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How to Remove Bad Odours from Clothes

Don't let odors linger on clothes –  read on to find out how to replace bad smells with beautiful fresh fragrance in this handy guide.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

Written by Eunice Samson

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We all want our laundry to smell clean and fresh, but some strong smells can linger. Whether it’s musty mildew smells, sour sweat odors, or cigarette smoke, smelly clothing is something that we’ve all experienced. So what’s the best way to get rid of these odors and bring back that beautiful freshness? If you want to know how to remove bad smells from clothes, we’ve got some great laundry tips that to make banishing odors really quick and easy.

Give your clothing a refreshing boost by using a laundry detergent with a built-in fabric conditioner. Detergents like Surf contain added fabric conditioners with long lasting fragrances that can help banish unwanted odors from your favorite materials. The natural scents will leave your clothes smelling clean and fresh, and your clothes will feel super soft against your skin.

Key Points for Removing Smells from Clothes

Smelly clothes that still seem a bit stinky after the wash is a very common problem, but it’s a problem that has a very quick and easily solution. If you want to know how to make dirty clothes smell good, then this simple 3-part process is all you need:

  • Stage 1: Neutralise Bad Odors

Have you ever noticed that your laundry smells a bit sour? It usually happens on dish cloths or on baby clothes – anything that’s been in contact with milk. These smells are so intense that they can sometimes linger even after washing. Combat the odors by rinsing your clothes in white vinegar, then sprinkling baking soda over the top. Baking soda is very absorbent, and is great for drawing out odors. It’s one of the best ways to remove sour smells from clothes.

  • Stage 2: Pre-Treat to Remove Bad Smells from Clothes

Think laundry detergents are only good for washing clothes in the washing machine? Think again. Good detergents can also be used as effective pre-treatments for clothes that need a little extra work. The good news for those with hectic lifestyles is that pre-treating smelly clothing is really easy – simply mix together your favorite detergent with some warm water, and soak the clothing overnight. It will help to reduce odors and bring that freshness back.

  • Stage 3: Give Your Clothes a Refreshing Boost

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The final secret to how to make stinky clothes smell good is to use a great laundry detergent that will leave your clothes with a beautiful, long lasting fresh scent. Detergents like Surf combine fantastic cleaning power with fragrant fabric conditioners and are a must-have for every busy parent. They do two jobs in one, helping to get rid of stubborn stains while also removing smells from clothes. Now if only they could remove those dishes in the sink, too.

Once you know how to remove sour smells from clothes, and other bad odors, there’s no need to worry about freshness. By following these three simple steps, and ensuring you care for your clothes to reduce the risk of odors (making sure clothes are completely dry before putting away, for example, to prevent mildew), you can have great-smelling clothes that will help you to feel fresh and clean all day long.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on bad odors in laundry

How do you remove the smell of laundry detergent from clothes?

If you want to know how to remove the smell of laundry detergent from clothes, we’ve got you covered. First, it’s important to remember that you should simply wash in more detergent – a lingering odor means trapped residue. Instead, pop the clothing into the machine and use either ½ cup of baking soda during the wash cycle or alternatively ½ cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle to remove any persistent smells.

How do I remove the smell of perfume from clothes?

There are three main steps for how to remove the smell of perfume from clothes. Start by washing your clothing as normal. Once the wash reaches the rinse cycle, add ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar and pause the wash to allow the clothing to soak. You should wait for at least 1 hour before completing the cycle.

My polyster or dri fit shirt smells bad, what can I do?

If a polyester or dri fit shirt smells bad, don’t simply add extra fabric conditioner – in fact you should avoid adding this to the machine altogether. You do, however, need to add a deodorizer to your wash. A cup of baking soda placed directly into the washing machine drum with your dirty, smelly laundry is the best way to remove these nasty odors.

How do you remove bad smell from clothes after washing?

If you want to know how to remove a bad smell from clothes after washing, we recommend first cleaning your washer, as this could be the cause. Try putting your clothing through an extra rinse cycle, and hang in the fresh air to blow away any lingering odors.

Originally published