The feeling of getting a clean load of laundry out of the dryer is a great one indeed. Your clothing smells amazing, feels amazing, and you know that it is totally fresh and ready to be worn again at your earliest convenience.

Laundry Detergent

But what happens when your fresh load of laundry comes out of the dryer still smelling like detergent? Because for most of us, that’s not the smell we want our clothes to have. And it may lead to the question, should my clothes smell like detergent after washing?

We’re going to explore the answer to that question, as well as why it might be happening, and give you some tips on how to change it. Let’s dive right in!

Should My Clothes Smell Like Detergent After Washing?

Typically, your clothes should not smell like detergent after a wash cycle. Of course, if you’re using a highly scented detergent then it will leave a slight smell behind, but overall a detergent smell should never be too overpowering. And if your clothes do smell like detergent when they’re done washing then you may actually have a problem.

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Why Does My Laundry Smell Like Detergent After Washing?

There are many reasons why your laundry might be coming out smelling like the detergent you used to wash it., and we’re going to explore them all in this section…


  • The first and simplest reason is that you’re using too much detergent. This is actually a really common problem and is leading to not only funny smelling laundry, but also wasted money on detergent.
  • Another potential option is that you’re using a detergent that is incompatible with your washing machine. This could cause your clothes to smell, but also to not come out as clean.
  • You might not want to hear this one, but the next reason is that some part of your washing machine might be in need of a cleaning. The washing machine itself, the drain hose, or the filters might be clogged with excess detergent or other scum and need a good cleaning.
  • Your drain pump might not be clogged, it might just be broken. And this could also lead to clothes that wreak of detergent.
  • One thing that most people would never think of is a change in the water. But the hardness of water does affect your laundry cycle, and if the hardness has changed, then adjustments may be needed in order to get your laundry smelling fresh again. But we’ll get into that in a minute.
  • The last reason is that someone has poured the detergent into the wrong dispenser, namely the fabric softener dispenser.


How Can I Keep My Laundry From Smelling Like Detergent After Washing?

You can easily keep your laundry from smelling like detergent by fixing the problem that’s causing it. So after you’ve looked through the section above this one and figured out what’s causing your laundry problem, we can start with the solution…

  • Too Much Detergent – You can fix this problem by measuring out your detergent instead of just eyeballing it, and make sure to only use the amount suggested on the package. Oftentimes you can actually get by with using half that much, but the amount stated on the package is the maximum that should ever be used!
  • Incompatible Detergent – High efficiency (HE) machines are the most commonly used washer nowadays, but some detergents were formed when HE machines weren’t so popular yet. So make sure that you’re using an HE compatible detergent formula or the result could be unclean and smelly clothes.
  • Dirty Machine – Don’t worry, you don’t have to manually clean the whole machine to get around this issue. Simply run a cycle on high with vinegar and baking soda instead of laundry. (But keep the vinegar away from the bleach dispenser.) And unclog your drain pump and filters while you’re at it.
  • Broken Drain Pump – There’s nothing to do for this issue other than replace the drain pump with a new one.
  • Changes With Your Water – Depending on the new hardness of your water, you might need to use more or less detergent than you used with the old hardness level. You might also need to try a new detergent altogether until you find one that works with your current water.
  • Detergent In The Wrong Dispenser – Simply run a rinse cycle or two and try not to mix up the dispensers again. But if you’re afraid that you might, then you could consider starting to use powdered fabric softener so that mix ups are less common.

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What Are Other Signs That There’s Too Much Detergent In My Washer?

Aside from the strange smell emanating from your laundry, there are a few other signs that something may be amiss with your detergent. These signs, or more accurately… symptoms of excess detergent, should be fairly apparent.

  • Duller colors on your clothes after washing
  • Strange stains on your clothing
  • Changes in your clothing’s texture
  • Skin irritation
  • Stiff towels, loss of fluff
  • And worst scenario, even a broken washer


Should I Use Scented Detergent?

But all this talk about laundry smelling like detergent might have you thinking about whether or not you should choose a laundry detergent that is supposed to leave a pleasant scent behind.

The answer is, probably not. Scented detergents have a lot of issues and especially if you have allergies, sensitive skin, or a baby in the house, it’s not suggested that you use scented detergent.

Furthermore, a lot of the time manufacturers will scent detergent to hide the poor quality of it. So your clothes may smell nice, but they won’t actually be clean. You’re better off choosing a non-scented option.


In Conclusion

If you’re having the question “should my laundry smell like detergent after washing”… then you probably have an issue that should be addressed, because the answer is no it definitely shouldn’t!

And hopefully our list of potential reasons for such an occurrence was helpful, and between that and the section on solutions, you’re well on your way to fixing your detergent issue. Just make sure not to undo all our good work by buying scented detergent!

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