Deodourising Tutorial for Summer Days Vol.1 - Smelly Clothes

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  • Deodourising Tutorial for Summer Days Vol.1 - Smelly Clothes

    June 13, 2023 9 min read

    【夏天除異味教學上篇】如何去除衣物異味?洗衫晾衫有方法

    The hot and humid rainy season has arrived, bringing not only scorching heat but also a musty smell that can be quite common indoors. Unpleasant odours can really affect our mood, but how can we effectively remove them? Spot On's "Deodourising Tutorial for Summer Days" is divided into three parts, sharing tips on removing the most common odours to help you stay fresh and dry in the humid summer.


    As this first blog was posted in June, when rain is frequent and temperatures are high, we've decided to share tips on removing the unpleasant smell of clothes. While drying laundry in the sun helps sanitize clothes and naturally dried clothes are odour-free, it is a privilege to be able to dry laundry outdoors in Hong Kong's limited spaces. Even if you have this privilege, it can be inconvenient to dry clothes outdoors during the rainy season. So, what are some ways to deodorize clothes when you have to dry them indoors?

    Types of Odours on Clothes

    To remove odour from clothes, we first have to identify the different types of odours, in order to find the right antidote!

    1. Musty Smell on Clothes (Mildew Smell)

    Musty smells on clothes are caused by bacteria. A high-humidity environment boosts the growth of bacteria. When bacteria attach to clothes, they emit an unpleasant odour that can make the clothes smell musty. Common causes for musty smells include storing laundry in humid places, wet clothes in the laundry basket, or not fully drying clothes after washing. Although musty smells are not overpowering, they can still cause an unpleasant stuffiness, that should not be overlooked.

    2. Sweaty Smell on Clothes

    If you wear breathable sweatshirts or thin cotton clothing, washing them as usual should be sufficient to eliminate any sweat odor. However, if you perspire heavily while wearing clothing made of nylon or polyester that has low breathability, or on a rainy day, it's possible that stubborn sweat odors may persist even after washing. In such situations, additional measures may be required to effectively remove the odor.

    How to Prevent and Remove Musty Smell on Clothes

    1. Laundry should be Kept Dry

    To avoid smelly clothes, give them extra care before you do your laundry! On rainy days, if your clothes get dampened by rain, wait until they are completely dry before putting them in the laundry basket, especially those wet socks that have been stuffed inside shoes for several hours. If you put wet laundry together with other clothes in the same laundry basket, the bacteria can spread and grow in abundance, creating a musty smell throughout the basket of clothes. Choosing a  breathable laundry basket or a  breathable laundry hamper can also help keep your clothes dry.

      2. Use Antibacterial Laundry Detergent

        The root cause of unpleasant odour on clothing is due to bacteria , which means that by using antibacterial laundry detergents, odour on clothes can be eliminated as the bacteria are killed! That doesn’t sound too difficult, right?

        3. Be Precise on the Amount of Laundry Detergent Used

        Many people use the same amount of detergent products every time, but what we often neglect is that the load size may vary slightly each time, especially when the seasons change and the weight of clothes varies. Using too little laundry detergent will weaken its sterilising effect. If bacteria lingers on clothes after washing, the wet clothes can become a hotbed for bacteria. That's why preventing bacteria growth doesn't stop at choosing the right laundry detergent; you also have to make sure you're using the right amount to effectively sterilise your clothes.

        But wait!

        Using more laundry detergent is not always better, and using too much can have adverse effects. Excessive laundry detergent may not be completely rinsed off during the washing process and can remain on the fibres of the clothes. The chemicals in the laundry detergent that remain on our clothes could lead to skin allergies. So, it's important to refer to the recommended amount of your chosen laundry products to thoroughly sterilise your clothes and avoid any negative effects.

        4. Dry Recently-Washed Clothes Immediately

        The humidity level of the washing machine drum after spin-dry can still reach 100%, and damp clothes piled up in a closed drum can be a favourable breeding ground for bacteria. It's important to be conscious of when the cycle ends so that you can hang your clothes or put them in the dryer ASAP. If the clothes are left in the washing machine for 2-3 hours, there could already be a musty smell.

