Sustainable Solutions for Banishing Stubborn Odors

Sustainable Solutions for Banishing Stubborn Odors

The scent of clean laundry is nothing to sneeze at. True, it may not be on par with bread out of the oven, but a whiff of fresh towels and crisp shirts — redolent enough to bury your nose in — can almost make the entire chore worthwhile. But what do you do when those same garments and items emerge from the wash smelling anything but aromatic?

The fact is, some fabric odors can prove so stubborn that they require extra attention. Maybe the culprit is the sweat stain left from an especially intense workout or simply the kind of musty odor that lingers and won’t go away. Whatever it is, dealing with those unwanted smells is crucial to prolonging the lifespan of your favorite garments. 

Fortunately, you only need quality laundry detergent and a few household essentials to eliminate odors on your clothes for good. So, read on to tackle lingering fabric odors with ease. Here are sustainable solutions for getting rid of body odor on clothes, combating animal smells, and preventing musty smelling clothes after washing.

Identify the source of the smell

Does this sound familiar? You grab an article of clothing from your laundry pile and you’re immediately struck by an unpleasant smell. Before throwing it in the wash, it’s best to first identify the source of the odor. Did you wear it on a run? Could your pet have peed on it? Or is it something else? Pinpointing the cause will help determine the best steps to get rid of odors from clothes. Among the most stubborn, lingering odors (and how to tackle them):


If you think staying in shape is a grind, the resulting sweat streaks and accompanying odors can prove equally challenging to get rid of, especially on your workout apparel and underwear. To tackle sweat-related odors on clothes effectively, pre-treat the affected areas with a solution of equal parts water and white vinegar or a paste of baking soda and water. From there, allow the pre-treatment to sit for about 15 minutes before laundering as usual.

When it is time to wash them, make the switch from regular detergents to SaltyLama’s eco-friendly laundry detergent sheets. Not only are these plant-based sheets free of toxins, they come pre-measured, which means you never have to think about how much detergent to put in with your clothes again. For a regular load of laundry, rip a strip (two strips to a sheet) and place it either in the drum or detergent drawer. For a larger load, toss in an entire sheet.

Adding a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle will further neutralize odors and help leave fabrics smelling fresh.

Foot odor

Foot odor can be a common issue, especially when we’re on our feet for long hours. Fortunately, this unwanted smell comes out quite easily. To combat foot odor on socks and insoles, start by washing the items in hot water with laundry detergent. We highly recommend adding a cup of white vinegar to the wash cycle to help neutralize odors and disinfect fabrics.

As for shoes, sprinkle baking soda inside and allow it to sit overnight. Baking soda is a godsend when it comes to absorbing odors. The following day, vacuum or shake out the baking soda and repeat as needed to keep shoes smelling fresh. However, one of the best ways to keep your shoes smelling fresh is to make sure your shoes are thoroughly dry before wearing them again to prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria.

Cat urine

One of the most stubborn and unpleasant odors to find on your clothes? Cat pee. But it’s not hopeless. There are a few simple tricks you can use to remove cat pee odors.

Start by blotting the area with a clean cloth to absorb as much liquid as possible. Skip this step if the garment is already dry. Then, apply an enzyme-based cleaner specifically designed to break down organic matter, such as pet stains. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and allow the cleaner to penetrate the fabric before laundering.

You can then launder as normal, adding in a cup of white vinegar to further help eliminate odors. If you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn cat pee smell, repeat the treatment process as needed until the smell has been fully eliminated.

Musty smelling clothes after washing

If your washing machine itself is the source of those unpleasant odors on your clothes, there’s a good chance it may be harboring mold, mildew, or bacteria. To remedy this, run a hot water cycle with distilled white vinegar once a month to sanitize the interior. You can also sprinkle baking soda inside.

Before running the cycle, be sure to also clean the detergent dispenser, door gasket, and other nooks and crannies where odors can linger. For more information on cleaning your washing machine, see our complete guide here. You’ll quickly be able to banish the arrival of musty smelling clothes after washing, especially if you are diligent about quickly removing them from the wash and drying them.

Key laundry tricks to keep in mind

Here are a few essential tips to help you get rid of odors on your clothes going forward:

  • Get into a laundry routine and don’t let smelly clothes sit in your laundry basket for more than a week.
  • Make sure clothes are completely dry before putting them away. Don’t leave wet clothes on the floor.
  • Move wet laundry to the dryer or clothesline within a couple of hours of washing. The sooner, the better.
  • Wash clothes with foul odors in warm or hot water with a cup of white vinegar to remove bad smells.
  • Incorporate essential oils, like lavender, to your wash cycle to naturally give your clothes a fresh scent.
  • For tough odors like pet urine or mildew, specialty odor-eliminating products may be necessary.
  • Pre-treat localized odors like underarm sweat or perfume residue by using a pre-wash stain remover. You can make a DIY paste of baking soda and water.


With the right techniques and products, you now know how to get rid of body odors on clothes. Even the most stubborn smells can be banished from your clothes and washing machine. Incorporate these laundry care tips into your routine to keep your clothes and washing machine smelling their best.


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