Andrew asked: What do I do if I forget that I have clothes in the washing machine, and they sit there for a couple of days and smell of mildew? I know I could use bleach with whites, but what about colors?
You open the washing machine to put in a new load and – Oh Man! There’s that laundry you put in there last week, forgotten and reeking of mildew. We’ve all left a load of laundry for a bit too long, only to find that it needs to be washed again. The mildew smell can be difficult to remove if it is not treated promptly. The quickest solution is to fluff the laundry, add more detergent, and run another wash cycle. If that isn’t enough to get rid of the smell, follow these steps for odor removal.
You Will Need:
- White vinegar OR
- Baking soda
Steps to Remove the Mildew Smell:
- Fill the washing machine as usual with the clothing and detergent.
- Add a cup of either white vinegar or baking soda to the water. If you have a front load washer, these can be added through the soap dispenser.
- Allow the washing cycle to start as normal. This method should work with any water temperature; use the one that is best for the fabric. If any temperature is fine for the fabric, choose hot water.
- As the machine is washing and all of the soap and vinegar/baking soda have been thoroughly incorporated, stop the cycle and allow the laundry to soak for at least an hour. Overnight is fine.
- Continue the cycle and allow it to finish.
- Inspect the items for any stains that may remain. If you have any, use the guide How to Remove Black Mold/Mildew from Washable Fabrics.
- Once the odor is removed and you are sure there are no stains, dry as normal.
Additional Tips and Ideas
- If you are not able to stop your washer, use the longest washer cycle available or wash the item manually in a large basin or bathtub. To wash the item manually, use the steps in the article How to Hand Wash Clothing. If you decide to use the longest washer cycle instead, you may need to repeat the process several times to get the desired effect.
- OxyClean can also be added to the water for odor removal.
- For specific detergents designed to remove odors, check the hunting department at your local store. There are special detergents designed to remove all odors from the laundry so that animals are not aware of the hunter’s presence. These same soaps can be used to remove unwanted smells from laundry.
- Smelly Washer is available online and can be used to remove odors from both your clothing as well as the machine.