How To Remove The Smell Of Sweat From Your Clothes

If you regularly work out or if you’re just someone who sweats a lot, it will not be uncommon for your clothes to sometimes have a sweaty smell. However, if your clothes still have a sour odour after being in the wash, it could be a problem. 

Fortunately, there are many ways to remove the smell of sweat that has been stubbornly clinging to your clothes. To mention a few: using white vinegar, lemon juice, or bicarbonate of soda can remove the nasty odours, as can sun drying the garments and also cleaning your washing machine.

Let’s have a closer look into these methods below, and let us know which one you’ll try!

Top Ways To Remove Sweat Smells From Clothing

Sweat stains and odour can get stuck in fabrics, especially those that are used for working out or made of certain fabrics. 

Here are the most effective ways to refresh your clothing:

Using White Vinegar

White vinegar is not only for salads, it can also be a very powerful deodoriser. It works by breaking down the odour-causing substances and can be easily used in your laundry routine.

To make use of its disinfecting properties, add 1-2 cups of white vinegar to your washing machine during the rinse cycle. Doing so will neutralise the odours and make your clothes smell clean again.

white vinegar in washing machine

If the odour is stubborn, you can soak the clothes in a mixture of water and white vinegar. Add 1 part distilled white vinegar to 4 parts water in a basin, then soak the garments for an hour before washing them as normal.

TIP: Do your garments smell mouldy? Using white vinegar will get rid of the pesky smell!

Using Lemon Juice

Lemon juice, with its high citric acid content, is another excellent natural remedy for the embarrassing sweat odours on your fabrics.

This is possible as the acidity of the lemon juice breaks down the odour-causing bacteria and leaves a fresh, citrusy scent.

Add a cup of lemon juice to 2 litres of warm water in a basin, then soak the smelly garment for at least an hour. Then, wash as normal.

WARNING: This works best for white clothes, as the acidity of the lemon juice can bleach your coloured garments.

Using Bicarbonate Of Soda

Bicarbonate of soda is another multi-purpose product that works wonders in absorbing odours. This is possible due to its alkaline nature that neutralises acidic smells.

You can use bicarbonate of soda in two ways, as a pre-soaking treatment or while washing your garments.

Baking Soda

To pre-treat your fabrics, make a paste with the bicarbonate of soda and water and apply it to the affected areas. Use the 1 part water to 2 parts bicarbonate of soda ratio. Let it sit for a couple of hours or overnight for more stubborn smells. Then, wash as normal.

To add it to your laundry routine, you can put a cup of bicarbonate of soda directly in the washing machine’s drum with your clothes. This will help neutralise the pH in your clothing, which results in fresh-smelling garments.

Using Soda Crystals

Soda crystals, also known as washing soda, are known to be effective in treating hard water, which can sometimes contribute to the ineffectiveness of detergents. Because they are highly alkaline, they are also effective in removing grease stains on fabrics.

Soda crystals enhance the cleaning power of your detergent, which is great for keeping your clothes smelling fresh.

Dissolve a cup of soda crystals in warm water and add it to your wash load, or create a paste by mixing it with water for pre-treatment. Let it sit for at least an hour, then wash garments as normal.

TIP: Wear gloves when handling soda crystals, as their alkaline nature can be too irritating for your skin.

Using Laundry Boosters

Commercial laundry boosters are formulated to enhance the cleaning power of your detergent and are particularly effective in removing tough odours and stains. One of the most effective ones is oxygen bleach as it can easily break down the organic compounds in sweat.

When using laundry boosters, make sure to follow the instructions on the product packaging, as not all products work the same!

Dry Clothes Outdoors

Drying clothes outdoors is not only eco-friendly but also effective in odour removal!

Clothes on a clothes line

DID YOU KNOW? The sun’s ultraviolet rays have a natural bleaching and disinfecting effect, which is extremely effective in killing odour-causing bacteria!

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a place that gets access to the sun’s rays, air out your fabrics and ditch the dryer during summertime. The fresh air will also remove any lingering smells, leaving you with pleasant-smelling clothes!

Unconventional Methods That Do Work!

Yes, some of these methods may sound weird, but make no mistake! They may help you remove those smelly odours efficiently. 


Mouthwash’s primary function is to kill bacteria in the mouth, and it can similarly tackle bacteria on clothes.

Make sure to use an alcohol-based, sugar-free mouthwash that doesn’t contain colouring agents to avoid staining your fabrics!

Just add a few capfuls directly to your smelly garment, then let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Wash and dry as normal.


Salt is another simple yet effective remedy for removing sweat odours. Its ability to absorb moisture and neutralise odours makes it suitable for treating sweaty clothes.

