Why Do My Polyester Clothes Smell Bad After Washing – And How To Fix

  • By: Tiffany Peris
  • Time to read: 9 min.

After washing your clothes, you expect the clothes to smell fresh. However, at times, that is never the case. Indeed, you might find that your polyester clothes smell bad even after you have washed them. This can be frustrating since you can be confused about what you might do next since you expect the clothes to smell fresh after the wash.

Polyester clothes smell bad after washing since polyester fibers accumulate odor-causing compounds. These compounds are powerful and persistent to the extent that some polyester clothes smell even after washing.

This article explains in detail why polyester clothes smell after washing. In addition, the article also explains what you can do to remove the foul smell in your polyester clothes after washing.

Why Polyester Clothes Smell Bad After Washing – 11 Reasons

As a synthetic fabric, polyester is a non-polar fiber which implies that the fabric repels water hence the reason it dries quickly. However, the fact that polyester dries quickly means that the fabric naturally attracts oil from the skin, resulting in a bad odor.

When you wash your dirty and smelling polyester clothes, you expect that the clothes will smell fresh. Indeed, one might even add peppermint oil or tea tree oil to the washing detergent hoping that the essential oils with refresh the clothes.

However, after the polyester clothes have been washed, you find that the clothes still smell bad. Let’s look at the different reasons why your polyester clothes have a bad odor after you have washed them.

1. You Used Either A Little Detergent Or A Lot Of Detergent

The amount of detergent that you put in the detergent compartment could be the reason why your polyester clothes stink after you have washed them.

Indeed, if you use a lot of detergent when washing the clothes, the detergent will not be sufficiently rinsed away. Instead, the detergent will be trapped inside the polyester fabric, and this can facilitate the growth of mold even when the clothes have dried. As the mold grows, your clothing will smell even after washing.

If you use little detergent when washing clothes, your polyester clothes that are dirty and stinking will not be well cleaned. Remember, washing detergents are specifically developed with special chemicals to remove dirt and foul smells from your clothes.

However, if you use a small amount of washing detergent to wash your clothes, the detergent will not adequately work on the dirty clothes, meaning they will have a foul smell even after washing.

How to fix

To ensure that you are using the correct detergent dosing when washing your clothes, make sure that you use the dosing specified by the washing detergent manufacturer on the detergent’s packaging.

You can use measuring cups or capsules to ensure that you use the correct dosing when washing your polyester clothes.

2. You Overload Your Washing Machine

If you overload your washing machine, the clothes in the washer will not be thoroughly cleaned due to the overload. Indeed, there is even a chance that some of the clothes will only be slightly washed if the washing machine is overloaded.

If you had some polyester clothing with sweat smell and other bad smells in the overloaded washer, the smell in the clothes will not be entirely removed in the wash as the clothes will not be thoroughly cleaned.

When washing clothes in an overloaded washer, the clothes are not freely moved around and agitated, as is supposed to be the case. Moreover, the clothes will not be well soaked and washed with the washing detergent.

How to fix

When washing clothes, ensure that you don’t overload your washing machine. To determine whether you have overloaded your washing machine, you need to place your hand in the washer’s drum.

If you cannot place your hand inside the washing machine after loading the clothes, that should indicate that you have overloaded your washer.

When washing polyester clothes, always ensure that your washing machine is not overloaded. If you overload the washer, there is a very high chance that the clothes will not be thoroughly cleaned, making them smell bad after washing.

3. Your Washing Machine Is Dirty

At times, the bad smell on your polyester clothing after washing the clothes can be caused by a dirty washing machine.

Specifically, if washing detergent and fabric softener accumulate on the washer, the accumulation can block the filters, and as a result, bacteria will thrive inside the washing machine.

As you wash your polyester clothes in the washing machine with the bacteria, the bacteria will be transferred to your clothes, and they can make your clothes smell bad.

How to fix

The main solution to a dirty washing machine that is causing bad smells is to clean the washing machine. Vinegar is a good stain remover and also absorbs odors. Thus, you can use vinegar to clean the dirty washer.

To clean your washing machine with vinegar, put two cups of vinegar in the washing machine’s detergent compartment. Set the machine in a hot wash cycle for at least 30 minutes and complete the cycle with an empty load.

After the wash cycle, use a dry towel to wipe the washer’s drum. After that, run another hot water cycle on an empty load to ensure that all the vinegar and other dirt in the washer will be thoroughly washed away.

If you have one of the latest washing machines with a self-clean or sanitize option, you can set the machine to the self-clean or sanitize mode, and the washer will clean itself.

4. Your Clothes Are Stored When They Are Not Completely Dry

If you wash your polyester clothes and store them before they are completely dry, the clothes will smell bad.

Indeed, if you are surprised what happens to your clothes since you put them in the closet when they were clean only to take them when you want to wear them and find that they are stinking, the reason why the clothes smell bad is that they were not completely dry when you were drying them.

How to fix

To ensure that your polyester clothes are well dried and aired, you need to ensure that your clothes are always dry before storing them in the closet.

