometimes the cause of stinky laundry is an unlikely culprit—the washing machine itself. Over time, components in your washer can become clogged with built-up detergent or fabric softener residue, which can become a playground for bacteria that can cause a sour smell.

Regular cleaning of your washing machine can eliminate this issue and set you on the path to better-scented clothes. If your machine has a sanitize or tub-clean cycle, like Speed Queen front load washers, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to rid your appliance of smelly buildup.

If your machine doesn’t come equipped with its own clean cycle, try these easy steps:

  • Run your machine with an empty load on its highest heat setting, using two cups of vinegar instead of detergent. 
  • Scrub the metal drum with a clean sponge to loosen any stubborn residue. 
  • Run one last empty load using hot water to rinse away debris, as well as any lingering vinegar smell.

Use Your Washer’s Hot Cycle

Most bacteria can’t survive in hot water, meaning clothes washed using your machine’s hot cycle come out smelling fresher. First be sure to check your clothing’s tags to make sure the fabric can withstand hot water temperatures. 

Evaluate Your Detergent Use

If your clothes stink after washing, do some investigation into your detergent to see if it might be the cause. 

Don’t Overuse Detergent

Overusing laundry soap can be too much of a good thing. Your machine’s rinse cycle may not be able to fully flush your clothing if you’re using more detergent than the recommended amount (plus buildup can worsen the problem over time).

Try a New Brand

Consider your detergent brand, also. Though some detergents may smell fragrant at first sniff, they might not be cleaning the fibers of your clothing powerfully enough. If you think this may be the case for your go-to brand, try switching to a different detergent option, including one with less perfume. This will make it easier to tell if your clothes are getting a true deep clean.

Make Your Own

Finally, if you’re feeling handy, you can try to make your own DIY detergents to customize and select the ingredients yourself. This is a great option for anyone with sensitive skin or allergies who wants fresh-scented clothes.

Boost Your Detergent to Kill Mildew

If you’re generally happy with your detergent, but your clothes smell bad after washing, try giving your detergent a leg up by adding vinegar or baking soda to your wash cycle. Try one of these:

  • Half a cup of baking soda
  • Half-cup of distilled white vinegar 

These old-fashioned home remedies act like boosters for your preferred laundry soap for that extra bit of cleaning power. They’re also great for killing mold and mildew which can help eliminate tough odors.

What to Do When Your Clothes Stink After Washing

By taking a few simple steps such as drying damp clothing, cleaning your washing machine, assessing your detergent use or boosting your detergent’s cleaning power, you can banish foul smells from your fresh laundry and breathe easily again.