How to get bad smells out of your clothes: Top tips for removing the stink

Things can get pretty stinky, pretty fast, especially when it comes to some nasty body odor we've all smelt – or dealt – at some point. What should we do when something has truly stunk up our wardrobe, and what are the best ways to get bad smells out of clothes? Read on in the guide below!

Here are some tips for getting those pesky smells out of your clothes.
Here are some tips for getting those pesky smells out of your clothes.  © 123rf / Surachetkhamsuk

Ah ... that delicious smell of freshly washed laundry. That sweet aroma of newly scrubbed towels. That wonderful feeling of crisply ironed linen. It's profoundly pleasant, isn't it?

Over the course of the day, though, that pleasant smell is bound to dissolve.

Unless you've made a conscious decision to avoid exercise, never go to bars or sweaty places, or stay completely out of the heat, your clothes are going to get a little stinky from time to time.

Even fresh laundry, straight from the closet, can sometimes smell a little weird.

TAG24 is here to help you get to the bottom of the pesky problem - and share our secrets on the best ways to get bad smells out of your clothes.

How to get odor out of clothes

There are a million reasons why your clothes might develop a nasty stink and, as a result, a million ways to get that odor out of your clothes.

Depending on the cause, different solutions are going to be necessary, but let's be real - giving them a good wash should always be your first order of business!

We're busy bees, though, and we're not always going to be able to put our clothes into the washing machine. As a result, you have a few options.

Make sure not to hang clothes outside near a wood fire or a BBQ, or you may get some smokey threads!
Make sure not to hang clothes outside near a wood fire or a BBQ, or you may get some smokey threads!  © 123rf / Olgaakinina

Get the smell out of your clothes with steam

Kill two birds with one stone by steaming the living heck out of your clothes.

Do you need a bit of a scrub? Are you, yourself, a little bit stinky as well? If the answer to that rather personal question is yes, then it's time to get into the bath, and bring your favorite – and rather smelly – shirt with you.

Hanging your smelly clothes above the water in a steaming hot shower will allow rising steam to loosen the odors. The smell of any oils or soap you use can help to resolve smells in the garment.

A plus is that after you've steamed your clothes, you can smooth out garments with your hands, and you'll remove wrinkles as well!

Remove smells from clothes by airing them out

Let's be real - airing out your clothes should be step number one.

To get smell out of clothes by airing them out, hang your garments on a clothing rack or a hanger in your house, on a window sill, a clothesline, or on a chair outside for a few hours or overnight.

Pro Tip: Believe it or not, you can also get smells out of clothes by freezing them. The problem, though, is that the bad smell will be replaced with a weird freezer musk if you toss it in for too long.

How to get body odor out of clothes with vinegar

Vinegar isn't just for cooking, it's also a fantastic cleaning agent as well!

You've got to admit that vinegar smells pretty darn intense, so if you've got a stubborn clothes-smelling problem, vinegar can likely overpower it.

Pop about a shot glass-sized worth of vinegar into a big bowl or a sink that is partially filled with warmed water. Chuck your stinky clothes in and let them soak for a while. After that, wash them normally.

Remember: Make sure to wash your clothes afterwards. If you don't, they're going to smell like vinegar - which may leave you in a stinkier predicament than you had in the first place.

Get bad smells out of clothes with baking soda

Another great way to get bad smells out of your clothes is simply to use baking soda.

Be careful, though, because bicarbonate has a bleaching effect and could easily ruin your clothes if you're not careful. Use this method on light-colored or white laundry as a precaution.

To do this, dissolve a heaping tablespoon of baking soda into about one to one-and-a-half gallons of water. Proceed to then soak your stinky clothes in this solution for around an hour, and then wash them properly.

Wash your clothes after you buy them

Clothes may have a certain stench to them, even when they're new. This is why it's been recommended that consumers wash newly bought clothes before wearing them.

New clothes often smell of chemicals, as they're treated to prevent mold growth and wrinkles during their transportation to stores.

Therefore, before wearing any clothes for the first time, it's a good idea to give them a full wash in the washing machine. This will remove that chemical smell and replace it with the delicious smell of your washing liquid of choice.

What causes bad smells and odors in clothing?

Your clothes can smell bad for a variety of reasons.
Your clothes can smell bad for a variety of reasons.  © Nick de Partee / Unsplash

If we were to list every single reason why your clothes might be a little stinky, we would be here for days. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of possibilities.

From a badly maintained washing machine to a smoking habit, from a night on the town to being a parent, it's incredibly common and likely that your clothes will smell from time to time.

What's most important is, of course, establishing what has caused the bad smell in the first place. Different causes warrant different solutions, and some are more extreme than others.

