How to Remove Musty Odor from Jeans

Dear Home Ec 101,

For a few weeks I’ve occasionally noticed a musty smell. At first I thought it was something in my house, but I couldn’t ever pin it down. I finally realized it was my favorite pair of jeans! I think they sat too long in washer, but I’ve washed them several times since and they still smell. I’m not ready to part with these pants.

Signed,

~Little Suzy Stinky Pants

Heather says:

It sounds like you have a case of detergent build up. This sticky residue can trap all kinds of funky odors. This usually happens with heavier fabrics and more commonly in high efficiency washers. The easiest solution is prevention. Always use the least effective amount of laundry soap possible and add vinegar to the final rinse.

In your case, it’s a little too late for prevention. If you have a progammable washer use hot water, place vinegar in the prewash dispenser, borax powder in the main wash and add an extra rinse. If you have a standard washer, run with vinegar in the wash water, rinse, then use borax in the next wash cycle, and finish with a plain water rinse.

Dry your jeans thoroughly and you should now be stink free!

Send your domestic questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. You might want to try Febreze for the wash (NOT the spray bottle stuff). It comes in a bright blue bottle. I can only get it at Walmart. Works great for truly stanky clothes.

    Alternately, try hanging these outside in bright sunshine. Best way to get rid of mildew is to let the sunshine kill it off. Has to be outside – windows block those UV rays that you want to take advantage of here.

  2. We have this problem frequently because my husband is usually in charge of laundry (I take care of dishes — it was a premarital agreement and it works for us, usually) and he has no olfactory nerve. Literally. TMI?

    Anyway, a cup of ammonia added to the wash cycle works well. The other thing is — I don’t know if you dry your jeans in the dryer, but that is generally necessary to kill any musty smell, in my experience. Once gone, it’s ok to air-dry, but the heat of the dryer leaves no chance for the must to form!

  3. I’ve had the best luck with the vinegar in my towels and they are now fluffier and softer as well.
    I have a new front loader and am using vinegar in all the towels. Am seriously moving to all vinegar rinse, and using no fabric softener from what I am reading online. I don’t care for the smell of vinegar, but it’s far better than that musty smell, or the sour smell little kids clothes can sometimes get.

    I disagree about drying getting rid of the musty smell though. I dry everything and our towels had that smell from the old washer. The drier just sets the smell in, but I have managed to reclaim all our towels from the musty smell since we got the new washer and using vinegar.

  4. Add 1/2 cup of Arm & Hammer (generic is fine!) to the wash with the laundry soap, and wash at the highest temp the jeans will take.

    I’ve gotten an amazing array of difficult nasty smells out of fabric this way. Cooking grease smells from a fast-food job, cat urine, etc etc… gets all of it out. Feel free to add up to a cup per load.

    And yes I just always tumbled dry – just do a scent-check first, and re-wash w/ A&H + soap if the smell is not gone.

  5. Hellotoyou says:

    What exactly is Arm & Hammer? Will they have it in New Zealand?

  6. @Hellotoyou Arm & Hammer is a brand name in the U.S. Theirs is the most common brand of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, chemical formula NaHCO3), which seems what Tara is suggesting in her comment.

    Arm & Hammer also sells washing soda (sodium carbonate, chemical formula Na2CO3), which many use in conjunction with their laundry detergent as a booster, to help the detergent work better.

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