How to Remove Odor from Funky Smelling Clothes

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Do your husband's shirts or gym shorts have that awful stinky smell? This method completely eliminates odor and leaves your clothes smelling clean and fresh for days. No expensive detergents needed!

In case you’re not familiar with Joseph’s job, he shoots video…..outside….in the blazing hot Florida sun almost every day. And like any other man would in this sort of environment, he most definitely sweats.

After a few months of doing this in polyester polo shirts (provided by the company), we had a situation on our hands. These same shirts, even after regular laundering, smelled permanently of what I can only describe as rotting death. It was so SO bad, and I had no idea why or how to get rid of it!

I first ran the shirts through my vinegar rinse, which has worked before with mildew, but it didn’t completely eliminate the odor. After some internet research, I realized that while synthetic polyester fabric is great for repelling sweat and water, it’s not so great at washing. That’s also why sweaty wadded up gym clothes reek and get that stale funky smell if you don’t wash them right away.

Another thing I was unaware of, is that fabric softener can also leave behind a coating that prevents clothes from being fully cleaned. We don’t currently use fabric softener, but we do use dryer sheets, which chemically coats the clothes in a similar way. We’ve since switched to wool dryer balls, but it still didn’t get rid of that stinky smell!

As a last resort, I decided to try yet another method, pretty sure that wouldn’t work either. Imagine my surprise when it not only worked, but eliminated the odor 100% — now I refuse to use anything else!

Interested in learning my secret?

How to Remove Odor from Clothes:

Step 1: First, figure out what sort of smell it is. If it’s mildewy, use my vinegar method, if it’s rotting death kind of stinky, keep following these directions.

Step 2: Isolate stinky clothing and put only those pieces in your washing machine. Fill with HOT water and add detergent as you normally would.


Step 3: The secret de-smelling ingredient is found in a tiny essential oil blend called Purify. Add 5 drops to your washing machine and let wash. This blend neutralizes the smell and then eliminates it entirely!


Step 4: Hang dry, or put in dryer on low with wool dryer balls to eliminate static. Dryer sheets will just add that nasty layer of coating that won’t allow the clothing to breathe and maintain it’s fresh clean smell.

How to Remove Odor from Funky Smelling Clothes | Creative Savings

After our first trial wash, I may or may not have called Joseph multiple times through his work day and pestered him with questions like,

“Did you sweat yet?”

“Are they stinky?”

“Are you sure they don’t smell? At all?!”

I’m proud to say these shirts lasted ALL day without a single odor, and I’m able to send them through a handful of regular washes before I have to treat them with oils again. How cool is that?! I was honestly shocked at the difference Purify made, and 5 drops was all it took. No pre-soaking or expensive detergents needed!

Believe me, I am the absolute last person who ever thought I would try essential oils, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how effective they are, and am actually having a lot of fun learning about them, how they work, and what to use them for!

If you liked this post, I have even more cleaning and organizing goodies for you:

What have you tried to remove odor from clothes?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. The link to your solution is for the essential oil called Purify, but in another post the product is called Purification. Two different sites, two different products. Please clarify.

  2. Can the oil be used for down jackets as well? In our case, the smell is in the polyester shell of the jacket. The jacket needs to washed with down wash liquid for the down but it doesn’t completely remove the odor in the polyester outer shell of the jacket. I wonder if the oil do any damage to the down or affect it’s performance. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jane,

      While I’ve never used it on down I can’t imagine that a few drops in a load of laundry would do it any harm. I’ve never had any issues with that oil.

  3. I did this (exactly as described) for odor in polyester fleece pants and poly-propylene base layer long underwear. It didn’t work. Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Karen,

      That’s got to be frustrating. I use hot water and the Essential oils and it’s always done the trick. Another option is putting a cup of white vinegar in with the load. Have you tried that already as well?

  4. Thank you! Where did you get your oil?
    I have had the same problem with my husband. A scent I have never realized people make! He doesn’t sweat and work out a lot, and he isn’t overweight and fairly healthy. But he makes a sour scent. I started throwing out his under shirts because I couldn’t get the smell out…
    I found his smell was isolated on the arm pits, I recently tried Spray and Wash for the first time. And when sprayed over the inside out area of the shirt, the smelly area FOAMED! I have never had it foam before. And once washed the smell was gone!
    Now this way is OK for smells when I know the location of it. But I want to try the oil for our bedsheets!!!
    Thank you, I feel less alone. =)

  5. I’m reading your page. My daughters things have been in storage for 10 years while she has been disabled. Some have that stinky storage smell that fades. But others are disasterous. How can I get the purification essential oil and what do I mix with it. HELP
    At 73 this is difficult for me to deal with.

    1. Hi Mary,

      Young living is a little complicated to order from {I’m not sure why they make it so difficult}. Here’s what you need to do:

      1) Go to this website:
      2) Click on “Retail Customer”
      3) Scroll Down and Click Continue
      4) Click Continue on the window that pops up
      5) Fill in the information on the next page – it says stuff about getting comissions and such – don’t worry about that because you are just being a retail customer
      6) Once you’ve filled that out – find the Purification essential oil and order that.
      7) Once it comes – just mix 5 or 6 drops in the wash with any smelly laundry and for other objects you could try mixing a few drops with water and spraying them and wiping them down.

  6. Will this work equally well on urine in clothes. My 85 year old stepmother has a continence problem and it takes multiple washings to rid the smell.

    1. Hi Marlene. So far I haven’t found anything that it has not worked on! I really think it would work in your situation as well.

  7. Fantastic method.I have used essential oil an it works amazing. I am so glad that I have found your article! Best regards!

    1. Glad it was able to help, Leslie! We’ve used this over and over since I wrote it and it works every time!

    1. I honestly don’t know if fragrance oils would work to get rid of the odor, or if they would just mask the smell. This blend of Purification specifically fights the bacteria that causes the smell, which is why it’s so powerful. What area or country do you live in?

      1. Will this work with clothes that go in the dryer? I have had awful experiences with polyester that smells decent after the wash (you cant smell much though) but when heated up, stinks like chemically burnt petroleum plastic (It wasnt the dryer because my partner had no issue). The issue was both sweat, bacteria, body oil, and maybe also my lotion, combined. It’s hard to get these things out of polyester, so if you dont get it all out during the wash, it lets you know it’s still there in the dryer. My fear would be this would heat up and stink in the dryer. Thoughts?


        1. Hi Eric,

          I haven’t had a bad experience with sending clothes through the dryer after this “treatment” yet – but if it’s not working for you, maybe try air drying after the wash. Another recommendation is to air dry them in the sun, but just be careful, some colors will fade in direct sunlight.

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