        5. Use a Dehumidifier when Drying Clothes Indoor

        Clothes hung outdoors will dry naturally, but when hung indoors where air flow is limited, moisture can become trapped in the room. In Hong Kong's hot and humid climate, the drying time can be greatly prolonged. However, researchers point out that if clothes haven't dried completely within 5-6 hours after washing, bacteria will grow in large numbers, resulting in bad odour. To dry clothes thoroughly within 5-6 hours indoors in Hong Kong, technological solutions are essential - we need the help of dehumidifiers or thermo-ventilators. These electronics dry clothes in no time and greatly reduces the chance of leaving a musty smell on clothes. Many dehumidifiers nowadays are built with an air-purifying function, which can effectively prevent the growth of bacteria.

        When using a dehumidifier to dry clothes, it's important to close the doors and windows to speed up the drying process. However, be sure not to place the dehumidifier directly under the clothes, as water dripped from the clothes could damage the machine. Simply place the dehumidifier in the same room with the washed clothes, and it will do its work.

        6. Dry Trousers with Pockets Hanging Out

        The pockets of jeans, trousers, and pants are often the last parts to dry. This is not a big deal on a normal day, but when the weather is bad and it rains continuously for several days, a large number of bacteria may already have grown and created a musty odour by the time these thicker parts dry.

        To speed up drying, try flipping out the pockets of pants or drying jeans inside out so that the pockets dry first. This method can also be applied to other clothes with thicker parts, such as hoodies. Simply flip out the hood and use a clothespin to stabilise it on another hanger. Keeping the hood away from the hoodie can speed up the drying process.

        7. Keep a Minimum Distance of 5cm Between Clothes

        When hanging damp clothes, it's recommended to keep a minimum distance of 5cm between them. When hung too closely, clothes can trap moisture and hinder airflow, which can slow down the drying process and lead to the growth of bacteria. Although flats in Hong Kong are relatively small, hanging clothes further apart from each other can allow for better airflow and shorten the time needed to dry clothes.

        8. Clean the Washing Machines Regularly

        If you've done all the above steps, but your clothes still smell or even smell worse after washing, it's possible that the washing machine itself is infested with mould or odour. Besides the drum of the washing machine, other parts such as filters, water pipes, and hidden crevices can hide bacteria, stains, mould, and even clogged hair.

        Washing machine specialists recommend cleaning the washing machine every month with cleaning agents specifically designed for washing machines to prevent bacteria and mould. These odour-causing bacteria in the machine could pass onto clothes and cause a peculiar smell. Washing machine cleaning agents not only deeply disinfects and sterilises the washing machine, removes peculiar smells and adds freshness, but also maintains the washing machine and prolongs its lifespan.

        To let the washing machine drum dry naturally, make sure to keep the door open after each use. A dry drum prevents bacteria from breeding and contaminating the machine and your clothes.

        Extra Steps to Eliminate Stubborn Sweaty Smell on Clothes


        Sweaty smell is one of the most stubborn odours that can linger on clothes. If clothes still smell of sweat after washing, it can be difficult to completely eliminate the smell. It's safe to say that prevention is better than cure when it comes to sweaty smell on clothes. If you sweat a lot, make sure to read and follow these tips!

        1. Do Your Laundry ASAP if You Sweat a Lot

          There are more bacteria in sweat than accumulated daily dirt on clothes. If you delay one or two days to wash your clothes after they have been soiled with sweat, the bacteria will have multiplied, and the odour that builds up may not be difficult to completely wash away. The sooner you wash your clothes, the better chances you have to eliminate the sweaty smell.

          The same rule applies to sweat stains. Sweat contains protein and fats that will oxidise and turn yellow over time, making sweat stains even more difficult to clean. Even if there may not be enough clothes for a machine wash, it's recommended that you wash sweat-soaked clothes by hand on the same day or include them in a quick wash cycle, and wash them again in a regular cycle when you have the time. Be sure to adjust the dosage of laundry detergent according to the weight of the laundry.

