Smelling clean clothes

17 Secrets to Great-Smelling Laundry

There’s nothing more annoying than removing clean laundry from the washer, only for it to smell exactly the same, if not worse, than when it went into the machine!

Outfits don’t smell like they’ve been cleaned, bedding doesn’t have that lovely freshly-washed aroma, and school uniforms just stink like mud.

It’s far from ideal, especially when you’ve wasted money and time running a washing cycle.

So, what can you do to make your washing smell great? Read on to find out!

If your washing doesn’t smell as lovely as you’d like it to, follow the steps below to make it more pleasing!


1. Choose Your Detergent Wisely

laundry detergent types

When it comes to making your washing smell nice, you must consider what detergent you’re going to use to clean your clothes.

Your choice of detergent will impact how good your washing smells, as well as how effectively it cleans your clothes. So take your time and choose the best detergent for you.

Before choosing a detergent, think about the following:

  • What materials will you be cleaning? Are you washing delicates like wool and cashmere, for example? If you use the wrong type of detergent on the wrong kind of material, your clothes could end up damaged or may not be cleaned effectively.
  • What colour clothes/items will you be washing? (Colours or whites, for example). If you’ve got a wardrobe full of colourful items, pick a detergent that enhances these colours.
  • What kind of washing will you be doing? (Will you be dealing with lightly soiled items or muddy rugby kits every week, for example). If you’re dealing with tough dirt, choose a detergent that you know can handle the task. If you choose a weaker detergent, you might have to rewash your heavily soiled items just to get the dirt off. This may not be cost and time effective for you, plus it’ll put a strain on the material you’re cleaning.
  • Does your family have any requirements? (Allergies that need to be catered for, or is someone vegan, for example). Choose a product that isn’t going to aggravate any medical problems and is suitable for all family members.
  • What washing method will you use? (Washing machine or hand-wash, for example). If you’re going to hand-wash your laundry, choose a detergent that is suitable for this task. You can find out what detergents are suitable by reading the packaging. Not all detergents can be used during a hand wash.
  • What type of detergent would you like to use? (Powder, pods and liquid, for example). Powders are great for tackling tough stains and odours, pods come with a pre-measured amount of detergent, and liquids are suitable for pre-treating stains. They all have their pros and cons!

When you’ve thought about these questions, you can buy a suitable detergent that comes in the fragrance you like.

And although it may be tempting, don’t choose the cheapest detergent on the day just because “it was a bargain price”. You might not like the smell the product leaves on your clothes.

So, take all of the above into consideration and choose a product wisely. And don’t forget that there are several brands you can choose from. Plus, you can make your own homemade washing detergent if you like! 


2. Use the Correct Amount of Detergent Per Load of Washing

Filling laundry detergent cap

Choosing the correct detergent for you and your family is incredibly important. But you must remember to use the right dose of detergent too!

Not adding enough detergent can leave your washing smelling and looking grotty and unclean.

Adding too much detergent can have the opposite effect and leave your laundry coated in a chemical residue that smells kind of yucky!

So, whether you’re using pods, liquids or powders, you must stick to the dose stipulated on your detergent’s packaging!

Plus, by sticking to the right amount, you should get an ample amount of product from the bottle/box because you won’t have overused it.


3. Remove Items from the Washing Machine as Soon as It’s Finished

Taking laundry out of drum

A simple way to ensure your laundry smells great is to remove it from the washing machine as soon as the timer goes off.

Leaving wet laundry in a washing machine for a prolonged period can make it smell stale. This, in turn, gives rise to bacteria and fungal growth, which only intensifies the aroma.

Of course, it does take several hours for this to happen. But it’s always best to remove the washing as soon as possible so that you can start the drying process!

It also means that you won’t have to re-wash the laundry because it smells funky (less work for you!). 


4. Choose a Nice Fabric Softener

gentle or mild fabric softener

If you’re looking to boost the scent of your washing and give it an extra smooth feel, why not add a little fabric softener to your washer?

There are loads of fabric softeners available today from leading brands like Comfort, Ecover and Method, and you can also make your own version.

Every off-the-shelf item comes with its own blend, so naturally, some softeners are more aromatic than others. It does, however, come down to personal preference on what smells you like and how pleasing you find each aroma!

