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How to Get Sour Smell Out of Clothes (Step-by-step)

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Do you want your clothes to come out of the laundry clean, fluffed, and smelling fresh? Relax. It’s obvious when you keep clothing in a closet; you anticipate that it will always be tidy and ready to wear.

Before thinking of the method to clear such smells, it is important to know their origin.

Therefore, in this piece, we have covered some common causes of the sour smell, how to remove them, and methods you can use to protect your clothes against them.

Clothes Smelling Sour? Here's how to fix them
Here’s a video I made on how to fix clothes that smell sour. I also go over what causes the sour smell to appear in the first place.

Common Causes of The Sour Smell In Clothes

Nothing worse than removing your laundry from the washer and discovering a foul, sour stench instead of the fresh scent you were hoping for.

Many problems might lead to this, but fortunately, they are usually relatively simple to resolve.

Dirty Washing Machine

The washing machine needs to be cleaned, which is one of the most frequent reasons for odorous laundry.

Although your washing machine may do a fantastic job cleaning your clothing, it is incredibly challenging for a washing machine to clean itself due to lint, low washing temperatures, hard water, and too much soap.

If your washing machine hasn’t been cleaned in a while, it probably has a buildup of dust, lint, mold, and bacteria all over it.

This will be even more obvious if you reside in a region with hard water because limescale provides the perfect environment for bacteria to flourish.

You need to clean your washing machine to solve this problem thoroughly. To get the greatest results, you might need to run a clean (or maintenance) cycle a few times, depending on how bad it is.

If your washing machine doesn’t already have a maintenance cycle, you need to run an empty wash on the highest setting.

Run an empty cycle with a cup of distilled white vinegar in the detergent drawer to give extremely filthy washing machines an extra cleaning boost.

After this one is finished, run a second empty cycle, adding a cup of baking soda to the detergent drawer. The vinegar and baking soda will remove the accumulation of contaminants, clean the surfaces, and eliminate the odor.

Damp Clothing

There are a few ways that damp clothing might produce an unpleasant odor.

The first is when laundry has remained soiled and wet without being washed for an extended period. This is particularly problematic when it comes to towels or athletic gear sitting at the bottom of the laundry basket for a considerable time before being picked up.

The garment will begin to smell musty and foul as the liquid begins to conge. In order to remove the scent, you’ll need to wash the clothes as hot as you can and possibly more than once.

The second reason is if the laundry was left in the machine after the cycle was complete for excessive time.

In a similar manner, the moisture in the clothes will begin to spoil, giving off an unpleasant odor. You might need to rewash the laundry if this is allowed to happen.

Overloaded Washing Machine

In an overloaded washing machine drum, there won’t be enough room for the laundry to move about. Simply put, the clothes won’t wash correctly if they can’t move around during the cycle.

Run smaller loads rather than stuffing your washing machine to the gills.

Too Much (Or Too Little) Detergent

Only a small percentage of people count the amount of detergent they use for each wash. Most individuals fill the detergent drawer with whatever they think looks about right after using a new detergent a few times and receiving satisfactory results.

This may be a faster method of working, but it may cause you to use too much or too little detergent.

Too much detergent won’t adequately dissolve during the cycle if you use it. This might make your clothing feel and smell terrible if it sticks to it.

Additionally, it will accumulate within your washing machine, where it will draw dirt, bacteria, and mold, giving off an unpleasant odor.

You cannot clean your laundry if you don’t use enough detergent.

Low Cycle Temperatures

There is no denying that low washing machine cycle temperatures are healthier for the environment. However, it can result in a few issues for your washing machine.

The first is that if you wash your clothes at a low temperature, they might not clean effectively, especially if you’re using a detergent that isn’t made for that temperature.

The second problem is that it won’t clean your washing machine’s interior. Instead, it will let mold and dirt accumulate inside the machine, giving out unpleasant odors.

Run a hot, empty maintenance cycle on a regular basis to remove the dirt and bacteria that have accumulated during your usual, cool cycles.

More on what temperature to use for your laundry here.

Rewashing the Laundry

You should completely rewash the affected linen after addressing the source of the foul smell. To prevent the washing machine from becoming too full, divide the laundry pile in half, even if there was only one load.

To avoid damaging the fabric, wash the clothes at the highest temperature that is safe for the items. Wash the clothing in the beginning, using your standard detergent, 1/2 cup bicarbonate soda, and 2 cups distilled white vinegar.

The vinegar and bicarbonate of soda will give your detergent the extra boost it needs to combat the offensive odor.