Often you'll need to use pretty hardcore chemicals on smells caused by something particularly nasty, but more often than not, home remedies can do the trick.

Generally speaking, bad odors and smells are caused by your clothes having prolonged exposure to whatever smelly substance or space has caused the stench.

How to get musky smells out of clothes

That nasty smell of sweat can be a real issue, and a reoccurring problem that just never seems to go away. During those hot summer months, our sweat will often get soaked up by the clothes we wear. It can at first cause discomfort, then a stink that's quite embarrassing and difficult to get rid of.

Our skin's sweat get its stench from a natural chemical we produce called butyric acid. It can be a hassle to get out of material and off our skin.

A slight musk can also be a huge turnoff when it begins to engulf our clothes. That musky smell can often be associated with towels and bathroom cloths, as it is associated with high levels of humidity. It is also caused by leaving your wet clothes sitting in the washing machine.

Even if it's easily avoidable, everyone might smell that musk creeping in from time to time. Here's how to fix the problem:

  • Vinegar, Soda, or Enzyme Odor Removers: There are tons of products that are designed to specifically combat body odors, and they can work on musty clothes, too.

  • Hang clothes outside in the sun: Instead of using a small, confined dryer, try hanging your clothes outside to dry. Sitting in the sun will help with any musky smells your clothes may have developed.

How to get mildew smells out of clothes

Mildew, much like that musky smell, comes from very high-humidity environments. It's a kind of fungus that thrives when we're a little busy and might leave our clothes sitting in the washing machine or wet in a plastic bag waiting to be washed.

How to get the mildew smell out of your clothes:

  • Put white vinegar into the washing machine: When you load your washing machine, put in all your usual stuff, including your mildew-filled clothes, and washing detergent. Run the machine on a really hot water cycle, to kill the mildew, and then pause the cycle and add about two cups worth of white vinegar. Continue the cycle to deep clean your machine.
  • You can do the same thing with baking soda or bleach: Again, this method will work with multiple cleaning agents. Baking soda and bleach will absolutely do the trick, but be careful not to ruin your clothing. Use only with light colored fabrics.

How to get urine or cat pee smells out of clothes

Do you have a baby? Do you have a pet? Do they enjoy peeing in really inconvenient places or, in the baby's case, are simply incapable of controlling their bladder? We feel your pain, and unwelcome urine – and stains –can really put a damper on things.

There are a few ways to get the smell of urine out of clothing. Most methods involve soaking clothes in a water and chemical solution for quite some time, so it's important not to use anything too harsh if it's something your baby wears or will be touching.

Here's how to get the smell of urine out of clothes:

  • Use the bathtub: Fill up the bathtub with a decent amount of warm water, mixing in some white vinegar, baking soda, bleach, or detergent. Soak your clothes in the solution for as long as possible, before removing and cleaning them thoroughly in the washing machine.

How to prevent bad smells in clothing

Washing machines can be the cause of stinky clothes.
Washing machines can be the cause of stinky clothes.  © 123RF / Realiia

There is a lot that you can do to avoid having your clothes smell worse than a skunk who's eaten a few too many beans. Bad smells can come from bacteria, mold, or just simple poor air circulation.

Here are a few tips and tricks to keeping your clothes nice and odorless:

  • Closet maintenance: Check your closet for mold, moisture stains, cracks, holes, or moths as regularly as possible. If there's a problem, repair it, and make sure to leave it open from time to time to introduce some ventilation.
  • Watch wet laundry: Try not to leave your wet clothes in the washing machine, especially overnight. Additionally, only clothes that are fully dry should be put back into your closet.
  • Check the washing machine: Leave your washing machine's door open for a while after each wash cycle, so that it dries. In addition, make sure that the lint filter is cleaned out and that you wash things on hot often, to kill any germs or mold that might be creeping its way in.
  • Don't overfill the machine: Never fill your washing machine right to the brim, as much as you may want to reduce the number of loads you have to wash. This results in clothes not being washed or rinsed properly, and room for more odors and bacteria to grow.
  • Choose clothing material wisely: When buying new clothes, keep odors that come with them in mind. Purchase clothes that are made of natural materials like cotton, cashmere, linen, silk or wool, as stinky bacteria cells are less likely to settle on these garments. It's a good idea to away from synthetics.

Using these everyday tips to help shed unfavorable smells is a game changer. Finally, remember that if your clothes still stink after multiple washings and airing out, it may be time to change your shower gel or body soap to something that helps ward off any unwanted sweat and stench.

Cover photo: 123rf/surachetkhamsuk

More on Guide: