Top Reasons Why Clothes Smell When They’re Clean

 The smell of warm, fresh-washed linen is something to look forward to after doing a load of laundry. In fact, some people even pay for candles and electric air fresheners with this scent. However, if instead of a clean linen smell you get a sour or musty smell on your clothes after washing them and putting them away, you might be wondering what you’re doing wrong. This article addresses the following questions regarding musty or sour clothes: 

Why do my clothes smell :

  • when they’re in my wardrobe? 
  • after washing them? 
  • after drying? 
  • when I sweat? 

Why do my clothes smell when they’re in my wardrobe? 

Believe it or not, where you store your clothes is just as important as actually washing them. If your clothes didn’t dry correctly and are being stored in a dark place with no ventilation its entirely reasonable for your clothes to remain damp and get musty or sour.  

clothes smell bad in closet
Avoid Musty Clothes in a Wardrobe or Closet

To avoid this problem in the future, hang your clothes in a warm, well-lit area for a while before hanging them in your wardrobe. This will ensure that they dry completely and don’t end up smelling musty later on.  

Give your wardrobe a deep cleaning to make sure that there are not any moths or silverfish eating at your clothes. These pests are known for giving clothing a musty smell. If possible and appropriate for the material of the closet, after emptying your wardrobe wipe the inside down with a damp cloth and a spray bleach cleaner.  

Why do my clothes smell sour after washing them? 

If your clothes are not smelling fresh after being put through the washing machine there a couple of things that you’ll need to check for. First, you’ll want to inspect your washing machine to ensure that it doesn’t need to be cleaned. You can do this by grabbing a flashlight and inspecting the inside of the washing machine to see if there is any build-up around the door. If there is some build up then it’s likely time for your washing machine to have a good cleaning. Here’s how you can clean your washing machine and eliminate that post-washing musty smell.  

Here’s what you will need to clean your washing machine: 

  • Vinegar  
  • Baking soda 
  • Empty pray bottle 
  • Cleaning cloth or rag 
  1. Mix one-part vinegar and one-part water in the empty spray bottle. Shake well.  
  2. Spray vinegar around the door opening of your washer. Let sit for 30 seconds. Wipe with damp rag or cleaning cloth. 
  3. Repeat this process until the rag comes out clean 
  4. Rinse the rag and set aside to dry 
  5. Next, make sure the washing machine is completely empty and set it to the highest temperature setting available and on the highest power setting. 
  6. Pour in two cups of vinegar and set washer to run through a complete cycle 
  7. Allow cycle to finish 
  8. Pour in one half cup of baking soda and run through another cycle on the same high setting  
  9. Once the cycle is complete, take your cleaning rag and dampen in again 
  10. Use the rag to wipe down the inside of your washer 
clothes smell sour after wash
Clean your Washing Machine to Avoid Sour smelling Clothes

Another possible reason that your clothes are smelling musty after being put through the washer is that you’re not using the correct amount of laundry detergent. You could be using too much or too little detergent, which affects the outcome of your load of laundry. Try adjusting the amount of liquid or powder detergent that you use according to the information on the packaging, your washer, or personal experience until you notice a change in smell.  

Yet another reason that your clothes smell musty or sour after washing them is that you allowed your now-damp clothes to sit for too long after the washing cycle has completed. This can definitely cause your clothes to have a sour smell even after being run through the dryer. You should always try and transfer your clothes from the washer to the dryer in as short amount of time as possible, but as a golden rule, try not to let your clothes sit in the washer for more than an hour after the cycle has completed. If you do accidentally allow the clothes to sit for too long and you notice they have a sour smell don’t hesitate to put them through the wash cycle again before the smell really sets in. 

Why do my clothes smell musty after drying them? 

If your clothes are smelling musty after being run through the dryer there are a couple of things that could be happening. 

First, your clothes may have been too tightly wound up or tucked together in the dryer which means that they probably didn’t dry completely leading to a musty smell later on. This sometimes isn’t a big deal and doesn’t lead to a musty smell in your clothes if you hung them in a way that they could still airdry immediately after coming out of the dryer.  

If, however, you allowed your laundry to sit in a basket or hamper for several hours or even days after coming out of the dryer, then those few clothing items that didn’t dry properly could have essentially infected the rest of your load with the musty smell.  

To avoid this problem in the future, make an effort to hang up your clothes to dry as soon as they drying cycle is complete. Or, if you do notice that a few of your items didn’t dry properly, run them through the dryer again.  

Why do my clothes stink when I sweat? 

What causes an odor on your clothes after you sweat is bacteria, which can actually linger on clothing items that get sweaty on a regular basis. It can even seem that your sweat is activating a musty smell in your clothes. There are a few things that you can do to combat this issue.  

First, use a detergent that is specifically made for activewear. These detergents are designed to penetrate further into the materials than traditional detergents which is needed to remove the body oils that are clinging onto them and causing them to smell.  

clothes smell sour when i sweat

Second, consider having a separate place for your dirty activewear to wait for the washer other than the hamper. In the dirty clothes hamper the bacteria can multiply in the dark and spread to your other clothes. Try turning them inside out. Leave them in a sunny place where they can air out and dry completely before washing. Better yet, throw them straight into the washer or hand wash them in your bathroom sink or tub as soon as they need to be washed.  

The last thing that you can try is allowing your activewear to airdry instead of running it through the dryer. This will ensure that your clothes are receiving a constant flow of air to allow any remaining moisture to evaporate.