When you wash your clothes, you want them to come out clean, fluffed, and smelling good. When you store clothes in a closet, you expect them to be clean and ready to wear whenever you want.
However, that is not always the case. Sour-smelling clothes have always been a common problem in most households. This post will discuss the causes, preventions, and ways to get rid of the sour smell in clothes.
9 Causes of the Sour Smell In Clothes
Mildew is the most common reason why clothes smell sour even after washing. Mildew is a fungus that develops on laundry when left in a warm, moist environment, like the bottom of the laundry bin or inside the washing machine or being hung in a dark area for an extended period.
The list below are some of the most common causes why clothes smell sour:
1. Your clothes are still damp when you remove them from the dryer
Putting away your clothes without letting them totally dry is the most common cause of the sour smell. If it’s due to rainy weather conditions, you can iron it up but do it right before bacteria start.
This is very important, especially in linens, bedsheets and thick clothes you have in the house. If they are a bit damp when you store them, they will smell awful when you use them later.
2. You overfill your drawers, preventing air from circulating
When you fold your clothes so closely together that there is no room for air to circulate, they begin to smell musty. If possible, hang them instead of folding them and storing them in a drawer.
3. You store your clothes in the closet for a longer time
If you keep your garments for an extended period, they will develop a musty scent. House predators such as mice have likely entered your closet and left feces behind, causing a foul odor to permeate the space.
4. You washed your clothes using very low temperatures
Suppose you wash your clothes in very cold water. It is possible that the bacteria on your clothes will not be eliminated if you use super cold water. Super low temperatures, while protecting the material from being damaged, will not remove odors caused by sweating.
5. Dirty washing machine
Washing machines tend to collect soap residue and grime, both of which might clog the machine. A clogged washing machine cannot remove all of the residues from prior washings. The residue will cause the mold and bacteria can grow and contaminate subsequent loads of laundry, leading to a sour smell.
6. Too much laundry detergent
Using too much detergent will cause more suds to form, which makes rinsing hard. Not rinsing thoroughly will lead to mold growth from the excess detergent residue in the washing machine.
7. You load too many clothes in the washing machine
Loading too many clothes in the machine will prevent the clothes from moving and rotating when the engine starts washing. This can result in foul odor because the dirt and bacteria are not entirely eliminated. The sour smell is because the clothes are not thoroughly cleaned.
8. You leave the clothes inside the machine after washing
Stocking the clothes inside the machine for a long time after rinsing it will cause a stinking smell because it is enclosed without air for a long time. The longer the time you left it inside, the stronger the bad the smell.
9. You did not put it under the heat to dry
This is one of the common reasons for s foul smell. Clothes that are moist for a day without drying will give off a sour smell. As much as possible, dry it within a few hours after washing them. Laundry that’s been allowed to dry naturally but doesn’t have enough heat may take longer to dry and may wind up smelling wet and musty.
How To Remove Sour Smell From Clothes
When you have clothes that smell sour, the only way to get rid of the smell is to rewash them. Even though mildew is to blame for the bad smell, it is not resistant to traditional home remedies. You only need some common household ingredients that you can find in the kitchen, such as vinegar or baking soda.
Use hot water
It is generally agreed that the hot temperature is effective at killing the bacteria that cause bad smells. If you have sour-smelling clothes, it is necessary to rewash your clothes with hot water to remove the scent. Bacteria that cause foul odors are unable to withstand high temperatures.
Vinegar should be used to wash your clothes
Spread the clothes out in the washing machine as evenly as possible. Add one cup of pure white vinegar without adding detergent. Wash the items as soon as they are done. The water in your washing machine may not be hot enough to sanitize your clothes.
Using hot water combined with the acetic acid in the vinegar will help break up any grime or bacteria that has begun to grow. The acid will assist in the removal of that musty odor from your clothes.
Use baking soda
Aside from vinegar, you can also use baking soda to get rid of the sour smell. Same procedure with the vinegar, load the laundry into the washing machine and sprinkle one cup of baking soda.
