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How to achieve (and maintain) fresh clothes smell after washing

Read our comprehensive guide to discover how to keep clothes looking new after washing and smelling fresh from wash to storage to wear.

Updated By Cleanipedia Team

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Nothing gives all-day comfort like the smell of freshly laundered clothes. But the washing machine alone isn’t enough to achieve a feel-good fragrance that lingers all day. Follow our tips and tricks to learn how to keep clothes looking new, smelling good, and staying fresh, so you can enjoy clean smelling clothes every day.

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RequiredComfort Honeysuckle & Sandalwood
Comfort Honeysucle and Sandalwood bottle
  • Mild detergent
  • Fabric conditioner
  • Cold water
  • 1 cup of vinegar
  • 4 cups of hot water
  • Bucket or sink

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How to remove odour from clothes

So, you’ve picked out your favourite outfit ready for a special evening out, only to discover it has some nasty odours hanging about the fabric. Sometimes you will find clothes smell after washing, no matter how careful you’ve been. Here is our simple step-by-step guide to remove lingering odours from your clothes.

  1. First, soak your clothes.

    Fill a bucket or sink with cold water. Then add a solution of 1 parts vinegar to 4 parts water to the water. Fully submerge your clothes in the mixture and leave to soak. We recommend doing this overnight, but if needs be you can soak for four hours.

  2. Launder your clothes as normal.

    Use a cold wash and mild detergent such as Persil on your usual wash. Don't forget to use a good quality softener, such as Comfort Honeysuckle & Sandalwood Fabric Conditioner. It won’t just help you learn how to remove unwanted smells from clothes; it’ll also add a touch of freshness to every wash.

  3. Use scent pouches and liners to keep clothes fresh in storage.

    We have a great guide for making DIY scent pouches below.

    Step 3: A perfumed pouch nestled among folded clothes in a drawer

How to make clothes smell good in seven easy steps

Helping to ensure that your clothing smells great every time you wear an item starts with caring for each piece correctly. Here are our simple recommendations to get the most out of your laundry care routine.

  1. Wash your clothes with the best scent.

    If you want to know how to make your clothes smell good, Persil Bio liquid detergent and fabric conditioner are one of the biggest factors. Try using a fabric conditioner like Comfort Creations, designed to deliver long lasting freshness and fragrance. If your garment's care label suggests you can't use it, why not learn how to make DIY fabric softeners instead.

    Step 1: A blue bottle on top of a stack of towels in a laundry basket
  2. Dry your clothes outside for ultimate freshness.

    It’s important to make sure that your laundry doesn’t sit around when wet. If it’s a nice day and you can hang your washing up outside, that’s even better. Air drying clothes after washing is a great step in how to make your washing smell better, giving them added freshness, and helping to remove any lingering odours.

    Step 2: Freshly washed tops drying on a washing line outside
  3. Can’t hang it outside? Use an old sock in the dryer.

    Make sure it’s a clean one, then add a few drops of your favourite essential oil. We recommend vanilla or peppermint. Pop the sock in the dryer with your laundry to achieve fresh, lovely smelling clean, dry clothes. You could also try adding Comfort Fresh skies tumble dryer sheets.

  4. Air the washing out between wears.

    Your clothing doesn’t always need washing after every wear. If you’ve discovered that your clothes are smelling a bit fusty, don’t panic. Try hanging them outside for a couple of hours. That’ll usually freshen them up without you having to wash them. You could also give them a spritz of homemade freshener using essential oils and distilled water.

  5. Treat stains straight away.

    If you spill something on your clothes, deal with the mess as quickly as possible. Stains which are left to dry are not only harder to get rid of but can also lead to unpleasant odours. To avoid resorting to a harsher detergent or a hotter wash, follow our advice on treating everything from blood stains to curry stains, or use our full guide to stain removal here.

  6. Look after your washing machine.

    It’s important you maintain these appliances, which are a breeding ground for bacteria and mould – both things that can transfer bad smells to clothes. We recommend you clean your washing machine every couple of months. You can use our guide to cleaning and disinfecting your machine to help.

    Step 6: Adding baking soda to clean the washing machine
  7. Take care of your dryer too.

    You need to make sure the lint trap is emptied after each cycle, as well as around the door, to avoid any lint build-up transferring odours to your clothes. If it smells musty, you can deodorise the dryer by wiping a cloth dipped in distilled white vinegar around the inside. Close the door once the vinegar smell has gone.

How to keep clothes smelling good when storing them

Not sure how to keep clothes smelling fresh in storage after washing them? How you store your clothes is key in achieving that freshly laundered smell that lasts. From the moment you take your clothes out of the machine, there are several steps you need to follow:

  1. Make sure your clothes are completely dry.

    If they’re even slightly damp when you put them away, they could end up smelling musty or even attract mildew or mould.

  2. Don’t fold or leave laundry sitting in a room with strong smells.

    Places like the kitchen will lead to laundry picking up these odours which could then be transferred to other clothing in storage.

  3. Use wider hangers.

    It doesn’t matter whether they’re plastic or wooden, wider hangers help the air to circulate and reduce the pressure on your clothes and keep clothes fresh in storage. For delicate clothes like silk dresses, invest in padded hangers.

