Whether you're an active person, sweat more than average, or struggle with hyperhidrosis, you may have noticed that some shirts trap odor even after you’ve washed them. You’re probably wondering, “How do I get the BO smell out of my shirts and other clothes?” There’s no need to be embarrassed because this is a common problem that a lot of people have… and there are many solutions to get rid of the odor.
When your body temperature rises, your apocrine glands produce sweat to release some of that heat. The sweat then interacts with the bacteria that are already on your skin. This interaction often results in an unappealing odor, and it is the most common cause of body odor.
When the bacteria on your skin become embedded into the fabric of your shirt, the body odor that it produces also sticks to your clothing. The secret to getting sweat smell out of shirts is to kill the bacteria that lead to it – yes, you want to kill the bacteria on your clothes.
In this article, you’ll learn a few tips and tricks on how to get sweat smell out of shirts (and other clothes) so you can wear them with confidence each time.
This post was originally published in January 2021, and was updated in February 2021.
The most obvious solution on how to get underarm smell out of clothes is to wash them immediately. You want to remove the bacteria from your shirts before they have a chance to cling onto the fabric.
Although this is the easiest and quickest way to address the problem, it is not the most efficient or environment-friendly solution. Most of us only do our laundry once or twice a week to conserve water and to fit it in our busy schedules. If this is not the best solution for you, read on. We've got other tips for how to remove sweat smell from clothes.
Pro-tip: Plan your laundry time around your most intense workout sessions so you can wash those most smelly clothes right away.
Here’s a trick that not a lot of people know: If you can’t wash your sweaty clothes immediately, use your freezer. Yes, you read that right.
Freezing your sweaty clothes can eliminate odor because the low temperature destroys the bacteria that cause it. If you want a more creative way on how to remove underarm odor from shirts, you can put them in a bag and stick them in the freezer until you’re ready to do your laundry.
Pre-soaking your clothes can help start to break up the oil and bacteria that have bonded with the fabric and create those lingering odors. There are two options for pre-soaking clothes:
Pro-tip: Do not use vinegar on Ejis brand clothing. It will affect the sweat resistant material in your clothing.
Many people like to use fabric softeners in their clothes, hoping to make them feel softer, more fragrant and static-free. However, fabric softener is probably the worst thing you can use to treat sweaty clothes: fabric softener can actually lock in the offending odors!
When used on sweaty clothes, softeners have the unwanted effect of trapping the bacteria and odor inside them, making them smell even worse. Fabric softeners may also compromise the moisture-wicking power of some fabrics.
Regular laundry detergents use chemicals that are not friendly to the environment. These chemicals are also not good for the fabric of your clothes in the long run—they lead to the deterioration of the fabric, which shortens the lifespan of your clothes. Moreover, they often mask the smell that sticks to your shirts, instead of eliminating it.
If you want to lengthen the wearability of your clothes and effectively remove body odor from your clothes, use a natural laundry detergent with antibacterial ingredients like baking soda and lemon juice. (As you'll soon read, you can always use these ingredients separately to boost the effectiveness of your existing laundry detergent.)
Don't have natural detergent? Want to try something cheap and natural to remove the sweat odor from your clothes? There are options. Here are a few products you probably have at home that can help remove sweat smell and odor from your clothes.
Pro-Tip: You can also sprinkle and scrub baking soda into your sweaty clothes after you take them off, if you're not planning to wash them right away.
Try out one of the many laundry boosters or wash enhancers, such as Zero Odor and Downy Unstoppables, to give your tired clothes a fragrant boost. Another option is Downy Fresh Protect, which claims to be a deodorant for your clothes by neutralizing bad odors.
Depending on the space you have available (as well as the time you need to dry your clothes), consider hanging your clothes outside to dry. Sunshine is one of Mother Nature’s best tools to freshen laundry; this is because UV rays from the sun kill bacteria that manage to make it through the wash.
If you have access to a clothes line or drying rack, this is a great additional step you can take to remove sweat smell from your clothes – and take it easy on the environment by not using electricity to run the dryer.
Pro-Tip: Air dry your clothes inside out to avoid fading in the sun.
After washing sweaty, smelly clothes, you might not be surprised to find a funk in your washing machine. After all, it does the work of getting the bacteria out of your clothes, and that bacteria has to go somewhere. The last thing you want is to wash something un-smelly and have it coming out smelly too.
It can help to get in a regular habit of cleaning your washing machine so that any odors in the machine don't end up cancelling out your attempts to remove the sweat smell from clothes. Here's a complete washing machine cleaning protocol:
There you have it: some of the best tips and tricks for how to get sweat smell out of clothes and shirts. Best of all, most of these are easy and cost-effective and even environmentally-friendly.
If you want a different solution to remove the unwanted smell from your clothes, try out an Ejis sweat proof undershirt (buy in our shop or on Amazon). The fabric fibers of all Ejis undershirts are permanently infused with real silver. This process keeps you feeling - and smelling - fresh all day long.
Want your clothes to work extra hard to manage sweat and odor? Learn about antimicrobial fabrics and textiles, which help manage odor, plus how they work.