Why Do Clothes Smell After Drying?

Completing a full load of washing and drying can take quite a bit of time. That’s why it can be quite frustrating to find that your clothes smell even after you’re done drying them! That shouldn’t happen. So, why do clothes smell after drying?

Your clothes might smell bad because of what’s going on inside the washing machine or dryer (such as using too much or too little detergent, dirty filters, stagnant water). Besides that, the problem could also be with the fabric you’re washing (such as using polyester fabrics, biological soiling, or being left in the machine for too long).

The good news is that most of these problems are easily solvable. All you have to do is know the proper steps, which is exactly what we’re going to show you.
Let’s get to it!

Washing Machine Problems

A few of the things causing your clothes to smell bad even after drying are related to the washing machine and dryers themselves.

For instance, you may have used too much or too little detergent, or you may have let the lint traps and filters get far too dirty.

The same could also happen when there is stagnant water or excess moisture in those machines.

Using Too Much Detergent

You may be familiar with the timeless wisdom that there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing.

That’s certainly true when it comes to using detergent to wash your clothes.

You see, there’s a reason why the manufacturer prints clear instructions about how much to use right on the back of the box or bottle!

When you use too much laundry detergent, the excess won’t simply wash away into the drainpipe at the end of the cleaning cycle.

Instead, all that excess detergent will cling to the inside of the washer drum.

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As you keep repeating this, that buildup of excess detergent will continue to grow.

Simultaneously, the detergent’s many ingredients will start to go bad, attracting all sorts of nasty things like mold and mildew, which make the smell even worse.

So, what does all of this mean? It means that any time you fill the machine with a new load of laundry, all of those nasty smells will transfer to those clothes instead of washing away.

By the time you hang those clothes up to dry or stick them in the dryer, the terrible odors are already clinging to the fabric.

How to fix this: There are two steps you must take to fix this issue. Firstly, always check the back of the detergent bottle and follow the usage instructions to the tee.

You’ll avoid this problem by only using the correct amount of detergent to match the size of the load you’re washing.

That will prevent future buildups of detergent, but how do you remove the accumulation that’s already there?

Well, use the machine’s self-cleaning cycle if it has one. If not, simply run the machine at the highest water temperature possible without any clothes inside.

That will help to dilute any detergent buildup and remove the nasty smells along with it.

Using Too Little Detergent

Believe it or not, the same can also happen when you use too little detergent.

Remember: the dirty clothes that you throw in the machine have plenty of dirt, oil, sweat, and all sorts of stains on them by the time they get washed.

For all of that nasty stuff to be cleaned out thoroughly, you must use the correct amount of detergent to get the job done.

Otherwise, the clothes will come out smelling horrible even after you’re done drying them.

How to fix this: Like with the previous point, the fix for this one is relatively easy.

Always refer to the detergent instructions and use the correct amount for the load you’re washing. Not too much, and certainly not too little.

Dirty Filters in Washer or Dryer

Many owners tend to forget about the filters and traps in their washers and dryers.

They’re somewhat easy to overlook, seeing as how they work silently to remove lint, dirt, and anything else that you shouldn’t mix in with your clothes.

Sadly, if they’re left uncleaned for far too long, anything they trap may also start to develop smells.

And as we’ve seen earlier, when there are bad smells in the washer or dryer, those odors tend to transfer onto the clothes you load into them.

How to fix this: To prevent this from happening, you must clean out all of the filters and traps periodically.

Manufacturers tend to place these filters behind discreet panels, so you might not be aware of where they are.

That’s perfectly fine. Be sure to refer to the user manual to identify the filters and traps in your washing machine and dryer and clean them out regularly. You may even wash them with soap in your kitchen sink to remove any stubborn dirt.

Stagnant Water

Some washing machines simply tend to hold stagnant water. For some brands and models, that may come as a flaw in the machine’s design.

However, that is also a problem that tends to happen with front-loading washing machines.

Stagnant water, or any excess moisture for that matter, can lead to a buildup of odors inside the machine.

Even though the machine might be empty at first, those trapped smells can quickly transfer to your next batch of clothes when you put them in.

How to fix this: One of the easiest ways to prevent stagnant water from building up is to leave the washer door open when you’re not using it.

Not only will that help to dry out the inside of the machine, but it’ll also allow for at least some ventilation to prevent any odors from getting trapped inside.

Fabric Problems

Some of the causes behind smelly clothes could also be the clothes themselves.

The type of fabric being used, any biological soiling, or simply being left in the machine for too long can all contribute to nasty odors on newly-washed clothes.

Polyester Fabrics

Some fabrics absorb and retain odors more than others. Polyester is a perfect example of that.

If those smells are not removed during the wash cycle, then throwing them in the dryer will heat the fabric and make those smells much more noticeable.

How to fix this: Firstly, it’s crucial to wash polyester clothing as soon as you’re done wearing them. That minimizes the amount of time the fabric has to absorb and retain odors.

If you notice any odors on the clothing items, you may want to increase the detergent amount that you use to wash that particular load of clothes.

Suppose all of that is still not enough to get your polyester clothing smelling fresh after washing and drying.

You could also put these clothes into an airtight container along with some activated charcoal.

That charcoal will help absorb all smells, and doing this in an airtight container will make the entire process much more efficient.

Biological Soiling

Aside from the fabric type, another reason your clothes may smell even after drying is that they experienced some kind of biological soiling.

By this, we mean blood, sweat, vomit, or other bodily fluids. That kind of soiling is much harder to remove from fabrics during the washing cycle, and the heat of a dryer will simply make it worse.

To put it in simple words, the heat from the dryer or the sun (if you’re drying your clothes outside) excite the molecules that cause those terrible smells in the first place.

That’s why you’ll sometimes only notice that your clothes smell bad during or right after you’ve dried them.

How to fix this: When removing biological soiling from clothes, throwing them in the washing machine won’t be enough.

You may want to separate those clothes and wash them alone, where you can give them extra attention.

Firstly, you may need to use some kind of special pre-wash enzyme treatment that’s specially-made to handle biological stains.

You may also want to rub detergent directly onto the stain before you wash those clothes in some cases.

To protect other clothes from absorbing any smells, you may also want to dry them separately. That way, any odours that are still there won’t’ transfer onto other clothing items in the same load.

Left Clothes Too Long In The Washer

Lastly, your clothes might have a bad smell simply because you left them in the machine for too long after the washing cycle has completed.

Remember: washing machines have plenty of moisture inside and no ventilation when the doors are closed.

So, even if the detergent removes all the dirt and odour from those clothes, leaving them in the machine for too long will turn those pleasant detergent scents into something nasty.

How to fix this: The fix is easy. Always be mindful of when your washing and drying cycles will end. You might even want to use a kitchen timer or the one on your phone to remind you.

As soon as the cycle is complete, take the clothes out and let the fabric ‘breathe’. With proper ventilation, the fabric will smell lovely and fresh, just as it’s supposed to.

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