how to get stuck in smell out of clothes

A shirt may look and smell clean after washing. But an hour or so into wearing it here comes the sweat odor. This happens because bacteria that causes the odor is still trapped in the fibers after washing. They begin to smell when our body heats the fabric and the odor molecules are released. What to do?

person smelling laundry

Sweat Odors on Washable Shirts

Project Metrics

Working Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 to 2 hours depending on washer and dryer cycles

What You’ll Need

Supplies

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
  • Baking soda

Tools

  • Mixing bowl (optional)
  • Washer or large sink
  • Soft-bristled brush

Instructions

  1. If the deodorant build-up has left the fabric stiff and a heavy sweat odor is present, mix a one-to-one solution of white distilled vinegar and water and use a soft-bristled brush or an old toothbrush to scrub the armpits before soaking.
  2. Fill a washing machine or large bucket with cool water and add one cup of white distilled vinegar.
  3. Add the colored shirts and allow them to soak for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Drain the vinegar/water solution.
  5. Wash as usual in cool water with a heavy-duty detergent (Persil or Tide).

Tip

For shirts that have been washed but still have an odor, mix a solution of two cups of baking soda in a washer tub of lukewarm water. Add the shirts and allow them to soak for at least 24 hours. Then wash as directed.

Sweat Odors on Gym Clothes 

Working up a sweat is a good thing for the body but can be difficult to remove from today’s high-performance fabrics. 

Project Metrics

Working Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 to 2 hours depending on washer and drying times

What You’ll Need

Supplies

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Water
  • Baking soda
  • Mild or high-performance fabric detergent

Tools

  • Mixing bowl (optional)
  • Washer or large sink
  • Soft-bristled brush

Instructions

  1. For daily laundry, add one cup of baking soda or white distilled vinegar to your wash water each time you wash exercise clothes. The baking soda or white distilled vinegar will help neutralize odor and make your detergent work more efficiently.
  2. Do not machine-dry fabrics. The high heat can bind any body oil and its bacteria to the fibers. Hang fabrics to air-dry.

Tips

  • Do not wear exercise clothes again until they have been washed. Each wearing adds layers of body soil and bacteria.
  • If you are not able to wash activewear daily, invest in a “diaper pail” for the gear. Any plastic container with a lid will work. Fill it with cool water and one cup of baking soda. Drop soiled exercise clothes in the pail and let them soak until it is time for laundry. Squeeze out the water and wash as usual. Fill the pail with clean water and baking soda and you are ready for another round of exercise.
  • Gasoline Odorsperson filling a car with gas The Spruce / Ulyana VerbytskaWhether you work with fuels or simply have a gas pump splashing accident, gasoline and diesel oil odors can be difficult to remove. Before You BeginThese steps will work well on small fuel stains. If the fabric is heavily stained with gasoline, it should be discarded. You must take great care because the fuel is flammable so NEVER place garments that even faintly smell of fuel in a clothes dryer.If the garment is labeled dry clean only, point out and identify the stain to your professional cleaner.Project MetricsWorking Time: 15 minutesTotal Time: 1 to 24 hours depending on the severity of the odorsWhat You’ll NeedSupplies
    • Enzyme-based stain remover
    • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
    • Water
    • Baking soda
    • Household ammoniaTools
    • Washer or large sinkInstructions
    1. Since fuel is an oil-based stain, use an enzyme-based stain remover or a bit of heavy-duty liquid detergent to pretreat the stains. Work the stain remover into the fabric with your fingers and allow it to work for at least 15 minutes to work before washing the garment.
    2. Wash the item in the hottest water appropriate for the fabric.
    3. Sniff the garment before drying and repeat treatment if necessary.
    4. For lingering odors, soak the stained clothes in cool water with one cup baking soda for at least four hours or overnight.
    5. If the baking soda doesn’t remove the heaviest odors, fill the washer with warm water and add one cup of household ammonia. Soak for 2 or 3 hours. Drain the soaking water from the washer and wash as usual.WarningDo not use any chlorine bleach during the ammonia soaking or washing process as dangerous fumes can form.
  • 03of 04Cooking Odorscooking odors and stains The Spruce / Ana-Maria StanciuAny home cook who fries food or fast food worker will tell you that fabrics can quickly absorb odors and hold onto them even if there are no stains. There are microscopic grease particles in the air and they embed in the fibers.Project MetricsWorking Time: 5 minutesTotal Time: 1 to 4 hours depending on the severity of the odorsWhat You’ll NeedSupplies
    • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
    • Water
    • Baking soda
    • Laundry boraxTools
    • Washer or large sinkInstructions
    1. To successfully remove the oily molecules, use a heavy-duty laundry detergent like Tide or Persil.
    2. Wash on the normal cycle in the hottest water recommended on the care label for the fabric.
    3. Boost the cleaning power of any detergent by adding one cup of baking soda or one-half cup borax to the washer.
    4. If washing correctly does not remove the odor, presoak for at least two hours the clothes in a solution of hot water with two cups of baking soda.TipIf you’ve gotten trapped next to the fryer or grill when wearing dry clean only clothes, point out the odors to your dry cleaner. If the odor is light, hanging the non-washable garment outside on a breezy day for several hours.
  • 04of 04Musty and Mothball Odorsmoth balls on a sweater The Spruce / Ana-Maria StanciuMusty and mothball odors can be difficult to remove. But several things can be done to speed the process.Project MetricsWorking Time: 5 minutesTotal Time: 1 to 4 hours depending on the severity of the odorsWhat You’ll Need for Washable ClothesSupplies
    • Heavy-duty laundry detergent
    • Water
    • Baking soda
    • Distilled white vinegarTools
    • Washer or large sink
    • Outdoor clotheslineInstructions
    1. Fill the washer or a large sink with water and detergent and add one cup of baking soda.
    2. Mix well and allow the clothing to soak for at least one hour before completing the washing cycle.
    3. Add one-half cup of distilled white vinegar to the final rinse to cut through any remaining product residue.
    4. Hang the freshly washed clothing outside to dry. Fresh air is perhaps the best refresher of all.

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