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12 Ways to Make Your Stinky Laundry Smell Better

Ever experience pulling laundry out of the machine, excited to take in that glorious smell of freshly dried laundry only to be greeted with a stale and mildewy stench? What the heck?

You might be thinking, “Maybe my clothes were just that dirty.” But it might just be that your machine needs a real cleaning. Yep, just like any appliance, it needs a good deep-clean from time to time to keep it working like new — and your laundry smelling as clean as it should. What you might be picking up on your clothes could be a buildup of bacteria and mold in your washer and dryer.

Cleaning your washer and dryer is easier than you think — just follow these 12 easy deodorizing tricks.

More: 12 Cleaning Products That Have a Cult Following

Step 1: Don’t delay drying

Don’t leave clean laundry in the machine after the load has finished washing — especially not overnight. With a warm, dark environment like a closed washing machine, bacteria and mold both thrive.

Step 2: Avoid the damp

Never put damp laundry in the washing pile. If you can’t wash wet or damp clothes and towels immediately, pretreat as needed and then let them dry to keep them from getting smelly.

Step 3: Dry well

Thicker towels and heavy clothing such as jeans take longer to dry, so be sure to dry them thoroughly each time.

Step 4: Get a clothesline

Hang your laundry outside to dry. The sun can help keep mold at bay — just be sure to dry everything completely (even if it means some time in the dryer inside).

Step 5: Soften carefully

Avoid using liquid fabric softener in the washing machine, as some people have experienced a buildup of “gunk” from its use. (Vinegar is said to be a natural fabric softener.) If you do use store-bought fabric softener, dilute the mixture with water before adding it to the machine and realize that the softener can make laundry harder to dry.

Step 6: Try different washing machine additives

There are many different laundry additives you can try — get some suggestions on the next page. But be aware that these measures are guidelines only, and effectiveness will depend on many factors, including the size of the load, water temperature and the amount of water used, the origin of the bad smell, etc.

Next: Nontoxic/natural solutions

A version of this article was originally published in August 2009.

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