How to Get Stubborn Smells Out of Clothes

August 02, 2023 • Jamie Dorman

We (and we can’t overstate this) LOVE coffee. It’s delicious hot or cold, it’s the perfect “wake me up” drink, and it smells absolutely heavenly. But did you know that the magical powers of coffee extend beyond your morning coffee cup? In fact, they can be pretty helpful in the laundry room, too.

Okay, okay. We know you probably came here to learn how to get smells out of clothes, and now you’re wondering if you somehow ended up on a coffee lover’s blog… or if we’ve finally lost our marbles. We promise you neither of those are the case.

There’s a very logical link between coffee and how to get stubborn smells out of clothes, and it comes in the form of an unexpected but very effective hack. Curious yet? We sure were. Read on to find out how these two seemingly unrelated things are connected.

Stubborn Smells

We know we don’t need to tell you about those dreaded, lingering smells that never seem to come out of your clothing, no matter what you do. 

Maybe you had family over for a home cooked Italian dinner, and now your favorite sweater reeks of garlic. Maybe your best night-out ensemble now smells hopelessly like cigarettes because of the chain smoker at the end of the bar. Or maybe you hung your coat up in Grandma’s closet for a weekend, and now, every time you put it on, all you can smell is mothballs. 

So, you do what any logical person would do. You go home and run your stinky items through the washing machine and dryer. You take them out, ready to wear them, and realize… they still stink! How is it possible that your clothes STILL smell after washing? It’s frustrating, but you’re not alone; we’ve all been there. And we have an answer for how to get smells out of clothes that will change your smell-fighting strategy forever.

Gather Your Materials

Before you fight a stubborn smell, you need to gather your weapons because when clothes smell after washing, it's time to prepare for the fight. Get an airtight bag that you can seal. This can be as simple as a Ziplock bag, a plastic grocery bag you can tie shut, or even a reusable plastic or vinyl bag. Stay away from canvas or other fabric bags, as they are porous and will let air in and out. If you are treating more than one item, we recommend having a separate bag for each one.

Next, gather some ground coffee and something to scoop it with. (Go with the cheap stuff. You’re going to be cleaning clothes with this, not drinking it, so you don’t need a gourmet blend.)

Load the Bag

First, put several scoops of coffee into the plastic bag. You don’t have to measure it, and it doesn’t have to be too much – just enough to touch or cover most areas of your item. Once the coffee has been added, put your item into the bag and seal it. We recommend shaking the bag a bit or moving the coffee grounds around to touch as much of the garment as you can manage. Don’t rub it in, though, this can cause staining on the clothing. It’s okay if the whole thing isn’t covered.

Let it Sit

Leave the bag to sit for one to two days. That’s it. That’s the entire next step.

Remove the Clothing

Once it’s had sufficient time to sit, remove the clothing from the bag. The ground coffee should have absorbed most, if not all, of the smell out of the garment. If you are satisfied with the reduction in smell, proceed to the next step. If it’s still emitting a strong odor, put the item back in the bag and let it sit for another day or two.

Wash and Dry

Once the smell has been mostly or completely removed, you can launder your clothing item in your next load of laundry, just as you usually would. Use one of our laundry detergent sheets and one of our laundry scent boosters. These should get rid of any lingering smells.

When it’s time to dry your clothing, consider line-drying it outside if that’s an option for you. The rays of the sun and the fresh air will help remove any shred of stink that’s still present. Otherwise, it’s completely fine to run your clothing through the dryer as you ordinarily would.

Now you know how coffee and laundry are related and how to vanquish those stubborn scents. Check back soon for more tips, hacks, and tricks from your Sheets Laundry Club team.

@sheetslaundryclub This laundry hack shows how to get bad smells out of clothes. If you need to know how to get stinky clothes smelling clean this laundry trick is for you! Get bad smells out of clothes using this natural laundry tip! #stinkyclothes #smellyclothes #laundrytipsthatwork ♬ Built This Way - (Slow Remix) - Samantha Ronson