My Clothes Don't Smell Good

About a year ago, I started noticing my "clean" clothes had a faint smell of "dirty laundry". I first noticed it while on a trip, so I attributed the problem to clothes being packed in a suitcase. But the problem has gotten worse.

I have tried baking soda in the wash, vinegar in the rinse, Febreze, and purchasing new luggage. The clothes smell fresh and clean after washing and drying, but after hanging in the closet for a while, the smell returns. Leaving them folded in a basket for a few days I sometimes notice it, and certainly packing for a trip seems to magnify the problem.

I have a Maytag Neptune (the model after all the problems had been solved), and use Tide HE or Cheer HE. Maytag said I had a buildup of detergent in the clothes, and suggested running them through a cycle with just vinegar (which I have done many times).

While I like fresh smelling detergents and fabric softeners, I don't want to just cover up smells that are remaining in my clothes. I want to know they are really clean, and all the dirt, body oils, perfumes, deodorants, etc. are out of the clothes. I don't perspire a great deal, and work in an office, so my clothes don't get particularly grimy or smelly. Any suggestions?


Queen Bunny

My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/12/2005
It sounds like sulfur or iron in your water supply. Take a load to a Laundromat and see if they smell the same
after a washing.
By Dorie
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/12/2005
Question: what are your clothes made of? My experience is that items made with polyester or acetate tend to retain smells even after washing. I, personally, stick with cotton, rayon or linen, which tend to be better.

The other option is that something in your closet is re-smelling your clean clothes. I would advise taking EVERYTHING out of your closet and cleaning the be-jeesus out it. (Vacuum, wash the walls, etc.) Next separate your clothes by content. Wash everything again with about half the detergent you usually use using warm water. Put _only the non-poly/acetate stuff back in. Wait a week or so and see if the smell comes back. If it doesn't, it's definitely the non-natural fibers.


I have a front-loader too, a Kenmore. And I don't have problems with detergent buildup as long as I use about half the detergent recommended.

By Kathy K. (Guest Post)
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/12/2005
I have had the same problem with shirts--mainly in the underarm and chest area. They come out of the dryer smelling clean, but quickly regain their stinky smell after wearing only a little while. I've had some success with pretreating the offending areas with a spray bottle of lysol multipurpose solution. Before each load I spray underarms and chest areas and let sit while loading the rest of the laundry.

I've also started using Borax with my detergent. I figure sweat is kind of like ammonia and the borax is alkaline and counteracts it. Then, my washer has a softener dispenser, so instead of softener, I put about a cup of vinegar to neutralize the detergent -borax mix after it's done its work. So far, so good.

This stinky laundry after washing seems like such a universal complaint, judging by the mail received on this site, that some company should be able to come up with a "stink-free" solution! Any chemists out there that can give us a clue about this?

By Paula W (Guest Post)
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/12/2005
I always use about half of the detergent recommended, add baking soda to the wash and don't use dryer sheets. I also buy only cotton and other natural fabrics. I think Kathy may be right - cut down on the detergent and go for natural fibers. Also, one time I bought a quilt that smelled like gasoline after I washed it - never got the smell out and I returned it. I think it was the dye or something. Try going with the natural fabrics. Good luck!
By Ann (Guest Post)
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/13/2005
After my load of clothes has gone through the wash, rinse, and spin I reset the machine for another rinse cycle and add 3/4 cup white vinegar. One rinse just isn't enough to get out all the detergent and odor residue.
By Beth (Guest Post)
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/13/2005
Could you be living in an area that has water which requires some type of treatment?
By cookwie
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 09/15/2005
i use Clorox 2 along with detergent. It gets out odors and cleans everything better than those perfume detergents. I use regular Clorox for underwear that is all white. I rarely use any other temperature than cold and I also can't use any detergents with fragrance or dyes. I separate my sheets from my towels and clothes from my underwear and I don't overload the washer or dryer with clothes. My clothes always come out clean and smelling fresh for days by using Clorox 2.
By snoopsnoop94
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 10/25/2005
I work in a BBQ joint and smell of hickory smoke when I get home. My son used to work at Long John Silvers & then Fazoli's. His clothing would stink. Even after washing. I had purchased some X-O and X-O Plus for odor control. I use 4 oz. of the X-O Plus Concentrate in the wash. I rinse one additional time-but I love the product. You can order online or mail order from Don Aslett. If you go to the X-O site, it is possible to look for a store that sells their products in your area. Good Luck!
By Circles123 (Guest Post)
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 02/28/2006
i have the same problem. No matter how I clean my clothes and sheets, they come out still retaining a somewhat dirty clothes smell. The only solution i've found to help a bit is to soak the culprits overnight when the smell builds up. I know it's my own body odor, not rancid pit stink, but just the smell I give off through body oils and sweat. The clean laundry doesn't overly smell but if you put your nose to it, it's definitely there. Heat seams to magnify it so it smells greatest out of the dryer or when it reacts with my own body heat when I wear them.

The problem is really just with my shirts and bed sheets around my upper torso area. I know it's my body oils because on my shirts, the smell lingers around my neck and upper back areas where the body secretes more oils.

Vinegar, bleach, baking soda, hot wash, cold wash, borax, etc., etc. I don't believe you can really help it. Each person has a unique body smell. Some people (like me) tend to give off stronger or much stronger smells. I'm a 21 year old female, 110 pounds. that blows the "stinky male" theory out.

The best solution I've come up with is to wash often and soak sometimes. I use seventh generation orange-scented detergent. It's practically fragrance free. I don't like covering up smells with anything. I only put perfume on after i shower. I spray the back and front of my neck and i find that it transfers to my shirts leaving a pleasant smell even after washing that doesn't necessarily "cover up".

By B
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 03/10/2006
All you have to do is, sort your clothes, and place the clothes that are REALLY dirty with the REALLY dirty/smelly pile. that pile, do double rinsing and use a more powerful laundry detergent. Then put in dryer for 20 minutes and let dry outside in the sweet smelling sun for an hour or two.
By Deb
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 03/13/2006
I only have cold water for my washing machine so I have had great results by pouring Pinesole, about 1/2 cup for a big load, in with the detergent. It may smell strong in the wash, but once you put clothes in dryer the spell is gone and everything smells fresh. If you do smell the Pinesole after drying you have used too much. Also, I use Cheer Free, no dyes, fragrance, and Downey Fragrance Free liquid as I do not like the artificial smell. I have done this for 17 years.
By Dana (Guest Post)
My Clothes Don't Smell Good 03/13/2006
I have noticed that some clothes of ours don't smell as fresh as I'd like, but that was an easy thing to solve for me...

I was over-drying them. I have a Whirlpool Duet system, and I only use Tide detergent, but only need about half per load. Tide cleans a lot better than most detergents.

Another thing I use is Downy Ultra, the concentrated kind.

Now, when you put the clothes in the dryer, dry them on the like medium instead of high, and ONLY dry them until the clothes are dry and no longer... over-drying seems to make them lose that fresh laundry scent.

I really hope this helps for you. Good luck.

By katieandjeffy


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