          2. Pretreat Your Laundry with Baking Soda

          Baking soda has deodorizing and cleaning properties that can help eliminate the odour of sweat. To treat your laundry with baking soda, dissolve 80g of baking soda in 1L of warm water and soak the smelly clothes in the solution for 30 minutes to 1 hour before washing the clothes as usual.

          Another way to pretreat sweat-soaked clothes is to mix 2 portions of baking soda with 1 portion of water to make a paste. Smear the paste over sweat stains, wait for 30 minutes, and then wash the clothes as usual. This method is more effective for armpit sweat stains. If the sweat is all over your shirt, the soaking method may be more effective.

          3. Spray White Vinegar or Lemon Juice onto Sweat Stains

          The protein in sweat can be decomposed by acidic substances. Acidity can neutralise sweat odour and prevent the oxidation of proteins, thus preventing sweat stains on clothes. You can make a white vinegar or lemon juice spray yourself (no need to dilute!) or buy a ready-to-use white vinegar spray. Spray it directly on sweat stains, wait for 30 minutes, and then do your laundry as usual. Since white vinegar and lemon juice are both natural ingredients, the acidity in them is safe for the fibres and pigments of clothes, and this method can be used for clothes of different colours.

          Although it is suggested that you do your laundry ASAP, if you're too busy on that day, you can use this method to give an emergency treatment to the clothes and remove the sweat odour. After treatment, even if you do your laundry half a day or even a day later, the odour on clothes can still be washed away.

          Recommended Products

          Now that we understand that bacteria is closely related to odour on clothes, make sure you use an antibacterial laundry detergent so that you can enjoy the freshness of washed clothes! Check out the following recommendations by Spot On -

          Dettol Antibacterial Fresh Cotton Laundry Cleanser

          Dettol Antibacterial Fresh Cotton Laundry Cleanser helps to kill germs and eliminate odour on clothes

          Dettol is renowned for its disinfectant qualities, and their laundry cleanser can kill 99.9% of bacteria in cold wash cycles as low as 15°C. Eliminating musty and sweat odours at the source is easy when you can kill the odour-causing bacteria! This detergent not only cleans away odour, but also leaves a fresh cotton fragrance on your clothes that lasts up to 12 hours.

          LAVONS Syarevons Gentle Laundry Detergent Luxury Relax

          LAVONS Syarevons Gentle Laundry Detergent is specially designed to prevent musty smells on clothes

          LAVONS laundry detergent is made in Japan and is antibacterial, specially designed to prevent musty smells on clothes. With Japan's humid weather and the Japanese’s consciousness about clothing odours, this detergent has a superb effect on eliminating musty smells and is perfect for clothes dried indoors in Hong Kong.

          Using a gentle formula, LAVONS Syarecons Laundry Detergent is applicable on delicate fabrics, including wool and silk. What’s more is that it prevents clothes from pilling, creasing and colour fading. Get this multipurpose laundry detergent now for your family!

          Febreze Fabric Refresher Antibacterial

          Febreze Fabric Refresher Antibacterial eliminates odour on clothes with a spray

          We've provided several tips to help you remove odours from your clothes, but there are times when we only notice unpleasant smells on clothes when we're changing and in a hurry. Is there a way to remove odours from clothes instantly?

          Febreze Fabric Refresher uses patented technology that kills 99.9% of bacteria. Its fine particles can seep into fabric and kill the odour-causing bacteria. Spray to neutralise odours instead of just masking them! It's a convenient solution to deodorize clothing that you don't usually put into a washing machine, like your favourite cap!

          If you find our deodorizing tutorial helpful, stay tuned for the upcoming two tutorials! We'll share other tips to bring you freshness amid the rainy weather.

          Read More:

          Deodourising Tutorial for Summer Days Vol.2 - Body Odour

          Deodourising Tutorial for Summer Days Vol.3 - Household Odour


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