How to Get a Smell Out of Clothes

Unpleasant odors can embed themselves in clothing materials, remaining there despite repeated washings. The good news is, you can get almost any smell out of clothes if you know the best way to attack the odor - it is often a matter of knowing what to use to attack the odor you want to remove.

Get Smell Out of Clothes

Getting Smoke Smells Out of Clothes

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Unscented Ammonia
  • Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent

Using a fireplace in your home, a nearby forest or house fire, or just a car ride or visit from a heavy smoker can result in a smoky smell permeating your clothing. Fortunately, removing smoke odors from your clothing is much easier than you might think.

  1. Check the care label(s) on your clothing to make sure the item(s) is washable.
  2. Fill your washer with cold water. Add two cups of ammonia for a small load, four cups for a large load. For single items of clothing, add a cup of ammonia to a sink full of water.
  3. Add the clothing to the washer or sink and allow to soak several hours or overnight.
  4. Rinse thoroughly in cold water.
  5. Launder as directed using heavy-duty laundry detergent.
  6. Air dry to make sure the odor is removed before drying in a dryer.

Getting Mildew and Musty Smells Out of Clothes

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Baking Soda
  • Liquid Chlorine Bleach or Color-Safe Bleach
  • Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent

If you've ever forgotten a load of laundry in a washer for a day or two, you're likely familiar with mildew odor. Likewise, thrift shop fashionistas and those who store their clothes in attics or basements are often faced with the task of removing musty smells from clothing that has been stored in less-than-perfect conditions for a long period of time.

To get musty or mildew smells out of white or bleach-safe clothing:

  1. Make sure the clothing is chlorine bleach safe, and can be washed in hot water.
  2. Fill your washer with hot water. Add one cup of bleach for a small load, two cups for a large load. For a single item of clothing, add half a cup of bleach to a sink full of hot water.
  3. Add the clothing to the washer or sink, and allow to soak several hours or overnight.
  4. Add heavy-duty laundry detergent to the wash water, and launder as directed.
  5. Allow the item(s) to air dry to be sure the odor is removed before drying in a dryer, which can set the odor permanently.

To remove musty or mildew smells from clothing not safe for washing with chlorine bleach read the next section.

Getting Sweaty Smells Out of Clothes

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Liquid Chlorine Bleach or Color-Safe Bleach
  • Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent

Working out or just working hard may be great for your body and soul, but it can really do a number on your clothes, leaving behind sweaty smells that can be difficult to get out. That's no excuse to become a couch potato, though -- body odor is an odor that's easily extinguished from your clothes if you know how.

To remove body odor from cotton and other washable natural fibers safe for laundering with chlorine bleach:

  1. Fill your washer with the hottest water safe for the clothing.
  2. Add a cup of bleach for small loads or a cup and a half of bleach for larger loads.
  3. Add heavy-duty laundry detergent according to directions for your load size.
  4. Add clothing, and allow to soak overnight or several hours.
  5. Launder as directed.

To remove body odor from synthetic and natural washable natural fibers not safe for laundering with chlorine bleach:

Getting Urine Smells Out of Clothes

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent

Incontinent humans or impatient pets can sometimes have accidents that result in hard-to-remove urine odors in their -- or your -- clothing. Urine smells are some of the most difficult odors to remove, and can become permanent if dried in a dryer or ironed with a hot iron before they are removed. However, if you work fast, you can get rid of urine odors in clothing.

Never wash urine-soaked clothing with chlorine bleach -- harmful vapors can result.

  1. Fill your washer with the hottest water safe for your clothing. Fill a sink with hot water for single items.
  2. Add two cups of baking soda for large loads, one cup for small loads. After several hours, agitate the clothing, then add two cups of white vinegar for large loads, one cup for small loads. The vinegar and baking soda may bubble and/or fizz. This is normal. Allow the clothing to set overnight.
  3. Add heavy-duty laundry detergent according to directions for your load size.
  4. Launder as directed.
  5. Allow to air dry to determine that the urine smell is gone; if not, repeat steps 1-4.

If you think your smelly clothes are doomed for the trash bin, think again -- getting a smell out of clothes is often as easy as knowing what method to use for which odor and what type of fabric. Very few odors are set permanently, and none have to be if you launder quickly and follow these directions.