How to Remove Bad Smell from Clothes After Washing

Sometimes, even after using a scented detergent, your clothes still smell. It’s important to understand the source, so you can ensure your laundry starts to smell fresh and clean after every wash.

Why does my laundry smell?

You might be thinking, why do my clothes smell even after I've washed them? Isn’t washing supposed to remove clothing odors?

When our body produces sweat, it reacts with the bacteria on our skin and creates a sour smell. The fibers inside our clothes absorb and trap these smelly odors in our laundry.

Folding or putting clothes away in your closet while they’re still damp can cause a sour musty odor that is difficult to remove.

Detergent can sometimes make your clothes smell worse. Using excessive detergent creates residue, which keeps smells trapped inside the fabric of your clothes.

How do odors get trapped in fabric?

The fibers in the clothes we wear can trap and hold onto bacteria, which emits nasty odors and sour smells. Synthetic fabrics that are common in many wardrobes — such as polyester, spandex and rayon — are especially prone to trapping bacteria and odors in clothing.

How to remove bad odor from clothing after washing

If your laundry smells bad after drying, try making sure your clothes are completely dry before folding them or storing them. If the weather permits and you have a place to hang your laundry outside, line drying can leave clean clothes smelling fresher than if you put them in the dryer. Some studies have shown that due to the effects of the ozone, exposure to the sun can make fabrics produce organic compounds that give off rose and citrus-like scents.¹

But if you can’t hang your clothes in the sun, or if you just want an easy way to remove odors every time, use Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer*, which kills the smelly bacteria that’s stuck in your clothes. It’s bleach free and color safe too, so you can add to every load for lasting freshness.

What you need

Steps to remove odor from clothing after washing

  1. Load washing machine

    Put smelly laundry in your front- or top-load washing machine.

  2. Add Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer

    Pour Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer into your fabric softener compartment. You can also add it directly to your rinse cycle.

  3. Machine wash

    Machine wash laundry with your favorite detergent as usual, following the fabric care instructions on your garments.


    Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer even works in cold water.

Clorox has a solution for all of your laundry sanitizing needs. For sanitizing your everyday loads, try Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer. If you have a tough stain, you can use Clorox® Fabric Sanitizer Pre-Treat Spray. Or if you have no time to wash, try Clorox® Fabric Sanitizer Aerosol.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it safe to mix Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer with other household cleaning products?

No. We don't recommend mixing Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer with other household cleaning chemicals.

How do I use Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer?

Simply add Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer to the fabric softener compartment of your washer (or directly into the rinse cycle wash) for your smelliest laundry loads.

Do I need to dilute Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer?

No need, Clorox Laundry Sanitizer is a ready-to-use product.

Can I use Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer for a bleach cleanout cycle?

No. To run a bleach cleanout cycle to remove soil build-ups that harbor odor causing bacteria from the inner workings of your clothes washer, use Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach.