What Causes Sour-Smelling Laundry

What Causes Sour-Smelling Laundry?

There’s nothing worse than taking your laundry out of the washing machine and getting hit with a nasty, sour smell rather than the fresh laundry scent you were expecting. This can be caused by a variety of different issues, but fortunately, they tend to be very easy to fix.

1. Dirty Washing Machine

Dirty Washing Machine

One of the most common causes of smelly laundry is that the washing machine itself needs cleaning.

Your washing machine might normally do a great job of cleaning your laundry, but between lint, low washing temperatures, hard water and too much detergent, it is very difficult for a washing machine to clean itself.

If your washing machine has not been cleaned for a long time, you likely have a build-up of dirt, lint, mould and bacteria throughout your washing machine.

This will be even more prominent if you live in a hard water area because limescale makes for a great environment for bacteria to grow.

To tackle this issue, you simply need to deep clean your washing machine. Depending on how bad it is, you might need to run a clean (or maintenance) cycle a couple of times to achieve best results.

Some washing machines have a maintenance cycle programmed in, but if yours hasn’t, you simply need to run an empty wash on the hottest possible setting.

For an extra cleaning boost in the case of particularly bad washing machines, first, run an empty cycle with a cup of distilled white vinegar in the detergent drawer.

Once this finishes, run a second empty cycle with a cup of bicarbonate of soda in the detergent drawer. The vinegar and bicarbonate of soda will tackle the build-up of nasties, disinfect surfaces, and tackle the odour too.


2. Damp Clothing

Damp Clothing

There are a couple of ways that damp clothing can lead to a sour smell.

The first is if laundry has been left dirty and damp for a long time before being washed. This is especially problematic with towels or sports clothing that has been left at the bottom of the washing basket for a long time before being tackled.

The moisture in the garment will start to become stagnant, and this results in that musty, sour smell. To tackle this, you will need to wash the garments as hot as possible, and perhaps even wash them twice to get the smell out.

The second cause is if you have let the washing sit in the machine for too long after the cycle ends. In the same way, the moisture in the laundry will start to go stale, leading to the sour smell. If this is allowed to happen, you might need to wash the laundry a second time.


3. Overloaded Washing Machine

A washing machine drum that is overloaded will not give the laundry room to move around. If the laundry cannot move around during the cycle, it simply will not wash properly. Rather than cramming your washing machine full to the brim, run smaller loads.


4. Too Much (Or Too Little) Detergent

Too Much (Or Too Little) Detergent

Few people actually measure the amount of detergent they are using for every wash. After using a new detergent a few times and getting good results, most people just guess at what looks about right when they fill the detergent drawer.

This might be a quicker way to work, however it can result in you using either too much or too little detergent.

If you use too much detergent, it will not dissolve during the cycle properly. If this clings to your clothing, it can cause it to feel and smell bad.

It will also build up on the inside of your washing machine where it will attract mould, bacteria, and dirt, making your washing machine smell too.

If you don’t use enough detergent, your laundry simply will not clean properly.


5. Low Cycle Temperatures

Low Cycle Temperatures

Low washing machine cycle temperatures are better for the environment, there’s no denying that. However, it can cause a couple of problems for your washing machine.

The first is that if you wash your clothing at a temperature that is too low, they might not clean properly, especially if you are using a detergent that is not designed for that temperature.

The second issue is that it will not clean the inside of your washing machine. Instead, it will allow dirt and mould to build up on the inside of the machine, leading to nasty smells.

By running a hot, empty maintenance cycle regularly, you will be able to cut through the bacteria and dirt that has accumulated during your normal, cool cycles.


6. Rewashing the Laundry

Rewashing the Laundry

After you tackle the cause of the nasty smell, you will want to rewash the affected laundry thoroughly. Even if it was only one laundry load, split the pile in half to avoid overcrowding the washing machine.

Wash the laundry on the highest temperature setting that is safe for the garments to prevent ruining the material. First, wash the clothing with your regular detergent and half a cup of bicarbonate of soda and two cups of distilled white vinegar.

The bicarbonate of soda and vinegar will give your detergent the extra boost it needs to tackle the nasty smell.

After this cycle, wash the clothes again using just your regular detergent and your usual washing machine cycle.

As soon as the cycle finishes, either put the laundry straight in the tumble dryer, or hang it up to dry.