What is the Best Natural Deodorizer For Smelly Clothes?

Are you tired of dealing with smelly clothes that just won't freshen up no matter how many times you wash them? Look no further! 

Quick links:

Why should I use natural deodorizers?

Is baking soda a good solution?

Is white vinegar a good solution?

How about vodka?

Can essential oils help?

Is lemon juice a good solution?

How about activated charcoal?

Can sunlight deodorize?

Can wool dryer balls help?

What are the best store-bought deodorizers?

How should I use natural deodorizers?

Say goodbye to unpleasant odors and hello to fresh, clean-smelling garments. Let’s explore the top natural deodorizers that will transform your laundry and leave your clothes smelling better than ever before.

Why Do My Clothes Smell?

There are a lot of things that can make your clothes get smelly, but two most common culprits are mildew and bacteria.

  1. Bacteria are living organisms that feed on your skin cells and hair follicles in damp situations. When caught inside clothing or towels, they chew away at them until nothing is left!
  2. Mildew is another culprit that may grow almost anywhere but thrives in damp situations, much like bacteria. This fungus-like organism feeds on your clothing by breaking it down into smaller parts that it absorbs and feeds on!

Apart from these two, some other culprits for clothes smelling bad are sweat, pets, and trapped dirt.

Now that you know what can cause your laundry to have a stinky smell, let’s dive into the world of natural deodorizers.

Why Should I Use Natural Deodorizers?

Conventional laundry deodorizers and fabric fresheners may initially make your clothes smell pleasant. The easy results mask some not-so-nice truths about health and environmental impacts.

  1. Many laundry products contain synthetic fragrances and questionable ingredients like phthalates, which studies show can irritate skin and disrupt hormones. Natural options use ingredients you can feel good about. 
  2. Traditional deodorizers only temporarily mask odors instead of eliminating them at the source. Natural enzymes tackle odors, so smells do not quickly return after washing.
  3. Standard fabric fresheners generate plastic waste from packaging and chemical runoff from usage. Natural products are gentler on you and the environment.
  4. The synthetic chemicals in conventional deodorizers get released into waterways when washing clothes, harming marine life. Natural options are eco-friendly.
  5. Many conventional fresheners use propellants like butane as aerosol sprays, which deplete the ozone layer. Natural products are propellant-free.
  6. The FDA does not require safety testing on chemicals used in standard fabric fresheners and deodorizers. The health impacts of long-term exposure are unknown.

Natural laundry deodorizers avoid harsh chemicals, provide lasting odor removal, and minimize environmental impact. I recommend trying plant-based options for a refreshing clean you can feel good about.

Types of Natural Deodorizers

These deodorizers are not only effective at neutralizing unpleasant odors but also safe for both you and the environment.

Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a versatile and widely used natural deodorizer. It works by neutralizing odors rather than just masking them. When applied to smelly clothes, baking soda absorbs and eliminates unpleasant smells. It also has antimicrobial properties that can help reduce bacteria associated with musty odor.


  • Readily available and inexpensive.
  • Safe for most fabrics.
  • Can be used on both dry and wet clothes.
  • Helps freshen and soften clothes.


  • May leave a powdery residue if not properly rinsed.
  • Might not completely eliminate strong odors and may need repeated applications.
  • Can be abrasive on delicate fabrics.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is acidic, which helps kill bacteria that cause nasty odors. It works by breaking down odor-causing compounds and killing bacteria. Vinegar is especially useful for removing mildew and musty smells.


  • Easily accessible and affordable.
  • Safe for most fabrics.
  • Helps remove stubborn odors like smoke or mildew.
  • Acts as a natural fabric softener.


  • Possibility of a lingering vinegar smell, which can dissipate after drying.
  • May not work well on certain odors.
  • Can cause fading or discoloration on some fabrics, so it's best to perform a spot test first.


The alcohol in vodka sanitizes fabrics and neutralizes odors. But it likely won't remove stains or fully clean clothes. Use it as a supplemental deodorizer by spraying vodka directly on smelly spots. Allow it to fully dry before wearing.


  • Can effectively remove odors without leaving a strong scent behind.
  • Safe for most fabrics when used in moderation.
  • It dries quickly, making it suitable for delicate fabrics.


  • Can be expensive compared to other options.
  • May not completely eliminate stubborn odors.
  • Not suitable for garments that cannot be wetted or treated with alcohol.

Essential Oils

Certain oils have antimicrobial properties that can help combat odor-causing bacteria. Adding a few drops of essential oil to laundry can leave clothes with a pleasant and fresh scent.

Some of the most popular essential oils are tea tree oil, lavender oil, lemon oil, and many others.


  • Pleasant scent options.
  • Natural antimicrobial properties.
  • Non-toxic and safe for most fabrics.
  • Requires only a small amount for effectiveness.


  • Possible skin sensitivities.
  • Risk of staining if not properly diluted.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is a natural deodorizer and has the added benefit of acting as a natural bleach for odor-causing bacteria. It can help remove unpleasant smells and brighten clothes.