To start with, it might be a case of trial and error until you find the odour that you love.

Bear in mind that not all clothes should be washed with fabric softener, and some people can have allergic reactions to fabric softeners.


5. Use Scent Boosters

Scent Boosters and Fabric Softener

Unlike fabric softener, which is designed primarily to soften laundry, laundry boosters (also known as beads) are there to enhance the smell of your freshly cleaned washing for weeks on end.

They don’t clean your clothes or soften them for you, their sole purpose is to, as their name suggests, boost the smell of your clothes

All you need to do is pick a smell you love, pop some beads into your washer’s drum, add your laundry and start the wash!

As with fabric softener, it may take you a few weeks to decide what booster scent is right for you!


6. Pop Some Dryer Sheets in the Tumble Dryer

dryer sheets

Another way to get great-smelling laundry is to dry your clothes in the tumble dryer alongside some dryer sheets.

Dryer sheets are known for reducing static and making laundry feel smoother, but they can also be scented, and this fragrance rubs onto clothes during the drying cycle.

As with other scent-boosting products, there are several different versions of dryer sheets to be had, and each has its own scent.

What smell you prefer comes down to personal preference, but you can get fragrances like Spring Awakening and Sparkling Bloom & Yellow Poppy from Lenor. And you can also pick up dryer sheets from Wilko, Bounce and Comfort.

Of course, a single dryer sheet may not give you the burst of scent you’re after, so you may need to use a second sheet

But on the whole, dryer sheets are a simple, cost and time-saving way of getting nicer-smelling laundry!

It’s also worth keeping in mind that you can make your own version of a dryer sheet.

This involves you grabbing a little piece of cloth, adding a few drops of essential oil of your choice to it, and tossing it into the dryer alongside your wet washing.

You could also scent dryer balls to get the same kind of effect.


7. Separate Dirtier Clothes from Cleaner Pieces

 Sorting laundry

If you’ve got a few extra dirty items to wash, it would be better to clean these items separately so you don’t contaminate your other outfits.

Grubby pieces often need to be treated beforehand, and they may need to be put through a more intense wash so that they end up clean and smelling fresh.

If you were to clean relatively clean clothes with these dirty items, not only would the grime coat the clean-ish garments, but the intense wash could damage them.

As a result, none of the clothes would end up clean at the end of a wash cycle, and every item would smell bad because they haven’t been washed effectively.

So, separate your washing into piles to prevent cross-contamination of germs, stains and smells. And to ensure that your laundry is washed correctly and effectively.


8. Pre-Treat Stains Before Washing Clothes

Stain on white clothing

In addition to separating soiled clothes from your other garments, you should also pre-treat heavily blemished laundry before washing it.

A quick pre-treatment can loosen up toughened grime and odours and make the washing process more effective for you.

As a result, your detergent can get to work cleaning and scenting the laundry during the washing phase, so it leaves the washer in a fragrant state!


9. Don’t Add Too Much Laundry to the Drum in One Go

overloaded washing machine

You must not add too many items to a washer’s drum because it will put needless strain on the machine, and it will underperform.

Consequently, the appliance will not clean your laundry effectively, let alone scent it for you.

In addition, if you overfill the washer, you probably won’t add enough detergent to the machine to clean the laundry properly. Plus, the detergent you do add, won’t be distributed evenly around the items, so some garments will smell better than others!

So, separate large loads into more manageable ones!


10. Add Some Scents to Your Wardrobes and Drawers

folded clothes in drawer

If you’ve tried softeners, boosters and dryer sheets, but your laundry still doesn’t have the scented kick you’d like, try adding fragrance sachets to your wardrobes and drawers.

Scented sachets release a smell of your choice into the cupboard space and give your items a long-lasting freshness. You can usually hang the sachets up, place them flat on a surface, or tuck them into a drawer.

The best part is that there are so many aromas you can choose from. Plus, the packs are reasonably priced, so you can swap and change what smell your wardrobes and drawers have regularly.


11. Line-Dry Your Laundry If You Can

rotary washing line outside

If you’d like your laundry to have a natural, outdoorsy type of smell, pop your washing out on the line and allow the wind and sunshine to work their magic! 

This is one of the easiest ways to get fresh-smelling laundry. The only trouble is, we tend to get a lot of rain in the UK, so you can’t always utilise this option!


