Help with habitually stinky clothing.
January 31, 2006 9:24 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone have any recommendations for dealing with chronically stinky articles of clothing?

Alright, imagine this:
Shirt A I've owned for over a year and have worn it running perhaps once or twice a week in that time.
Shirt B I've owned about two months. It gets worn as frequently as shirt A.

For whatever reason shirt A smells really bad after I exercise. Running is just an example - I do other types of exercise. They are both 100% cotton. Right out of the dryer they both smell fine. If I wear them out when I'm not exercising they both smell fine at the end of the day. But if I get sweating much, it becomes noticeable.

It just seems like there's some finite amount of exercise I can do in some clothes before they get this way. Socks seem to be immune to this.

With t-shirts it's no big deal, because they cost all of three bucks at Walmart or whatever. But something like a gi for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu it's a bigger issue, because they cost $100 or thereabouts. I have a gi that I can wear a few times a week, and one that I can wear precisely once between washings.

I tried soaking the affected articles in vinegar for 30 minutes or so, which struck me as a great idea, but it didn't work. I figure maybe there was some really durable bacteria living in the shirt that only make trouble when the shirt gets a bit sweaty, and I might be able to kill them off. If it is bacteria I guess I need something more capable of killing them.

Dry cleaning isn't an option for several reasons. Bleach is out as well.

Yes, I googled and searched here.

posted by mragreeable to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I mostly wash my gym clothes (all synthetics) by hand every time after I workout. After about a month they develop a funk that washing, including machine washing, just can't beat. I discovered that treating them with Febreeze (actually a cheaper knockoff) then throwing them in the machine gets the stink out.
posted by TimeFactor at 9:33 PM on January 31, 2006

If you wear antipersperant, I would switch to deodorant-only at least while exercising - you're going to sweat anyway, and it's likely the aluminum used in the former is causing discoloration and may be trapping odor/bacteria.
posted by kcm at 9:34 PM on January 31, 2006

What about mixing baking soda with your laundry detergent?
posted by gnat at 9:35 PM on January 31, 2006

posted by Good Brain at 9:38 PM on January 31, 2006

I second baking soda. It will work for a while, then the odor will come back... Then soak in baking soda again. :)

BtW, baking soda is inexpensive and very, very efficient (compared to many chemical products dedicated to household cleaning).
posted by Bio11 at 9:48 PM on January 31, 2006

this used to happen for me sometimes, with certain articles of clothing, including a gi. i realized that the ones that got stinky were ones that i let sit wet in a corner or something and get all mildewy. even after they'd been washed many times (and i'd tried the vinegar thing, too.. no dice) they'd still get stinky when i sweat in them.

i finally just figured that there was some kind of residual dead mildew spores in there that would stink when they got wet and that would never come out, so i just got new stuff and washed/dried it right away, and now its no longer a problem. so wash your stuff sooner or at least hang it up so it dries out!
posted by sergeant sandwich at 10:14 PM on January 31, 2006

does the shirt smell bad if plain water gets on it? someone tossed a shirt in my dryer once at college and i ended up owning it. the shirt smelled fine unless it got wet, at which point it smelled like something had died on it. the only solution i could find was to throw the thing out.
posted by clarahamster at 10:14 PM on January 31, 2006

My clean gym clothes will smell just fine. Then I'll start exercising and the moisture of my sweat or the warmth or both will very quickly release a cloud of funk that'll make my eyes water. Occasional Febreezing has solved that.
posted by TimeFactor at 10:26 PM on January 31, 2006

Put a two liter bottle of Coke in the wash. It will remove pretty much any smell including mildew. Be careful on a front loader though, I think it makes the foam foamier.
posted by fshgrl at 10:35 PM on January 31, 2006

Some synthetics, especially polypropylene, get stinky very easily. I don't think there is anything you can do about it.
posted by caddis at 10:35 PM on January 31, 2006

Oxyclean and the hottest wash the garments can stand.
posted by essexjan at 11:39 PM on January 31, 2006

I second the Oxyclean. Even on cold it gets the funk out if you let everything soak for 15-30 minutes before running the wash cycle.
posted by nenequesadilla at 12:10 AM on February 1, 2006

I have exactly the same problem with my clothing as does my Dad. A certain kind of persistent BO runs in my family. Hanging the clothes to dry outside helps (ie use a washing line instead of a dryer), particularly if it's done straight after they're washed.

