How to keep laundry smelling fresh

Smelly laundry -- usually caused by a build-up of bacteria and mould -- may leave you wanting to throw away your towels and clothes. But there are solutions! Here's how to make your laundry smell good again.


  1. Don't leave clean laundry in the machine after the load has finished washing -- especially not overnight. With a nice warm, dark environment like a closed washing machine, bacteria and mould both thrive.
  2. Never put damp laundry in the washing pile. If you can't wash wet or damp clothes and towels immediately, pre-treat as needed and then let them dry to avoid getting smelly.
  3. Thicker towels and heavy clothing such as jeans take longer to dry, so be sure to dry them thoroughly each time.
  4. Hang your laundry outside to dry. The sun can help keep mold at bay -- just be sure to dry everything completely (even if it means some time in the dryer inside).If you don't have a big yard consider a rotary washing line, which will save you space. Check out this guide on the best rotary washing lines and pick one for you.
  5. Try mixing half borax with half baking soda during your normal laundry cycle. This can help to give your clothes a fresh scent, especially if the cause is hard water. Two cups of borax mixed with two cups of baking soda should be added with your normal detergent. Add about eight drops of lavender or lemon oil to give a more bold scent.
  6. Try allowing each load of smelly laundry to pre-soak for at least 15 minutes in hot water, using one of these additives per load to see what (and how much) works best for you: borax (about 1/2 cup), vinegar (3/4 cup), lemon juice (about 1/2 cup), baking soda (3/4 cup), hydrogen peroxide diluted to 3% (1/2 cup).


  8. Use hot water to wash loads that smell.
  9. Don't skip on the washing cycles. From personal experience I have discovered that cutting out a cycle may save on energy but it doesn't clean your washing. If you want to be more energy efficient, pre-soak all your washing before popping it into the machine.
  10. Check pockets for things like paper, money, metal, and anything else that should not be there. Money and paper can shred inside of the washer and make for an ugly mess, plus it can clog up pipes and eventually lead to mould. . Metals and other objects can ruin a washing machine or poke holes in your clothing as it is being washed. Make this a rule to always check the pockets for any items.
  11. Over time, hard water can cause clothes to become dull and dingy. To solve this problem, add a pinch or two of ordinary table salt to the washer with your normal detergent. Let some water run in the washer to dissolve detergent and salt, and then add your clothes. Coloured clothes will come out much brighter than they were.
  12. Use distilled white vinegar jus the way you would fabric softener, and you will be surprised by the results. This less-expensive alternative to commercial fabric softeners will cut down on static and increase the softness of your favourite clothes. Add a cup of vinegar to the water when you wash dark clothes and it will cut down on fading.


To help keep your smelly laundry problem from returning give your washing machine a regular cleaning of its own. Simply run the machine on a complete cycle - with an empty drum - and add a tablespoon of white vinegar and half a cup of borax to the water.


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