To wash or not to wash: How to get sweat smells out of clothes (without washing)

Sweat’s not a pleasant scent, but we all have to deal with it. To save yourself time and water, learn how to keep clothes smelling fresh without washing.

Updated 2 October 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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Lemon, baking soda, a bottle of vinegar and cleaning cloths for getting sweat stains out of clothes without washing

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Key Steps

If you want to know how to keep clothes fresh without washing:

  1. 1

    Baking soda, lemon juice or vodka can tackle both sweat smells and sweat stains.

  2. 2

    Freezing clothes will kill bacteria.

  3. 3

    Sometimes your clothes just need a good airing out.

Sometimes your clothes look fine and feel fine; the only problem is the smell. You don’t necessarily want to give them a full wash, but you can’t walk around in them as they are. You need to know how to get sweat smell out of clothes, and we’re here to help. Here’s our guide to how to remove BO from clothes without washing.

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  • How to remove body odour from clothes without washing

    A lot of methods for how to keep clothes smelling fresh without washing involve things you might find around the house, such as lemon and baking soda. Because these things aren’t technically designed to be used with clothes, you can’t always predict how your clothes will respond to them. Before treating an entire garment, test your chosen method for how to get rid of sweat smell in clothes on an inconspicuous area of your clothing to check for discolouration.

    1. 1

      Just airing clothes out in the sunshine

      for a few hours is probably the simplest method for how to get musty smell out of clothes without washing. Sunlight can fade dyed fabrics, so this may not be suitable for everything you own, but it can also kill bacteria.

    2. 2

      Baking soda

      has deodorising properties. Mix up a paste of baking soda and a little water, turn your clothes inside out and work the paste into the areas that aren’t smelling their best. When the paste has dried, just brush it away.

    3. 3


      is a natural deodorant with a pleasant smell of its own, which makes it a great tool for how to remove musty smell from clothes without washing. Mix a tablespoon of lemon juice into about 200ml of water and put it in a clean spray bottle. Give your clothes a light spray all over and hang them to dry. It’s best to save this one for white clothes, on account of lemon’s mild bleaching properties.

    4. 4


      kills the bacteria that’s to blame for the smell of sweat. Mix two parts vodka with one part water in a spray bottle, then spray the sweaty parts of your clothes. The vodka will quickly dry without leaving behind any smell of alcohol.

    5. 5

      Putting clothes in the freezer

      may sound like a strange method for how to keep clothes fresh without washing, but it works. Put them in a plastic bag and freeze them overnight to kill the bacteria causing that sweat smell.

    While sweat is the biggest cause of complaints over the smell of clothes, it’s not the only one. Sometimes brand new, unworn clothes don’t smell entirely right. If you’re interested in how to get rid of new clothes smell without washing, the above methods can help with that as well.

  • How to remove sweat stains from clothes without washing

    Even if you’ve got rid of the sweat smell, you might still have sweat stains to contend with. Again, test your method on an inconspicuous area before you tackle the whole garment.

    1. 1

      Squeeze lemon juice

      onto the stain and leave it for a few hours, then rinse. Lemon juice can have a bleaching effect, so it’s best to use it on white fabric.

    2. 2

      Hydrogen peroxide

      can be used in place of lemon juice in the above method. Again, it can bleach coloured clothes.

    3. 3

      Baking soda

      isn’t just for smells; it can also be used to tackle stains. Rinse the sweat stain, then use a little water to mix the baking soda into a paste and rub it gently into the stained fabric. Rinse it off an hour later.

    4. 4

      Apply white vinegar

      to the stain and leave it for half an hour, then rinse.

    5. 5

      A half-and-half mixture of vodka and water

      can also help to tackle stains. Rinse after an hour.

Knowing how to keep clothes fresh without washing is a great way to save water and smell good. With clothes that look and smell fresh, you can walk out with confidence.

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