How to Remove Laundry Detergent Smell From Clothes

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Does your clothes have that strong, fragrant smell from the scented laundry detergent. Whether you have an allergic reaction to the smell or used too much laundry detergent or fabric softener, here's how to remove the strong laundry detergent smell from clothes. Let’s get started.

How to remove the smell of laundry detergent from clothes

First of all, do not use hot water for the wash or the hot setting in the dryer. High temperatures can bond the fragrance into the clothing fibers and dyes. Here’s how to remove the laundry detergent smell from clothes:

1. Air out the clothes outdoors

The first thing you want to do is to air out the clothes outdoors or in a breezy, sunlit room, preferably one with lots of plants to absorb the odor. You can also use a fan to create artificial breeze.

Air out the clothes for anywhere between a few hours to a couple of weeks, depending on the strength of the fabric softener and scented laundry detergent fragrance. The longer the better.

2. Soak the clothes overnight with baking soda

Next, soak the clothes overnight in a washing machine filled with water and one cup baking soda. Baking soda is a great way of getting stains and odors out of clothes and shoes, but it’s important to use the right amount.

When they’ve finished soaking, allow the clothes to complete the washer cycle, and then wash using unscented laundry detergent. I recommend Seventh Generation laundry detergent because it is a hypoallergenic laundry detergent made for sensitive skin. It seems to be truly unscented.

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3. Add a cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle

Next, add a cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle, stop the washer and let the laundry soak for an hour before completing the rinse cycle. Use an extra rinse cycle if your washing machine has one, but don’t add anything to the extra rinse. Vinegar gets rid of the fragrance that tends to stick to clothes.

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4. Line-dry your clothes outdoors

Last but not least, line-dry your clothes outdoors. Dry dark colors in the shade to prevent fading, but feel free to dry white or light-colored clothes in the sunlight. If you must use the dryer, use a low temperature.

5. Repeat the steps if necessary

If you are still not happy with the results, feel free to repeat the steps. However, the combination of baking soda and white distilled vinegar should remove most of the laundry detergent smell from your clothes.

How long does it take for detergent smell to go away?

It can take 10 washings or more with baking soda, white distilled vinegar, and an unscented laundry detergent to get the fabric softener fragrance and laundry detergent smell out of clothes.

Does too much detergent make clothes smell?

As it turns out, too much laundry detergent can make your clothes smell bad. The detergent will cause a layer of foam to form on the fabric, which prevents it from being rinsed away. This allows the fabric to hold onto the gunk (sweat, body oils, bacteria, and dirt) that you are trying to wash off.

Indeed, it is these odor-causing bacteria in the clothing fibers that are responsible for the odors. As you may have already known, these microorganisms thrive in moist environments, including your clothes.

Leaving moist clothing will leave these bacteria to do what they do best: break down certain organic substances that will lead to the development of the pungent and yucky odor that most people hate.

This is why you always want to use the proper amount of laundry detergent. Do not eyeball the amount. Instead, you should add laundry detergent according to the instructions on the packaging.

Don’t trust yourself. You’ll be shocked at how easy it is to add too much detergent. And the worst part is, it’s not always obvious that you’ve added too much – that is, until your clothes start to smell afterward.

What if my detergent has fragrances added?

Scented laundry detergents won’t make your clothes smell better if you’ve added too much. The detergent will trap the dirt and odor-causing bacteria, scented or unscented. If anything, your clothes will have both the “pungent odor” and the added fragrance masking the smell. Terrible combination!

Many laundry detergents come with irresistible fragrances that are designed to make your clothes smell better. Remember, as great as they are, they won’t do you any good if you’ve added too much.

Bottom line

And there you have it, the complete guide on how to remove laundry detergent smell from clothes. In the future, avoid using too much laundry detergent, or better yet, use unscented laundry detergent.

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Sofia Rodriguez

As a professional house cleaner, I'm passionate about cleanliness. I write this blog to help anyone take better care of their homes and ultimately their loved ones.