Getting Rid Of The Sour Smell In Clothes (Causes, Solutions & Preventions)

When you wash your clothes, you want them to come out clean, fluffed, and smelling good. When you store clothes in a closet, you expect them to be clean and ready to wear whenever you want.

However, that is not always the case. Sour-smelling clothes have always been a common problem in most households. This post will discuss the causes, preventions, and ways to get rid of the sour smell in clothes.

9 Causes of the Sour Smell In Clothes

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Mildew is the most common reason why clothes smell sour even after washing. Mildew is a fungus that develops on laundry when left in a warm, moist environment, like the bottom of the laundry bin or inside the washing machine or being hung in a dark area for an extended period.

The list below is some of the most common reasons why clothes smell sour:

1. Your clothes are still damp when you remove them from the dryer

Putting away your clothes without letting them completely dry is the most common cause of the sour smell. If the dampness is due to rainy weather conditions, you can iron them to dry but do it before bacteria starts to grow.

This is very important, especially in linens, bedsheets and thick clothes you have in the house. If they are a bit damp when you store them, they will smell awful when you use them later.

2. You overfill your drawers, preventing air from circulating

When you fold your clothes so closely together that there is no room for air to circulate, they begin to smell musty. If possible, hang them instead of folding them and storing them in a drawer.

3. You store your clothes in the closet for a longer time

If you keep your garments for an extended period, they will develop a musty scent. Pests such as mice may have entered your closet and left feces behind, causing a foul odor to permeate the space.

why do my clothes smell sour

4. You washed your clothes using very low temperatures

Suppose you wash your clothes in very cold water. It is possible that the bacteria on your clothes will not be eliminated if you use super cold water. Super low temperatures, while protecting the material from being damaged, will not remove odors caused by sweating.

5. Dirty washing machine

Washing machines tend to collect soap residue and grime, both of which might clog the machine. A clogged washing machine cannot remove all of the residues from prior washings. The residue will cause the mold and bacteria can grow and contaminate subsequent loads of laundry, leading to a sour smell.

6. Too much laundry detergent

Using too much detergent will cause more suds to form, which makes rinsing hard. Not rinsing thoroughly will lead to mold growth from the excess detergent residue in the washing machine.

clothes smell after washing

7. You load too many clothes in the washing machine

Loading too many clothes in the machine will prevent the clothes from moving and rotating when the engine starts washing. This can result in foul odor because the dirt and bacteria are not entirely eliminated. The sour smell is because the clothes are not thoroughly cleaned.

8. You leave the clothes inside the machine after washing

Stocking the clothes inside the machine for a long time after rinsing it will cause a stinking smell because it is enclosed without air for a long time. The longer the time you leave it inside, the stronger the bad smell.

9. You did not put it under the heat to dry

This is one of the common reasons for a foul smell. Clothes that are moist for a day without drying will give off a sour smell. As much as possible, dry it within a few hours after washing them. Laundry that’s been allowed to dry naturally but doesn’t have enough heat may take longer to dry and may wind up smelling wet and musty.

How To Remove Sour Smell From Clothes

When you have clothes that smell sour, the only way to get rid of the smell is to rewash them. Even though mildew is to blame for the bad smell, it is not resistant to traditional home remedies. You only need some common household ingredients that you can find in the kitchen, such as vinegar or baking soda.

Use hot water

It is generally agreed that the hot temperature is effective at killing the bacteria that cause bad smells. If you have sour-smelling clothes, it is necessary to rewash your clothes with hot water to remove the scent. Bacteria that cause foul odors are unable to withstand high temperatures.

how to get smell out of clothes


Vinegar should be used to wash your clothes

Spread the clothes out in the washing machine as evenly as possible. Add one cup of pure white vinegar without adding detergent. Wash the items as soon as they are done. Without adding vinegar, the water in your washing machine may not be hot enough to sanitize your clothes.

