Why freshly washed bed linen stinks and how to eliminate bad smells from textiles

Weiße Bettwäsche

Have you ever wondered why your laundry smells in the closet or even straight after washing? It doesn't matter whether laundry smells musty, rancid or just unpleasant. There are various reasons for this - and fortunately solutions too. In this article, you'll learn how to remove unpleasant smells from bed linen and what you can do to prevent this from happening again.

Bed linen smells musty: These reasons may be responsible

Musty smells are often caused by moisture trapped in the laundry. This happens when the bedding has not been dried properly or is stored in a damp, poorly ventilated closet . But why does bedding smell when it has just been washed and comes straight out of the washing machine? This is usually due to detergent residue or a washing temperature that is not high enough to allow bacteria and germs to survive. But don't worry: There are plenty of ways you can prevent this unpleasant effect.

Smelly bed linen: causes & solutions

If freshly washed laundry smells bad, several factors can be responsible. Here are some of the main reasons and how to fix them:

Detergent residues and fabric softener

  • Problem: Using too much detergent or fabric softener can leave residue in clothes, causing unpleasant odors.
  • Solution: Reduce the amount of detergent and fabric softener or use a fragrance-free product. Also choose a high-quality product and make sure that the washing machine is not overloaded.

Low washing temperatures

  • Problem: Washing at low temperatures is energy efficient , but may not completely kill bacteria and fungi .
  • Solution: Wash laundry that is heavily soiled or has a strong smell at higher temperatures. A wash cycle at 60 degrees is often sufficient.

Poor washing machine hygiene

  • Problem: The washing machine itself can be a breeding ground for germs, especially if it is not cleaned regularly.
  • Solution: The washing machine should be cleaned at least once a month . Running it idle at high temperatures with vinegar or a special machine cleaner is recommended.

Overloaded washing machine

  • Problem: A washing machine that is too full can result in clothes not being cleaned sufficiently and smelling unpleasant.
  • Solution: Only load the washing machine to 75-80% of its capacity to ensure that the clothes are cleaned properly.

Insufficient drying

  • Problem: Damp laundry is an ideal breeding ground for unpleasant odors. If it is then put into the closet while it is still damp, it starts to smell unpleasant.
  • Solution: Make sure clothes are dried quickly and completely after washing. Avoid hanging clothes in a damp or poorly ventilated room.

Incorrect storage

  • Problem: Storing laundry in a damp or poorly ventilated area can also lead to unpleasant odors.

Cut lavender on table next to filled lavender bags

Image source: Pixabay

  • Solution: The closet should be dry and well ventilated . This will prevent the bedding from starting to smell. A few lavender bags that you can fill with natural lavender oil can also help. Regularly cleaning the inside of cupboards and drawers with cleaning vinegar also prevents bad-smelling laundry. If you are worried that your textiles will smell of vinegar afterwards, we can reassure you. The vinegar smell disappears after a short while and all that is left is a clean room climate.

As you have just learned, there are various reasons why your laundry can smell unpleasant. Be it poor storage conditions, washing habits or the type of bed linen itself. A rancid smell often indicates old or spoiled fats that can get into the fibers through body sweat . In such cases, pre-treating the stains and washing them at high temperatures is recommended.

Getting rid of odor from bed linen: home remedies for odor removal

Everyone knows the problem: clothes that have been in the closet for a long time often smell musty. This smell is deep in the fabric and is difficult to remove with conventional cleaning products. An effective approach is to use washing soda, which penetrates deeper into the fibers and neutralizes odors . The clothes should then be dried quickly and at high temperatures, ideally on a sunny day or in the dryer.

Organic lavender oil from Emma Grün

If you want to give your bed linen a natural scent, we have an excellent idea for you. We're talking about lavender oil, which you can turn into a fragrance spray in just a few steps. However, make sure that you choose a natural oil . Only then can you be sure that it does n't contain any harmful ingredients that can cause skin irritation and other side effects such as respiratory diseases and headaches . The following instructions show you how to make your own laundry scent and how to use it:

  • Mix lavender oil: Fill a standard spray bottle about halfway with water. Then add a few drops of lavender oil. The exact amount depends on the size of the bottle and your personal preference for the strength of the lavender scent. Usually 10-20 drops is enough.
  • Shake the bottle: Now you have to close the spray bottle and shake the contents well. This allows the lavender oil to mix optimally with the water and is ready for use.
  • Spray fabric: After washing, hang your bedding in a well-ventilated place such as on the balcony or terrace. Spray the mixture of lavender oil and water evenly onto the textiles. Be careful not to spray too much to avoid over-wetting .
  • Allow to dry: Now the treated textiles must be left to air dry. The lavender oil can now penetrate the fibers and give your bed linen a pleasant scent.

Emma Grün Tip: Lavender oil not only exudes a pleasant scent. It also has deodorizing properties that help neutralize unpleasant odors. This method is not only suitable as a natural freshener for your bed linen, but also for textiles, clothing, curtains and carpets.


Bad smells in bed linen can not only be unpleasant, but also an indication of germs. However, there are numerous measures you can take to get the problem under control. From washing correctly to drying carefully and storing it optimally, there is a lot you can do to ensure that your bed linen always smells pleasantly fresh.

By regularly maintaining your washing machine and choosing the right detergents and temperatures, you can also ensure that your laundry no longer smells musty or rancid. This way, you are well prepared to permanently banish bad smells from your bed linen and prevent an unpleasant surprise when the bed linen comes out of the closet.

FAQ: Questions & Answers

Why does my bed linen smell musty?

There are several reasons why bed linens have a musty smell. These include inadequate drying, storage in a damp cupboard or germs caused by poor hygiene.

What to do if the bed linen smells after washing?

If the laundry smells unpleasant after washing, this could be an indication of bacteria or mold in the washing machine. Thoroughly cleaning the machine and washing the bed linen at higher temperatures can help.

How do I get bad smell out of bed linen?

The unpleasant smell from bed linen can often be removed with household remedies such as vinegar or baking soda. Special detergents and washing additives for sports or functional clothing can also be effective.

My bed linen smells rancid, what can I do about it?

A rancid smell often indicates an infestation with bacteria or fungi. A wash cycle at 60 degrees with a hygiene rinse can help.

How do I prevent my bedding from smelling in the closet?

Careful storage can prevent laundry from smelling bad in the closet or dresser. Make sure the linens are completely dry before putting them in the closet. Storage areas should also be dry and well ventilated. Scented sachets or cedar wood can also help prevent unpleasant odors.


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2. This is what you can do if the bed linen in the closet smells musty – https://www.myhomebook.de/rooms/schlafzimmer/bettwaesche-geruch

3. Laundry stinks after washing – https://scentme.de/magazin/waesche-stinkt-nach-waschen/

4. Bed linen smells: home remedies & tips – https://www.frag-mutti.de/thema/bettwäsche+riecht

5. Laundry stinks in the closet – https://praxistipps.focus.de/waesche-stinkt-im-schrank-das-koennen-sie-dagegen-tun_129066?layout=amp