If the laundry comes out of the washing machine smelling bad, the machine is usually the reason. But it can also be that the washed laundry only begins to smell in the closet. We explain why laundry can smell unpleasant and what can remedy the situation.

You put on a freshly washed shirt or blouse. But the garment gives off an unpleasant odor. Although you put the clothes clean in the closet, after some time they have taken on a musty or sour aroma. How can the laundry stink even though it has been washed? We explain the most common causes and explain how you can remedy the situation. By the way: If the clothes don’t necessarily smell musty after washing, but of sweat, these tips can be useful: Remove the smell of sweat from clothes: These 3 home remedies help.

Laundry stinks? The cause is bacteria

Basically, unpleasant odors arise when bacteria or mold multiply in textiles. The metabolic processes of microorganisms produce, among other things, sulfur-containing compounds that we perceive as a stench or bad odor. So, if you want to prevent your laundry from smelling musty, you have to deprive germs of the basis for life. To do this, the laundry must be as hygienic and dry as possible. If laundry smells bad after washing, the following procedure is recommended:

1. Remove the laundry promptly from the drum when the wash cycle is finished.

Especially when the door is closed, the damp interior of the machine is an ideal incubator for germs. Therefore, never leave damp laundry in the washing machine.

2. Hang laundry so that it can dry quickly and thoroughly. If clothes and textiles remain damp for too long, this also promotes unpleasant odors.

  • Shake out laundry before hanging.
  • Always hang laundry items with sufficient distance between them.
  • Ventilate the room well with the clothes rack so that the moisture can escape.
  • If it is warm enough outside (from around 59 degrees) and there is no pollen flying at the time to which you are allergic, laundry can dry perfectly well outdoors.

3. Laundry smells bad: check washing machine

The most common reason for a bad laundry smell is probably the washing machine itself, which – for whatever reason – does not do its job as hygienically as it should. The following questions may help in troubleshooting: Is there a bad smell coming from the drum? Have deposits formed inside? Is the detergent compartment clean? Could the supply or drain lines be dirty? Has the lint filter been cleaned? Could parts of the machine be calcified, affecting cleaning performance?

Thoroughly cleaning your washing machine is never a bad idea. Not only will it improve the scent of the laundry, but it will also extend the life of the machine. For all the important tips on the subject, read what is below:

  • Always leave the washing machine slightly open after washing to allow moisture to escape.
  • Do not always wash at low temperatures – although this is more environmentally friendly – but also sometimes at 158 degrees and more, preferably once a month. This kills germs.
  • Wash ‘odor-prone’ clothes – sportswear, underwear, socks – at higher temperatures.Hygiene rinse, laundry fragrance, perfume or other washing additives can provide temporary improvement, but are no substitute for thorough cleaning and are not necessarily good for the environment either.

4. The machine may simply have a defect and therefore can no longer clean the laundry properly. In this case, only a professional can help.

5. If you use a dryer, it could also be the cause. The same applies here as to the washing machine: germs settle in a dryer that has not been cleaned for a long time, which in turn transfer stench to the laundry. Read more: The dryer stinks? These tips can help:

  • Laundry smells mustier the longer it stays in the dryer drum.
  • Also, leave the dryer door open for a while after drying.

Incidentally, there is a wonderfully simple remedy for a musty dryer – simply dispense with the energy guzzler and hang the laundry by hand. This is not only cheaper and more environmentally friendly, it also protects the textiles.

6. Sometimes the smell of laundry can also come from the materials that are being washed. Textiles with a high plastic content, such as polyester and acrylic, are considered more ‘odor-prone’ because they provide a favorable home for certain types of bacteria. Natural textiles made of cotton, linen and hemp, on the other hand, absorb odors more slowly – and are also more environmentally friendly because their production is not based on petroleum.

7. In very rare cases, the washing machine is also not powerful enough to remove all body or other odors from the clothes.

If repair is no longer an option and you are thinking of buying a new appliance, you should pay attention to the energy efficiency class and the information on electricity and water consumption. For detailed tips on buying electrical appliances, see: Disposing of electrical waste: Simply dispose of old electrical appliances – from batteries to charging cables.

8. Another possibility is that you use perfumes, deodorants or other body products that enter the machine through your clothing and react with the detergent or additives (fabric softener, fabric softener, etc.) to produce an odor.

Clothes in the closet smell musty?

Your clothes don’t take on an unpleasant odor until you’re in the closet? Then you need to clarify whether the mustiness comes from the closet – or whether the laundry has already brought odor-causing germs into the closet that have been able to multiply there.

If the latter is more likely, please check the above points – i.e. whether your washing machine and dryer can work hygienically, whether your laundry can dry quickly and sufficiently, and whether materials, detergents and additives could play a role.

If the cabinet is the cause

Then check the cabinet: could moisture, even mold, have formed inside? What about the back of the furniture and the wall in front of which the cabinet is placed: Are there any moisture stains or traces of mold there? If the cabinet is in front of a cold exterior wall, it will cool down faster inside as well, which will encourage mustiness and mold. The entire room where the closet is located must be adequately heated and regularly ventilated.

Is the air supply inside the cabinet adequate? Especially in heavy (wooden) wardrobes, which are often closed, the air cannot circulate, so inevitably over time musty settles in the clothes. If clothes are hung or stuffed too tightly, the closet also can’t ‘breathe’. Take heart and use this opportunity to clean out. The remaining textiles will thank you.

These home remedies will also help with closet mustiness:

  • Thoroughly wipe out your closet with warm water and vinegar cleaner.
  • Place dried coffee grounds on a saucer or in a cup in the closet. Coffee binds odors.
  • Place a bar of scented soap in the closet or resort to the good old lavender sachet.
  • If you spray textile fresheners on your clothes, make sure it’s an ecologically compatible product or make your own laundry fragrance in an environmentally friendly way.