How to Get Rid of Sour Clothes Smell: 7 Foolproof Methods to Try!

How to Get Rid of Sour Clothes Smell: 7 Foolproof Methods to Try!

Scents can be wonderful because they transport us to a different time and place.

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Because fabrics are absorbent, they soak up lots of scents.

Both good and bad.

For example:

I have great memories of visiting my grandparents house. It was a long drive to get there (in another state) and I love how the smell of their home lingered on the clothes in my suitcase even after we returned home.

Another scent I love is the smell of a campfire. We used to go camping when I was a kid and campfire were part of our nightly routine.

We’d hang around the fire as a family or with friends, laugh, and roast s’mores. Even today when I get a whiff of a campfire, it takes me back to very happy memories.

These are both good scents that inspire warm thoughts.

What are your favorite scents that take you back to a particular time in your life? Let me know in the comments below!

Good scents:

  • Your favorite perfume

  • Your first boyfriend

  • A place you loved visiting

  • Your parents’ or grandparents’ house

  • A candle

  • Your favorite restaurant

  • A campfire

However, what if your clothes absorb bad odors? A garment that smells bad lingers with you all day. No matter what you do, it seems nearly impossible to free yourself from the odor.

Bad scents:

  • Cigarette/cigar smoke

  • Basement odor

  • Musty Attic odor

  • Moth Balls

  • Gasoline

  • Second hand/thrift store odor

  • Mold/mildew

  • Garbage

  • Body odors

  • Garage odor

Nothing is worse than clothes with a funky or sour smell.

Having worked in the fashion industry for years and owning a a retail store, I’ve smelled more than my fair share of stinky stuff.

Do I need to throw AWAY stinky clothes?

No! Here are some of my favorite ways to get rid of sour clothes smells.

With these go-to methods, you’ll be able to take your clothes from stinky to refreshing.

You may need to try one or two methods to find the right one to work with that particular garment.

As an example, my daughter loves to thrift shop. Discovering vintage clothes allows her to create a one-of-a-kind wardrobe. However, the biggest downsides of thrifting is that sometimes the clothes have a funky smell. It’s because they could have been stored in an attic, a basement, or a batch of mothballs.

She recently purchased a jacket with one of those sour smells. She left it slung over a chair for weeks hoping the smell would go away.

It didn’t.

Finally, I decided to give the jacket some TLC and remove the odor. Since it is a dry clean only garment, I didn’t want to run the risk of laundering it. Instead, I pulled out my steamer, filled it with water, and set it on full steam. I hung the jacket on a hook and then steamed it until I used almost all of the water in the steamer.

The next morning, the jacket smelled great and my daughter started wearing it.

The steam method worked for this jacket but it might now work for everything. Here are the best ways to get rid of sour clothes smell.

7 Ways to Remove Sour Clothes Smell

#1. Wash/Laundry

If the the garment is machine washable, this is the best place to start. Give the garment a good wash and dry using your favorite scented detergent and fabric softener/dryer sheet.

Pro tip: Add a bit of baking soda or white vinegar to the wash to help get rid of sour odors.


#2. Hang in Bathroom

If the garment is a bit more delicate such as hand wash or dry clean only, try hanging it in the bathroom. Sometimes the the steam from the shower is enough to remove a bad scent.

I have used this method for silk, polyester, and rayon garments.

#3. Hand Steamer or Steam iron

If hanging the garment in the bathroom doesn’t work, I take it up a notch…aka…the hand steamer.

You can purchase a handheld steamer or a steam iron. Both will do the job of steaming out bad odors but the steamer is a bit easier to use for this purpose. I bought this Conair Fabric Steamer and it works great. It’s lightweight, easy to manage, and does the job perfectly. Plus, it’s a lot less expensive than other steamers.

To steam clean, put the garment on a hanger and place on hook or over the back of a door. Steam the garment by lightly gliding the steamer or iron over it. Allow as much steam as possible to permeate the clothing. When I’m trying to remove odors, I use almost all of the water in the steamer on just one garment.

Let the garment dry overnight and then it should be good to wear!

#4 Dry Cleaner

Dry cleaning is a more expensive option but the solvent used to clean the clothes should remove any unpleasant odors as well.

#5. Fabric Spray

Fabric sprays refresh and remove odors from clothes with just a spritz. There are lots of fabric sprays on the market today. The one I use most often is Fabreze Extra Strength Fabric Refresher.

#6. Freezer

Yep. The freezer is my secret weapon. I’ve received garments with mildew, cigarette, animal, moth ball, and body odors. Freezing them seems to do the trick almost every time.

To freeze clothes, simply place them in the freezer overnight. If it seems a bit awkward sticking the clothes directly in the freezer, you can place them in a ziplock back first.

Remove clothes from the freezer the next day and they should be odor free.

#7. Sachets

Go natural! Once you’ve removed sour smells from your clothes, keep them smelling fresh naturally.

You can use essential oils or natural materials to create fresh-smelling sachets. One sachet tucked into your drawer or hanging in your closet will keep your clothes smelling delightful for months.

  • Lavender

  • Balsam/Fir

  • Lemon Bee Balm

  • Rosemary

  • Rose Petals