Detergents to Remove Sweat & Odor

Sweat- and odor-filled laundry is tempting to simply throw out.
Sweat- and odor-filled laundry is tempting to simply throw out. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Few things make laundry more difficult to deal with than clothing that is full of sweat and odor. Workout and work clothes are the most common culprits; even after washing and drying, the odor seems to remain, which can be frustrating for whoever gets stuck doing laundry, or for you if they're your clothes. Rather than throw them out and buy new ones, adjust the laundry process to see if the clothing can't be salvaged.

Oxygenated Detergents

While many of the daily laundry detergents available have been adjusted for high-efficiency washing machines and claim to fight stains and odor, not all do so effectively. Opt for a detergent that specifies it contains oxygenated ingredients, which are designed to fight stains and clean clothes "cleaner" than competing detergents. Wash with warm water, despite the "cold water is okay" claims, which may solve the sweat and odor problem in some clothing.

Laundry Detergent Booster

Laundry detergent boosters are powders that you add to the washer when loading it with dirty clothes. Used in conjunction with your regular laundry detergent, the booster helps combat the effects of low-quality water sources and average (non-high-tech) washing machines. Typically, the laundry detergent booster is sold in boxes in the laundry detergent aisle of the grocery store (brands such as Borax or Arm & Hammer). Add about a cup of the booster to the load of laundry, and don't forget to add the laundry detergent too. Use warm water for these as well. If the booster powders are unavailable, add about a 1/2 cup of baking soda to the laundry instead.

Line Dry Your Clothes

Sometimes line-drying clothes in the sun effectively removes the sweat and odor that has been trapped in the fabrics. Wash as you normally would, or with one of these suggested methods, and remove the clothing from the washer immediately; don't let the laundry sit in the washer once it's finished. Take the laundry outside, and hang it on a clothesline where it has access to direct sunlight. Once the clothes are dry, shake them out and fold immediately.

Change Your Laundry Habits

Laundry detergent bottles give instructions for how much detergent to use in each load, usually based on size of the load of laundry and type of machine. Many also specify they work equally well in cold water. For sweat and odor in clothing, standard instructions cannot apply because the instructions are designed for standard laundry in general. Change to warm water options on the washing machine, and add twice the suggested amount of detergent and dry clothing with two or three scented dryer sheets. Also avoid leaving laundry in the hamper (or in a pile) when dirty, in the washer after the washer has stopped or in the dryer after the dryer has stopped; leaving laundry to just "sit" can cause odors to remain or allow the odors in some clothes to rub off on others.

Soak Laundry Before Washing

Wash sweat-filled and odorous laundry in separate loads even if there are only a few items. Do not allow them to sit with other laundry, and wash them promptly after use. If using a traditional top-load washer, turn the washer on and add the detergent and booster (if using) with the sweaty, smelly laundry. When the washer is full (before it starts agitating), open the lid and allow the laundry to soak for 20 to 30 minutes; then close the lid, and allow the wash to finish, which may help extra-stubborn sweat and odor.

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