How to Get the Stinkiest, Most Stubborn Odors Out of Your Clothes

Chances are, you already have the tools you need in your pantry.

Sometimes, life gets a little smelly. Between the hot yoga classes and the ballet flats in the rain and the dishrags that always smell a little musty, it’s hard to keep everything fresh as a spring meadow—especially when spring-meadow-scented detergent isn’t quite doing the trick. Here’s how to make your smelly clothes a little less nasally offensive, using ingredients you already have in your kitchen pantry. 

Workout clothes: Never, ever wash gym gear with fabric softener! It coats the fibers of Spandex and other athletic materials, which actually traps in odors instead of washing them out. Instead, cut your detergent in half and add a glug or two of vinegar to the washing machine. For super-stinky situations, soak your clothes in a vinegar/water mixture for 30 minutes before washing.

Mildewy towels: First, check to make sure your washing machine isn’t the source of the mildew stench. If it is, run a hot cycle with two cups of bleach to clear out any detergent buildup. If you just accidentally let some wet towels sit for too long, wash them on the hottest cycle with a cup of baking soda added to the load.

Vintage: It might pain you to pour your pregame libations into a mini steamer, but it’s the best way to get the sour smell out of pre-loved items, especially as many vintage pieces are too delicate for washing machines.  Add a solution of equal parts water and vodka to a steamer to neutralize any off-smelling, non-machine-washable items. (See how here.)

Sneakers: Remove laces and insoles, and pop your sweaty sneakers in the washing machine. Be sure to add the juice of one lemon to the cycle to cut through lingering odors, and let the shoes air-dry with some dryer sheets tucked inside.

Flats: Did you happen to wear flats on a rainy day, or are your feet actually sweating? If it’s the latter, you might want to buy some no-show socks to address the root of the problem. Regardless, to get the stink out of shoes you can’t just throw in the washer, try storing them overnight in the freezer (in a Ziploc bag, of course). The cold temps will kill any foul-smelling bacteria. If this isn’t enough to tackle the odor, try letting them breathe for a few days with some Earl Grey teabags tucked into the corners to absorb the smell and moisture.

Psst: For more laundry-care secrets beyond just smelly clothes, see here!