After this cycle, wash the items in your typical washing machine cycle with just your regular detergent.

Once the cycle is complete, immediately place the clothes in the dryer or hang them up to dry.

How To Remove Sour Smell From Clothes

5 Ways to Remove Sweat Odor From Clothes (Step-by-step)
Here’s a video I made on removing sweat odor from clothes. A lot of the same principles apply, but I focus on synthetics here.

Rewashing your clothes is the only way to get rid of sour-smelling clothing. Even though mildew is to blame for the unpleasant odor, it may be treated at home with conventional methods.

You may find only a few basic home items in the kitchen, such as vinegar or baking soda.

Method 1: Use Hot Water

Generally speaking, it is believed that the heated temperature effectively kills the microorganisms that produce foul odors. If your garments have a sour smell, you must rewash them in hot water to get rid of the smell.

Bacteria that produce unpleasant scents cannot endure high temperatures.

Method 2: Vinegar Should Be Used To Wash Your Clothes

In the washing machine, spread the laundry as evenly as you can. Add one cup of detergent-free pure white vinegar.

As soon as they are finished, wash the things. Your washing machine’s water might not be hot enough to sterilize your garments.

Any dirt or germs that have started to grow will be broken up using hot water and the acetic acid in the vinegar. The acid will help to eliminate the musty smell from your garments.

Method 3: Use Baking Soda

In addition to vinegar, baking soda can also be used to eliminate the sour scent. The clothes should be loaded into the washing machine with one cup of baking soda. Repeat the process with the vinegar.

When doing this, use the washer’s hottest setting. Like vinegar, baking soda’s alkaline composition will help neutralize any scents that may still be present, leaving your laundry feeling fresh and clean.

I also wrote a full article on using vinegar and baking soda for laundry that may interest you.

Method 4: Dry Clothes Under The Sun

Your sour-smelling clothing should be rewashed before being immediately taken out of the washer and hung to dry in the sun.

In the event that this is not feasible, set the dryer to the highest setting advised for the particular fabric type.

Any leftover germs in the laundry can be helped to eliminate by the disinfecting qualities of sunlight. Furthermore, drying outside can serve as a natural whitening agent.

Methods you can use to Prevent Sour Smell In Clothes.

Even after washing, clean clothing can sometimes retain odors, but this problem can be quickly and easily fixed with the right equipment and methods.

The following advice will help you keep your clothes from smelling bad.

Method 1: Ensure Your Washing Machine is Always Clean

Maintaining your washing machine on a regular basis will ensure that your laundry is always fresh, clean, and odor-free.

Detergent and fabric softener residue, which may also contain microorganisms harmful to your health, can block filters.

As a result, the bacteria in the water contaminate your clothing as you wash it frequently.

Method 2: Allow Your Clothes Completely Dry Before Packing Them

Make sure your clothes are thoroughly dry before storing them. If any moisture is still there, bacteria might develop and give off an offensive odor.

Method 3: Separate Sweaty Clothes From The Clean Ones

Put dirty towels or damp sweat garments apart from your clean ones because the smell will transfer to the clean ones.

If you aren’t washing the clothes right away, you should hand them to let the water drain and for the clothing to dry before throwing them in the laundry basket.

More on how to sort laundry here.

Method 4: Dry Clothes In An Open Area With Enough Sunlight And Air

Allow your clothing to dry naturally in the sun’s heat if possible. If you dry them in the shadows of your room without direct light, mold and mildew may grow.

You can leave them outside in the open air to get the greatest possible smell if you cannot find a location where sunlight can enter.

Method 5: Use Only The Amount Of Washing Soap/Detergent Enough For Your Washing

An issue will arise if you add more than is necessary because the extra will leave the machine with undesired residue.

After regular rinse cycles, some detergent or fabric conditioner is still in the clothing. The cloth may subsequently become embedded with soap scum, promoting bacteria development.

Here is how to get rid of excessive laundry detergent stains.

Method 6: Try Using Another Detergent If It Smells After Washing

Sometimes, sour-smelling clothes may come from your detergent. If your clothing begins to smell immediately after you pull it out of the washer, you may have an issue with your detergent.

Because just because your detergent smells good doesn’t mean it’s cleaning well. There isn’t. If you’re worried that your current detergent isn’t strong enough, consider switching to a different brand.

Final Thoughts

Do not worry if your clothing smells bad. The sour smell is simple to remove, and you can stop it from happening again.

It smells unpleasant and will likewise be unpleasant to those around you. By following the advice mentioned above, you can have odor-free clothing that you will like wearing.


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