12. Don’t Put Your Clothes Away Until They’re Completely Dry!

clothes smell damp after indoor drying

Damp laundry starts to smell bad quickly. And although you’ll have cleaned your outfits, if they’re stored when slightly moist, they’ll start to smell slightly stale!

Naturally, this’ll make you think that the items haven’t been washed effectively when in reality, they have, but they just weren’t dry when they were put away!

In addition, don’t leave wet clothes and towels in heaps on the floor! Wash them or hang them up to dry instead!

If you leave moisture-filled pieces in a pile, they won’t dry. The items will become extra stinky (like a mucky, stale, gone-off kind of stench), and this smell will only intensify with time.

In addition, your wet pieces may get stained or damaged by mildew if they’re just left alone.


13. Refresh Your Laundry to Make It Smell Great

deodorising spray for jeans

After you’ve washed and stored your laundry, it’ll start to lose its glorious smell. But instead of popping all your items in the wash again to make them pungent, just refresh them.

There are several ways you can refresh clothes without washing them. These include using a fabric freshener spray, spraying lemon water over garments, and brushing your items.


14. If You’re Hand-Washing Clothes, Take Your Time!

handwashing clothes

Hand-washing can be tiring, and as tempting as it may be to rush the entire process “just to get it done”, you shouldn’t.

If you sprint through the hand-washing procedure, you won’t clean your clothes effectively. Essentially, this means that you’ll leave dirt and poor odours on your garments.

To combat this, take your time when carrying out this type of cleaning. And ensure that each piece is tended to correctly, and that all the detergent is rinsed off each garnet before it is pressed and left to dry.

If you hand-wash your laundry correctly, you’ll get great-smelling laundry that’s free from dirt at the end.


15. Don’t Leave Clean Washing in Smelly Areas!

woman with smelly laundry

Clothes, bedding and blankets will all pick up the smells inside your home. So, if you want your items to stay smelling great, don’t leave them in stinky spots.

For example, if you’ve just cleaned and dried a pile of bedding, don’t leave it in the kitchen when you’re cooking dinner. The smell of whatever you’re rustling up will land on the material and will be absorbed into it!

And although your pieces will be clean, they won’t smell nice to you because they’ll be covered in food-related odours! And unless you’ve been making cakes or bread, the smell isn’t going to be all that pleasing – yucky!

So, instead of leaving your pieces in areas like this, make sure they’re dried and stored away from pesky odours.


16. Make Sure Your Washer and Dryer Are Clean

dirty washing machine seal

You can utilise all of the tips and tricks mentioned above to make your laundry smell glorious.

However, for the above points to work out for the best, you need to ensure that your washer is clean. And if using a dryer, this appliance also needs to be clean too.

If one or both of these machines are dirty, then there’s not much hope for you getting clean laundry, let alone wonderful smelling washing, by the end of the cycles.

Whatever gunk, hair, mould and general debris is clogged in the washer or dryer will find its way onto your laundry and will cover it in a foul smell.

And it won’t matter how good your detergent or boosters are, you’ll still be able to smell the dirtiness that’s coming from within the machine(s).

The way to stop this problem is to make sure that both the washer and dryer are clean! See our guides on how to clean a washer or tumble dryer.


17. The Most Important Tip – Wash Your Clothes Regularly!

Loading clothes in washing machine

It may seem obvious, but to get great-smelling laundry, you do have to wash your items at some point. If you just leave them, they’ll start to become quite pongy!

Of course, you don’t have to wash every item straight after wearing/using it because you can get multiple wears/uses out of most pieces.

Some outfits, like those worn on hot, sweaty days, must be cleaned because they’re covered in body oils that can be quite aromatic.

As a general rule, every item you have will have to be cleaned at some stage.

In addition to this, you shouldn’t leave your dirty clothes to mount up in the washing basket! Items start to smell when they’re packed into a tight spot, plus grime starts transferring between pieces!

You must’ve noticed the whiffy odour that comes off your washing basket/bag after a few days, particularly when we’ve got hot weather – it stinks!

So, clean your items as soon as possible, so the washing doesn’t pile up. But also, so that poorer odours don’t have a chance to intensify!

How to Get Great Smelling Laundry