When Your Washed Clothes Don't Smell Fresh When Your Washed Clothes Don't Smell Fresh

When Your Washed Clothes Don't Smell Fresh

Why does your laundry smell after washing it?

You usually love the way fresh laundry smells, but if clothes are coming out of your washer and dryer with a less-than-spring-fresh scent, there’s a problem. You know the smell – sort of a combination of sour milk, stagnant water, and stale mustiness – and it has somehow made it into your clothes. The odor you perceive is bacteria, mold, and mildew. The bacteria is what causes the odor and can result from moist laundry, detergent build-up, the residue of softeners, a dirty laundry machine, and more. The good news is there are easy solutions to fix your common laundry odors. From using a good laundry detergent, or switching to a special odor eliminating laundry detergent, to cleaning your washing machine—here are our tips and tricks to stop smelly clothes!

Laundry basket in a clean, white laundry room

The Common Reasons Why Your Clean Laundry Stinks

1. Leaving It In The Washing Machine For Too Long

Most of us are guilty of this. We throw our laundry inside the washer, set it to wash for one or two cycles and leave it there for hours or even till the next day before we remove it. This is the most common culprit for smelly laundry. Leaving it to sour in the washer for many hours will cause the odor-causing bacteria to grow on it. Remember, your washing machine is often a warm, humid environment, and such an environment supports the rapid growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew. Don't allow your wet clothes to sit too long. The Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science's lead home economist, Lucinda Ottusch, gives a concrete guideline of 8-12 hours before odor, a sign of mildew, begins to occur. What to do if your clothes do smell off? Simply run the wash cycle again.

2. Letting Dirty Clothes Sit In The Hamper Too Long Before Washing Them

Letting moisture linger in your clothes can cause a musty smell. When you get home from the gym or finish drying off after a shower, don’t mix sweaty gear or used bath towels with dry laundry. To eliminate the sour smell, be sure to wash sweaty garments right away to avoid bacterial overgrowth. If you don’t plan to wash them the same day, let them air dry before throwing in the hamper.

TIP

  • Wash hot to eliminate smelly bacteria.

Lower temperatures help to protect fabrics but aren’t as good at getting rid of sweaty smells. Stinky bacteria often can’t survive your hot-water cycle. If your clothes smell sour, check the labels to see if they can handle the heat. If so, run them through a hot-water load.

3. The Residue of Fabric Softeners

If you use a fabric softener, this can be the reason why your laundry smells. Do you know there are oils within the softeners? The oils are what makes the fibers of your clothes feel soft, but they have a disadvantage—other than lessening the absorbency of your clothes—the oily coating traps detergent residue, dirt, mildew, mold, and bacteria, which result in stinky laundry.

4. Detergent Build-Up

Obviously we need detergent to wash and clean our laundry. But do you know there is a downside to its use if proper care is not taken? Using too much detergent to wash your clothes makes it difficult and almost impossible for you to rinse the detergent out completely. As the detergent residue builds up on your clothes, it will start to attract dirt and bacteria. Of course, you can tell where this ends...dank smelling laundry! The amount of detergent you need may be less than you think—ensure you are using the correct amount of detergent for the size-load of your laundry. With Boulder Clean Laundry Detergents, for HE machines, fill cap to Line 1; for regular machines and for large or heavily-soiled loads, fill cap to Line 2.

TIP

  • Try a different detergent for a more powerful clean

If your clothes smell fresh straight out of the washer but then slowly start to stink, it could be your detergent. Because even though your detergent smells nice, that doesn’t mean it’s cleaning well. If you suspect your detergent isn’t powerful enough, consider switching to a more powerful detergent. And If your clothes need washing at 30ºC or 40ºC degrees, it’s worth switching to detergent that’s designed for lower temperatures.

5. Dirty Laundry Machine

You might use the right proportion of detergent, stay away from fabric softeners, remove your laundry from the washer and dry it immediately after wash, and still get smelly laundry. How is this possible? Sometimes the source of unwelcomed odors is your washer itself. When your washing machine is dirty, it means it will breed bacteria, mildew, mold, dirt, and also smell. These can be transferred to your clothes each time you put them in the washer.

TIPS 

  • Pour two cups of vinegar in your detergent drawer. Run your washer empty through the hot water cycle on the longest setting. When it’s over, use a sponge to wipe down the drum. Run the hot water cycle once more to make vinegar traces disappear. Or, if your washer has a sanitize cycle like, you can use that instead. Sanitizing and allergy-cycles ensure hard-to-get bacteria are wiped out.
  • Leave the washer door open. Once your washer is clean, keep it that way. When you're done running a load of laundry, leave your washer door open so it can air out. Mold prefers dark, damp places, so good air circulation and old-fashioned sunlight will do a lot to keep it away.

6. You’ve Overloaded The Machine

Clothes need space to move too, otherwise, they’re not going to get properly clean. So, it might not be that the washing machine makes clothes smell, you’re just not letting it do its job properly. We know it’s tempting to stuff it as full as possible to cut down on loads, but resist the temptation (unless you want to walk around smelling like sour milk).

Woman smells stinky laundry

If your laundry smells bad after drying?

Tumble dryers can often suffer from musty smells and can quickly ruin, a fresh smelling clean load of laundry. Foul dryer odors are usually the result of blocked/obstructed airflow. Most dryers work by blowing hot air over the clothes, and then exhausting this hot, humid air outside. If the exhaust vent is blocked or trapped with lint, debris, a sock, or anything else, the humid air will linger inside the unit and hold the musty smell. As the dryer is running, the odor is pushed back into the laundry.

Why do my clothes smell like wet dog after drying?

This often happens when there is a buildup of detergent in the clothes, meaning too much has been used over the course of time. Here's what we do when your clothes and linens get a "wet dog" smell: run an extra rinse after washing and smell them again.

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