How to Stop My Clothes Smelling Damp After Washing?

How to Stop My Clothes Smelling Damp After Washing?

You know when you get dressed in the morning and want to feel fresh and clean? Well, it’s so annoying when you pull out clothes from the laundry and they still smell damp. 

This totally happens from time to time after washing clothes. It’s not only unpleasant because of the damp smell but also frustrating since you put in the effort to do laundry – the time, money for detergent, the water and energy to run the machine.

When you again rewash smelly clothes, it feels like a total waste. Figuring out this smell problem can be tricky to resolve.

A lot of people try to fix stinky clothes by washing them again with extra detergent or hotter water. That might help a little temporarily, but it’s not really fixing things in the long run. It’s still not getting to the bottom of why they smelled in the first place.

Also, too much washing can damage clothes over time, leading to holes, fading and just using more resources of yours.

Why Do Clothes Smell Damp After Washing?

To actually get your clothes fresh, you should get to the root of why they damp even after washing. Here are some reasons for stinky clothes after washing you can look out for.

1. You are Using Too Much or Less Detergent

Using too much detergent means it won’t rinse out fully. The leftover detergent stays in the fabric, which can make clothes feel damp and encourage mold growth. While not enough detergent means your clothes won’t get fully clean.

Check the detergent label for the right amount to use based on load size. Many labels list amounts for a 5kg or 7kg load. So you may need more detergent for a bigger machine, or less for a smaller load.

Detergent balls or measuring cups can help get the right dose. Fragrance detergents like Surf with essential oils can keep clothes smelling fresher longer too.

2. Clothes Not Drying Fully

Clothes that don’t dry all the way can start to smell damp and musty. This happens when there is not enough air circulation where you are drying the clothes.

Wet clothes left in an enclosed space with no airflow can’t dry properly. Trapped moisture leads to bad smells. To help clothes dry fully indoors, make sure the room has good airflow. Open a window or use a fan to move the air around.

It also helps to keep the room around 40% humidity when drying inside. Higher humidity encourages mold and microbes that make a damp and musty smell.

3. Leaving Clothes in the Washer Too Long

It’s no surprise when clothes left sitting wet in the washing machine overnight start to smell moudly and damp. The dark, damp environment allows mold, bacteria, and mildew to grow. Over time this can leave a permanent stench in clothes.

Using a timer can help remind you to move clothes to the dryer. Leaving them wet in the washer too long gives smells a chance to set in.

4. Bacteria Buildup in the Washer

Sometimes bacteria, dirt, and leftover detergent accumulate inside the washing machine. This buildup can lead to smelly or damp clothes, even if you can’t see the dirt.

To remove the bacteria and disinfect, use a washer cleaning product. Just put a tablet in the empty drum and run a hot wash cycle. This will break up the hidden buildup that causes odors.

How Can I Prevent My Clothes from Having a Damp Smell?

Basically, that damp smell happens when your clothes trap moisture. So, if you dry them quickly indoors, you can prevent the damp smell. There are also other tricks you can try if that doesn’t work for you.

1. Improving Airflow to Dry Clothes

To help clothes dry faster inside, hang them spaced out instead of bunched up. This extra dampness makes it harder for the clothes to dry fully before starting to smell musty. Leaving about an inch between each item allows better airflow so clothes can dry faster.

This allows more air to flow around each item. Use fans in the room to keep the air moving too.

Heated drying racks also improve airflow around clothes. The heat helps clothes dry quicker than room air alone. Spreading out clothes and using fans or drying racks optimizes airflow so clothes can dry faster indoors.

2. Clean the Washing Machine after Use

Sometimes the washing machine itself causes stinky clothes. Detergent and fabric softener can build up inside over time. This residue breeds smelly bacteria.

Cleaning your washing machine regularly gets rid of this hidden gunk. This helps stop washer odours from transferring to clothes.

3. Using a Dehumidifier

Excess moisture is the main cause of clothes smelling damp, even after washing and drying. A dehumidifier removes moisture from the air.

Experts say 40% relative humidity is ideal for drying laundry efficiently. A dehumidifier can keep rooms at this optimum level.

Some dehumidifiers even have a special setting just for drying clothes washed at home. Using one ensures lower humidity so clothes dry fully and don’t take on odors. Adding a dehumidifier can be a big help for preventing stinky, damp-smelling clothes.

4. Using Too Many Scent Products

When your clothes smell, it’s irresistible to use a bunch of scented boosters, strong detergents, or fabric softeners. But loading up on fragrant laundry products can backfire.

Too much detergent, softener or other wash products don’t fully rinse out. Left behind residue makes clothes more likely to retain moisture smells.

Stick to the recommended amount of laundry products. Going overboard with scented laundry add-ons can lead to worse clingy odors. Using a reasonable amount is best to avoid residue.

5. Choose Detergent for Odor Fighting

It’s important to use a detergent that gets rid of smells and kills bacteria. Some detergents are designed specifically for odor removal. Different fabrics require different detergents. Check clothing labels for washing instructions and pick an appropriate detergent.

In general, it’s good to choose a detergent that says it fights odors. This helps prevent clothes from taking on musty damp smells.

6. Give a Try to Vinegar or Baking Soda

Adding vinegar or baking soda to your wash helps remove smells and bacteria. Both can deodorize naturally without harsh chemicals. Vinegar is even safer than fabric softeners.

All you have to do is add a cup of white vinegar or half a cup of baking soda along with detergent. These natural odor fighters work with detergent to deep clean. They remove residues that cause damp, musty smells.

7. Don’t Overfill the Washer

Putting too many clothes in the washing machine is a common mistake that we all make on a daily basis. Over-stuffing prevents clothes from moving around freely.

When clothes can’t shift in the water, detergent can’t reach all the fabric. This means clothes don’t get fully cleaned, as a rule, only fill your washer about 3/4 full. This leaves room for clothes to spin without any problem and detergent to work its magic.

Avoiding overloading helps ensure clothes come out clean and fresh. With space to wash properly, they won’t hold on to bad damp smells.

8. Clean Drying Racks Too

Don’t just clean the washing machine. Drying racks also need occasional cleaning as dust and mold easily accumulate on them over time.

This residue getting on freshly washed clothes can lead to bad smells. Give racks a quick wipe-down with warm soapy water, vinegar or diluted bleach. Adding this task to your regular cleaning routine helps prevent contamination of clean clothes.

Tips to Get Rid of Damp Smell from Clothes

If clothes already have a musty odor or are damp, here are tips for getting rid of the smell –

1. Wash clothes with effective deep cleaning detergent or liquid. The formula helps remove damp smells and stains. 

2. Add a cup of white vinegar to the washing machine. The vinegar disinfects and removes odors. Or add an intense fabric conditioner for a fresh scent according to package directions.

3. For mold in fabric, wash clothes in hot water to kill spores and prevent spreading.

4. If possible, dry clothes outside where fresh air can help remove smells. Just be mindful of sunlight fading bright colors.


If your clothes keep smelling after going through the wash, there are likely some issues with your laundry routine. Consider making changes in your routine and identify where you might be making mistakes.

Properly following clothing washing instructions is important – as well as using effective detergents. Make sure clothes dry fully since leftover moisture allows smells to stick around.

Getting clothes fully clean and dry helps prevent them from taking on odors or feeling damp, even after being washed.

Reviewing your laundry process can help determine where improvements need to be made. Addressing problem areas will help keep smells from returning in freshly washed items.

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