Clothes Come Out Of Washing Machine Smelling? (here’s why & what to do)

We wash our garments to make them smell fresh. But what do we do when they still have that musty odour after running a cycle in the wash?

In this article, we’ll talk about why your clothes may come out of the washing machine smelling foul, and what you can do to fix it.

Reasons why clothes smell foul after putting them in the wash

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting your garments out of the washer only for them to smell stale. Unfortunately, this may happen due to several reasons, such as an overloaded appliance or a dirty machine.

Here are the main causes why this may be happening to you:

You’re overloading your washer

Are your clothes smelling musty after putting them in the machine? In this situation, check whether you’re overloading the capacity of your appliance.

A washing machine with clothes in it

Overpacking your washer does not save you time. If you’re doing so, the result is just that your clothes are not well washed as your appliance is struggling to spin.

SOLUTION: Follow your washing machine’s weight capacity

Take note of the capacity of your machine and make sure not to go over its set capacity if you want your clothes to get clean and smell good.

Leading commercial detergent company, Ariel, shares that if you cannot fit your hand in your machine’s drum when your clothes are in there, then it’s too overloaded and you’ll need to take a few garments out[1].

You’re using too much (or not enough) laundry chemicals

The brand of soaps we’re using for our laundry may need a bit of trial and error. In our experience, for example, it took a few tries to see which ones clean our clothes and leaves them smelling great.

If you have recently switched to a new liquid detergent and they’re causing your garments to smell, don’t hesitate to try another that’ll suit your preference more.

Aside from the brand, you may be putting too much or too little detergent in your cycle. Contrary to what some may believe, overusing detergent does not make your clothes smell better, but the opposite.

SOLUTION: Use the right amount of detergent

Make sure to follow the suggested amount of soap on your laundry cycle.

Another downside of not putting in the correct amount of soap is that it can trigger conditions for people with contact dermatitis and other skin conditions.

You’re not using your washer’s hot cycle

At times, bacteria, mildew, or even mould may grow on your clothing.

This happens due to many reasons such as clothes that are not dried properly or laundry that’s not well-ventilated when stored.

SOLUTION: Use the high-temperature cycle in your washer

If certain garments are getting stinky while others are smelling fresh, then the issue may be bacterial growth. This can be combatted by using hot water in your laundry cycle.

The higher the temps are, the higher the chance of killing the bacteria or spores on your fabrics that are causing the musty odour.                                       

Always check the wash care labels

NOTE: Make sure to read your clothes’ care labels before using your washer’s highest temp. Some garments such as wool can be very sensitive and putting the wash in high heat may cause it to fray.

You left your garments in the washer for too long

We’re humans, and humans tend to forget. Whether it’s busy schedules, or not having energy, whatever the reason may be, many of us may have forgotten our garments when they’re already done in the washer.

Although this is not something to feel guilty about, forgetting to dry your clothes immediately outdoors or in the dryer may be the culprit that’s causing them to smell stinky.

It’s important to remember that fungi love damp places. When you leave your garments overnight in the washer, chances are spores are already growing on them.

SOLUTION: Dry your garments immediately

The quickest way to solve the issue is to always, and we mean always, immediately dry your clothes after they’re finished in the washing machine. This way, there’s no chance for bacterial or fungi growth to occur.

However, if you have already left the clothes in the wash and they’re already starting to smell, it may be time for a rewash.

SEE ALSO: Left Clothes In Washer Overnight? (here’s what you need to know)

Your washer is too dirty

Yes, the washing machine’s job is to clean your dirty clothes. But don’t forget that it will need some TLC, too!

In many cases, washers are often damp. This is the ideal environment for bacteria and fungi growth. Spore buildups are often found on your machine’s door seal, drain pipes, and detergent tray.  

As an example, the bacteria that causes staph infections, or Staphylococcus aureus[2], may be found in garments as they can survive in the fabric for a month. When the infected garment gets popped into your washer, traces of bacteria may linger in its seal or door, which may contribute to the foul odour.

SOLUTION: Refresh your washer by giving it a clean

Cleaning your washing machine is really simple. All you need is a clean cloth, liquid detergent, white vinegar, hot water, and an old toothbrush.

NOTE: Before attempting to clean your washer, read the user manual!

The first thing you need to do is clean your detergent drawer. Use a bit of hot water and liquid detergent to scrub the surface with an old toothbrush.

Second, remove possible blockages on the filter and then soak it for a few minutes in a mixture of hot water and liquid detergent.

Third, clean your machine’s door seals with hot water and liquid detergent. Use the old toothbrush to gently brush the surface, then wipe with a clean cloth.

Finally, run an empty load on your machine using the highest heat. You can use your liquid detergent with white vinegar as a deodoriser, depending on your preference.

Some washer models even have their own cleaning cycle. Check your appliance’s manual to see if it has this feature.

Your washer needs maintenance work

When you have already tried to find the cause of the “smell” and it’s not because of overloading, using the wrong laundry chemicals, not using the right temp, and your washer is still clean, it’s time to look into your washer itself.

Like other appliances, there will come a time when your washing machine may fail. Some faults result in a bad odour permeating your clothing, especially mechanical ones like corroding aluminium.

SOLUTION: Seek the assistance of a repair professional

Most of the time, it can be very tempting to whip out your appliance’s manual and unleash your inner MacGyver.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have enough knowledge or experience, doing so may do more harm than good. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll be left with a damaged appliance or may even get electrocuted in the process.

To avoid this, make sure that you have a go-to repair technician to assist you.

Have some more tips to share to make laundry smell clean and fresh?

When we spent all that time doing our laundry, it’s normal to expect our garments to smell brand new.

Have you ever experienced your clothes coming out of the washer and they’re still stinky? What did you do to make them smell good again?

Feel free to comment with your tips and suggestions below!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my clothes smell when coming out of the washing machine?

The usual reasons why clothes may smell even after washing them can be bacteria buildup on the fabric or on the machine itself.

How do you get rid of bad smells after washing clothes?

To get rid of the musty smell, determine the root cause of the odour first. Whether it’s overloading the machine or bacteria buildup, make sure to address the issue, then rewash your garments and check if the smell still persists. If it does, you may need to call a professional to fix the problem.

Why does the laundry room smell bad after washing?

If your laundry room smells bad, there’s a chance that the space is growing mould or mildew. It will help to get a dehumidifier to keep the growth at bay.

Why do my clothes smell if I left them in the wash for too long?

Leaving your clothes in the wash makes them smell due to the mildew, bacteria, or mould that may have started growing on their fabrics.

How can I deep clean my washing machine?

You can easily deep clean your washing machine by running an empty load cycle at the hottest temperature. Add white vinegar or baking soda to the dispenser to get rid of bacteria and bad smells.

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