Moreover, it is important that you keep your clothes in a location with constant fresh airflow. If that is not possible, ensure that you refresh your clothes once in a while.

You can also wash your clothes at a very hot temperature so that the bacteria causing the smell is eliminated. For example, it is safe to wash polyester in a hot water setting since, as synthetic fiber, polyester is resistant to shrinking.

5. Your Polyester Clothes Have Been Stored For A Long Time

If you washed your clothes and kept them in the wardrobe for a long time, they can start to smell due to a lack of good airflow in the wardrobe or the closet where you kept your polyester clothes.

Specifically, the limited airflow in the closets makes the clothes store in the closet susceptible to humidity. If the clothes are not refreshed, the humidity can encourage mold growth that leaves your clothes smelling even though they were smelling fresh after being washed.

How To Fix

To fix the issue, you need to make sure that you improve the airflow in your closet. For example, you could install a fan in your bedroom or occasionally open the windows and leave the wardrobe doors open so that the fresh air can flow freely in the wardrobe.

You can also hang your clothes outside so that they get the air. Polyester is resistant to UV rays implying that you don’t have to be concerned about the clothes being sun-faded by the sun.

6. You Are Using The Wrong Washer Setting

If you wash dirty and sweaty polyester clothing in a cold water setting, the low water temperature could be why your clothes have a bad smell even after washing.

To effectively remove sweat and other dirt that could be accumulated on your polyester clothing, you need to use a hot water setting. When you wash fat, grease, and oil with cold water, the dirt quickly solidifies, making it hard to remove it from clothes entirely.

When the fatty dirt is not thoroughly washed away in the washer, and you dry these clothes with a dryer, the heat in the dryer will make your clothes smell bad after the wash.

How to fix

Wash your clothes at the hottest water temperature possible so that any sweat and fat are entirely removed in the wash.

If your polyester clothes had fat, sweat, and grease stains, check and confirm that the stains have been fully removed before you dry the clothes in the dryer.

7. You Dried The Clothes Wrongly

If your polyester clothes smell bad after drying them, then it means that you are drying your clothes the wrong way.

Specifically, if the clothes did not smell foul when you took them out of the washing machine, but they smell bad after drying, the problem is how you are drying your clothes.

Indeed, if you dry your clothes in a corner where there is insufficient air circulation or they are not hanged properly, the clothes are likely to have a bad smell after they have been dried.

How to fix

To ensure that you have dried your clothes the right way, you must always ensure the clothes are unfolded and well spread on the clothesline.

If the clothes you are drying have sleeves, ensure you always turn out the sleeves of the clothes you are drying since if you don’t, the sleeves will be wrinkled and will not dry properly, resulting in the clothes smelling.

When drying the clothes, dry them next to the window so that you can open the window and have increased air circulation, that will result in reduced humidity.

If it is during the winter season and you cannot open the windows, you can turn the heating on to increase the heating in the room.

8.  Your Polyester Clothes Are Old And Require Replacing

I know this sounds odd. But highly durable polyester clothes have a lifespan. Once the clothes have attained that lifespan, they need replacing.

There are different signs to show that your clothes are old and need replacing. Among others, loss of shape and loose stitches are some of the signs that your clothes need replacing.

Typically, old clothes have some parts of the fabrics thinner than others. The thin parts of the fabric can absorb moisture and also have that weird old smell that will not go away even when you wash the clothes.

How To Fix

Just buy new polyester clothing to replace the old clothes.

9.  You Leave Your Polyester Clothes In The Washer For Long Periods

At times, we are just too busy even to remember that we had clothes in the washer. When clothes are left in the washer for a few hours after the wash cycle has ended, the clothes will have a bad smell as the odor-causing bacteria will start to grow.

Specifically, polyester clothes are mainly washed with either hot or warm water. Odor-causing bacteria thrive in such environments implying that if you allow your clothes to sit in the washer for a long time, there is a high chance that the odor-causing bacteria will make the clothes smell.

It has been found that clothes can start to smell bad and even have mildew if they spend more than 8 hours in the washing machine after the wash cycle has ended.

How to fix

Ensure that you don’t leave the clothes in the washer for more than four hours after the wash cycle has ended.

10. Faulty Drier

A faulty drier could also make your polyester clothes smell bad after washing. Specifically, if your dryer has a blocked airflow, the clothes will likely smell bad.

For driers to dry clothes, they have to blow hot air directly to them and then extract it outside.

If the drier has problems blowing the hot air or extracting the hot air from the drier, the airflow in and out of the drier will be affected, resulting in the clothes smelling even after they have been dried.

How to fix

If you have tried other solutions and your clothes are still smelling, you should call a technician to inspect your drier and do any repairs.

Concluding Thoughts

Different reasons can make your polyester clothes smell even after washing them. However, if you take good care of your polyester clothing, you can get rid of the foul smell on your clothes after you have washed them.

I hope that you found this article informative. Feel free to share the article with friends.


University of Alabama

Woman’s World