- Let’s start with the basis of the trouble, i.e., the origins of the bed smell of sulfur on our garments. What can cause it, and how to remove sulfur smells? The typical sources of sulfur odor are gas leaks or exhaust fumes. Disclaimer: Natural gas is odorless, so the utility companies add sulfur (the famous rotten-egg smell) to make this dangerous gas detectable when there is a leak.
- Yet, with clothing, the most likely reason for the sulfur odor is bacteria growing unrestricted in your washer, thanks to the build-up of dirt, mildew and mold, lint, soap, etc.
- The sulfur smell is definitely among the worst possible odors clothes can have. Not to mention that such a malodor can be a major self-esteem killer. Luckily, with the right amount of knowledge and a few products to find easily in any household—this off-putting sulfur smell will disappear in a flash.
Which chemical compound is responsible for rotten odors?
It’s hydrogen sulfide—produced by many living organisms during various biological processes. It can originate in sewer pipes and fusty swamps.
Another sulphury smell is called sulfur dioxide, and it can result from fossil fuel combustion.
While hydrogen sulfide isn’t a bad thing per se—just an inorganic chemical compound found in nature—there is nothing we want to avoid more than repugnantly sulfur-smelly clothes in our wardrobes.
We won’t exaggerate if we say that the malodor of sulfur is one of the worst ones. People compare it to the smell of rotten eggs or meat.
Although it can be tricky to get the sulfur smell out of the clothing, several methods have proven successful.
What’s more, to handle the whole operation in a single wash, you’ll need only a couple of basic supplies that can be found in any household! Read also our suggestions regarding the use of a dryer.
Discover the reason for a foul smell
We won’t reinvent the wheel if we say that the first essential step to successful odor removal is finding its source.
So what should we do first? Ideally, to get rid of the bad smell, first, track down its source.
Spraying air fresheners or using scented candles is only a temporary solution if
- a mold, yeast, damaged plumbing, or an animal remains in your chimney, or
- a build-up of dirt, mildew and mold, lint, soap in your washer
are inducing the smell.
Important: You need to eradicate the source of the problem for a permanent solution.
There may be a couple of reasons for your clothing to exhibit a sulfuric malodor.
Some of them aren’t that apparent, so keep reading to discover the whole range of possible options:
- various medical conditions that naturally cause this or similar smell,
- the use of a sulfur cream to treat acne,
- sulfuric water, i.e., water contaminated by sewer leaching or organic deposits (like a well dug in shale),
- a water heater that needs to be drained of buildup,
- bathing in mineral spas or touring areas near them,
- scabies or mite medications;
Again, some of the solutions are easy to come up with instantly. For example, if you suspect a medical condition, see your doctor instead of calling for a washing machine servicing.
Moreover, if your water source is the cause (just check if the water smells), address this problem to quickly get sulfur smells out of clothing.
For potential water contamination, ask a reputable contractor or call your county extension to inspect the case.
If you smell sulfur only when using hot water, learn to drain and flush your water heater, or call a specialist to do it professionally.
Finally, to get the sulfur smell out of the laundry, let’s review the popular solutions together if you feel that the issue is washer-related.
Remove sulfur bad smells
Among popular solutions to remove smells from garments, most of them tell you to wash your clothing or towels in the washing machine.
But what if the stink comes from your washer? Isn’t it better to stay away from it?
Baking soda, bleach, vinegar solution, and fresh air are all successful in getting your clothing and towels odor-free.
Tip: Don’t worry if you have a buildup of sulfur stains. There are several tricks to remove them from your clothes and other household items.
Fix your washer
Before we get to more specialized solutions, take a minute to determine if your washer needs a closer look.
For a rotten egg smell, it could be one of two things.
If you don’t regularly clean your washing machine, bacteria growing in your washer (caused by built-up dirt, mildew and mold, lint, and soap) can build up around the rubber seal and in the crevices of the drum. So if you haven’t cleaned your washer for the past three years or more, be sure to check if this may be the cause of the problem.
Sometimes, in the case of front-loading washers, a small sock or a washcloth gets trapped behind the seal, staying forever wet and inevitably encouraging mildew and mold and bacteria to grow.
Another possibility—that only a small group of people will have to face—is a natural gas leak. If you suspect a gas leak, call your gas company immediately.
Fixing a stink of rotten eggs will require some elbow grease.
For a front-load washer, pull back the rubber seal and check for anything that might have gotten trapped.
