Seventh Generation + old washing machine = stinky laundry?
May 6, 2016 5:47 AM   Subscribe

My laundry stinks. I can't tell if it's the powder Seventh Generation detergent, our old washing machine, or just my own personal stench. Is there another (eco-friendly) detergent I should be using, or is there something else I can be doing to get my clothes cleaner and less putrid?
posted by airguitar2 to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
First things first - have you cleaned out the filter on that bad boy recently.
posted by greenish at 5:50 AM on May 6, 2016

Have you cleaned your washer?

Give it a shot, see if that solves the problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

If they're stinky because of bacteria, a time-honored approach is to soak them in an extremely mild chlorine bleach solution: not enough to actually alter the color, more like what would be used to sanitize drinking water.
posted by XMLicious at 5:51 AM on May 6, 2016

How long to you let them sit before putting them in the dryer?
You could add some vinegar (I add an extra rinse just because) and make sure they go immediately in to the dryer.
This time of year I can't let them sit in the washer, even a few hours.
posted by ReluctantViking at 5:54 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

What kind of smell are we talking?

Our 15-year-old Maytag frontloader traps water and regularly smells musty itself -- it's a design flaw of this model. We run special tabs through it to kill off the scent (Affresh). Plus being vigilant about getting clothes out and into the dryer ASAP, and leaving the door open when not in use.

Is the dryer getting everything really dry? Laundry straight out of the dryer often feels dry, but is noticeably damp when it cools down.

To get the smell out, I use about a 1/4 measuring cup (60 ml) of cheap white vinegar, the kind you wouldn't cook with, in the softener holder. Unfilth Your Habitiat swears by it as a general smell remover. It did take multiple washings, in hot water and a hot dryer. This might freshen the laundry while you look for a root cause.

If you have sunshine and a drying rack, drying in the sun kills mildew; it's all that nice solar radiation.

We use method unscented detergent, because it's super concentrated and eco-friendly.

If you are washing after every wear, or washing sheets and towels weekly, I'm inclined to say it's the washer, not you. If you are holding off on washing -- and I am a multiple wear/multiple week person myself -- you might need to wash more frequently, or use more detergent, or the extra cycle.
posted by JawnBigboote at 6:02 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Does it smell mouldy? Some washing machines aren't so good with liquid detergents & need powder version including constant draining of leftover water from the filter plug (I.e after each wash) and cleaning of mould from the washer gasket. We have such a machine & ontop of all the cleaning needed (and I mean cleaning mold from inside the gasket with freaking ear buds & tooth brushes it's that bad & hard to get to when built up) and switching to powders, we have to empty the finished cycle ASAP, keep the main door & detergent dispenser door open when not in use & run regular bleach cycle followed by vinegar cycle with towels. All that just to keep the mould at bay. I also found running a longer wash & not quick cycle makes the clothes smell way better. Apparently the machine drainage issue is common with highly efficient machines.
posted by Under the Sea at 6:05 AM on May 6, 2016

I find that just a little bleach every third or fourth week tends get rid of stink, whether machine-generated or personal-filth generated. No need even to bleach every time you wash, because it takes a while to, um, develop a significant bacterial load.
posted by Frowner at 6:09 AM on May 6, 2016

I use this formula (with baking soda instead of borax) for my laundry detergent. I use bar towels instead of paper towels for all of my cleaning, which means I can have some seriously foul loads from time to time. Since switching to this laundry mix, I don't have to add any extra steps to remove stink.

However - seconding clean your machine. Either run an empty load with a couple cups of bleach with the longest hottest setting, or if you're feeling less aggressive, white vinegar instead.

If you have an extra funky load for some reason, apple cider vinegar added to the wash cycle usually kills all the smells.
posted by slipthought at 6:14 AM on May 6, 2016

I stopped buying seventh generation because it always smelled a bit funky to me (not necessarily like mold...just off and unpleasant). I tried it out when I lived in a new apartment with a new top loader, and we would run a cleaning cycle about once a month, so I don't think it was the machine. We switched to method and never looked back.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:57 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you want to eliminate the detergent question, buy a small amount of tide and see if it helps. If I buy cheap clothes, natural detergents can't get the sweat smell out. I use a mix of detergents for different purposes, but you could try different economic friendly detergents. If all your laundry stinks, nthing you should clean your washer as stated above.
posted by Kalmya at 7:01 AM on May 6, 2016

If your washer is a front-loader, leave the door wide open when it's not in use, to guard against mold.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:13 AM on May 6, 2016

White Vinegar. Run an empty hot water cycle with a ton of vinegar in it to clean out your washer. Put a quarter to a half cup of vinegar in each full load for a while, while keeping an eye out for things that could be damaged by the mild acid. Check for colorfastness and fragile fabrics. This is the only thing that helps my gym clothes. After the smell is gone from your clothes, remember to run a "cleaning cycle" once a month or so.

Also, switch detergents. Method, Meyer's Clean Day. All Free & Clear, and Ecos are all "green" detergents you can try. It's always a good idea to switch up detergents and shampoo formulations every once in a while to reduce buildup.

Good luck!
posted by domo at 7:39 AM on May 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Add some Mule Team Borax to each load along with your detergent and see if that helps.
posted by cass at 8:11 AM on May 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yep, I was going to suggest experimenting with Borax also. We have hard water, and various detergents work more or less well. Clothes would come out "clean" but not always smell that way. Adding Borax has definitely made a difference.
posted by percolatrix at 9:55 AM on May 6, 2016

Some instructions for washing machine cleaning suggest using bleach, then vinegar.
Just be aware that Bleach + vinegar = chlorine gas, which is toxic- make sure to rinse very very well in between the two substances.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:47 PM on May 6, 2016

nthing cleaning out your machine. That works miracles. I use this DIY laundry soap and have for years. It smells good and cleans well. I use Ivory bars instead of the bars they use, but I've used what's listed there too. Either way works for me. If you read the comments in the link, there are tons of ways to tweak the recipe.
posted by patheral at 1:35 PM on May 6, 2016

We had this problem with hiking clothes and synthetics until we stopped using liquid detergent and started using better powder detergent. I don't buy Tide or drive a Mercedes, so we settled on Gain, which fixed the issue.
posted by cnc at 2:55 PM on May 6, 2016

nthing vinegar
posted by Jacqueline at 1:39 PM on May 7, 2016

My spousey is extremely sensitive to scents [like scented products] and for making sure all the clothes are clean and not smelling like everybody's laundry detergents [shared laundry room], we put apple cider vinegar in every load. Not a ton, but like a quarter cup. It works wonders!
posted by gloraelin at 4:29 AM on May 8, 2016

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