How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?
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How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

How long can damp clothes stay in the washer before they begin to smell? Find out here!

We’ve all done it many times, and we’ll probably do it again: forgetting about wet clothes in the washer for hours (or more), or not having time to transfer the laundry to the dryer before running errands or leaving for work. But how detrimental is that behavior really?

The good news is that the answer is straightforward if you’re wondering how long to let wet clothes soak in the washer. Generally speaking, you should only leave wet clothing in the washer for a maximum of eight to twelve hours.

You can leave clothes in the washer for the amount of time listed here.

How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

Wet clothes can be left in the washer for approximately 8 to 12 hours, at which point they will begin to smell. This smell is caused by the development of bacteria and mildew, which easily grows in wet, humid environments.

You won’t experience any issues if your laundry was dry before you put it in the washer. But before the 12-hour mark, wet clothes ought to be taken out of the washer and either machine- or air-dried. Immediately after the wash cycle is finished, the clothes should be dried.

In order to prevent this, be sure to set an alarm or keep an eye out for when your washing machine has finished the spin cycle. This will allow you to dry the wet clothes as quickly as possible, either by using a machine or the air.

How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

Once your clothing starts to smell like mildew, you’ll need to wash it again to get rid of the stench. The smell cannot be eliminated by simply putting the smelly clothes in the dryer.

Related: How Long to Soak Clothes in Hydrogen Peroxide?

Can You Leave Your Clothes in the Washer Overnight?

While you shouldn’t leave your clothes for more than 12 hours in a washer, leaving your clothes in the washer overnight could be good, especially if you plan to air dry clothes on a clothesline. A clothesline helps maintain the quality of your clothes better than a dryer.

Further Reading:

As opposed to using a dryer, line drying preserves the integrity of the fibers in your delicate clothing. This is so that the clothes’ fibers don’t get damaged during the tumbling dryer’s juggling act as they rub up against each other and the machine’s drum.

Effects of Leaving Clothes to Sit Too Long in the Washer

Here are some effects of leaving your clothes to sit long in the washer.

Mildew on Clothes

If you’ve ever overfilled your washer with laundry, you know that it eventually starts to smell bad. As was mentioned earlier, bacteria and mildew growth are to blame for this offensive odor. Your clothes become less fresh and emit foul odors the longer they are in the washer.

What Is Mildew? Mildew is a thin layer of black, grey, or sporadically yellowish growth on wet clothing, furniture, and occasionally walls. Most often found on cotton, linen, and silk-based textiles, mildew thrives in humid environments.

It is a small category of fungi; hence the accumulation produces a musty smell or a color change. Powdery or downy are both possible.

Further Reading: When to Add Fabric Softener to Your Laundry?

In addition to leaving your clothes smelling bad, mildew can produce spores that can seriously harm the fabrics of your clothing. A humid environment, moisture, darkness, and a food source are typically requirements for mildew to flourish.

How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

Health Issues

Your clothes and health are both harmed by mildew. It has been established in some circumstances that breathing in mildew can make one sick. People who already have respiratory issues like asthma are more prone to getting sick from mildew exposure.

Some individuals are more severely allergic to mildew. Additionally, mildew exposure can irritate your skin, throat, lungs, and eyes.

Washer Mildew

Mildew on clothes left in the washer for too long can ruin your clothes, leave an odor that won’t go away until you rewash them, and even severely damage your washing area, including your dryer.

It is only natural that mildew would grow in the washer due to moisture since mildew requires moisture to grow. Washer mildew is a common name for this mold.’ When you put other mildew-free clothes in the washer, it spreads to them as well as living in your washer.

Your clothes will smell worse after it has been removed from the washer because it produces an unpleasant odor.

Signs Your Clothes Were Left in the Washer for Too Long

Consider giving your wet laundry a sniff if you’re not sure if it’s been sitting too long. One way you can kind of tell is if it smells all right. It smells awful when mold and bacteria begin to grow on damp clothing and surfaces.

The entire load needs to be rewashed even if only one item in the pile smells. In light of this, it’s crucial to use a laundry detergent that is unscented and chemically gentle. You’ll be able to smell if your clothing needs additional care or hasn’t been properly washed by doing this.

How Do You Get Rid of the Smell of Clothes That Sat in the Washer for Too Long?

If wet clothes you left in the washer the previous night already smell bad, it is best to wash them again. Try not to dry them. The odors in your clothes will only remain there after doing this. Here are some more suggestions to help you get rid of the musty smell from clothes that have been sitting in your washer for a long time.