Clean the seal with a rag and a solution of one part vinegar or bleach and one part water. Cleanse the built-up soap scum, debris, and mold.
Run the machine on the hottest setting, add ⅓ cup of baking soda to the drum and one cup of distilled white vinegar to the detergent tray.
For a top-loading machine, add half a cup of baking soda and two cups of distilled white vinegar.
Tip: Prevent smells in the future by keeping the washer door open so it can dry and wiping dry the machine after each use. Pay attention to the hidden spots behind the rubber seal on a front loading machine. Also, clean your washing machine periodically, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Lemon juice is the leader in various health, cleaning, and laundry tasks.
Add half a cup of it to a regular laundry load during the wash cycle to make your clothing and towels fresher (also, whites will become whiter).
Baking soda is a natural, extremely universal cleaning supply. People frequently use it in their households. Check our suggestions on House Rituals.
To get rid of smells of rotten eggs from your clothing with this method, you’ll need:
- two cups of baking soda,
- plastic container or another bucket for water,
- clean water;
Now, you can choose one of three ways of washing soda with clothes and towels to remove the bad odors:
- Soak your clothes in the baking soda solution before you wash them
This one is easy.
Before washing your laundry in the washing machine, simply soak them in the water with baking soda:
- fill in the large bucket with clean water,
- dissolve one cup of baking soda in it, and
- soak your clothes in the solution for ten hours or even overnight.
Then, drop the laundry in the washing machine and run it as usual.
2. Mix half a cup of baking soda with the laundry detergent
Another option is to add about half of the cup of baking soda to the washing detergent container before running the washing machine—it will make your clothes smell great after.
Remember to air-dry the clothes in the fresh air to neutralize any bad odors completely.
3. Store the clothes in the bag with the baking soda
For a heavy sulfur stink—don’t hesitate to check this method.
Take a plastic bag, and put in it
- your dry clothes,
- a half cup of baking soda;
Then, seal the bag tightly.
Let the bag sit for a minimum of three days.
Then, make a baking soda cleaning solution (look at the first method mentioned above) and soak your clothes in it for a few hours.
Finally, drop your clothes in the washing machine and run it as usual.
Important: We mentioned before that baking soda is highly universal. Besides making your laundry stink-free, baking soda added to washing will also give you sharper whites and brighter brights.
These simple baking soda-based cleaning methods will help you remove the unpleasant sulfuric type smell and won’t damage your clothes.
Tip: If your clothes aren’t machine-washable, we recommend dropping them at professional dry-cleaners.
White vinegar is the second most effective household cleaning supply after baking soda.
Not only does it have a scent-neutralizing effect, but it also works as a natural fabric softener.
To get rid of foul smell from your clothing and towels, make sure that you’ve prepared:
- A cup of white vinegar,
- plastic container or another bucket for water,
- clean water;
Here are three methods to make the vinegar magic happen:
1. Soak clothes in the white vinegar solution.
Prepare a cleaning solution made of one to two cups of white vinegar with a container of clean water.
Then, soak your laundry in it for about an hour.
Important: Don’t leave your clothing in the white vinegar for longer than one hour—it could influence them negatively.
2. Mix half a cup of white vinegar with the laundry detergent
After preparing this solution, pour it inside your washer and run it as usual.
Regardless of our instructions in fighting the sulfur odor, always follow your clothes wash manual to set the proper water temperature and program.
Tip: The white vinegar itself has a specific bed smell. Therefore after soaking or washing your clothes with the white vinegar, remember to rinse the vinegar smell out. To do so, re-wash your clothes using a simple laundry detergent. After that, it would also be best to hang your clothes to air-dry outdoors in the fresh air.
Air-dry your clothing
Air-drying clothes to neutralize their bad smell comes with a few tips:
- The fresh air is the best for neutralizing the bad odors. So, hang your clothes outdoors and leave them to dry up naturally.
- Ensure your clothes are inside out before you hang them under the UV rays—the sun can encourage color fading.
- Don’t air-dry your clothes outdoors if it’s cold, raining, or snowing outside. Instead, air-dry them inside, in the well-ventilated room.
- If your clothes have a weak smell of sulfur, air-dry them above the white vinegar tub after the smell-neutralizing wash. To do so, fill the bath or bucket of hot water, pour one or two cups of white vinegar and hang your clothes above that tub.
Important: No matter which air-drying method you choose, never dry your clothes in the dryer if bad odors aren’t entirely gone. Otherwise, the hot air in the dryer will strengthen the smell, and you will have to repeat the whole process.