15 tips to get SWEAT SMELL out of clothes

Sweat smell (aka Body odour or BO) is not a problem for everyone on this earth. But for those with this problem – it is the greatest one. I belong to the second section.

Having tried almost everything ( like giving up on non-veg and spices, which proved impossible for me, and drink enough water to make the bathroom my permanent residence) I have now resolved to clean the horrible sweat smell out of my clothes  – properly; and get a good antiperspirant deodorant.

How to get sweat smell out of clothes

I have learned that there are two glands in our body ( Eccrine glands and Apocrine glands – they are almost all over our body) which causes all the sweat; Sweat is supposed to be good for you ( It cools the body when it gets heated up), so I will never blame sweat for the resultant body odour. 

Body odour is the result of sweat mixed with bacteria present in your body. This together with the deodorant you must be using will create a killer odour which makes a stain on your fabric and causes all to run away from you as well.

So removing every trace of the bad odor which is left lingering on clothes  after you take it off is not an option – but a necessity.

Tips to prevent sweat smell on clothes

As always preventing sweat is better than trying to remove it and the resultant smell. Washing yourself well, as and when you get sweaty or at least once a day will do a lot.

Know when you will sweat and wear appropriate clothes. Exercising is when I sweat the most . So preferably wear only moisture absorbing fabric for exercise clothes ( you would find them under labels workout clothes, activewear, gym clothes or athletic wear).

For day to day activities, Use breathable fabrics like cotton, linen etc, which are less prone to sweat. But then cotton when it has caught on sweat gives the most horrible smell of all.

Related posts : Best fabrics to wear when exercising ; Best fabrics for summer weather

 Using antiperspirant deodorant on dry skin (do not use on wet skin), using underclothing like slips, petticoats, vests also helps. And bathing twice a day.

Tips to remove sweat smell from clothes

1 The first and foremost thing you can do is to wash sweaty clothes as soon as it is taken off the body. Always wash sweaty clothes without keeping them too much in the laundry bin. The odour will set and it will be hard to remove. The faster you can wash them the better it will be washed out.

2 Using warm water to wash clothes can help. You should check the label of the garment and use the highest possible temperature you could use on the type of fabric. For eg. Polyester doesn’t tolerate very hot water. Wool shrinks in hot water. So be cautious and err on the side of caution. But warm water helps.

Soak the garment for 10 minutes in a strong detergent. If the sweat smell is intense soak for 30 -45 minutes.You can soak in the washing machine itself. What I do is, work the machine, then when the cloth is immersed in water after one tumble, off the machine for 30 minutes ( My machine has only 10 minutes soak option ) then power on the machine again. 

3 If the clothing is stinking with the smell, use an antiseptic lotion (like Dettol) in the washing cycle. Many people vouch for this. One problem is, you may not like the strong antiseptic smell. You will need to rinse the clothing thoroughly in freshwater to remove the antiseptic smell and dry it in the sun. But if the sweat smell is overwhelmingly bad this is a solution. 

4 Alternatively, you can soak the sweaty clothes in a bucket with water mixed with two-three teaspoons of white vinegar. Soak for half an hour. Wring it out and put the clothes in the wash. Another great option is to soak in an oxygen bleach solution. This is supposed to be a wonder remedy for BO on clothes.

5 A thorough wash in the washing machine with a good quality detergent can remove most fresh sweat smells. Ensure that the washing machine is not overloaded. If the clothes do not have space in the machine to be tumbled properly and washed, the odour and sweat would not go. Also for really sweaty clothes add one more rinse cycle if your machine allows that. Take out from the machine as soon as the wash is complete to be hanged. Hang the washed clothes out in the sunshine and clean air to dry. It is better to  skip the spin dryer

6 The fabric conditioners available in the markets have such lovely smell. You can put a capful in the final rinse for a lingering smell. But I am a little concerned about using them daily in the wash especially because everyone in our house is allergic. You can add a teaspoon of vinegar in the final rinse water for a more natural remedy. The foul odour of vinegar will fade when the cloth dries.

7 For stubborn sweat smells which do not go away with washing – Some people have had success with Baking soda – that magical all-purpose cure for all problems  (it is even supposed to cure cancer!). Just make a thick paste of baking soda with water and spread it on the sweaty places. Wait for 10-15 minutes before putting the clothes to wash.

