How to Deodorize Clothing

Some odors on clothing can be difficult to remove, not to mention embarrassing. By taking advantage of natural odor neutralizers, or experimenting with specialty detergents, you can find the method that works best for you, and maybe even save money in the process.


Deodorizing Naturally

  1. Add baking soda to your laundry to neutralize odors. Baking soda has long been used to deodorize clothing and to pre-treat stains. Adding one cup of baking soda to a load of laundry can help remove unwanted smells.
    • Sometimes simply adding baking soda to your wash cycle isn’t enough. For hard-to-remove odors, add ½ cup baking soda per gallon of water in a large bucket or sink. Be sure to swirl the clothes around to ensure they are fully submerged and to distribute the baking soda evenly throughout the mixture.
    • If you don’t have time to wash sweaty, smelly clothes immediately, sprinkle some baking soda on them before putting them into your laundry bin to control odors and absorb moisture.
  2. Mix white vinegar into the wash cycle. Add about ¼ cup of white vinegar during the final rinse cycle to help remove odors from sweat, smoke, and bacteria.
  3. Make a vodka dilution. Use 1 part vodka to 1 part water and store the solution in a jug (don’t worry about long-term storage, your solution will last for a very long time). Next, pour some solution into a spray bottle and spray onto smelly clothes.
    • Do a spot-test first in a small, unnoticeable area to make sure this solution won’t damage your clothes. This way to deodorize your clothes may not be ideal for certain fabrics, like leather or silk.
    • If you don’t have a spray bottle, they can usually be found at restaurant supply stores or anywhere commercial cleaning products are sold.
    • Although vodka is an effective deodorizer, it doesn’t clean your clothes or remove stains, so don’t expect your solution to produce results in these areas.
  4. Make a fabric refresher with essential oils. Use 1 cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, and ½ teaspoon of your favorite essential oil. Tea tree, lavender, lemon, and grapefruit are all popular options. Pour your mixture into a spray bottle and spritz your clothes between wash cycles.

    Expert Hack: Use several drops of essential oils like lavender or tea tree to deodorize your clothes. Tea tree has natural germicide and antifungal properties, and lavender has a calming scent.


Using Specialty Detergents

  1. Soak your clothes in a Borax solution. Add ½ cup of Borax for every half gallon of water you use and soak your clothes for at least 30 minutes in a large sink or tub.Borax is very effective in removing odors due to certain aspects of its chemical makeup that inhibit the metabolic processes of many odor-causing bacteria.
    • Be sure to wash your clothes after using Borax. Another useful property of Borax is that it actually increases the effectiveness of other laundry detergents. After you’re done soaking your clothes, run them through the washing machine as you normally would and allow the unique chemical properties of Borax to work their magic!
  2. Use a sport wash. Specialty detergents like Nathan’s Sport Wash or Sport Suds are specifically designed for removing body odor and bacteria from workout clothing, but their deodorizing properties usually do the trick for other unwanted smells. Simply add the recommended amount to your washing machine and wash as normal.
    • Some sport washes, like Sport Suds, are reportedly powerful enough to dissolve gunk on the inside of your washing machine. It’s recommended to give your washing machine a deep clean before laundering your clothes with detergents like these.
  3. Make your own specialty detergent. Homemade specialty detergents can be just as effective as commercial products, if not more. Most recipes for homemade detergents call for a mix of natural and chemical ingredients. One popular recipe calls for 3 tablespoons Borax, 3 tablespoons baking soda, and 2 tablespoons Dawn dishwashing liquid. Add these to 2 cups hot water in a gallon jug and shake until well mixed. Then, add cold water until the jug is full.
    • Making your own specialty detergent is also remarkably cost effective. You could reduce your cost per load of laundry from $.50 to $.03!


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