Use the hottest setting in the washer when you do this. Like vinegar, baking soda, which is alkaline in nature, will aid in the neutralization of any remaining odors, leaving your laundry smelling fresh and clean.
Dry clothes under the sun
After rewashing your sour-smelling clothes, remove them from the washer right away and hang them to dry outside in the sun. If this is not possible, place the dryer on the highest resetting recommended for the fabric type in question.
Sunlight has disinfectant properties that can help kill any remaining bacteria in the laundry. In addition, drying outside also has the added benefit of acting as a natural bleaching agent.
6 Tips To Prevent Sour Smell In Clothes
Clean clothing that is still smelly after washing is a fairly common issue, but it can be resolved quickly and easily with the right tools and techniques. The following are the tips to prevent a sour smell in your clothes.
1. Clean your washing machine regularly
Having fresh, clean, and odor-free laundry means keeping your washing machine clean on a regular basis. Filters can become clogged with detergent and fabric softener residue, which can also include bacteria that are dangerous to your health. So, as you wash your clothes repeatedly, the bacteria in the water contaminate them.
2. Let your clothes completely dry before putting them in storage
Before putting your clothing away, be sure that they are completely dry. If there is any moisture left, bacteria can grow and produce the offending smell.
3. Separate sweaty clothes from the clean ones
Do not put clothes that are wet from sweat or used towels together with your clean ones because the odor will get attached to the clean ones. You hand them to let the water drip and for the clothes to dry before tossing them in the laundry basket if you won’t be washing them right away.
4. Dry clothes in an open area with an ample supply of sunlight and air
If possible, if there is a chance, let your clothes dry naturally under the heat of the sun. Drying them under the dark corners of your room without direct light may develop mold and mildew. If you can’t find an area where sunlight can get in, you can leave them out in the fresh air to get the best possible smell.
5. Use only the amount of detergent enough for your laundry
Do not put too much more than how much is needed because that will become a problem as it will leave unwanted residue in the machine. Some detergent or fabric conditioner remains in garments after standard rinse cycles. Soap scum can then become embedded in the cloth, where it encourages the growth of bacteria.
6. Try using another detergent if it smells after making the above suggestions
Your detergent might sometimes be the source of sour-smelling garments. You may have a problem with your detergent if your clothes start to stink soon after you take them out of the laundry.
Because just because your detergent has a pleasant scent doesn’t mean it’s doing its job of cleaning. It does not. Think about switching to a different brand if you’re concerned your current detergent isn’t powerful enough.
3 More Tips When Rewashing Sour-Smelling Clothes
- When washing mildewed clothes, avoid using detergents with strong fragrances. Covering the odor won’t fix the problem; treating the mildew and getting rid of it would.
- When washing mildewed clothing, avoid using fabric softener. Fabric softener residue accumulates over time and might exacerbate the situation.
- Keep an eye out for soap residue inside your washing machine, and clean it thoroughly after using.
If your clothes have a sour smell, don’t fret. It’s easy to get rid of the sour smell and prevent it from happening again. Sour smells are not only offensive to you, but they are also offensive to those who are near you. Doing the above tips and suggestions will help you achieve odor-free clothes that you will enjoy wearing.
Jessica Oliver is a fashion enthusiast with more than ten years of experience in the industry. She previously managed her own clothing store in New York before becoming a mother of three. With a passion for sustainability and a desire to share clothing care and recycling tips.
2 thoughts on “Getting Rid Of The Sour Smell In Clothes (Causes, Solutions & Preventions)”
Clothes were left in a bag on our balcony and forgotten. When I found them, I washed the musty smelling clothes three times, with vinegar and baking soda and put them in the dryer. There were never any visible signs of mold or mildew. There still is a slight musty smell. Does that mean there is still mold or mildew? Should i wash them again? A couple of hand towels that did not originally smelly now also smell. Does that mean mold or mildew spread?
Did you wash with hot water? If not, try that.