Dissolve a half-cup of salt in a bucket of warm water and soak your clothes for a few hours before washing. This method is particularly effective for white garments, as salt also has a mild bleaching effect.

Aspirin And Cream Of Tartar

A lesser-known but effective combination is aspirin and cream of tartar. Aspirin, which contains salicylic acid, helps break down sweat compounds, while the cream of tartar acts as a cleaning and bleaching agent. If you have both in your home, why not give it a try?

Just crush at least three aspirin tablets in a cup of water, then add a tablespoon’s worth of cream of tartar.

Apply the solution with an old toothbrush on odorous areas and sweat stains, then gently scrub it on the fabric. Leave it for at least an hour, then wash and dry as normal.

WARNING: The combination of both aspirin and cream of tartar may bleach your clothes. Only use this method for your white garments.

Additional Tips To Make Your Clothes Smell Wonderful

Keeping your clothes smelling fragrant does not have to be expensive or time-consuming. Here are simple ways to make your fabrics smell clean and fresh:

  • Dry Before Putting In The Hamper
    Damp clothes can breed bacteria and mould if left in a hamper. If it’ll be a while before your next laundry session, always ensure that sweaty or wet clothes are air-dried before adding them to your laundry hamper.
  • Pre-Soak Garments
    Pre-soaking garments in a solution with any of the above-mentioned ingredients can significantly enhance the removal of tough odours.
  • Wash Your Garments Inside Out
    Turning clothes inside out before washing ensures a more effective clean, particularly in areas where sweat and body oils are touching your garments directly.
  • Use The Appropriate Amount Of Detergent
    When it comes to laundry products, more does not mean better. Incorrect detergent amounts can leave residues on clothes, trapping awful smells. Follow the recommended amounts for the size of your laundry load.
    Also, minimise your usage of fabric softeners, as they also leave residue. White vinegar can be a wonderful alternative that’ll soften your clothes and disinfect your fabrics at a lesser price.
  • Avoid Overloading Your Machine
    An overloaded washing machine can prevent clothes from being cleaned and rinsed properly. Ensure there is enough space in the drum for clothes to move freely.
    TIP: Use at least 1/2 but not over 3/4s of your washing machine’s weight capacity for a thorough cleaning process.
  • Have A Regular Laundry Schedule
    Frequent laundering prevents the build-up of odours and stains on your garments. After all, leaving them in the hamper for a long time will just set the odours and stains, making them more difficult to remove and clean.
  • Clean Your Washing Machine
    A dirty washing machine can transfer odours to your clothes. Regular cleaning and maintenance of your machine are essential for fresh-smelling laundry. Aim to clean your washer at least once a month!
  • Store Your Clothes Properly
    Ensure clothes are fully dry and kept in a well-ventilated space.

Why Do Your Clothes Smell?

The main reason why clothes develop an unpleasant odour is due to the presence of bacteria that feed on sweat and body oils. These bacteria break down the proteins and fats in sweat, producing the distinctive smell of body odour. 

person smelling clothes

When sweat comes in contact with the clothing, it also transfers germs and bacteria, hence the bad smell. It doesn’t help that certain fabrics such as polyester and nylon harbour sweat smells more than others, making them more challenging to keep fresh. 

Of course, habits like infrequent washing, improper drying, and poor storage can contribute to the persistence of odours in clothing.

Do you have questions? Feel free to leave a comment below!

SEE ALSO: How To Clean A Washing Machine Like A Pro: Quick & Easy Guide

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do my clothes still smell of sweat after washing?

Your clothes may still smell of sweat after washing if the odour-causing bacteria or sweat residue is stubbornly clinging to the fabric. Washing with detergent alone may not be enough to fully remove sweat smells.

How do you get rid of a strong sweat smell out of clothes?

To get rid of a strong sweat smell out of clothes, pre-soak the clothes in a solution of white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, or lemon juice before washing. Using laundry boosters or oxygen bleach can also help break down and remove tough sweat odours.

What fabrics harbour sweat smells?

Fabrics that harbour sweat smells the most are typically synthetic materials like polyester and nylon. These fabrics tend to trap sweat and body oils, making them more challenging to clean and prone to retaining odours.

How can I reduce body odour naturally?

To reduce body odour naturally, maintain good personal hygiene, wear breathable clothing made from natural fibres like cotton, and use natural deodorisers. Consuming a balanced diet and staying hydrated can also help.

Will vinegar make my clothes smell more?

Vinegar will not make your clothes smell more; instead, it helps neutralise and remove bad odours. When used in the rinse cycle or as a soak, the vinegar breaks down odour-causing substances, leaving your clothes smelling fresh. The vinegar smell itself dissipates after washing and drying the clothes.

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