Soak your sweaty clothes for 30 minutes in a solution of one part white vinegar to four parts cold water. Next, add half a cup of baking soda and soak for another 30 minutes. Lastly, machine wash the clothes using the warmest temperature the fabric allows.
If your clothes are sweaty after a tough workout or a hot summer day, your first instinct is probably to throw them straight into the washer to eliminate that stench. Your washing machine will rinse the sweat out of the fabric, but it might not get rid of the smell.
That’s because sweat itself is odorless. That unpleasant sweat odor actually comes from bacteria on your skin that break down sweat and release odor molecules, which can linger long after a wash cycle. Unfortunately, you can’t just mask the smell of sweat with laundry detergent and scent boosters—you have to neutralize the odor-causing bacteria.
In this article, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions to remove that stubborn sweat smell from your clothes.
What You Need
- Distilled white vinegar
- Baking soda
- Laundry detergent pods
- Large container, bucket, sink, or bathtub
1. Soak in Vinegar & Water
Combine one part white vinegar and four parts cold water in a large container—this could be a sink, bucket, or bathtub. Make sure there’s enough of the mixture to submerge your smelly clothes. Let your sweaty clothes soak in the vinegar solution for at least 30 minutes.
Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is a natural deodorizer. (Don’t worry, this won’t make your clothes smell like vinegar after they’re clean).
2. Add Baking Soda
After 30 minutes, add half a cup of baking soda to the vinegar-water solution and mix it up until the powder dissolves. Let your clothes soak for another 30 minutes. Baking soda is another natural deodorizer that neutralizes odor compounds on contact.
3. Machine Wash Your Clothes
By now, the sweat smell should be neutralized. Drain the solution, ring any excess liquid out of your clothes, and put them straight into the washing machine.
Pro tip: Turn your clothes inside out before washing. Odor-causing bacteria tend to build up around the armpit and crotch areas, so washing them inside out ensures you get a more thorough clean.
Run a normal wash cycle using the warmest temperature the fabric allows. Don’t forget to toss in a high-performance laundry detergent pod to get rid of any lingering sweat smells.
If you want your clothes to go from stinky to sensational, use Laundry Sauce: the world’s best-smelling laundry detergent. Whether you want something dark and exotic like Australian Sandalwood or crisp and fresh like Siberian Pine, laundry day will never be the same again.
4. Air Dry Outside
If possible, hang your clothes to air dry outside in direct sunlight. The sun’s UV rays have natural disinfecting and antibacterial properties that can help freshen your clothes. Not to mention you’re saving energy by not using your dryer.
If you need to use the dryer, opt for a no-heat setting.
Pro tip: Toss in a few wool dryer balls to speed up the drying process, prevent static cling, and reduce wrinkles.
How to Prevent Sweat Smell On Clothes
Now that you know how to get rid of that sweat smell on your clothes, let’s cover a few tips to prevent that stench in the first place.
1. Wash Your Clothes Soon After Wearing Them
The longer you let sweat linger on your clothes, the harder it is to get rid of that stubborn musty smell. If you work out on a Monday and don’t do laundry until Sunday, you create the perfect storm for mildew buildup. This is especially true for moisture-wicking workout clothes made from synthetic fabrics like nylon and polyester, which are less breathable than natural fabrics like cotton.
Pro tip: Avoid using fabric softener on activewear, since it can leave a coating that reduces its absorbency.
3. Hang Dry Your Clothes Before Washing
If you don’t want to run multiple wash cycles each week, hang your sweaty gym clothes to air dry them before tossing them in your hamper. Bacteria thrive in damp and warm environments, and sweaty clothes provide an ideal breeding ground. Air drying your sweaty clothes helps minimize the moisture content, reducing the chance of bacterial growth and unpleasant odors.
2. Wash Smaller Loads
If you overload your washing machine, there’s a good chance your clothes might smell gross when they come out. (This is called “rebloom”). That happens because the detergent doesn’t have enough space to disperse evenly. Overloading also reduces the amount of water available for each item, making it difficult to rinse thoroughly.
Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines on load capacity to avoid overloading your washing machine.
Smell Scentsational with Laundry Sauce
You might have a fancy personal fragrance or soap that smells seductive. But those matter if your clothes reek of body odor from your last workout. Don’t let a lackluster laundry routine cramp your style. Stick to the steps we covered here and you’ll always smell your best.
Speaking of smelling your best, take our two-minute Scent Quiz to discover a fragrance that suits your vibe, then snag the Signature Package to save 10%.