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  • Writer's pictureValinda

12+ Tips How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

Do your clothes ever pick up unpleasant odors, leaving you with the dilemma of wanting to wear them again without the hassle of another laundry day? Whether it's the remnants of yesterday's garlic-infused dinner or the unmistakable gym workout scent, we've all been there. But what if I told you there's a more sustainable way to refresh your garments without subjecting them to frequent and resource-intensive washes? In this blog post, we'll explore ingenious methods to take the smell out of your clothes without washing, helping you not only extend the life of your garments but also reduce your environmental footprint. Wheter it is from food or cooking, oil or a bonfire, these tips will help get the smell out of your clothes without washing.

The Environmental Impact of our Laundry

Our laundry routines may seem like just another household chore, but the impact they have on our environment is nothing short of profound. Every load of laundry we toss into the washing machine consumes a significant amount of water and energy, contributing to water scarcity and carbon emissions. In a world where environmental concerns are increasingly pressing, we cannot afford to overlook the consequences of our laundry habits.

Furthermore, the use of chemical-laden detergents can leach harmful substances into our waterways, affecting both ecosystems and human health. Meanwhile, the electricity-hungry tumble dryer's convenience also adds to our carbon footprint. So, as you reach for that laundry detergent and turn on your washing machine or dryer, remember that every load carries a weighty environmental impact. It's high time we reevaluate our laundry routines and consider more sustainable approaches.

How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Understanding fabric and smells

Understanding the intricate relationship between different types of clothing and the persistent odors they harbor can be a game-changer in your quest for a fresher, more sustainable wardrobe. Natural fibers like cotton and linen are breathable and less prone to trapping odors, making them ideal for daily wear. In contrast, synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon tend to lock in smells, creating a challenge when it comes to odor removal. Different garments, from workout clothes to delicate silks, require distinct approaches to keep them smelling their best.

How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

A Breath of Fresh Air: Sun and Wind

Want to keep your clothes smelling fresh without the hassle of a full wash? Here's a simple trick: as soon as you've worn them, give your garments a breath of fresh air. I'm a fan of this easy approach - after a day's wear, I hang my clothes and shoes outside my closet, letting them soak up the great outdoors. The magic happens when you embrace the power of sunlight and a gentle breeze; they work in harmony to naturally eliminate odors. For most faint smells, a day of airing out does the trick, but be patient with stronger odors - they might need a few extra days in the open air. Just remember, when basking your clothes in the sun's rejuvenating embrace, keep an eye on colorful pieces to prevent any unwanted color-fading surprises.

Line drying clothes - How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Lemon Juice

Revive your clothes and conquer odors with the zesty freshness of lemon juice! In a spray bottle, mix a tablespoon of lemon juice with each cup of water, then simply spritz your garments. But wait, here's the pro tip: if that pesky smell is localized (hello, underarm woes), there's no need to go all out. Dab or spray the affected area for targeted odor-fighting. When those underarms are the culprits, focus your lemony magic on the inside of your garment. It's like hitting the odor at its source, plus it's kinder to your clothes. And, for the love of your beloved garments, if you decide to spray the outside, please play it safe! Test your zesty mixture on an inconspicuous spot inside your garment first, ensuring your fashion statement remains untarnished. It's all about getting that perfect blend of freshness without any unwanted surprises.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is my go-to odor-busting secret weapon. From tackling sweaty shoes during my dance days, this stuff is pure magic. But did you know that you can also employ this household staple to rescue your clothes from unwanted smells and perspiration? It's as simple as putting the offending garment in a bag, adding a dash of baking soda, giving it a good shake, and voila! The baking soda absorbs those pesky odors like a champ. However, as with any magic, a little caution is in order. Be mindful of your fabric choice, as baking soda may not play nice with silk or leather. So, let the natural deodorizing properties of baking soda breathe new life into your clothes while keeping a watchful eye on their delicate counterparts.

baking soda - How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing


When it comes to tackling stubborn or overpowering odors in your clothing, there's a surprisingly effective solution, and no, it's not a kitchen concoction or a fancy industrial product. It's plain, unflavored vodka – the same stuff you might use for your weekend cocktail. Before you dismiss this as a far-fetched idea, let me assure you it's a straightforward and proven technique. All you need is a spray bottle filled with vodka (pro tip: label it to avoid mix-ups with your drink-ready bottle). This method, a not-so-secret gem from the performance world, has long been relied upon to rescue costumes that can't withstand washing or don't have the luxury of a thorough cleanse between shows. This strategy often works wonders when targeted at specific areas like the underarms, but works great on an entire outfit. Simply flip your garment inside out, give it a vodka shower in the problem zones, hang it to dry, and voilà! Your clothing will be smelling as fresh as a daisy, and you'll have a newfound respect for the power of vodka – both in your wardrobe and your cocktail glass.