  • Free and readily available.
  • Effective at killing odor-causing bacteria and mildew spores.
  • Natural bleaching properties for light-colored fabrics.


  • Limited feasibility in areas with limited sunlight or during rainy or cloudy days.
  • Prolonged direct sunlight exposure can fade and damage certain fabrics.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a highly absorbent substance that can effectively eliminate odors from clothes. It works by trapping odor-causing molecules and chemicals, preventing them from circulating in the air and clinging to your garments.


  • Highly effective at absorbing a variety of odors.
  • Environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
  • Can be recharged by placing it in direct sunlight, which helps eliminate trapped odors and extends its usage.


  • May leave behind some residual black powder that needs to be wiped or brushed off.
  • Can be messy when handling.


UV radiation penetrates fabrics and kills bacteria and other microorganisms that contribute to odor. Sunlight also helps in drying out damp or musty clothes, preventing mildew and mold growth, which are common causes of persistent smell.


  • Free and readily available.
  • Effectively kills odor-causing bacteria and mildew spores.
  • Can naturally bleach and whiten fabrics.


  • Might not be feasible in areas with limited sunlight or during rainy or cloudy days.
  • Direct sunlight exposure for too long can fade and damage certain fabrics, so avoid leaving clothes outside for extended periods.

Wool Dryer Balls

Wool dryer balls are made from 100% natural wool and are free from any synthetic chemicals or fragrances. They work by helping to separate and fluff the clothes in the dryer, which allows hot air to circulate more efficiently. This increased air circulation helps reduce drying time and, in turn, helps eliminate any residual odors from the clothes.


  • Safe and eco-friendly alternative to chemical-based fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
  • Improve airflow, speeding up the drying process.
  • Soften fabrics without the need for chemical softeners.
  • Can be used for many loads of laundry and can last for months, making them a cost-effective choice.


You can buy Smart Sheep scenting spray in lavender, lemon, and orange to make your clothes smell like heaven. 

“Quiet, efficient, and hypoallergenic” — Amazon review

“Wonderful little things” — Amazon review

Buy our wool dryer balls and forget about smelly clothes!

Best Deodorizer Products

If you're looking for store-bought deodorizers, here is a list of 10 deodorizing products:

  1. Mighty Pacs
  2. Schmidt
  3. Green Active
  4. Funk Away
  5. Defunkify
  6. Biz Laundry
  7. Loni Bio
  8. Smart Sheep dryer balls

Are they a good choice? Let’s see.

Mighty Pacs Laundry Detergent

Mighty Pacs Laundry Detergent delivers concentrated cleaning power in convenient, water-soluble pods. The unscented formula contains no dyes or perfumes.

Mighty Pacs aim to effectively remove everyday dirt and allergens. The hypoallergenic formula is designed for use in all washing machines and safe for sensitive skin. Each tub contains 60 pods, with one pod to clean one regular load.

Green Active Wear Detergent

Green Active Wear Detergent is an enzyme-free, plant-based laundry powder that aims to eliminate tough odors and stains. It is hypoallergenic and suitable for all machines. The biodegradable formula contains no bleaches, dyes, or fragrance.

Green Active Wear uses natural ingredients to deeply clean activewear while remaining gentle on fabrics and skin. The 45 oz tub cleans approximately 90 loads.

Funk Away Laundry Detergent Booster

Funk Away Laundry Detergent Booster is formulated with the OM Complex to target tough odors and stains. It acts as a boost to remove smells and residues from activewear, gym clothes, and heavily soiled items.

Funk Away aims to eliminate funk and lift stains through its odor-fighting enzymes. It is compatible with both regular and high-efficiency washing machines.

Defunkify Laundry Detergent Liquid

Defunkify Laundry Detergent Liquid is designed to effectively eliminate funky odors and stains from fabrics. It is powered by plant-based cleaning agents and pure essential oils in scents like lavender and lemongrass.

Defunkify aims to provide odor-removing performance through formulas approved by EPA Safer Choice standards. It is compatible with all washing machines and safe on fabrics.

Biz Laundry Detergent

Biz Laundry Detergent contains multiple stain-fighting ingredients including enzymes, peroxide, and detergents. It aims to boost cleaning power up to 80% better than detergent alone.

Biz works on tough stains like grass, sweat, and coffee. It can be used as a soak, pre-treat, or added to loads. The formula cleans thoroughly through a combination of enzymes, whitening agents, and biodegradable surfactants.

Loni Bio Laundry Detergent Active

Loni Bio Laundry Detergent uses enzymes to actively target and break down stains throughout the wash cycle. The plant-based formula aims to completely remove stains rather than redeposit particles.

Loni Bio contains no harsh chemicals and is designed to be gentle on skin and planet. It effectively cleans through the stain-fighting power of enzymes derived from plants.

Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls

“I’ll never use dryer sheets again” — Amazon review

Smart Sheep Wool Dryer Balls are made from 100% premium New Zealand wool, they effectively absorb and eliminate odors, and leave your laundry smell fresh and clean. These eco-friendly dryer balls also absorb moisture and eliminate odors. They also reduce static cling

These dryer balls also help reduce drying time, making them not only eco-friendly but also a time-saving solution for laundry.

