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How to Get Smells Out of Clothing

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Our clothes absorb strong odors that can stick around, even after multiple wash cycles. Find out why your clothes smell and what you can do when detergent isn’t enough.

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Mess happens.
Trust the power of Clorox.

*Use as directed.

Mess happens.
Trust the power of Clorox.

*Use as directed.

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Why do my clothes smell?

Our clothes smell for a variety of reasons that leave you asking, “Why do my clothes smell sour?” The cause could be leaving sweaty clothes inside a tightly packed bag or laundry hamper, using too much detergent, or exposure to chemical smells or sour odors.

dirty clothes in a hamper

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Where is the sour smell coming from?

Our bodies produce odor causing bacteria, which gets caught in the fibers of clothing and creates unfortunate odors, like smelly socks and sweaty underarm areas. Strong chemicals like gasoline and perfumes can also be the cause of stubborn smells.

What causes clothing to smell bad?

Clothing fibers are absorbent and can trap odor-causing bacteria. And trying to remove smells by using detergent can actually make your clothes smell worse. Using excessive detergent creates residue, which also keeps smells trapped inside the fabric of your clothes.

How to get smell out of clothes

Now that you understand why clothes smell, you’re probably wondering, how do I remove odor from clothes? There are a few key steps to removing sour odors.


Prevent smells from getting stronger. Make sure you unpack your luggage or gym bag as soon as you get home. If your laundry hamper is always tightly packed, invest in a bigger basket to give your dirty clothes more room to breathe.


Detergent alone isn’t always enough to remove smell from clothes. Sometimes the key is to pretreat the smelly areas with an odor-removing solution, like Clorox® Fabric Sanitizer Pre-Treat Spray.

In the washer

You can try Natural and Home Remedies for Sanitizing, like vinegar and water or a baking soda and water solution.

But your best bet is to use Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer*, which is designed specifically to sanitize stubborn smells away:

  1. 1

    Put your smelly laundry in the machine.

    laundry room with washing machine
  2. 2

    Pour Clorox® Laundry Sanitizer into your fabric softener compartment.

    pouring sanitizer into washing machine
  3. 3

    Wash your laundry with your favorite detergent as usual.

    pouring detergent into measuring cup

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.

  • *

    Use as directed.