7 Reasons Why Your Clothes Are Not Smelling Fresh After Washing

Here's how to freshen up your clothes after washing.

7 Reasons Why Your Clothes Are Not Smelling Fresh After Washing

7 Reasons Why Your Clothes Are Not Smelling Fresh After Washing

So your clothes have been in the wash for an hour or so, and you’re anticipating some fresh smelling clothes and linen…only to have a musky and unpleasant smell hit your nose as soon as you take out the washing.

This isn’t the first time is has happened, but this situation always leaves you baffled. You’re not alone. Here are 7 reasons why your clothes are not smelling fresh after washing and what to do about it.

Clothes Not Smelling Fresh After Washing?

7. Give your washing machine a spring clean

If your clothes are not smelling fresh after washing, it’s important to run a maintenance wash every six weeks or so. This basically involves running an empty machine on its hottest and longest cycle without any detergent, although you could add a capful of vinegar or bleach.

Doing this should solve the problem and will also prolong the life of your washing machine. Try to remember to regularly wipe the rubber seal around the door with a mould and mildew spray to prevent the appearance of the dreaded black spots which are very difficult to remove.

6. Overfilling the machine

It can be tempting to shove as much washing as you can into the machine to save time but it’s not a good idea, not least because you risk causing damage to the drum.

Overcrowding is one of the most common reasons for clothes coming out of washing machine smelly simply because the water and detergent cannot circulate properly.

The drum should never be more than three-quarters full as there needs to be enough space for the clothes to be properly agitated.

Using the incorrect amount of detergent

5. Using the incorrect amount of detergent

Whether you use powder, tablets or those little gel capsules, using too little will not clean your clothes properly and using too much could leave a residue. It’s important to follow the instructions on the packet to get the best results and lovely fresh laundry.

4. Not emptying it promptly

Leaving damp clothes inside the machine will lead to mould and mildew and that horrible damp fusty smell. If you notice clothes coming out of washing machine smelly, make a point of emptying it as soon as you can. Leaving the door of the washing machine ajar so that it can ventilate and dry when not in use is also recommended.

3. Using the wrong cycle

Always use a cycle that reaches a high enough temperature to clean your clothes and destroy the bacteria that cause unpleasant smells, ideally 40°C or above. If you prefer cool washes for reasons of economy or need to wash delicates or woolens on a cool wash, it’s important to use a detergent specifically designed for cool washes.

using fabric conditioner

2. Not using fabric conditioner

If your clothes are not smelling fresh after washing, it might be worth considering the addition of a fabric conditioner to your wash. Adding a capful to each load should leave your clothes smelling lovely and soft, especially if you live in a hard water area.

1. Problems with the water supply

Sometimes the problem of fusty smelling clothes lies outside the house and in the water supply itself. If you notice a sulphurous smell, it could be an issue with your cold water supply, in which case you need to contact your water company for advice.

Tips to Keep Clothes Smelling Fresh After Washing

1. Dry them quickly

After washing, hang your laundry outside on the washing line straight away. This is the best way of drying clothes – nothing can beat the smell of clothes line-dried in the fresh air. However, with the UK’s frequently rainy and cold weather this is often impossible, in which case it’s important to dry clothes by using a tumble dryer.

Disposable fragranced tumble dryer sheets help to add a pleasant smell to your washing.

A good quality indoor clothes airer is an excellent alternative to a tumble dryer or an airing cupboard, especially if you don’t have a garden. Look for one with wide gaps between the rungs and a solid stable design.

Make sure the clothes are completely dry before putting them away. Remember that heavier items such as jeans and hoodies will take much longer to dry than lightweight t-shirts.

2. Use a laundry basket for clothes waiting to be ironed

Use a good quality laundry basket to store dry and clean clothes that are waiting to be ironed and/or put away. Choose one with side vents that allow air to circulate and reduce the risk of mould and mildew spores forming on your clean clothes.

Scented Sachets

3. Pay attention to storage

If storing clothes for long periods of time, for example, winter clothes in summer or vice versa, use cedar balls to prevent musty odours developing over time. Place clothes in sealed vacuum bags to protect them from dust, damp and moths. Use scented drawer liners and sachets of pot pourri to keep clothes in drawers sweetly scented.

4. Don’t smoke

If you smoke, the best thing you can do to keep your clothes smelling fresh is to quit the habit. Getting smoke on your clothes will ruin the fabric, making it smelly and looking yellow. It also makes your body odour worse, thus seeping onto your clothes.

If you cannot quit yet, then the very least, smoke outside, far enough so that the smoke cannot find its way inside your home.

5. Hang clothes in a wardrobe

The dilemma of how to keep clothes smelling fresh after washing remains an ongoing problem in many households. One of the best ways is to hang clothes in a solid wood wardrobe, protecting them from everyday household odours. Don’t overcrowd them and open the doors regularly to air the contents.


  1. Paul

    Have Just Moved Into A new House With New Appliances Know The Washing Machine Is Also Brand New but The Washing We Have Done Has No Fragrance Smell And Some times Smells Worse Than Before Washed And Have To Throw it away Now It Is All New Pipe Work So No Blocked Pipes Gunge any Where In The Machine Or Pipes Please Can Some One Help As It Is Costing A Fortune In Cloths Apart From The Cost It Is Not Enviromentaly Freindly Keep Throwing Cloths Away.

  2. jennifer Howe

    I too have clean washing but after filling the dispenser with fabric softener it still does not smell fresh.
    I sort my washing ie whites bolides dark lights etc.
    Help what can I do.

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