How to Get the Sour Smell Out of Bed Linen

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Keep your linens looking and smelling fresh with laundry tips and tricks.
Keep your linens looking and smelling fresh with laundry tips and tricks. (Image: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Linens become soiled with daily use. Germs, bacteria, mildew and stains create unappealing smells, sometimes similar to a sour stench. Covering up the smell with fabric refreshers, candles and incense only hides the problem rather than solve it. Consistent washing may help the problem, but in the case of extremely sour, gag-inducing odors, you need to put in more effort to cut out the smell. Tips and tricks using common household items can save you from living with stinky linens.

Things You'll Need

  • Washer
  • Dryer
  • Laundry detergent
  • Ammonia
  • Bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon juice or extract
  • Baking soda
  • Fabric softener
  • Fabric refresher

Wash and dry the linens immediately once you smell an odor, using your regular laundry detergent. Catch the smell and remove it before it becomes overwhelming. A weak smell is easier to remove than a strong stench. Do not allow the clothes to sit in the washer for any period of time before drying. Damp, dark places like an inactive washing machine makes a suitable growing place for sour smelling mold.

Separate the linens into small loads using the highest water level and hottest temperature suitable for the fabric. Leave room for the linens to agitate and clean thoroughly or the smell will stay in the fibers. Check the maximum temperature on the tag of the product or contact the manufacturer if you previously removed the tag.

Add 1 cup of ammonia to each load followed by two rinse cycles. Ammonia is used as a common household cleaner or as an ingredient in manufactured cleansers.

Wash sour-smelling linens with bleach whenever possible. Use regular bleach on white linens only and color-safe bleach on most other colors. Separate the colors to avoid spotting or bleeding of colors during the laundry cycle.

Pour 1 cup of white vinegar into the washer with laundry detergent and fabric softener. Vinegar is commonly used as a household cleaner. The acidity of vinegar makes it a potent and economical choice to kill bacteria and germs. Alternatively, add lemon juice, baking soda or fabric refresher to the laundry instead of vinegar.

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