“But what truly surprised me was the change in the texture of my clothes. They come out noticeably softer and fluffier, almost like they've been treated with a fabric softener. And the best part? No more static cling! My pet peeve during the colder months has finally been eliminated.” — Amazon review

6-Pack Original 100% Wool Dryer Balls

How to Use Natural Deodorizers?

Using natural deodorizers is a simple and effective way to eliminate unpleasant odors from your clothes. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use them:

  1. Start by identifying the source of the odor. Is it a particular area or the entire piece of clothing?
  2. For localized odors, such as underarm or collar smells, spot treat the area with a natural deodorizer. Options include vinegar, baking soda paste, or lemon juice. Apply the deodorizer directly to the affected area and let it sit for a few minutes.
  3. For overall freshness, add a natural deodorizer to your laundry routine. Common choices are white vinegar, baking soda, or essential oils. Add them to the washing machine during the rinse cycle or use them as a pre-soak treatment.
  4. Air drying clothes after washing can also help eliminate odors. Hang them outside or in a well-ventilated area for natural air circulation.

Additional Tips for Reducing Clothing Odor

Here are some additional tips that will help you reduce smelly, unwanted odors from your clothes:

  • Proper laundering techniques. Sort clothes based on color and type of fabric, and use the recommended detergent. Avoid overcrowding the washing machine, as this can prevent thorough cleaning. Additionally, ensure that clothes are completely dry before storing them, as dampness can lead to odor-causing bacteria growth.
  • Handling workout clothes. Workout clothes are prone to odor buildup due to sweat and bacteria. Rinse them immediately after use to prevent pesky odors from setting in. For stubborn smells, pre-soak them in a solution of vinegar and warm water before washing. Avoid using fabric softeners, as they can trap odors. Lastly, air-dry workout clothes whenever possible, as the heat from the dryer can intensify existing odors.
  • Stopping smells before they start. Prevention is key to avoiding clothing odor. Air out clothes after wearing them before tossing them in the laundry hamper. This allows moisture to evaporate and minimizes bacterial growth. Additionally, consider using natural deodorizers, like baking soda, sachets of dried lavender or cedar chips, in closets or drawers to absorb bad smells.
  • When to discard clothes. If despite your efforts, clothes still retain persistent odors or are difficult to eliminate, it may be time to consider discarding them. This is especially true for items that have been stained with strong odors or have been repeatedly exposed to smoke or mildew. Trust your senses and if the odor lingers even after laundering, it's best to replace the garment.

Laundry FAQ

How do you get rid of smelly clothes naturally?

To naturally get rid of smelly clothes, you can try a few methods. 

  1. Soak the clothes in a mixture of warm water and vinegar for about an hour before washing them. 
  2. Add baking soda to the laundry cycle to eliminate odors.
  3. Hang the clothes outside in the sunlight and fresh air to remove unpleasant smells.

What is the best natural odor eliminator for laundry?

Wool dryer balls are considered one of the best natural odor eliminators for laundry. They work by absorbing moisture and reducing static, which helps to eliminate odors. Additionally, the wool material helps to fluff and separate clothes, allowing for better airflow and faster drying time, further reducing potential odors.

What happens if you use vinegar and regular detergent together?

If you use vinegar and regular laundry detergent together, they can actually work together to enhance the cleaning power of the detergent. Vinegar acts as a natural fabric softener and can help remove stains and odors from clothes. 

It is important to use them in the right proportions and follow the instructions on the detergent bottle to avoid any potential damage to the clothes.

Is baking soda or vinegar better for laundry odor?

Both baking soda and vinegar can be effective in removing laundry odor, but they work in different ways. Baking soda helps to neutralize odors by balancing the pH levels, while vinegar can act as a natural deodorizer and disinfectant.

The choice between the two may depend on personal preference and the specific odor issue being addressed.

Why do the armpits of my shirts smell after washing?

The armpits of shirts can smell even after washing due to a build-up of bacteria and sweat residue. These bacteria thrive in warm and moist environments, such as the armpits, and can be resistant to regular washing. Proper hygiene practices and using antibacterial detergent can help reduce the body odor.

How do you get rid of foot odor?

To get rid of foot odor and achieve a pleasant smell, it is important to practice good hygiene. Regularly washing your feet with antibacterial soap and thoroughly drying them afterward can help eliminate odor-causing bacteria. Additionally, wearing clean socks made from breathable materials and changing them daily can prevent moisture buildup. Applying foot powders or antiperspirants can also help reduce sweat and control odor and make your foot have a fresh smell.

Further Reading

The best essential oil recipes

How do I use wool balls for down jackets?

What are the benefits of natural clothing stain removers?

Do dryer balls contain toxic chemicals?

How do I recharge my wool dryer balls?

Will wool dryer balls leave wool on my clothes?

How can I make my own wool dryer balls?

Why put tennis balls in the dryer?