Not too keen on the idea of spritzing your clothes with vodka or find your pantry lacking in this unlikely fashion rescue mission? No need to fret! Another fantastic alternative is to concoct your own odor-fighting elixir by mixing equal parts water and white vinegar. Just to be safe, turn your garment inside out and cautiously test a small, hidden area to ensure the vinegar won't throw off your fabric's groove. Once you've got the green light, let the spraying commence! And if you're not exactly eager to walk around with a hint of vinegar, feel free to sprinkle a few drops of your favorite essential oil into the mix – it's like adding a touch of personalized fragrance to your anti-odor arsenal. Remember, though, that essential oils, vinegar, and fabrics can sometimes be unpredictable dance partners, so that initial inside-out test is your best friend. Following your vinegar-powered spritz, consider letting your garment breathe inside-out for a day or so before reintroducing it to your closet. For the ultimate freshness overhaul, combine this hack with the first one and allow your newly revitalized garment to soak up the rejuvenating outdoor breeze. Say goodbye to vinegar scents, and hello to a wardrobe that's ready for another round of style adventures!

Natural fabric freshener spray

Not a fan of the vodka or vinegar solutions, or maybe they're just not doing the trick for you? No worries, there's another stylish and eco-friendly option in town! Check out the clothing freshener sprays, like the ones from Clothes Doctor. They've got a clothing spritz that's essentially like dry shampoo for your beloved garments, giving them that just-laundered scent without the water waste. They even offer a knitwear spritz that moonlights as a natural moth repellent – double duty for your wardrobe. Plus, the cherry on top of this eco-conscious sundae? Their sprays are packaged in infinitely recyclable aluminum bottles. But wait, there's more! If you're all about freshening up without the headache-inducing cloud of potentially toxic air fresheners, Fresh Wave's got your back. Their odor-removing sprays are like a breath of fresh air – free from parabens, phthalates, nasty VOCs, and all those other icky chemicals. It's a win for your clothes, your nose, and the planet.

fabric freshener spray - How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Essential Oils: Fragrant Freshness

When it comes to tackling persistent odors, sometimes you have to get a bit creative. While I'd typically recommend combining essential oils with other odor-busting techniques, like vodka or vinegar, for maximum effectiveness, essential oils alone can still work in a pinch. They might not obliterate odor-causing bacteria, but they can certainly help mask unwanted smells temporarily. Perfume, with its fragrant allure, can serve the same purpose. Just remember, as with any odor-removal method, it's a good practice to do a quick test on a hidden spot of your garment or on a similar material to ensure it won't cause any staining or discoloration. After all, we're all for fresher clothes, not unexpected surprises!

Fabric Softener Spray

Introducing a little secret weapon in your quest for odor-free clothing: Fabric Softener Spray. This unsung hero is a game-changer when it comes to giving your clothes a quick refresh without the need for a full-blown wash. Just a few spritzes can transform musty or stale-smelling garments into something that's wonderfully wearable. Whether it's your favorite jacket that's been hiding in the back of your closet or the gym clothes you can't wash daily, Fabric Softener Spray offers a quick, eco-friendly solution. With its gentle, fabric-friendly formula and delightful scents, it not only banishes odors but also leaves your clothes feeling soft and fresh. So, if you're looking for a hassle-free, sustainable way to keep your wardrobe smelling divine, don't overlook the magic of Fabric Softener Spray; it's like a breath of fresh air for your clothing.

Activated Charcoal

Imagine activated charcoal as the eco-friendly superhero swooping in to rescue your wardrobe from the clutches of unpleasant odors. Simply toss charcoal pouches or bags into your closet or drawers, and watch as they work their magic, effortlessly warding off musty odors and keeping your clothes smelling as fresh as a spring morning. It's a small change with a significant impact, turning your storage spaces into fragrant, odor-fighting sanctuaries for your cherished garments.

activated charcoal bags - How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Steam Cleaning

Your trusty steamer, a wrinkle-busting hero, has been hiding an extra trick up its sleeve: it can also transform the way your clothes smell! The secret lies in the scalding steam, which wields the power to vanquish odor-causing bacteria, giving your garments a fresh lease on life. But that's not all! Steamers are like stain-fighting magicians, too. The heat they produce can work wonders on relatively new stains, loosening stubborn fibers and making it easier to bid farewell to unsightly blotches. If you haven't experimented with this hack yet, it's as simple as holding the steamer over the stained area for about half a minute. However, keep in mind that not all clothes are steamer-friendly; delicate fabrics like suede or garments with intricate embellishments might require different strategies for stain removal. But fear not, if you lack a steamer, there's still hope. The age-old hack of hanging your wrinkled clothes in a steamy bathroom during a hot shower can work in a pinch, although it might not wield the same magic as a steamer. So, wave goodbye to wrinkles and unwanted odors, and say hello to your refreshed, stain-free wardrobe!

steamer - How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Scent masking

If one of the above tips did not work for you, place your clothes in a closet or storage space with naturally fragrant items, like cedar blocks, scented sachets, or even dried herbs like lavender or rosemary. Over time, these natural scents will infuse your clothing and help diminish the smell.

