Tried & True Tricks for How to Make Laundry Smell Good Without Dryer Sheets

There’s something so wonderful about the fresh scent of clean laundry right out of the dryer, isn’t there?

Unless…the scent isn’t so fresh. (uggh!)

Before we can chat about how to make our laundry smell good, we first need to address how to get smell out of clothes!

Large glass jar with laundry detergent powder and two wool dryer balls beside it.
Washing clothes properly to get the odor out will give the best results for great smelling laundry!

Reasons why laundry may have bad smells & unpleasant odors right out of the dryer.

A few weeks ago I noticed our laundry had an unpleasant smell right out of the dryer. It drove me crazy enough that I decided to research and get to the bottom of the issue. Not only did I discover why clothes fresh from the washer and dryer can sometimes still have bad odors, I also found out how to get the best results for clothes with a clean scent – without the use of fabric softener or dryer sheets!

Here are some common culprits for smelly laundry:

  • Wash water temperature When using natural laundry detergent without toxic chemicals (like I do), the wash water must be HOT. Water temperature makes a difference in getting clothes truly clean. I have started to use the hottest setting for the wash cycle for best results. (Of course, you need to be mindful of clothing with delicate fabrics and adjust accordingly for them.)
  • A dirty washing machine Does your washing machine smell? If your answer is yes, you should deal with that first! A smelly washing machine with a musty smell is a breeding ground for bacteria and stinky clothes. Here are the simple steps for how to get rid of smell in washing machine: First, clean out your dirty washing machine by wiping around the seal (if it is a front loader) with hot soapy water. Then run it through a cycle with some baking soda sprinkled in the drum, and 1/4 cup of white vinegar in the detergent drawer. The main culprit for a stinking washing machine is that there isn’t enough air flow through it and the tightly closed area grows bacteria and creates a musty smell. To prevent that from happening, just leave the door open slightly between washes.
  • Overloading the washing machine.Stuffing the washer too full doesn’t result in clean clothes. Wash smaller loads so that the water can rinse through the items easily.
A boc of baking soda and container of white vinegar sitting on a counter.
Along with good detergent, I keep a box of baking soda and container of white vinegar in my laundry room, too.

How to get smell out of clothes in the washing machine

Here is the simple DIY recipe for clean clothes from the washing machine:

  1. Use a good quality natural detergent (I love Norwex detergent personally. A little detergent goes a LONG way.)
  2. Sprinkle on a little baking soda and a splash of white vinegar on each load. (Baking soda and white vinegar act as natural deodorizers. Don’t worry, the clothes won’t have a vinegar smell.)
  3. Set the water temperature on HOT.
  4. Put the wash cycle on “soak” (so the clothes have more time to sit in the water and get clean.)
Add your favorite essential oil to wool dryer balls for great smelling laundry without using dryer sheets or fabric softeners with harmful chemicals!

How to make laundry smell good straight out of the dryer – without dryer sheets!

I admit, I really love the strong clean smell that comes with dryer sheets and high quality fabric softener. However, once I found out how many harmful chemicals are in them, I switched to using wool dryer balls.

I absolutely love wool dryer balls!

Have you discovered the benefits of wool dryer balls, too?:

  • They absorb the moisture from damp clothes and cuts down on the dryer time.
  • They help eliminate static cling
  • They last a LONG time. In the long run, dryer balls help you save money on dryer sheets and fabric softener.

Add your favorite scent to laundry with natural essential oils

My friend told me a natural way to give your clean clothes a great scent is to put one drop of your favorite essential oil onto each wool dryer ball. You can either do that right before you dry your wet clothes, or you can dry them first and then put the essential oil on the balls and throw them in on the fluff cycle for just a few minutes.


Want to try out this natural way to make your laundry smell amazing? The links below are Amazon affiliate links for your shopping convenience.

  1. Bulk Baking Soda
  2. Large container vinegar
  3. Wool dryer balls
  4. Essential oils

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  1. These are such great tips, Rita. We have the dryer balls, but I never thought about adding a dab of essential oils to them. Brilliant! I’d love to share a link to your laundry room hacks in my weekly round-up post.

  2. Hi Rita! These are such great tips. I have wood dryer balls but I don’t use them frequently enough. I love the tip of adding essential oil.
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Using vinegar just dumped in the tub with baking soda makes it lose its effectiveness. It must be added separately in the rinse cycle. Plus I cannot imagine washing my colored clothes in hot water. It’s not necessary. My DIL who is an RN chose to do a research paper on this while in college and her study showed that cold water cleaned the same as hot water. She grew no more bacteria in a lab after washing clothes with cold water than hot water. Unless it’s all white towels or something you will ruin your clothes using hot water.

  4. Thank you! I love my wool dryer balls with a little tangerine essential oil but there are times, since we live on acreage, that I don’t know how to get my laundry to smell good when the essential oil isn’t enough. I didn’t know hot water had anything to do with it.

  5. With two young adult boys and a daughter who runs, I am always trying to figure out how to make clothes smell good! I can’t wait to give this a try and see if it can stand up to those tough teen/young adult sweaty clothes!

  6. Thank you for these tips on how to make laundry smell good! I have been wanting to ditch the dryer sheets for awhile now!

  7. Thank you for this advice on how to make clothes smell good without relying on harsh chemicals. I like the idea of using my favorite essential oils instead.

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