How to Get the Smell Out of Really Stinky Work Clothes...

Updated on January 25, 2011
L.P. asks from Uniontown, PA
12 answers

Ok, so my fiance is an operator at a water treatment facility, and his work clothes STINK. I mean, REALLY STINK. Not like feces or sewage as you might think, it's an odd smell, like a really strong dirt/manure mix? He says that's the smell of waste matter as it breaks down and is processed... I don't know, all I know is it's PUTRID.

Yesterday, I washed the same load of clothes in HOT, with vinegar and my regular detergent, oxyclean, and a liquid fabric softener, and after 3, yes, I said 3 washes, they still came out of the washer with that funky smell. Not quite as strong, but still not clean smelling.

I already wash his work clothes separately from the rest of our clothes, and he has his own special hamper for his work clothes.

Do you wise ladies have any tried and true ways for getting the most toxic smells out of clothing on a regular basis? This isn't a stain, ladies, it's an everyday problem! Now, I know he's going to just keep wearing these same clothes to work, and getting they all stinky again, but still!!!

Hoping you'll have some great suggestions!

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So What Happened?

Krista - My fiance's employer does not provide them with uniforms, but they do get a yearly clothing allowance... and the employer does provide them with facilities and time to launder their clothes at work... but men being men, he'd throw them in with whatever soap, dry them, and bring them home, still stinky. And I am TOTALLY with ya on the stripping down before coming into the house thing!!! BUT, since we don't have a garage or a basement at the moment, that would leave my fiance to strip down on my porch, which 1) I wouldn't do to the neighbors, and 2) is a little inhumane, since it's been about 10 degrees here for the last week or so!! But definitely, when we move in the spring, I do plan to at least have his stinky work clothes remain in an area nowhere near any place that we habitate!!! LOL

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answers from Washington DC on

Borax....soak his workclothes in water, liquid detergent and Borax. It is a great deoderizer. My hubby comes home with stinky clothes as well and Borax does the trick. I soak his clothes overnight, then rinse and then wash as usual with another dose of Borax. It works for me. Good luck.

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answers from Columbus on

Have you tried soaking it in an enzymatic cleaner, even something like Nature's Miracle for animal "accidents" in the home?

I use Lestoil for our really stinky stuff, which might be worth a try.

In the good weather, I'm a big believer in hanging stuff out in the sun. The UV rays are great natural odor killers.

We use cloth diapers, and for a really stinky batch, I soak in hot water overnight with 1/4 cup baking soda. Then a cold rinse (no soap). Then a hot wash with Biokleen or Charlies Soap (in this case, maybe the Lestoil, but I don't use that on the diapers) and cold rinse, with vinegar (1/4 cup) added to the rinse cycle. Then another cold rinse.... Maybe something that might help.

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answers from New York on

Hi L.-

When my husband was managing a construction project he came home with clothing that I literally won't allow in the house! I kept a paint bucket with water and Borax powder in the garage (along with a clean pair of sweats) and made the man strip before he came inside.

I think there's something that happens in the soaking that keeps the clothes from retaining the dirt and smell. Then wash with oxy clean in HOT water with all of the settings on "heavy wash" and "high soil level".

At one point he was destroying so much clothing that he asked his boss about a laundry service and they agreed- they also purchased 5 pairs of jeans with their company label sewn in. As long as the "labeled" jeans are at the launderer on Tuesday, the company pays for it. Could he look into this?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Cloud on

Gasoline and a match? :)

All kidding aside, try putting a cup of washing soda (can get it in the detergent isle at the market) in with the clothes.
Also, I highly second the suggestion for Charlie's Soap. I seriously love that stuff. I'm so filled with gratitude about finding it that I may name my next child after it. (I'm just kidding, but I have had a LOT of coffee this morning and it makes me a leeeetle crazy.)

Good luck! Laundry and I are not the best of friends, so I can relate.

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answers from Charlotte on

Try white vinegar and baking soda.

Good luck!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My husband comes home wreaking of all kinds of gasolines, chemicals and compounds. Adding baking soda to our laundry has done more than vinegar/oxyclean/doubling the amount of detergent/etc has ever done. I make sure the baking soda (1/2 cup for regular load, 3/4 for large) is completely mixed in with the detergent before adding the clothes. Sometimes, I do an extra soak with just baking soda in the water. Having a new place will help, because of the ability to "dis-robe", but also the ability to hang his clothes outside - fresh air and sun will do wonders. Good luck!

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answers from Phoenix on

Hi L.,

I would recommend adding 1/2 cup of both Borax and liquid bleach to each load.

I posted here awhile back about my yoga clothes stinking...and tried the Borax recommendation and Voila, it removed the mildewy maybe it will help cut your issue down to at least tolerable.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

my husband was a milk man when I met him do you have any idea how bad they stink by the time they are done for the day? I used to use baking soda and pre soak, The arm and hammer laundry soap might work but I would put baking soda in the load let it soak then wash with baking soda and laundry detergent.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Borax....soak his workclothes in water, liquid detergent and Borax. It is a great deoderizer. My hubby comes home with stinky clothes as well and Borax does the trick. I soak his clothes overnight, then rinse and then wash as usual with another dose of Borax. It works for me. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with AC. I would try an enzyme cleaner. I prefer Simple Solution over Natures Miracle, but this is my preference. I do know that Natures Miracle has alcohol in it so I do not know how that would affect the clothing material. Simple Solution doesn't and I have been using it in my 2 year olds clothing with no issues at all. I also have used Simple Solution with bleach and oxyclean

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

When my hubby worked in a retread shop he came home smelling like burnt rubber - I used vinegar in the wash and it worked quite well.

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answers from Detroit on

Does this place not have a uniform company? Most establishments that have the possibility (in your case PROBABILITY) of getting nasty/smelly/greasy... Will have a uniform company that does laundry service. You should NOT be forced into washing that stuff. Blech! I know that smell you speak of... The city I live in has their own water treatment plant and on the 'right' day, we can smell it... It's NASTY!!!

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answers from Little Rock on

Baking soda is supposed to absorb odors. I used Arm and Hammer Laundry powder on my childrens cloth diapers because it was the only thing that removed the feces smell. I did wash them through 2 complete washing cycles as well.

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