How to Deodorize Really Stinky Laundry

Nothing is worse than the sour, musty smell of stinky laundry, but luckily there are a number of ways to fix the problem.
Stinky laundry doesn't mean you have to give up on your clothes.
Fabric softener is one culprit that builds up inside your washer, and as fresh smelling as it is going in, it is not so pleasant after sitting. Other situations, such as body odors and water conditions, can cause bad smells, but using deodorizing products and targeting the sources of the odors should be able to get rid of most of them. .

Step 1

Wash stinky towels or clothing with mildew and body odors with regular laundry soap, and 1 cup of washing soda. Washing soda is not baking soda or borax; it is a product that cleans and deodorizes laundry. Washing soda is a powder-type product available in the laundry supply area of most stores, near the laundry soap and bleaches.

Step 2

Fill the washer with hot water and add 1 1/2 cups of bleach; use color-safe bleach if the load you are washing contains bleach-sensitive fabrics. Add the stinky laundry and soak it overnight. Wash it in a hot water cycle. Dry it thoroughly as soon as the wash cycle is done.

Step 3

Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice and 1 cup of vinegar to a wash cycle of color-safe clothing. Use the lemon juice and vinegar in addition to the regular laundry soap.

Step 4

Sun-dry musty-smelling clothing on a clothesline. The heat and sunlight along with the fresh air will remove mild odors.

Step 5

Add 1/3 cup of hydrogen peroxide to a load of color-safe laundry that has body, pet, smoke or mildew odors. Pre-soak for 15 minutes and then wash as normal. Do not add the peroxide directly to clothing because it may damage the color or fabric. Instead, dilute it in the wash water before adding clothes.

Step 6

Use a natural pine cleaner in a load of laundry to remove stinky odors and add a fresh, clean scent. The pine scent may remain in the clothing after laundering, so do not use this technique if you are sensitive to pine scent.

Step 7

Wash stinky clothing with a commercial fabric refresher designed to remove odors and replace them with a fresh scent. Purchase one that removes scent rather than masking it. Use the product according to package directions.

Things You Will Need

  • Bleach
  • White vinegar
  • Laundry soap
  • Washing soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Natural pine cleaner
  • Fabric refresher


  • Remove wet clothes from the washer and dry them thoroughly as soon as they are done. Warm, moist conditions promote mildew growth. Clothes not completely dried when piled or put away, or that sit in the washer can start to mildew and smell, which will remain in the clothes. Re-wash and immediately dry any laundry that has been sitting and has developed an odor.
  • Avoid liquid fabric softener or dilute it with water. Fabric softener has binding agents that cause it to stick inside parts of the machine, where it builds up over time and goes rancid. Use 1/2 water to 1/2 liquid softener, or replace the liquid fabric softener with plain white vinegar to avoid this problem.
  • To clean a washer that has stinky buildup, run an empty load of hot water with 1 cup of bleach through the machine and add 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle. This will remove odors from the machine that transfer to your clothing.

About the Author

Elizabeth Moore is a fiction author and nonfiction writer. Well versed in gardening, crafting, business and even construction, Moore has owned several businesses and worked in fields ranging from retail to real estate.