How to Get Clothes to Smell Good in the Dryer

If your clothes come out of the dryer smelling bad, it's usually not that hard to find the right solution.
How to Get Clothes to Smell Good in the Dryer
Wet laundry left in a pile, dirty machines and body odor can all contribute to a stinky stockpile of clothes, but each of these causes has a specific fix. .

When you wash your laundry and pull it out of the dryer, you expect to be greeted with a clean, fresh odor. At times, though, your clothes smell musty and unpleasant. Avoiding bad-smelling laundry is possible if you can pinpoint the cause. Once you know why the odor is present, you can get rid of unwelcome odors.

Body Odor

Smells from your body permeate your clothing while you’re wearing them. These smells are caused by a combination of sweat from your armpits and groin and bacteria found on your skin. The stronger your body odor, the more likely your clothing will retain the odor. Avoid letting your clothing sit around for several days or more after wearing, and do a load of laundry as soon as possible. This is especially important if you have body odor problems. Think of odors like stains; the longer they sit on your clothing, the harder it will be to remove them.

Detergent Buildup in the Washing Machine

Detergent can build up in a washing machine after many wash cycles. This buildup consists of biofilms, which are made of bacteria. Clothing washed in a dirty washing machine picks up odor from these biofilms and can start to smell. Bacteria require moist conditions to thrive. Help prevent odor-causing bacteria from mulitiplying in a top-loading washing machine by leaving the lid open in between washes. This will dry out the interior, making it less hospitable to odor-causing bacteria. For front-loader washing machines, dry out the wash drum and rubber gasket after removing laundry and leave the door open until the drum dries out completely.

Since buildup is inevitable in your washing machine, make a point to clean it out every six months. You can try a washing machine cleaner or clean things out with household solutions. To clean your washer out with items you have around the house, mix 1/4 cup of water with 1/4 cup of baking soda. Put this in the washing machine's detergent dispenser. Follow this by putting two cups of white vinegar into the drum. Run a normal load of laundry.

Wet Clothing and Towels

Leaving your clothing in a damp pile for a time period before washing encourages the growth of mildew. Once the mildew takes hold, it will remain in the clothing. Each time the clothing gets wet, it will reactivate and smell. Once dry, the clothing will smell better, but it's likely to retain a slight odor. Ensure that all of your clothing and bedding items are completely dry before storing. A damp towel put in a dark drawer can easily contract mildew.

Try Scented Dryer Bags

Dryer bags scented with aromas, such as lavender, offer a quick way to add a pleasant odor to your clothing. With such products, you throw the bag into the dryer so that it emits a scent while your clothing dries.

Things You Will Need

  • Bottle brush
  • 4 Tbsp baking soda
  • Small bowl
  • Running water
  • Sponge
  • Dryer sheet


  • Hard plastic dryer balls soften clothes as they dry them. They also help clothes separate and tumble while reducing static buildup. Avoid adding chemicals to your fabrics by employing reusable dryer balls.

About the Author

Julie Bawden-Davis is an accomplished writer, who specializes in home and garden. Since 1985, she’s written for a wide variety of publications, including “Organic Gardening,” "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Parents," "Family Circle" and "The Los Angeles Times." Her books include "Fairy Gardening" and "Reader's Digest Flower Gardening." Bawden-Davis holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and is a certified master gardener.