How to Get Sulfur Smells Out of Laundry

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Recently, I had to figure out how to get sulfur smells out of laundry. My teen had read that sulfur cream gets rid of acne, so he’d bought a jar of the stuff and began using it.

I must say, his skin is starting to look fantastic, but that cream smells awful! As I quickly figured out, usual laundering methods — even using a very hot, prolonged cycle — don’t get rid of the smell. Even worse: everything else washed with those sulfur-tainted items picked up that awful stink, too.

So, I did what you’re doing: went online to find out how to get sulfur smells out of laundry. By that time, I had a massive pile of my teen’s towels, along with his bedding and clothes, that all reeked of sulfur. That gave me a chance to experiment with different solutions I’d found — some of which worked, and some of which were a waste of time and effort.

This is what finally got that sulfur smell out of his stuff.

How to Get Sulfur Smells out of Laundry

Rolled yellow and white towels stored vertically

What causes that smell?

Most of the time when clothing smells of sulfur there’s an apparent reason.

• Using a sulfur cream to treat acne.
• Water contaminated by sewer leaching or organic deposits (e.g., a well dug in shale).
• A water heater that needs to be drained of buildup.
• Bathing in mineral spas or touring areas near them.
• Scabies or mite medications.
• Various medical conditions.

If your water source or water heater is the cause, you’ll need to address that problem before you can get sulfur smells out of clothing. For potential water contamination, have your well inspected by a reputable contractor or call your county extension to see if there’s a known leaching problem.

If you only smell sulfur when using hot water, follow these steps to drain and flush your water heater.

And if you suspect a medical condition, you should see your doctor. Pronto.

As for how to get the sulfur smell out of laundry, here is the easiest, cheapest way. It worked for me.

How to Remove Sulfur Smells from Clothes, Towels, and More

You will need:
Washing soda*
White vinegar
Your usual laundry detergent

*NOTE: Washing soda is not the same as baking soda. Be sure to look for the correct stuff.


1. Sort your sulfur-smelling laundry by color, then by the hottest temperature it can handle (i.e., you don’t want to wash a red t-shirt in the same load or at the same temperature as, say, white towels).

2. Fill your washing machine with the hottest water acceptable according to the clothing’s care instructions. Add 1 cup washing soda and 1/2 cup Borax. Do NOT add detergent at this time.

3. Add the items to the machine and set it to soak for 30 minutes then let the cycle continue through with the rinse, spin, etc.

4. Do not remove the items from the machine. Start a new cycle — again, at the hottest setting allowed by the clothing’s care label — and add your usual laundry detergent plus 1 cup of white vinegar.

5. Once the cycle has finished, remove the items and line dry them outside if possible. Air-drying allows the moisture to evaporate, and the sulfur smell goes along with it, rather than trapping it all in a machine dryer along with any lingering stink.

6. Give your washing machine a deep cleaning after you’ve washed everything, so the smell doesn’t transfer to other clothes.

Be Patient

I’m not going to lie: it took all weekend to wash and line dry my son’s stuff and get the sulfur smell out of laundry he’d come in contact with. But the smell is finally gone, and now he knows to use soft-textured disposable paper towels next time he applies that sulfur cream to treat acne. Not that he’ll need to do that soon — that stuff works wonders!

More How-Tos:

How to Clean a Keurig and Fix a Broken One
Homemade Bathroom Disinfectant
10 Essential Cleaning Tools Everyone Should Own

Pin How to Get Sulfur Smells out of Laundry

How to get rid of sulfur smells in the laundry

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  1. Darlene Keefer says:

    This was most informative. As a kid our water was like bad sulphur smell… we got used to it. Mother used borax all the time, now I understand why. Gr8 post, thx.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Yep, that’s probably why!

  2. Oh my God. Thank you SO much for this posting! So many of my son’s clothes stank of sulphur for the same reason — that acne medication. And washing them the ordinary way only served to contaminate many more items of family clothing! Your solution worked on the first try. I am going to try salvaging a large comforter next!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad to have helped!

  3. Thank you so much! We just came back from dermatologist with a new prescription to replace the sulphur wash. That stuff works but oh my goodness!!! The smell even stuck with him on days he didn’t use it and he ruined a ton of clothes. I am going to try and find Arm and Hammer super soap and tackle things this weekend. Can’t believe my news was so surprising to the dermo!!! Thks again!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I know what you mean about the smell sticking with them. We had to open windows one evening because the stink was so awful!

  4. Maureen Honecker says:

    Wow!!! I will try this. I had to throw out about $300 worth of bedding and clothes for my teen daughter. The dermatologist never mentioned this as an issue. It really is awful.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Isn’t it frustrating when they don’t mention things like that?

  5. Barbara Porter says:

    How would you do all that if you have a front end washing machine?

  6. Amanda Bailey says:

    What if line drying is not possible?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      As it says, line dry if possible. If you can’t, then run them through the dryer.

  7. I just started using sulfur ointment with no warning that it would stay in my towels and clothes. AND spread through the wash. I’m so happy I found this post! It saves my laundry. Thank you!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s an awful smell, isn’t it? I’m glad to have helped you get that sulfur stink out of your laundry! 🙂

  8. Does your method cause bleaching or any other damage to the laundry? Thank you

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Amanda,
      None of the ingredients in this method contain bleach. Washing soda is a sodium-based substance that binds with minerals like sulfur. That bond helps remove the smell from fabrics. Borax is also a sodium compound and is often used as an additive to help brighten colors. Still, it’s essential to follow directions exactly, including those on the garment’s label regarding washing instructions, water temperature, and drying. You should spot-test fabrics if you’re unsure, and take the item to a professional laundry or dry-cleaner if it has any significant emotional or financial value.

  9. Thank you SO much. It took me two weeks of constantly stinking towels to put two and two together. I have washed and washed and washed them and no matter what they still have a stench (honestly doesn’t even smell like the sulfur cream now- more like urine. ?) I had all but decided to throw out all of my towels when I came across your post. Just through them in the wash now with your ingredients and fingers crossed! I knew the cream stunk but never knew it would stick to laundry this way! Going to I tell my dermatologist to give her patients a heads up next time!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m happy to have helped, Michelle! And I agree, it seems like that smell is something dermatologists should warn people about.

  10. My pup had a skin condition that required a sulfur base ointment…he’s been off of this for weeks now….he sleeps in the living room. It’s been weeks and I have tried everything to remove the smell from my cloth sectional and everything that touches the sofa ?. This weekend I will have a professional cleaning service come and shampoo the sofas, but until then I will try this with laundry and The kiddos blanky. I am crossing my fingers. This has been very frustrating.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I hope your pup is doing better, and that you’ve tackled that sulfur smell in your laundry and furniture.

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