But the main answer is an antibacterial in-wash liquid, to go with my very good quality laundry detergent (I'm assuming you use good detergent? if not that's your first port of call). I've tried all the in-wash soakers or additives on the market here in NZ, and the one that works best for me is called Canesten. Here's what it looks like. Since you don't appear to live in New Zealand I suggest you take a wander down the laundry isle of your supermarket and just start trying products. Start with the antibacterial/hygiene type ones and work your way through til you find something that works. You're looking for something to add to the wash as well as your detergent, something to give an extra boost of cleanliness.

I've used things to mask the odour, like laundry softener, with limited success. Febreeze didn't really do it for me either but I know people who swear by it. I've also had reasonable success with stain remover but it's a pain to rub all over the clothes every time. Something to throw in the machine is so much easier. bleach-based soakers such as napisan are also great for many people (and do nothing for me). There are lots of options.

It sucks trying stuff out and paying for the good detergent + extras, but it's worth it to have non-smelling clothing. And using good laundry products is nicer on the fabric too, so your clothes last longer.
posted by shelleycat at 12:12 AM on February 1, 2006

I used to have a similar problem with fencing uniforms. Once I let a jacket go too far, I found it necessary to discard it, although one I left hanging in the garage for a few years seemed to recover.

The solution was to minimize the exposure of the clothing to sweat. I did this by wearing tshirts under the garments, and changing a few times during tournaments/training. Also, I went to extreme lengths to wash the clothes as quickly as possible after use, and never let them bake in a car sweaty. Antiperspirant doesn't hurt either.
posted by Manjusri at 12:35 AM on February 1, 2006

For synthetics, which I try to avoid, fill machine with water and add detergent. Allow to soak for a half hour or so, then start the washer. It really helps. For cycling and cold weather running I wear wool which can be worn a half dozen times before it needs to be washed. It has natural anti-bacterial properties and just does not stink.
posted by fixedgear at 2:11 AM on February 1, 2006

Add a generous amount of cheap vinegar to the water when washing, that will take care of smells for some time as well.
posted by Skyanth at 3:19 AM on February 1, 2006

Don't use a dryer. Dryers are warm humid places where all sorts of nasty things can easily get footholds.

Dry things on an outdoor clothesline, and make sure they get plenty of sun exposure (ultraviolet light kills most kinds of stink-organism).

Before you bring them back inside, dampen a test patch and sniff it. If there's the slightest hint of funk, leave the item on the line for another 24 hours.

I have recovered many an unwearably stinky cotton t-shirt with a good hot wash followed immediately by pegging it up outside and leaving it there for a week.
posted by flabdablet at 3:22 AM on February 1, 2006

Adding borax to the wash water and/or soaking in a borax and water solution before washing works wonders. Learned that during the dried milk and spit-up phase with our kids.
posted by SashaPT at 3:26 AM on February 1, 2006

This happens to me every now and then, switching detergents seems to fix it.
posted by 517 at 7:46 AM on February 1, 2006

Definitely Borax. I'd forgotten a wet load of laundry in the washing machine for a couple days and it's gotten really sour smelling. Repeated washings did nothing, but borax fixed it right away. Now I use it on kid clothes that have sat with food/gotten wet/generally smelly. Cheap and effective.
posted by 445supermag at 8:57 AM on February 1, 2006

« Older I might as well be printing potato chips.   |   BonerFilter: I'm 30 years old and I've got a... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.