How Long Can You Leave Clothes In The Washer?

Let’s admit it: Many of us have forgotten to take our wet laundry out of the washing machine.

As forgetful individuals, how long is it acceptable to leave clothes in the washer? And also, is there anything we can do to make them smell fresh once they already start being musty?

How long can damp laundry stay in the washing machine?

If you often leave your damp clothing in the washer for a few hours, you may be curious about the actual time it’s acceptable to do so. After all, no one likes wearing clothes that smell mildewy.

According to clothing experts, it’s okay to leave your damp clothes in the washer for around 8 to 12 hours. When it exceeds the 12-hour mark, chances are your garments will already start having that bad smell that is caused by mould growth, bacteria, or mildew.

washing machine with a towel in the door

Aside from your clothes smelling bad when left in the washing machine for a long time, there will also come a time when your garments’ fabric will start to rot. This is what happens when clothes are frequently covered with moisture and are unable to get dry.

To prevent smelly, mouldy, or rotten clothing, it’s best to set an alarm on your phone to remind you when the wash cycle is completed.

Are your clothes smelling bad after leaving them in the wash?

Do you often leave your damp clothes in the washing machine? If this is the case, you may already notice a bad smell emanating from your fabrics.

Don’t worry – this does not mean that your clothes will smell awful forever.

Here are some tips to freshen up your laundry once they already smell bad from being forgotten in the washing machine:

Air damp clothes out to dry

Is there a weird smell from your clothes once they’ve been left in the wash?

When this happens, the smell is usually the result of the bacteria that has already started to grow on your clothing. As we know, dark and wet environments are what keep bacteria and fungi thriving.

Unfortunately, a mouldy or mildewy fabric is not just a threat to your nose, but also to your skin. Since it can irritate your skin and cause asthma[1], it’s best to remove the smell by airing out your garments once they’re already smelling bad.

clothes on a clothes line

The best way to do so is by airing your clothes outdoors in the heat of the sun. However, if this is not possible, just allowing your clothes to air dry, even on a clothing rack, is so much better than just tossing them in the tumble dryer.

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Add vinegar or baking soda to your laundry cycle

In the instance where aside from the bad odour, you can already see powdery substances on your clothing, this is a clear sign to rewash them.

This is because these powdery materials can be mildew or mould, which can be dangerous for your health.

The best way to remove them is to add a glass of vinegar or a cup of baking soda to your normal laundry cycle.

If the mould or mildew is still very difficult to remove, your next step would be to add bleach to your washing cycle.

white laundry with bleach

NOTE: Make sure to check your garments’ care labels before using strong chemicals such as bleach to avoid ruining their fabrics.

SEE ALSO: Left Clothes In Washer? Here’s How To Get The Smell Out

Take care of your clothes by taking them out of the wash

Once they’re done in the washing machine, it’s still best to take your garments out and into the dryer or clothesline to remove the moisture. Doing so allows you and your family to wear clothes that are clean and smell fresh!

Do you have tips to not forget your laundry in the wash? Feel free to share them below!

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you leave clothes in the washer for too long?

If you leave clothes in the washer for more than 12 hours, they’ll grow bacteria, mould, or mildew that’ll make them smell foul and eventually ruin the fabric.

Can I leave wet clothes in the washer for a few hours?

Ideally, you should avoid leaving clothes in the washer as it causes it to smell bad. However, if it’s unavoidable, it’s okay to leave clothing in the washing machine just for a couple of hours.

Is it okay to leave damp clothes out overnight?

Yes, it’s generally okay to leave washing out overnight.

What to do if you leave clothes in the washer for a week?

If you leave clothing in the washer for a week, it’s best to rewash them all over again to remove the bacteria and bad odour.

Will mildew smell wash out of clothes?

Absolutely, the mildew smell will be washed out by a strong detergent or white vinegar. If the smell is still there, hanging clothes outdoors to dry will help.

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