Clothes Smelling Damp? (here’s how to stop it)

You got that laundry going and tumble-dried the garments – only for them to smell like the same musty odour (or even worse) that they had before you washed them.

Clothes that smell damp are not really great to wear. After all, nobody wants to walk around and smell like they’ve just risen from a cobwebby coffin.

If you’re wondering why this is happening and how to stop your garments from smelling foul, read on.

Why your clothes are damp-smelling – and how to fix them

We wash our clothes to get them clean and make them smell like flowers, soap, or whatever scent you prefer and use as your detergent and fabric softener.

Hence, when the garments are completely laundered and they smell sour instead, we know how frustrating this can be.

There are many reasons behind the damp smell on your garments. Let’s go over each one and look into how we can prevent this from happening again.

Wet, sweaty, and/or dirty clothing

Do you sweat frequently or work out? Do you often have dirty clothes after work due to the nature of your job or just because of the daily commute?

In this case, your clothes may accumulate a lot of bacteria on their fabric that causes a foul smell. The worst thing many people do in this situation is just throw moist and dirty clothes in their hamper.

Why? Because doing so just encourages fungi and bacteria to grow on it. Just putting damp clothes on the floor or in your laundry basket enhances the growth of various microorganisms[1].

Aside from the bad odour that will result from this practice, it can also be the cause of the pesky sweat stains you have on some of your garments!

Wash wet clothes immediately, if possible

To avoid clothes from going musty, we highly recommend washing wet, sweaty clothes ASAP.

However, if this is not possible due to time conflicts, airing your garments out before putting them in the laundry hamper would help freshen them up.

TIP: Don’t be afraid to wash your garments using the high temp option in your washer! Doing so kills the bacteria that may be causing the foul odour. Just make sure to read the care labels to avoid damaging your clothes.

Overloading the washing machine

It’s tempting to just place all your dirty clothes in the washer to get it done with. Believe us – we’re also not a fan of doing multiple loads either.

Unfortunately, overloading your machine can do your garments more harm than good.

Two people putting clothes in a laundry basket from the washer

Why? Because overloading your washer limits the spinning of your appliance which results in dirty and smelly garments.

When the washer is packed with clothing, it will not be able to do its job efficiently. You may even damage your clothes and the machine itself due to extreme weight and pressure.

Load your washer with just enough clothes

Check out your washing machine’s capacity and follow the recommendation to a T. Generally, it’s best to place clothes that will only fill around ¾ of your machine’s drum for good measure[2].

Anything more than this fraction is overloading the washer and may cause it to get faulty over time. Of course, it’s not good to only put in a few pieces of clothes, either. Doing so is just a waste of resources and can also damage your machine due to an unbalanced load.

Damp clothes that weren’t dried properly

Is your dryer faulty and not taking the moisture off your clothes completely? Are there times when you put away clothes that are still damp because you don’t have the time to dry them?

If you’re frequently putting away damp garments, then this can be the reason why your clothes are smelling sour.

Why? When your clothes are damp for a time, bacteria and fungi can grow on it.

TIP: Did you forget your laundry in the washer? Check your fabrics for signs of fungi growth. If it already smells foul, re-wash them immediately.

Stop putting away damp clothing

The best thing you can do to stop the growth of fungi and bacteria on your clothes is to allow them to dry completely.

When you’re not giving your garments ample time to dry, they won’t just smell but may also cause you and your family various skin conditions. As an example, you may get a rash when the bacteria gets in contact with your skin.

If the weather is nice, we will always recommend drying your clothes outdoors. Not only will you save money by not using electricity, but you’ll also get fresher and cleaner clothes due to the sun’s natural deodorising properties.

Clothes on a clothes line

Do you live in a place where the weather is quite unpredictable? Getting a drying rack is certainly worth its price.

SEE ALSO: What Are The Benefits Of Drying Clothes In The Sun?

Dirty washing machine

Believe it or not, your washing machine may be the culprit behind why your clothes are smelling foul after putting them in the wash.

Why? Because commercial laundry products, dead skin cells, and body oils, can build up inside your machine. This could happen in its detergent tray, the door seals, and the tub itself.

If you notice that you’re doing everything right – from not overloading your machine, using the right amount of detergent, and airing your clothes properly and they still smell, it’s possible that your washer may have bacterial or fungi growth that’s causing the bad odour.

TIP: Soap build-up on your washer can also cause your garments to smell. Make sure that you’re only putting in just enough detergent on your laundry cycle.

Clean your washer regularly

To get rid of the bacteria or fungi that are growing inside your machine, a monthly cleaning should be in your schedule.

The best way to clean your washer is by:

  1. Running an empty cycle
  2. Cleaning the soap dispenser
  3. Wiping the door seal
  4. Wiping the washer’s drum

SEE ALSO: Washing Machine Not Cleaning Clothes? (this might be why)

Get rid of that damp smell on your garments!

Nobody likes to smell like mould. Especially when we’re going outside, nothing beats wearing fresh, clean, and nice-smelling clothes.

To avoid smelling musty, make sure that you’re taking care of your garments properly. Use the right amount of detergent, and practice good laundry habits.

Do you have more questions on how to have a fresh laundry batch every time? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dampness smell like?

Damp clothing will usually smell “musty”. The foul odour often emerges when garments are left moist for too long.

How do you fix the damp smell on clothes?

Depending on the reason why there’s a damp smell on the garments in the first place, this can be fixed by cleaning your washer, using less or more detergent, or airing your garments.

How long can you leave clothes damp?

Experts recommend not letting clothes stay damp for more than 12 hours, as the garments will start growing bacteria and fungi.

Why is my washer so dirty?

Washers get dirty due to many reasons: commercial laundry products, dead skin cells and body oil, limescale, and soil can build up on your machine.

How can I clean my washing machine naturally?

You can clean your washing machine naturally by running an empty cycle on the hottest temperature of your appliance. Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to help get rid of bad odours.

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