6 Reasons Why Clothes Smell When You Air Dry Them

6 Reasons Why Clothes Smell When You Air Dry Them

Laundry day should end with fresh-smelling clothes. But if your air-dried laundry smells bad instead, here’s why (and how to avoid it from happening again).

When air-drying results in bad-smelling clothes, there are several possible causes. These include the weather, mould, laundry day mistakes, drying the laundry indoors, and air-drying fabrics that do not respond well to this method.

Realizing that laundry day had ended with smelly clothes is a bad moment. Find out how you can prevent those times when you have to do the laundry all over again.

The Top 6 Reasons Why Laundry Reeks After Air-Drying

Air-drying is a great option for several reasons. It saves electricity and also eliminates the need to purchase a tumble dryer. But air-drying comes with its own brand of trouble. One of the most common complaints is a bad smell. The good news is that once you understand the causes, your laundry will dry as it should; smelling crisp and fresh. 

Below are the top 6 reasons:

  1. The clothing is still dirty.
  2. The weather is too humid.
  3. Leaving clothes in the dryer for too long.
  4. Air-drying laundry inside the home.
  5. Mould or mildew.
  6. The fabric is not suitable for air-drying.

The Clothes Is Still Dirty

Sometimes, when laundry smells the answer can be as simple as a “dirt fail.” For some reason, the clothes went through the wash without being properly cleaned. Reasons for this can include using too much or too little detergent, a faulty washing machine or really dirty laundry that just defeated the washer’s best efforts.

Most people are crazy-busy. So, it is common for laundry to pile up or get too tarnished before we muster the energy or time to actually wash a load. But sometimes, things get a little extreme and one washing cycle fails to properly clean the clothing. While it can happen that the stains and dirt seem to be gone, smells are a different story. They are some of the toughest things to get out when the laundry gets too dirty.

Pro Tip: You do not have to wash your entire household’s outfits every third day. Just identify the problematic items of clothing (this may take a little while) and make sure that these are washed regularly. 

Just in case you have stared at laundry products and wondered, here are the top 5 reasons why laundry detergent is so expensive

The Weather Is Too Humid

Humidity directly affects how fast and how well clothing dry. When the humidity is low, moisture in the air is less likely to settle on laundry being air-dried. At the same time, the water inside the clothes also evaporates more quickly. This is the ideal combination. 

Things go wrong when the weather does not allow the laundry to dry fast enough. Then fabrics can develop a dank or musty smell that might require you to wash them again. Maybe it rained and you forgot to bring in the clothing or you just left it outside because they were already too wet to be brought into the house. But the worst offender is high humidity. 

High humidity is more insidious than rain because it is not as obvious. There is also a lot of moisture in the air but you cannot see it, and perhaps the day looks good enough to hang some shirts and towels. But high humidity causes more moisture to settle on the fabrics and prevents the water in the laundry to evaporate as it should. The clothes literally stagnate and start to smell. 

Pro tip: Always check the weather report for the humidity levels before you do the washing. This is important if you live in a high-humidity region. 

A dank-smelling bathroom is unpleasant. Here are the top 6 tips to get rid of a musty smell in your bathroom.

Leaving Clothes In The Dryer For Too Long

6 Reasons Why Clothes Smell When You Air Dry Them

This is another common mistake. After a dryer’s cycle is completed, one might be distracted by something else or just happen to forget about taking the load out. It happens! But the result is pretty much the same thing that happens on humid days. Inside the confines of the tumble dryer, the fabric has no way to expel the moisture they need in order to dry. The moisture inside the dryer also settles on the laundry. 

By the time the clothing makes it to the washing line, it already smells bad. Even if the weather is fine, the chances are that the fabric will dry but the odour will remain. 

Air-Drying Clothes Inside The Home

Many smaller apartments have clothes racks in the bathroom. This is useful when you live on the fifth floor or do not want to share a communal washing line. Most of the time, these mini-washing lines do excellent work. But under certain conditions, they can cause clothing to reek. 

  • There is too much laundry stacked together, interfering with the airflow that is needed to dry the clothes.
  • The bathroom is humid.
  • There is no air circulation in the bathroom.
  • The clothes are too wet.

High humidity in the bathroom also comes from hot showers. Besides mould and making clothes smell bed, shower steam can also mist up the mirror. Here are the top 8 ways to stop your bathroom mirror from fogging up during a shower.

Pro tips: Gently wring all excess water from the laundry before you hang them and open a window or add a fan to both create airflow and dispel humidity.

Mould Or Mildew

That is right. This pesky phenomenon does not just crawl up the shower wall. Mildew and mould can infest clothes as well. This is not just smelly but also a huge problem for individuals with respiratory issues. Inhaling mould spores can aggravate allergies and asthma. 

But what causes mould or mildew to grow on clothes. Our old frenemy humidity is once again responsible. Even if the clothing has been in the laundry basket for a short time, high humidity can encourage mildew growth. Leave the clothes in there and the problem will spread. Literally. 

Pro tip: Encourage airflow inside the bathroom, especially if you live in a high-humidity region or the day is exceptionally muggy. This will effectively combat the growth of mould or mildew on clothes in the laundry hamper. Simply open the door and windows or place a fan in the room.

Air-Drying Fabrics That Do Not Respond Well To The Method

6 Reasons Why Clothes Smell When You Air Dry Them

Unfortunately, this is a very real problem. Not every type of fabric or natural material can be air-dried with good results. Natural fibres that tend to produce heavy garments (think wool) do not air-dry well because of all the water they absorb during the washing process. The good news is that practically everything else can be air-dried. 

A Quick Summary On Why Clothes Smell After Being Air-Dried

  • Air-drying clothes is an economical way to dry laundry.
  • It is never normal for clothing to smell bad after being air-dried.
  • The most common reasons for odours include laundry mistakes, high humidity or air-drying fabrics that do not respond well to the method. 
  • Most problems can be solved by removing excess water from the items, controlling high humidity, and practising the correct washing techniques.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.