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So you have a laundry detergent that you love, but you just can’t seem to get your dirtiest duds to smell fresh again. You may need to add another product to your arsenal of laundry supplies: an odor remover. These additives work in tandem with your regular detergent to bust any lingering stenches and restore your favorite garments to their former glory.
Here, the best odor removers for your laundry, whether you’re dealing with sweat, smoke, mildew, or just that weird laundry funk.
Best Overall: OxiClean Odor Blasters Stain & Odor Remover
A longtime favorite, OxiClean Odor Blasters Versatile Stain Remover deserves all the praise it receives. The powerful stain-fighting formula is specially formulated to also conquer the worst odors—think body odor, sweat, musty towels, smoke, baby spit up, pet dander, and more. Bottom line: With this product in your supply closet, your clothes will never smell funky again.
But because the formula is oxygen-based, it's chlorine-free and color-safe—ideal for keeping your clothes in tip-top condition.
Using the product couldn’t be easier. You simply add it to every load. Or, for tougher smells and stains, you can use it as a pre-treatment. Simply soak your items for up to six hours before washing to restore them to like-new condition.
Best Budget: Arm & Hammer Clean Scentsations In-Wash Scent Booster With Odor Blaster
If you thought you had to spend a fortune on specialized cleaning formulas or even professional laundry services to restore your favorite garments and fabrics to like-new condition or—worse—toss them entirely, think again. Arm & Hammer Clean Scentsations In-Wash Scent Booster With Odor Blaster does wonders to eliminate the stink from dirty clothing and soft goods.
Simply add the formula, which is compatible with all kinds of machines (including high-efficiency), to the washer before putting whatever it is you’re washing inside. The result is a sweet-smelling load that’s bursting with notes of orange flower, violet, and lily of the valley.
Importantly, the product is safe for all colors, washable fabrics, and load types for maximum versatility.
Best Detergent: HEX Performance Advanced Laundry Detergent, Free + Clear
If you truly prefer to work with one product and one product only, the HEX Performance Laundry Detergent is the way to go. This incredibly tough wash easily cuts through the worst offenders, including sweaty gym clothes and mildew-infused towels.
Rather than bathe duds with an artificial fragrance that only serves to mask scents—not eliminate them—this product truly eradicates the source of the problem (even on synthetic fabrics, like gym clothes).
Still, it’s gentle enough for just about anyone to use, thanks to the eco-friendly, unscented formula. (It doesn’t contain any dyes, fillers, perfumes, optical brighteners, or phosphates.) Another bonus: It’s also tough on all kinds of stains, plus works with all temperature cycles, as well as high-efficiency washing machines.
Best Natural: Branch Basics Oxygen Boost
This multipurpose solution hinges on the powers of sodium percarbonate—a mineral-based brightener and deodorizer—and sodium bicarbonate—a mineral-based water softener more commonly known as baking soda. The result is a powerful, but all natural product that tackles stains and smells without bleach, ammonia, fragrances, or dyes.
Use a scoop with your laundry detergent to banish stains and odors in a single load. (The two-pound container has enough for 32 loads of laundry.) Or, use it to strip laundry for a deeper clean. Alternatively, you can also use the powder for other cleaning tasks, like restoring grout to its former color, cleaning high chairs, scrubbing tile, and even scouring pots and pans.
Best for Smoke: Febreze Laundry Odor Eliminator
Unfortunately, smoke is one of the more stubborn smells, whether stuck to clothes, towels, sheets, or even upholstery. Luckily, though, Febreze’s In-Wash Odor Eliminator is no match for the foul and funky smell. The 50-ounce jug is filled with a professional-strength formula that excels at removing not only smoke smells, but also those caused by pets, sports, cooking, perspiration, grease, mildew, and more.
It works in all washing machines, including high efficiency machines. And it’s easy to use: Simply add a bit to your favorite detergent and let it work its magic. Alternatively, it can be used as a pre-treatment: Place the garment in hot water, then add a cupful of the odor eliminator and let soak before laundering.