  4. Give your clothes space to breathe.

    If your drawers are stuffed, and your wardrobe is rammed, air can’t circulate which is needed if you want to keep clothes fresh in storage. As a result, your clothes could start to smell musty and they’re more likely to get creased.

  5. Utilise home remedies to keep unwanted odours at bay.

    We have two top choices for how to keep clothes smelling fresh in storage using home remedies. Firstly, an open packet of baking soda can help to eliminate damp and reduce odours. Secondly, coffee isn’t just great for drinking. A small container of coffee grounds will soak up nasty smells, just make sure it has holes in the container lid.

  6. Keep clothes out of direct sunlight.

    If you have a hanging rail, rather than a wardrobe, make sure it’s out of direct sunlight to reduce the chance of your clothes fading.

  7. Clean clothes before storing them long-term.

    If you’re wondering how to keep clothes smelling good when planning long-term storage (e.g., winter woollies over summer), make sure they’re clean and to use your favourite Comfort fabric conditioner for long lasting fragrance before you pack them away! Otherwise, you risk attracting moths or growing mould.

How to keep on top of laundry when you have a big family to prevent clothes from smelling

Tackling a never-ending pile of washing is a bugbear for those of us with large families. Here we’ll provide laundry hacks for big families to help you win the battle against the laundry load and maintain fresh laundry even when you have a lot to do.

  1. Nail a regular laundry system.

    You may feel like it’s never the right time to do laundry. However, there will be certain times, or days, which will work better for you. Decide which day or time works best for you and try to stick to it. Not only will this ease your load, but it will ensure your laundry is fresh and ready to go.

  2. Sort your laundry ahead of time.

    Streamlining your laundry by category such as by colours, heavy or delicate fabrics, and level of soiling, will make it easier to manage. This will also help you identify items which don’t really need washing. After all, children love an outfit change, and adults can be guilty of casting clean clothes into the laundry too. If you want to freshen your clothes instead of washing, use a homemade spritz of essential oils and distilled water.

  3. Keep everything you need close to hand.

    This includes washing detergent, bleach, pegs, hangers, and baskets. We also recommend keeping a good quality fabric conditioner close by, after all this is the secret to great smelling laundry, especially if you’re washing larger loads.

  4. Put laundry away as soon as it’s dry.

    This will avoid the frustrating task of sorting and folding a huge backlog of clean clothes. Make sure the laundry is fully dry, however, as even a little damp could lead to mildew odours building up.

  5. Ask children to put their day’s dirty clothes or uniform straight into the machine.

    This will help you avoid the inevitable dirty socks on the bathroom floor, or clothes strewn across bedroom carpets. It also saves you from lugging a basket downstairs later.

Just like that you have all the information you need at your fingertips to keep clothes looking new and smelling fresh from wash to wear, and even when kept in storage.

How to make DIY scent pouches

For an extra boost, a perfumed pouch is easy to make and will get your clothes smelling great in no time. You will need small net bags or cotton pouches, two cups of rice, essential oil , two cups of lavender and one cup of rosemary. It should take up to 15 minutes.

  1. Pour two cups of rice in a bowl.

    This will be the base of your scent pouch.

  2. Add forty drops or so of your chosen essential oils.

    Make sure to fully cover all the rice.

  3. Let the rice dry.

    It will need about five minutes.

  4. Add two cups of lavender and one cup of rosemary.

    Mix the three ingredients together.

  5. Fill your pouches.

    Put two to three scoops of your mix into each pouch.

  6. Seal the top.

    Once sealed, your bags are ready to put in your drawers or the corners of your wardrobe.

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Frequently asked questions about how to make clothes smell good

Why don’t my clothes smell good after washing them?

If your clothes smell after washing, it could mean one or more thing. If the wash temperature is too low, the wash cycle too short, or the drum overloaded, it won’t fully clean the clothes. Alternatively, long-term storage, or putting laundry away while still damp, bacteria and fungi can grow slowly on fabrics in these conditions – particularly if humidity is high.

How to make clothes smell good naturally?

If you want to know how to make your clothes smell good naturally, we have a couple of great options. One trick is to add three to five drops of your chosen oil on a cotton ball or paper towel and put in the corner of your drawers or wardrobe. Alternatively, after washing, mix two to three drops of lavender essential oil with water and spritz over your laundry before putting it into the dryer or hanging out to dry.

Do you know how to keep clothes smelling fresh in wardrobes?

Scented drawer liners work well to keep clothes fresh in drawers and wardrobes. Simply place them in the bottom of your wardrobe and drawers and let them work their magic. You could also try putting a small air freshener in the corner and letting the scent fill the space help to keep clothes fresh in storage.

What is the secret to great smelling laundry, fast?

If you want to how to make your washing smell better without investing too much of your time into the process, it’s simple. First, use a high-quality fabric softener like Comfort in your laundry. Second, dry clothes thoroughly before storing them. Finally, add a quick spritz of a perfume spray made with essential oils and distilled water to help refresh clothes in between wears.

Originally published