The Reason Your Clothes Still Smell After Washing Them

We've all been there: You throw a load of laundry in the wash and dry it like normal. But when you take the laundry out, it doesn't exactly smell fresh and clean. In fact, it smells bad. Don't worry: It's not just you. There are several reasons this happens.

But first, we should talk about how dirty your laundry actually is — and why it needs a thorough cleaning to eliminate odors. The everyday items that accumulate in your hamper are full of germs, according to WebMD. The worst items are underwear, which can contain germs from infections (like yeast) and fecal bacteria, as well as kids' clothes — because kids are just downright germy. Bath towels and dish towels are especially problematic because they're used repeatedly without washing and take longer to dry if they're thick, allowing germs like E. coli to thrive. To get rid of these nasties, make sure to wash your laundry with hot water and dry it for at least 45 minutes in the dryer.

But, sometimes hot water and a tumble in the dryer don't eliminate odors, and your laundry smells like you never washed it in the first place. Here's why that can happen.

The three main culprits for stinky clothes

Believe it or not, using excess detergent doesn't make your clothes cleaner — it has the opposite effect, causing soap suds to built up, stick to clothes, and lock in any bacteria in the fabric instead of washing it away, according to Metro. This creates odors because the clothes aren't getting thoroughly cleaned. Be sure to follow the detergent dosage instructions so you don't overdo it.

Another culprit causing stinky clothes could be a stinky laundry machine. Since the interior of a washer is dark and damp, mildew and other bacteria are likely to grow there. These particles can attach to clothes in the wash and cause an unpleasant smell. There are DIY washer-cleaning products on the market to help with this, but it's also good to call in a professional for cleaning and maintenance on a regular basis.

Finally, if you've washed your clothes and waited too long to take them out, that could also cause issues. Leaving wet clothes sitting in a moist, warm environment encourages bacterial growth, resulting in a musty, mildewy smell. You can fix this by washing the load again with an extra rinse and adding a cup of distilled white vinegar [LINK TO VINEGAR LAUNDRY HACKS] into the detergent dispenser to neutralize the scent.