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

If you’ve ever left clothes in the washer for any length of time, you’ll know all about that musty, wet dog smell that lingers on your clothes. We’ve all done it, with a thousand and one other chores to attend to, somehow the washing gets forgotten. When we finally get around to emptying the machine, the smell hits as soon as the door is opened.

Obviously this situation isn’t ideal, but don’t despair, there are a few ways to remove that nasty mouldy smell from your damp, musty clothes. Keep reading for all the secrets on how to remove that bad smell from your clothes.

How To Remove That Musty Smell From Wet Clothes

We know a few ways to remove that musty smell from wet clothes that have been left for sometime in the washer. Some take more effort than others. It all depends on how long they’ve been left and just how stinky they’ve become.

The Outdoors Approach

There are levels of mustiness involved here, if your clothes only have a slightly musty smell, they can be aired outdoors on a clothesline. The fresh air and cool breeze will be enough to remove the offending smell from your clothes. This will not only save you the bother of rewashing the clothes, it should help to remove many of the creases too.

Beware that sunlight can cause bleaching to some fabrics so it’s always best to turn the clothes inside out before hanging them out in the fresh air.

Add A Condiment

If the clothes are too mildew smelling, or you prefer to rewash them, try adding a cup of white vinegar in with your regular detergent. Vinegar is a great natural deodoriser and disinfectant so adding vinegar will help to remove the bacteria and bad smell leaving your clothes smelling fresh again after the wash cycle has completed.

Use Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda)

Bicarbonate of soda (Baking soda) is another one of those household products that has many uses and one of them is removing unwanted smells from musty laundry. Just sprinkle between ¼ to ½ a cup over the laundry and run through the washer on as hot a wash as the fabrics will allow. This often works best in conjunction with white vinegar.

Use the bicarbonate of soda first and allow the wash cycle to finish. Then rinse using 1 cup of white vinegar. This should remove all of those nasty musty, mildew smells from your clothes.

Use An Enzyme Cleaner

There are a number of enzyme cleaners on the market nowadays all of which work in a similar way. You add a set amount (follow instructions on the bottle) along with your regular detergent to remove nasty smells, from mildew to manure.

What Else Causes Washing To Smell Mouldy After Washing?

It’s not just leaving wet washing in the machine that can cause that musty smell to linger on your clothes. There are other reasons why your clothes smell like a wet dog after they’ve been washed in your washing machine. These include;

  • Washing an item already affected by mould
    If your washing included just one item that had mould spores present, it can affect everything else in that wash load.
  • An overfull wash load
    If you cram too much washing into the machine, it can’t clean properly because there isn’t enough room for the water and detergent to soak into every item.
  • Using too much or not enough detergent
    Using too much detergent in your washing can cause it to smell because the excess detergent clogs up the fabric and causes it to smell. Not using enough detergent doesn’t clean the clothes properly leaving them smelling as bad (if not worse) than before they were washed.
  • Not drying the clothes sufficiently
    If you have a washer/dryer and you don’t set the dryer for long enough the clothes can develop that musty, mouldy smell very quickly.
  • Washing machine needs cleaning
    If your washing machine has a smell about it, that smell will get transferred onto your laundry. (See below).
Washing Machine

What Causes Mildew Smells In The Washing Machine?

The main cause of those nasty musty smells in the washing machine are usually due to a buildup of dirt and gunk around the door seal of your machine. Especially if you use a front loading machine with a watertight door seal. Over time dirt and debris builds up in the folds of the rubber seal which harbour bacteria which can lead to smelly washing.

Keep the rubber seal clean by regularly wiping it out using a cloth and white vinegar then rinse with water. This will prevent the bacteria from multiplying and causing the musty smells from forming.

It is recommended that you run a cleaning cycle once a week to ensure your machine stays fresh and clean and to prevent your clothes coming out smelling worse than they went in. Obviously if you don’t use your machine every week, the cleaning cycle will need to be used less frequently. We would recommend running a cleaning cycle at least every month whether you use your machine or not.

When you are cleaning your washing machine don’t forget to clean the detergent drawer as well. This is because if the detergent drawer becomes scummed up with detergent deposits mould spores can breed on this scummy mess.

Always leave the washing machine door open when not in use. Mould spores need a damp environment to thrive, by leaving the door open the machine has a chance to dry out which will help to prevent mould growth. 

Never leave any washed or wet items of clothing in your washer overnight (if you can help it) because this is a surefire way to encourage that nasty damp mouldy smelling bacteria to form. We’ve all left that one odd sock in the machine without realising, we find it always pays to spin the drum by hand once we have emptied the machine. Any odd items then reveal themselves and can be removed and dried.

Why Do Clothes Smell Musty In The Wardrobe (Closet)?

There are 3 main reasons why the clothes in your wardrobe smell mouldy which are;

  1. Too many clothes crammed into the wardrobe
  2. Solid doors preventing airflow
  3. A Lack of airflow

Too Many Clothes Crammed Into The Wardrobe

We all suffer from this one occasionally, the problem is we all live in homes that are smaller than we really need. Or we have accumulated more goods than we really need. Either way if you are cramming too many clothes into your wardrobe some of them, if not all of them will start to smell musty after a while.

The solution is to go through your clothes and remove any that you no longer wear. Either donate them to charity or sell them online. Once you have fewer items in your wardrobe, the air can circulate better removing unwanted smells and lowering the risk of mildew spores gathering.

Solid Wardrobe Doors

Solid doors on a wardrobe look tidy but they prevent airflow which is one of the reasons mould spores can multiply. Consider changing the wardrobe doors for louvre doors that allow air to flow and help to prevent the buildup and multiplication of mould spores.

A Lack Of Airflow

As we just said, a steady airflow is necessary to prevent the buildup of mould spores. A good way of providing airflow is to position a small fan on the floor to direct the airflow around your wardrobe to remove any mouldy air.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can bicarbonate of soda be used to remove mouldy smells from washing?

Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) can be used to remove mouldy smells from washing. Just add between ¼ to ½ a cup in with your regular detergent and run a wash as hot as your fabrics will allow.

Does vinegar get rid of smells in clothes?

Vinegar can get rid of smells in clothes, just add a cup of white vinegar along with your regular detergent and wash as normal. The vinegar acts as a disinfectant and a deodoriser to remove smells.

Should you rewash clothes left in the washer?

It’s always best to rewash clothes that have been left in the washer to remove any unwanted smells or bacteria.

Where do you put vinegar in a washing machine?

You should put 1 cup of white vinegar in the detergent dispenser of your washing machine.

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