How to Get That Funky Smell Out of Your Sheets

How to Get That Funky Smell Out of Your Sheets
Photo: Fernando Cortes, Shutterstock

When I put the question of how to remove dank odour from one’s bedsheets to my trusty WhatsApp mum chat, one mum replied, “WTH. Don’t do things in your sheets that make them smell!?”

What this beacon of perfect cleanliness failed to realise is that some of us plebes occasionally deal with an unpleasant scent we didn’t do anything to create. An odour that could be generously called a “mysterious musty smell” — or more savagely equated to the scent of elephant balls.

I can safely say all my young daughter has done in her bed is sleep, perform stealth craft projects with unauthorised glue, and tickle-torture her brothers. But for some reason, they still smell like arse. So what’s a puzzled launderer to do? I have researched this for you (for me) — here are a few ways to restore those funky sheets to their original unscented glory.

Give those sheets a vinegar bath

Fill a sink or bucket with hot water. Add one cup of vinegar and a tablespoon of dish soap (yes, dish soap — not laundry detergent), and swirl the sheets around in the mixture. Allow them to soak for a minimum of 30-60 minutes or until the next morning. Wring them out fully before the next step.

Wash them with baking soda

In the same way baking soda in toothpaste helps lift yellow stains from your chompers, it has similar magical properties when applied to sheets. Not only is baking soda a fabric brightener, it’s also a natural deodoriser. While your washing machine is filling with water, add 1/2 cup of baking soda. Put the sheets in last and let them soak 30 minutes before washing.

(Note: Don’t add your regular laundry detergent here. It can mask smells with its own scent. Later, you’ll need to determine if the sheets themselves are odour-free without any interference from your detergent.)

Use heavy-duty washer settings

While you may be tempted to put everything through on speed-wash to get laundry done faster, to lift pesky odours, you’ll want to use your washer’s “heavy soil” setting and its hottest water.

Consider adding vinegar to the rinse cycle

While this may be redundant if you’ve already done the pre-wash vinegar soak, when you’re trying to get rid of the smell of an animal’s undercarriage, can one really be too thorough? Adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your machine during its rinse cycle (or to its fabric softener compartment) can further lift less-than-savoury smells and — get this — actually soften your clothes! Who knew?

Smell test, then line-dry outside

Before moving the sheets along to the next phase of the process, make sure they’ve passed a smell test. If the odor still lingers, repeat the steps above.

If they smell fresh, give your sheets an extra dose of disinfectant by hanging them to dry in the sun. A natural germ-killer and odor-lifter, sunlight will give those stinky sheets the last boost they need to get them over the finish line.

Make sure they are completely dry

One surefire way to court foul smells is to fold and store sheets while they are still a bit damp. After line-drying, give them a ten-minute tumble in the dryer to remove any humidity.

Now, enjoy sleeping on your fresh-as-a-daisy, old-but-new sheets.

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