Freezing to Kill Bacteria

While it may not be the quickest or the most effective trick in my arsenal, there's a quirky solution worth trying when you're in a pinch and lacking a steamer. Ever thought of popping your denim, for instance, into the freezer to kill of odors and bacteria? Give it a go, but here's a little tip: seal them in a bag before the deep freeze. Now, it might not work as miraculously, but it's an eco-friendly alternative you might appreciate, especially if you're conscious of your carbon footprint. Just a word of caution, though – remember to retrieve your icy-cold jeans well before your next wear. They might be chilly and somewhat stiff from their frosty adventure, but they'll be odor-free and ready to rock that stylish look again.


When it comes to battling those lingering clothing odors without resorting to a full wash, you might be tempted to reach for your trusty dryer. Tossing your clothes in there with a scented dryer sheet can work its magic to freshen things up quickly. Yet, if your aim is to be a sustainability champion, hold off on that impulse. The dryer may be a time-saver, but it's no friend to the longevity of your beloved garments. It accelerates wear and tear and guzzles energy, making it a less-than-ideal choice for the eco-conscious. Still, in those moments of sheer convenience or an emergency wardrobe rescue, it's an option worth keeping in your back pocket.

washer and drier - How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

Tips for Sustainable Laundry Practices

When there is too much smell or your clothes simple got dirty, it is tiime to wash them. However, there are several ways to make doing your laundry more sustainable.

Wash Less Frequently: Not every item needs a wash after one wear. Extend the life of your clothes and reduce water consumption by washing them only when necessary.

  • Jeans: 4-5 wears

  • Pants and shorts: 2-3 wears

  • Shirts, sweaters, and dresses: 2 wears

  • Socks: 1 wear

  • Underwear: 1 wear

  • Bras: 3-4 wears

  • Sportswear: 1 wear

  • Sleepwear: 3-4 wears

Cold Water Washing: Opt for cold water to save energy. Most detergents work well in cold water, and it's gentler on your garments.

Eco-Friendly Detergents: Choose detergents with eco-friendly certifications that are free from harsh chemicals and are biodegradable, benefiting both your clothes and the environment.

Efficient Laundry Loads: Maximize each washing cycle by ensuring you have full loads, reducing water and energy usage.

How to Take Smell out of Clothes without Washing

How to get Smell out of Clothes left in Washer?

If you've left your clothes in the washer for too long, and they've developed a musty or unpleasant smell, don't worry – you can still rescue them. Here's how to get the smell out of clothes left in the washer:

  • Remove the Clothes: First and foremost, remove the clothes from the washer. Leaving them in the washer for an extended period can exacerbate the odor.

  • Check for Mold or Mildew: Examine the clothes and the washer drum for any signs of mold or mildew. If you see any, it's essential to address this issue first.

  • Re-Wash with Vinegar:

    • Set your washer to the hottest water setting and add a cup of white vinegar to the drum.

    • If you don't have vinegar, you can use baking soda. Add half a cup of baking soda to the drum.

    • Start the washer without any detergent or clothes. Let it run a full cycle. The vinegar or baking soda will help eliminate odors and sanitize the washer.

  • Dry in the Sun: After re-washing with vinegar or baking soda, take the clothes out and allow them to air dry in direct sunlight. Sunlight helps kill bacteria and freshen clothes naturally.

  • Check the Washer: Clean the washer's drum, gasket, and detergent drawer to prevent future odors. You can use a mixture of water and vinegar or a washer-cleaning product.

  • Use Odor Absorbers: To prevent this from happening again, consider using odor absorbers in your laundry area or keeping the washer door slightly ajar to allow air circulation.

  • Regular Cleaning: In the future, make a habit of removing your clothes promptly after the wash cycle is complete. Leaving clothes in the washer is a common cause of odors


The next time you're tempted to throw your clothes into the washing machine for a quick odor fix, consider these eco-friendly alternatives. By adopting these sustainable odor-removal techniques, you can reduce your environmental impact, save money on water and detergent, and extend the lifespan of your cherished garments. It's not just about looking good; it's about living consciously and responsibly in a world that could use a little extra care. So, go ahead, refresh your wardrobe, and refresh the planet – one odor-free garment at a time.


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Valinda - Natural Parenting Blog - Eco-friendly mom - Cloth diaper - sustainable pregnancy

Meet Valinda

Hi there, I am the founder of the green and happy mom blog and green and happy shop. After battling severe depression, I am determined to make the world a little better and I want to take you along that journey with me. 

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