Best for Mildew: Biokleen Bac-Out Natural Enzyme Stain and Odor Remover 128 OZ
Biokleen is a unique blend of live, enzyme-producing cultures, citrus extracts, and plant-based surfactants that work to remove the toughest stains and odors from a wide range of things, including laundry, carpets, and other upholstery without the use of phosphates, chlorine, ammonia, petroleum solvents, alcohol, brighteners, artificial colors and fragrances.
Still, you won’t have any trouble with tough musty smells, like mildew-soaked towels. And because the jug contains a whopping 128 ounces, you’ll have plenty on hand for all of your other laundry needs, like stripping cloth diapers, eliminating body odor from workout clothes, and even removing stains and the persistent odors that linger because of them.
Best for Activewear: Tide Odor Rescue In-Wash Laundry Booster Pacs
If you have an excess of sour-smelling clothes to contend with, whether from your own workouts or your kids’ sports practices, Tide Odor Rescue In-Wash Laundry Booster Pacs are here to save the day. The pods, which get added in with either liquid or powder detergent, help eliminate odors at the source by cleaning deep into the fibers of your clothing (even synthetics!). Rather than simply covering the odors with new, nicer scents, the formula breaks down built-in odors and layers of body soil and dinge that can lead to odor issues over time.
There’s no learning curve—simply add detergent, then add the odor booster directly to the drum (or directly into the dispensing tray in high efficiency machines), add clothes, and start your washer.
Best Multipurpose Formula: Biz Stain & Odor Eliminator
Biz Stain & Odor Eliminator is another powdered odor fighter with impressive capabilities. While it does wonders for smelly laundry, it also eliminates a wide range of the toughest stains. Think: grass, yellowed sweat stains, blood, sauces, greasy foods, coffee, wine, chocolate, and more.
You’ll definitely get plenty of mileage out of this hardworking product, too—it can also be used for a variety of tough household cleaning tasks, like scrubbing bath tubs and tile, kitchen counters, and more.
The overall best odor eliminator for laundry is OxiClean Odor Blasters Versatile Stain Remover (available at Amazon), which removes a long list of odors, is safe on colors, and gets rid of stains, too. If you are looking for an all-in-one liquid detergent, HEX Performance Laundry Detergent (available at Amazon) is a top pick and even works well on synthetic fabrics, like workout clothes.
What to Look for in a Laundry Odor Remover
When selecting a laundry odor remover, consider whether you want to add scent as well as remove the malodor. Consider how the scent of the odor remover will blend with your current laundry detergent scent. Choose an unscented, dye-free odor remover when doing laundry for those with allergies and sensitive skin.
Usability for Certain Washable Fabrics
Read the product label directions carefully to be sure that the odor remover is safe for the washable fabric. Oxygen-based bleaches are not safe to use on washable silk, wool, or leather-trimmed garments.
Since breaking the bond between odor molecules and fabric is key to odor removal, look for odor-removal products that contain these ingredients:
- enzymes with catalytic action to break apart specific molecules like grease or protein-based stains (food, animal, and body odors).
- alkaline ingredients that form a bond with oily molecules (body soil) to lift them away from fabrics.
- surfactants to hold the molecules in suspension until they can be flushed away in the laundry water.
What does an odor remover for laundry do?
A laundry odor remover works as a booster with your regular laundry detergent to break the bond between soil and odor molecules and the fabric. Some odor removers are scent-free, while others infuse laundry with a fragrance.
How do you use a laundry odor remover?
Every brand of laundry odor remover is slightly different. Some are added to the washer drum at the beginning of the wash cycle, while others are added to the rinse cycle. Almost all brands can be used as a presoak to help start the odor removal process. Read the product directions carefully to achieve the best results.
Who should use a laundry odor remover?
If your regular laundry routine does not remove odor from fabrics or the odor reappears when the garment is worn, you should add an odor removal product. Five of the toughest odors to remove in the laundry are sweat, gasoline, cooking, perfume, and mothballs.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This roundup was written by Brigitt Earley, who has written and edited hundreds of articles in the home decor space for various publications, including The Spruce, over the course of the last 10 years. Additional research was provided by Mary Marlowe Leverette, a nationally recognized cleaning expert.