8 Another remedy I have read about is to use crushed aspirin tablets and spreading it just like baking soda on the sweaty area. All these are harmless chemicals which would not harm your body in any way. Checkout this post for more ideas like this.

vodka for sweat smell removal

9 If you keep alcohol at home and have a bottle of Vodka and do not mind using it for any other purpose than rejuvenation or whatever you intend to get from a swig or two, use it on sweat – it is a surefire remedy for sweat smells – Use 1:3 ratio of vodka:water and spray on the area before washing.

10 Use Borax powder to remove sweat smell – Just mix Borax powder with some water and a drop of lemongrass essential oil. Keep in a spray bottle. Spritz on the sweat areas before wash.

11 For white clothes with a sweaty smell, a good bleach diluted and soaked will work to destroy the bacteria and render the clothes white again (the yellow sweat stain will vanish with the bleach). If you are averse to the use of such chemicals, you can try lemon juice. It is supposed to be bleaching and the lemon smell will take away the sweat smell.

12 Washing soda has been used for a long time for stubborn smells. Just add some teaspoons in the wash.

13 If sweat smell  is still there, use the fabric brush on the area. But you have to realize that hard scrubbing brushes may destroy the texture of the fabric surface.

14 Another method is to boil the cloth – if the smell is awful and everything you have done doee not seem to work – keep the cloth ( if it is cotton or a fabric that is OK with heat) on a stainless steel pot with boiling water for 10 minutes. This is ideal for smelly kitchen towels and white shirts with odor; removes the color and removes odor. You may have to use fabric conditioner later.

15 Perspiration stains are a direct result of sweat – those dreaded yellow stains. You can try to remove them with ammonia. Mix one table spoon ammonia in one cup of water and apply. Check out the Stain removal guide for more tips like this. One easy tip is not to wear light coloured clothes if you sweat heavily. Darker shades show less of the sweat stains. 

Related post : Basic Garment careHow to keep your Closet smelling good and fresh as ever : 5 simple tips.


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8 thoughts on “15 tips to get SWEAT SMELL out of clothes”

  1. I have recently started using Tide Hygenic unscented. Not only do our clothes not smell of perspiration anymore, the yellow stains from the armpits are gone too. I literally have tried every tip you have mentioned on this post, and many more besides, and none of them have worked anywhere near as well as Tide Hygenic. I swear this is not an advertisement and I do not work for whatever multi-national makes Tide. It’s worth a try, right?

    1. Yes, thanks for sharing your experience. It is true that sometimes you need something stronger than home remedies.

  2. PROM GOWN SMELL – I am a tailor. A lovely light blue polyester prom gown came in the other day. I can smell the under arm odor on the gown from across the room. The smell will get on other gowns in my store. The girl is 17 and is quite active in sports so her sweat glands are very active. If I call my customer and ask that they clean the gown before I work on it, there will be really bad feelings and probably more than likely a negative review for my business. Unfortunately part of the alterations are darts in the armpit area to stop a gap. So my nose and hands will be right where the stink is. These situations made it hard for me to not vomit. Soooo, this is my plan. I will wrap the top part of the gown in a plastic bag while I sew the new hem. When it comes time to do the top I will have to suck it up – grin and bear it and put tape across my nose. Some moths back there was another gown with sweat odor. I mentioned the smell when the mother came to pick up the gown. She said that she did not smell anything – so I looked like an ass.

  3. Roberta Henning

    I am wondering why so many Google directions have the English spelling such as
    ODOUR instead of U. S. spelling of odor.
    This post is not the only place I have noticed this.

    1. Hi Roberta
      My kids made me do a test recently with a list of some big lettered words – the first and last letters of these words were correct and all the other inside letters were jumbled. Asked me to read the words and I could read all of them correctly. Does it really matter whether it is odour or odor ? odour is odor however we write it and the solutions are universal : )

    2. Hello Roberta,

      It is most likely because most of the world uses the English spelling.

      For example. The entire world uses the metric system except for 3 countries; Myanmar, Liberia and the US. Catering to just the US would most likely alienate most of the customers.

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