How to get mildew smell out of clothes

I think we’ve all been there. You start a load of laundry and then life happens. You get super busy with kids and work and the never ending to do list and by the time you get back to the forgotten load of laundry mildew has set in and the clothes stink. Now what? Well, depending on how set in the smells are here are my three favorite options for removing mildew smells.

The first thing you need to know with any of these options is DO NOT use too much detergent. You may be tempted to dump in extra soap because that might seem like the best way to get rid of smells, but too much detergent won’t get washed out during the cycle and will cling to clothes trapping in moisture. The detergent buildup will increase the chance of mildew to grow and could make your clothes smell worse. So, use the regular amount of detergent.

Now on with my tried and true methods for getting stubborn mildew smells out of clothes.

how to get mildew smell out of clothes

How to get mildew smell out of clothes

1. Baking soda

Baking soda is a natural cleaning option that will remove odors from clothes. This is what I try first when I have mildew smells because I’ve had the best luck with it.

Step 1: Add one cup of baking soda to your clothes in the washing machine.

Step 2: Use the longest wash cycle for your washing machine, that usually includes adding an extra rinse.

Step 3: Repeat if necessary until smells are gone. (I’ve usually had luck with the first cycle.)

Step 4 (optional): hang to dry outside. This is great for getting rid of smells.

2. Vinegar

This all natural product is a deodorizer as well as a disinfectant, and will kill any mold and remove the mildew smell that accompanies it on your clothes.

Step 1: Add a cup of vinegar directly into the gasket with your clothes

Step 2: Let your washer run on the longest cycle it has.

Step 3: Add an additional cup during the rinse cycle, and your mildew stench should be gone!

3. Out Pro Wash

When we moved last year I started a load of laundry at our rental house and then we moved and I forgot about it, until we went back a week later to get our washer and dryer. OOPS! The clothes smelled like mildew and it was the most stubborn mildew I’ve ever tried to get rid of. I tried baking soda and vinegar and it wasn’t enough. It worked for most of the laundry, but there were a pair of pants and a few shirts that I couldn’t get the smell out of. I was actually ready to throw the mildew clothes away because I had tried everything.

Then one day I was getting laundry detergent and spotted Out Pro Wash on the top shelf and thought I would give it a try instead of throwing away my clothes. I only needed to add a little bit to my washing machine and IT WORKED!

Directions (and tips):

Step 1: Add clothes to washing machine. I kept the loads really small because I was having problems with the mildew smell transferring to other clothes.

Step 2: Add Out Pro Wash to your washing machine. Follow the directions on the back of the bottle. You can use this product with standard or HE washers.

Step 3: Add your regular detergent. I swear by powder Tide, but just use what you normally use. Remember: it might be tempting to add additional detergent, but the extra detergent won’t wash out of clothes making it harder to get the smells out.

Step 4: Select the longest cycle and add an extra rinse.

Click here for Out ProWash 

Good luck! I hope this works as well for you as it did for me! This product has also worked really well for washing smelly mattress protectors and my dog’s bedding.

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  • Kelly

    Hi!  So, unnecessary back story, I have two daughters that are just over two years apart.  I kept the oldest daughters clothes for my youngest daughter.  Apparently they weren’t completely dry or a piece of clothing in the spacebag wasn’t dry and now all the clothes my youngest is about to go into smell!  

    I was just wondering if, when washing with baking soda or vinager, do I also put detergent in there???ReplyCancel

  • Jeanie Manser

    Love these tips, I was finally able to get the stink out of my kids clothes with baking powder. Now that I’ve got that done, and we just had some <a href=””>carpet cleaners</a> come, my house is finally smelling fresh! Just in time for the holidays. Thank you for the tips! ReplyCancel


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Hello! I am Camille, a wife, mother of four, Disney obsessed, certified teacher, and reality optimist. Motherhood comes with its ups and downs, and I hope while you're here you'll find something that makes your #momlife easier!


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