If your laundry has an unpleasant odor, the good news is that the issue is easy to fix. Even if your laundry already smells fresh, these tips can help you keep it that way. Although these strategies work for most towels, bed sheets, and apparel, it’s always wise to check the labels for care instructions before getting started.
When it comes to stale and/or musty laundry odors, sometimes the problem is your washing machine. You won’t need caustic chemicals to get the job done — all it takes is baking soda, water, and vinegar. First, fill the detergent container with an equal mixture of baking soda and water; about one-fourth cup should do the trick. Then, add two cups of white vinegar to the main compartment of your machine.
Ready to make the magic happen? Run an empty load on the hottest setting; once it’s done, leave your washer lid open for several hours so it can air-dry. The baking soda and vinegar react with one another to power away musty odors, and a thorough air-drying ensures the problem won’t reoccur right away. When or if it does, simply repeat the process.
One of the reasons clothes and bath towels get mildew is because they remain damp for too long. If you’ve got wet laundry, you’ll want to get it in the machine right away. If for some reason you can’t wash them right away, at least lie them flat to dry or preferably hang them outside on a clothesline. The worst thing you can do in this situation is leave damp items in a wicker laundry hamper — then you may end up with smelly clothes and a smelly hamper.
If you’ve got extra-dirty clothes or want to make sure there are no residual odors left behind, you can’t go wrong with a pre-soak treatment. There are several options available — you can use a store-bought presoaking product, use diluted laundry detergent and water, or make a natural presoak solution with a cup of white vinegar in hot water and a few drops of lavender essential oil.
You don’t have to worry about the lavender leaving behind too strong of a strong fragrance. What it will do is cut odors and put its mild antimicrobial properties to work. Whether you’re washing boys sweatshirts and gym shorts, your favorite leggings, or a sheet set, you’ll find that the presoak treatment results in a clean, fresh scent that’s not overpowering.
Another thing that leads to musty odors is overfilling your washing machine. Wash clothes in smaller loads to make sure each item is cleaned thoroughly. It’s a good idea to separate laundry by type and color. Wash all your white and light-colored items together separately from your dark-colored items. Bright pieces can be washed with like colors or on their own.
Delicate items are best washed in a mesh laundry bag. Bras with metal hooks can snag on other items, resulting in damage to not one but two items. You can also choose to handwash your lingerie with a gentle detergent and let them air dry. Cashmere sweaters can also be hand washed to keep them looking new and smelling fresh. Don’t hang your cashmere sweater, though — lay it flat to dry for best results.
Speaking of separating laundry, it helps to keep your smelliest items away from your other pieces. If you’ve got comfy sweats or kids’ sports uniforms to launder, keep them in a disposable trash bag until it’s time to do laundry. You don’t want to put them in the main laundry hamper as the odors may attach to the hamper and the other clothes.
If you use a wicker hamper, it’s a good idea to use a washable liner to help prevent the hamper from retaining laundry odors. These liners can double as laundry bags, especially the ones with drawstrings. When your hamper is full, simply lift the bag out and take it to the laundry room or laundromat. Make sure to wash the liner with like colors and fabrics, such as light-hued cottons and cotton-blend fabrics.
Don’t underestimate the power of fabric softener when it comes to deodorizing your laundry. There are store-bought fabric softeners that come in different scents, from classic fresh fragrances to floral and citrus options. Liquid fabric softener is added to the final rinse of the wash cycle, or you can toss fabric softener sheets into the dryer.
You can also make your own fabric softener with a few basic ingredients. There are tons of recipes and tutorials online that show you how; most of these DIY softeners use baking soda, kosher salt, and essential oils. You’ll even find fabric softener how-to videos featuring hair conditioner and others that use white vinegar.