A woman unhappy with the smell of her laundry.

Why Does My Washing Smell? How to Get Smells Out of Clothes

When clothing comes out of the washing machine, it should smell amazing, but sadly that isn’t always the case. Smelly washing is a real problem, and it is one that needs tackling! Here’s everything you need to know about why your clean clothes might smell bad, and how you can easily fix the issue. 

Causes of Smelly Clothing

Sometimes, clothing smells as soon as it comes out of the washing machine. Other times your clean laundry may smell fine at first, but then environmental factors can result in lingering smells. If you smoke in your home, have pets, or regularly cook with fragrant ingredients like garlic and onions, you may find these odours permeate your clothing. Here are some common reasons for why your clothes may smell after washing, and how to combat the problem:

  • Check Your Washing Machine

Believe it or not, if your washing smells as soon as it comes out of the washing machine, it could be the machine itself that’s to blame! Washing machines are not self-cleaning, and so they do require a bit of maintenance every now and then. Not only can a build up of dirt from your dirty laundry affect the smell of your clothes, but also mould can easily grow inside the washing machine as it is a dark, damp environment – the perfect breeding ground for spores. Think your washing machine needs freshening up? Check out this article for advice on how to clean a smelly washing machine.

  • Rethink Your Washing Habits

We all have our own way of doing the laundry, but some of us might be using methods that mean our clothes are not coming out of the machine as fresh as they could be. A common mistake when it comes to doing the laundry is using too much, or too little, detergent. Too much can mean that the detergent isn’t fully rinsed from the clothes and could create a bad odour, while too little could mean that your clothes aren’t being cleaned properly. 

Tackling Smelly Washing

If your clothes smell bad after being washed, don’t worry – they’re not ruined. Odours can usually be removed from fabrics very quickly and easily, leaving you with clean, fresh clothing that not only looks good, but smells good too. Here’s how to remove some of the most common smells from fabrics:

  • How to Get Damp Smell Out of Clothes

If your clothes have been stored in an area that’s prone to damp, such as near to an external wall for example, they may have a bit of a mouldy smell to them. The trick to removing this smell is to pop a cupful of white vinegar into the washing machine drum along with your laundry. Vinegar is a great deodoriser, and don’t worry – your clothes won’t smell like pickled onions!

  • How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Clothes

Musty smells can occur if your clothing is stored in enclosed wardrobes that aren’t cleaned regularly or are prone to damp. To remove the smell, soak your clothing in a bowl of cold water mixed with one cup of baking soda. The baking soda will help release any odours that are trapped in the fabric. Remember to test a small amount of your baking soda solution on a hidden area of the garment first to check there are no adverse effects. After soaking, wash as normal in the washing machine. It's important that clothes are stored correctly in a dark and well-ventilated place and remember to clean your wardrobes regularly to prevent build-ups of dirt of damp.

  • How to Get the Smell of Smoke Out of Clothes

If your clothing is stored on open shelves and exposed to cigarette smoke you may notice a bad odour trapped in the fabric. The good news is that this type of smell is really easy to remove – all it needs is a good airing. Try hanging your clothes outside on the washing line on a breezy day, allowing the wind to blow out any bad odours and refresh your clothing. After washing with the right dose of good detergent, clothing should always smell clean and fresh, and with these handy hints you can be sure that you’ll never say ‘pee-ew’ to clothes ever again!

Have you got any tips for removing bad odours from clothes? You can also find more handy laundry advice in our washing tips & tricks section.