Sour Clothes


Any advice for getting the sour smell out of clothes? I am not sure why they get sour (they are washed in cold water with softener, then hung to dry, sometimes I fluff them first in no heat cycle). I wash them in cold to avoid shrinking and to take care of some materials. I may have taken too long to get to them (1 hr?) at one point or another or may have hung them too close or in a bathroom and then closed the door, which are my guesses as to why they get sour (dh also suggests the washing machine, which is pretty new) but it happens even if I stand close to the washing machine when it is close to ending to remove the clothes immediately and hang them in a well ventilated place. It seems like once they get that smell once it is hard to remove it, no matter how many times I wash the clothes (and I’ve tried different detergents too). It has only happened to a few items (including specific t-shirts, jeans, bermudas). I started looking online and saw some suggestions of adding vinegar, ammonia or baking soda, etc to the wash or washing the washing machine with bleach in case it has mold (not sure how to check that) but was wondering if anyone has dealt with this and what they have done/ how they have done it (what they used, how much they used, when they added it to the clothes, etc) or if anyone has any ideas or suggestions in general.


I always add tea tree oil to my funny smelling loads, in the rinse.


I know that some fabrics have funky smells when washed.


It might be your water. Do you have a lot of minerals or mines in your area, get your water from a well, or have old pipes?


I would try baking soda and tea tree oil, and add a dryer sheet to the wash also. If the clothing can stand a warm wash with cool rinses that might help also. Dr. Tichenor’s antiseptic or Listerine (generic) might work also.


Wash the clothes again and add 1 cup of baking soda to the wash water.
When the cycle goes to rinse, add** 2 cups of vinegar and rinse twice**.


It could be the water. We had to add a filter to not only our drinking water at the sink but also at the place where the water pipe enter the house. We have to change it every six months.


Vinegar! About one cup.


Do you have a front loading washer? There is a common problem with front loaders.


I have a front loader (about 10 years now)and never had this problem.
Actually never had any problems with it


i just cleaned around the seal of my front loader, gross, need to do this more often, clearly.


If baking soda, vinegar, washing soda (Borax) or Listerine don’t work (and all those should work), if you have a place to dry wet, washed clothes outside, do so. Sunlight and air do clothes a world of good.

If all else fails, you also try a double-shot of Sauvitel softener in hte rinse cycle; OR, go get some of that stuff used to clean up animal messes in hte wash cycle.


Hi, thanks for all your ideas! My washing machine isn’t a front loader, and I’m not sure there is much I can clean on it except for the softener dispenser. I just added vinegar to the rinse cycle and will see what happens and take it from there. Thanks for your ideas, now I have a list of things to go through until those clothing items smell squeaky clean :stuck_out_tongue:


I would try using borax in the wash. At the same time, don’t use fabric softener. Fabric softener can be a big offender. This worked on offensive towels which I was about to throw out.


build up of fabric softener can indeed be the culprit. wash a few (not a full load) of towels in hot water with calgon, nothing else, and watch and see if the water sudses up, if so you have detergent and softener residue, esp. if there is a scum (like fat on top of soup). stop using softener for a while and use half the detergent. I know there are a lot of cold water wash fans out there but some things are designed for hot water only.

the other culprit is simply loading the washer too full. front loader should be half full of dry clothing–top loader about 3/4 to 7/8 full, a good 6 or 8 inches clear at the top, more if you have heavy things like towels or jeans.


softener on towels makes the towels absorb less water.:wink:


Sounds pretty cool, I have a few towels I would like to try that out on (especially one that is designed for drying hair, I can only use it once and have to wash it again) except I am not familiar with calgon…what is it?



Dr. Bronners Magic Soap with hemp seed and tea tree oil works great for cleaning clothes as well as your body! Warning- you WILL smell like a hippie!


The Sal-Suds is better, and not as hippie smelling!

As stated before- add 1 cup baking soda to the wash and then 1 cup vinegar to the rinse, you will have no problems with stinky/sour towels.

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