How to Get Sweat Smell Out of Shirts & Other Clothes

February 15, 2021 6 min read

how to get sweat smell out of shirts

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.

Wash Your Smelly Clothes Immediately

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.

Use Your Freezer while Waiting to Launder

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-Soak Smelly Clothes Before Washing

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:

  1. Place smelly clothing in a mixture of water and 1 ounce of detergent. Let them sit for 15-30 minutes.
  2. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to a half gallon of cold water and soak your clothes for 15-20 minutes. 

Pro-tip: Do not use vinegar on Ejis brand clothing. It will affect the sweat resistant material in your clothing.

Skip the Fabric Softener

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. 

Use a Natural Laundry Detergent

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.)

Add Baking Soda or Lemon Juice to the Wash (Optional) 

Remove Sweat Smell from Clothes - Baking Soda & Lemon

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. 

  • Baking Soda – It's a natural deodorizer that absorbs and eliminates unpleasant smells. Because baking soda is an alkaline, it cancels out sweaty odors that are usually acidic. Just add a cup of baking soda into the washing machine when you’re doing a load of laundry.
  • Lemon Juice – Lemon juice contains citric acid that has antibacterial properties. Therefore, it can get rid of stubborn smells by directly attacking the source. To use lemon juice, grab a lemon, cut it in half, and directly squeeze out the juice into the laundry machine.

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.

Use a Detergent Booster

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.

Air Dry Clothes Outside

Remove Sweat Smell from Clothes - Air Drying

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.

Clean Your Washing Machine

Remove Sweat Smell from Clothes - Laundry Machine Cleaning

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:

  1. Air it out. Leave the washer lid or door open between washings to keep it aired out.
  2. Wipe it down. Using a mixture of distilled white vinegar and water, wipe down the gasket and basin with a clean sponge or cloth.
  3. Refresh it with vinegar. For front-loading machines, add two cups of distilled white vinegar to the detergent dispenser. For top-loading machines, add four cups of white cleaning vinegar to the basin. Set it to the longest cycle and hottest temperature. Run it through a complete cycle.
  4. Refresh it with baking soda. For front-loading machines, add half cup of baking soda to the drum. For top-loading machines, add one cup of baking soda to the drum. Set it to the longest cycle and hottest temperature. Run it through a complete cycle.
  5. Wipe it down again. After running the refreshing cycles, wipe down the drum, basin, and/or lid to remove scum.
  6. Set it to clean automatically, if available. Some of the newer models of washing machines have a specific setting designed to clean the basket or drum. Follow the instructions in the manufacturer’s guide to clean the machine.

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.

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