Freshly Done Laundry Stinks? Ditch Those Musty Smells!

Are things smelling musty or “off” after being freshly washed? This could be happening for a few reasons:

You left wet articles in the machine for too long (overnight) before moving to the dryer.

You packed items that weren’t completely dry. If you do laundry at a laundromat, that’s likely the reason. The garments feel hot when pulled from the appliance yet there still is some dampness clinging to the fibers.

When you pack items in baskets or bags to take home and then don’t unpack right away (leaving in the bags), the moisture is trapped and mildew and musty odors are the result. Hang garments overnight when possible prior to folding and storing (leave room for airflow between articles).

There’s a problem with the machine, especially front end loaders. How to clean it up: Run an empty cycle set to hot, toss in 2 cups of bleach. Look up (inside the tub) and look for any crud buildup, take a sponge and wipe with diluted bleach.

Check the rubber door seal (front end loaders). Is it nasty? Scrub clean with diluted bleach (use rubber gloves). Leave the door open after running a cycle so the surface moisture has the opportunity to evaporate.

Wet items (especially towels & dishcloths) are being tossed in the hamper and left sitting too long. First hang each piece to dry then stash in the hamper.

Towels are more susceptible to this since they are thicker and hold more moisture than other fabrics do. The key to preventing foul smelling laundry is ensuring articles are fully dry before folding and putting away.

How To Get Rid Of The Smell

When caught right away, washing pieces again is usually all that’s needed to clear the odors. If that doesn’t do the trick and you still have problems, try one of these methods:

*If working with whites, bleach can be used instead of vinegar (halve the amount)

  • In the next load add 1 cup of vinegar (plus usual detergent).
  • Presoak: Fill sink or large tub, throw in the sour towels/garments, cover with water and add about 1 cup of vinegar per gallon used. Soak for a few hours before washing as usual.
  • Run the load again and let hang outdoors on the line, the sun will take care of the mold spores (works only on hot sunny days).

Did Mildew Spots & Stains Develop?

Here are a few tips that I’ve collected to remove the stains (some are vintage advice collected from my notes). Do the full treatments as directed before rinsing and laundering as usual.

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice on the spots then sprinkle salt over top. Lay out in the sun.
  • Dampen the marks, rubbing soap on them, then cover with chalk that was first scraped into a talc. Work this in well.
  • Make a paste by mixing two teaspoonfuls of water, one of powdered chalk, and two of soap flakes or powder. Rub into stains. The spots should afterwards be well rinsed and dried out of doors in the sunlight. This has a brightening effect on textiles.
  • Use a mixture of soft soap, powdered starch, half as much salt and the juice of a lemon. Apply to both sides of the fabric and expose to the sun.
  • To remove mildew from clothing, soak in buttermilk over night.

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    • Darlene in North GA

    Make paste of baking soda and peroxide. Rub into stains and let sit for an hour to overnight (depending on how badly stained the article is). Launder as usual.
    This works on a myriad of stains.

      • D Smith

      Wouldn’t this discolor colored fabrics?

    • D Smith

    Peroxide is like a bleach and is used for whitening things such as hair and teeth. Wouldn’t this discolor colored fabrics?

    • Andrea

    No, I’ve used peroxide on many different colored clothes and it didn’t bleach the dye out. It removes protein stains… Think blood. Works great! I don’t know about soaking it overnight though, I’d keep an eye on it.

    • Lisa

    is the Mixture safe for front loaders, HE, machines?

    • Bibi

    Hi!! All my work outfits – all in black – Were accidently left in a bucket for 2days.. Its now 3weeks and the smell is….just awfull!! Will the method with vinegar also help my “smelly”-problem? eg. soak with vinegar over night and then give a (viinegar added) macjien-wash the next day?
    I sooooo hope so… caus im also scared that the black will end up fading?

    Thankyou, Bibi

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