How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

Air-dry Your Clothes

If you accidentally left clothes in the washer overnight and are concerned about odors, you can opt to let them air dry. You can eliminate any odors that might be contaminating your laundry by air drying your clothes. Mild musty odors on wet laundry left in the washer can typically be eliminated by a gentle breeze.

Run Another Wash Cycle Using Baking Soda

The benefits of baking soda extend beyond baking. It works well in the laundry room and is a necessity. Musty odors from mildew can be removed by using baking soda in the wash. This common pantry item is a mildew-killing, all-natural deodorizer.

Wet clothes left in the washing machine can be deodorized with a cup of baking soda. Don’t forget to wash your clothes in the hottest water temperature possible. The germs still present in your laundry can be killed by hot water.

Kill Mildew Using Vinegar

Another safe and effective deodorizer is white vinegar. This common household item is a disinfectant that battles bacteria that cause strong odors in those environments. Wet laundry left in the washer can smell new again by washing it with vinegar.

Put a cup of vinegar in the bare tub to use on musty laundry. The clothes can then be placed in the washer and put through a regular cycle. Make sure to wash the clothes in hot water to completely disinfect them.

Clean Your Washing Machine Regularly

Even if you did not leave wet clothes in the washer, sometimes freshly laundered clothes can still have a musty smell. This time, the problem might be your filthy washing machine. On occasion, unclean washing machines begin to grow mildew.

On moist surfaces, bacteria, and mildew flourish. In light of this, it is best to leave the washing machine door open after use.

How to Prevent Your Laundry from Smelling Bad?

How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

Even before you start washing, putting wet clothes at the bottom of the hamper can give off an unpleasant odor.

Hang Wet Clothes before Washing

To prevent the other items in your laundry basket from growing mold or smelling bad, hang wet or damp items, like gym clothes, somewhere while they are waiting to be washed.

Wet or damp items can be hung on a hanging rack until you’re ready to start a load of laundry or you can hang wet or damp items over the side of the laundry basket to let them air out. As a result, your clothes won’t mildew while being washed.

Avoid Overpacking Your Washer

Avoid overpacking it to the top as another easy preventative measure to prevent your clothes from becoming smelly in the wash. Some of your clothes won’t feel as clean as others because a full machine won’t allow them to spin, move around, and be penetrated by the detergent.

How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

To ensure there is enough room for them to be thoroughly cleaned, especially if they will be sitting in the wash for a while after the cycle is finished, wash a full set of sheets on their own and your week’s worth of workout clothes separately from your partner’s or roommate’s.

Clean Your Washing Machine

Furthermore, according to Murphy, a lot of people are unaware that mold and mildew can be prevented or removed by regularly cleaning their washing machines. It is necessary to clean your washing machine if it begins to smell on its own. Avoid leaving clothes or other items in the washing machine overnight because front-loaders are particularly susceptible to mold growth, especially in the rubber.

This is due to the machine’s inability to breathe due to an extended period of moisture buildup when you leave laundry in the washer for longer than 8 to 12 hours.

If you frequently leave laundry overnight, you may want to check your rubber liner for mold as well as the drain where the water comes out for built-up lint. This prevents the machine from having time to dry out between loads. She also suggests leaving the door of your washing machine open at night to hasten the drying process.

Conclusion: How Long Can You Leave Clothes in the Washer?

For 8 to 12 hours in the washer, before they start to smell, clothes can be left in there. Wet clothing that has been in the washer for 12 hours or longer will begin to grow bacteria and mildew, which has an unpleasant odor.

Therefore, to avoid having to redo your entire load of laundry, it might be preferable to set a timer and make sure to move your clothes to the dryer within the first few hours if you dread laundry day and want to lessen your workload.


How Long Does It Take for Mold to Grow on Wet Clothes?

Mildew and mold will develop within 24-48 hours of water exposure. Even worse, unless action is taken to stop the moisture source and effectively address the mold issue, it will keep spreading.

Why Do My Clothes Smell After Leaving in the Washer?

You left your clothes in the washer too long. The ideal environment for the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew is a damp, dark place like a washing machine. Over time, these can accumulate in your clothing, giving them a persistent odor.

What Happens If You Leave Wet Clothes in Wash?

If wet clothes are left in the washer for an extended period of time, bacteria and even mold can grow and produce foul-smelling clothing.

Can You Leave Wet Clothes in the Washer for 2 Days?

Bacteria can start to grow if wet clothes are left in the washer for more than 12 hours; this can result in mildew or mold. If this happens, you’ll need to rewash your clothes using a new wash cycle.

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