Baking Soda and Laundry Odors

Baking Soda Attacks Odors in or Out of the Laundry

Woman smelling clean laundry
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Baking soda can help remove pungent odors from laundry even when they linger after repeated washing. While scented detergents and other laundry treatments merely mask odors with artificial scents, baking soda actually removes many odors by neutralizing the acids that produce the odor. Baking soda is alkaline—the opposite of acid—and is most effective at removing acidic odor compounds, such as those in sour milk, smoke, sweat, and vomit. Baking soda also can absorb oils that introduce odors into the laundry.

Smoky Smells

Smoke tends to cling to the fibers within our laundry. Whether it's smoke from a campfire or second-hand cigarette smoke, the key to removing tough smoke odor is soaking. Try soaking clothes that smell of smoke in a baking-soda-and-water solution before washing in the washing machine. Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda into a sink or bucket full of water. Add in the smoky laundry and periodically stir the mixture as the clothing soaks. When the odor has dissipated, wash the clothing as usual.

Mature woman and two sons toasting marshmallows on campfire at night
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Washable hats, gloves, scarves, headbands, and other garments can be soaked in baking soda and water to rid them of sweaty odors. A baking soda soak can work wonders on many sweaty smells. Mix 1/2 cup of baking soda into a sink or bucket full of water. Allow the sweaty items to soak for several hours or overnight. Stir periodically. If the sweat odor is persistent or has been left on the clothing for a long time, try applying a paste of baking soda and water directly to the affected areas and let it sit before soaking the clothing.

Mechanical Smells

If you have clothing with gasoline, oil, or other mechanical smells, place them in a bag with baking soda. Leave the bag sealed for a day or two before washing. Be warned it may take a baking soda soak to really remove the smell thoroughly. Also, it's a good idea to hand-wash oily or greasy items to prevent spreading the oil or staining other clothes in the washing machine.


Dry baking soda rubbed directly on clothing can remove the smell of vomit or baby spit-up. And because it's baking soda, you don't have to worry about any harsh residues being left on your baby's clothes. Baking soda also brightens and whitens. Using baking soda as a stain remover is a great choice for baby clothes.

Baby Infant not feeling well and vomiting
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Sprinkle Baking Soda on Laundry

Sometimes your smelly laundry can't be fixed right away. If smelly clothes cannot be washed immediately, sprinkle baking soda directly on them. When you have time, wash as is. Remember, though, that the longer the clothes sit, the more likely they are to need a little extra treatment to thoroughly remove smells.

Wash With Baking Soda

Baking soda works as a laundry booster to help brighten whites and colors and generally freshen laundry by helping to remove odors. Add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the wash load of your top-loader or front-loader machine. You can sprinkle the baking soda directly on the clothes rather than adding it to the detergent cup or compartment. If you're out of laundry detergent and need to do a wash, use 1 cup of baking soda in place of detergent. It won't suds up like most non-laundry soaps, so it's safe to use in front-loaders.