Using hot water combined with the acetic acid in the vinegar will help break up any grime or bacteria that has begun to grow. The acid will assist in the removal of that musty odor from your clothes.

how to get rid of sour smell in clothes


Use baking soda

Aside from vinegar, you can also use baking soda to get rid of the sour smell. Same procedure with the vinegar, load the laundry into the washing machine and sprinkle one cup of baking soda.

Use the hottest setting in the washer when you do this. Like vinegar, baking soda, which is alkaline in nature, will aid in the neutralization of any remaining odors, leaving your laundry smelling fresh and clean.

clothes smell sour after washing


Dry clothes under the sun

After rewashing your sour-smelling clothes, remove them from the washer right away and hang them to dry outside in the sun. If this is not possible, place them in the dryer on the highest setting recommended for the fabric type in question.

Sunlight has disinfectant properties that can help kill any remaining bacteria in the laundry. In addition, drying outside also has the added benefit of acting as a natural bleaching agent.

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6 Tips To Prevent Sour Smell In Clothes

Clean clothing that is still smelly after washing is a fairly common issue, but it can be resolved quickly and easily with the right tools and techniques. The following are the tips to prevent a sour smell in your clothes.

1. Clean your washing machine regularly

Having fresh, clean, and odor-free laundry means keeping your washing machine clean on a regular basis. Filters can become clogged with detergent and fabric softener residue, which can also include bacteria that are dangerous to your health. So, as you wash your clothes repeatedly, the bacteria in the water contaminate them.


2. Let your clothes completely dry before putting them in storage

Before putting your clothing away, be sure that they are completely dry. If there is any moisture left, bacteria can grow and produce the offending smell.

getting sour smell out of laundry


3. Separate sweaty clothes from the clean ones

Do not put clothes that are wet from sweat or used towels together with your clean ones because the odor will get attached to the clean ones. Hang them to let the water drip and for the clothes to dry before tossing them in the laundry basket if you won’t be washing them right away.

sour smell in clothes


4. Dry clothes in an open area with an ample supply of sunlight and air

If possible, let your clothes dry naturally under the heat of the sun. Drying them under the dark corners of your room without direct light may develop mold and mildew. If you can’t find an area where sunlight can get in, you can leave them out in the fresh air to get the best possible smell.

remove sour smell from clothes


5. Use only the amount of detergent enough for your laundry

Do not put too much more than how much is needed because that will become a problem as it will leave unwanted residue in the machine. Some detergent or fabric conditioner remains in garments after standard rinse cycles. Soap scum can then become embedded in the cloth, where it encourages the growth of bacteria.

sour laundry smell


6. Try using another detergent if it smells after making the above suggestions

Your detergent might sometimes be the source of sour-smelling garments. You may have a problem with your detergent if your clothes start to stink soon after you take them out of the laundry.

Just because your detergent has a pleasant scent doesn’t mean it’s doing its job of cleaning. It does not. Think about switching to a different brand if you’re concerned your current detergent isn’t powerful enough.

3 More Tips When Rewashing Sour-Smelling Clothes

  • When washing mildewed clothes, avoid using detergents with strong fragrances. Covering the odor won’t fix the problem; treating the mildew and getting rid of it will.
  • When washing mildewed clothing, avoid using fabric softener. Fabric softener residue accumulates over time and might exacerbate the situation.
  • Keep an eye out for soap residue inside your washing machine, and clean it thoroughly after using.


If your clothes have a sour smell, don’t fret. It’s easy to get rid of the sour smell and prevent it from happening again. Sour smells are not only offensive to you, but they are also offensive to those who are near you. Following the above tips and suggestions will help you achieve odor-free clothes that you will enjoy wearing.

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2 thoughts on “Getting Rid Of The Sour Smell In Clothes (Causes, Solutions & Preventions)”

  1. Clothes were left in a bag on our balcony and forgotten. When I found them, I washed the musty smelling clothes three times, with vinegar and baking soda and put them in the dryer. There were never any visible signs of mold or mildew. There still is a slight musty smell. Does that mean there is still mold or mildew? Should i wash them again? A couple of hand towels that did not originally smelly now also smell. Does that mean mold or mildew spread?


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