The 3 Best Laundry Detergents For Odors

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Smells happen. Whether you're busy hitting the gym or cooking up a storm — or your pets just have an agenda all their own — fighting off those unsavory scents is right up there with getting rid of stains when it comes to what makes for a great laundry detergent. To choose the best laundry detergent for odor that fits your needs, it's important to first figure out if you're dealing with occasional or ongoing odors.

If you or your family members are regularly working up a sweat, look for a detergent targeting body oils and bacteria.

However, if your odors are more occasional in nature, like accidentally leaving sheets in a damp corner or a yearly bonfire, consider an odor-fighting detergent booster instead. That way, you'll keep all the things you know and love about your detergent now, while adding smell-busting power just when you need it.

In the quest for odor-free clothes, don't neglect your washer, either. A regular appliance clean, not overloading it, and using the right amount of detergent are essential. While it's easy to equate more detergent with cleaner clothes, that extra soap could even create odors with the unrinsed residue it might leave, according to detergent manufacturer Persil.

Whether your laundry smells because of pets, mildew, perspiration, or smoke, targeted removal is the key when it comes to tough odors. Let these picks for the best detergents and laundry boosters to fight odor help guide you through combating those common and not-so-common smells.

1. The Best Overall Laundry Detergent For Odors

Tide's products consistently land at the top of Consumer Reports’s lists for good reason. This bottle promises to have more odor fighters and offer a deeper clean than Tide Original, making it a great choice for all kinds of clothes and linens, not just sweaty ones.

Being effective and reasonably priced, especially this pack of two for Amazon Prime members using high-efficiency washers, make this the top pick overall. However, while the Febreze scent is subtle, this might not be the go-to choice for those averse to all fragrances.

Reviewers say: "I work outdoors and sweat a lot. This is the best detergent I've used to remove odors and stains." And: "Food stains, pet stains, and odors are gone! I washed my dog's blankets she sleeps on, and they smelled clean and fresh. Absolutely no lingering pet smell! Love it."

2. The Best Detergent For Workout Clothes

The very sweat-wicking and keep-dry technologies that make for great workout gear can also make it more difficult to clean the fibers holding onto oils and bacteria. That's where Win's Sports edition comes in.

Specially formulated to tackle technical and synthetic fibers with ease, this bottle promises to keep your leggings bouncing back and smelling fresh for your next run by using ingredients that dissolve oil from the fabric. Designed for both standard and HE washers, it's a great choice to protect those often very expensive workout clothes.

Reviewers say: "I have tried all the tricks to get rid of the funky odor: soaking in vinegar, washing with vinegar and baking soda, drying in the sun... I've thrown away clothes. No more! I washed everything in this detergent, workout type clothes, jeans, cotton shirts, microfiber sheets, you name it, everything looks and smells great!"

3. The Best For Sensitive Skin

Designed for the extra grime, odor, and bacteria that comes with sweat, this detergent promises to pull out smells while preserving the breathability of activewear. But what makes this a great choice for sensitive skin types and families with children is that it's also fragrance-free, biodegradable, and has no dyes, cutting down on the chances of irritation dramatically.

Formulated without phosphates and phthalates, this highly concentrated detergent even says it’ll extend the life of your clothes, but let's face it, it's not cheap.

Reviewers say: "I use this for all my cycling and workout clothes, and it's the best product I've been able to find for that... Gets everything clean and odor-free despite using all cold water. Also, colors stay bright, fabrics don't wear out as quickly, plus a little goes a long way."

4. Also Great: The Best Detergent Booster For Germs

When it’s pivotal that you not only get the smell out but also the bacteria, too, Lysol has the answer. The brand’s Laundry Sanitizer touts that it can get rid of 99.9 percent of bacteria — including those causing odors.

Since the formula has no bleach, it’s gentle enough for most fabrics and colors. However, this might not be the choice for sensitive skin types as a few Amazon reviewers reported having a negative reaction. Another con is the effort involved: In order to achieve the best results, you have to pause the washer during the rinse cycle, add it in, and let it soak for 16 minutes. For most of the thousand-plus reviewers giving it an overall rating of 4.7, it was a small price to pay for the reassurance that your laundry will be really, really clean.

Reviewers say: "Works wonders on my son's offensively smelly socks and workout clothes. In the past, I've had to soak the socks and clothes in white vinegar to get rid of the smell but this does the trick. I feel like it's getting rid of the smell instead of just masking it."

5. Also Great: The Best Detergent Booster For Pets — And Beyond

Originally formulated for animal messes, this bio-enzymatic formula is a tough odor fighter way beyond the pet bed (though it’s great for that, too). Suitable for both traditional and HE washers, Amazon reviewers report that it also works on sweat, mildew, vomit, grease, and more, making it a versatile choice for all sorts of smells.

It’s also generally safe for carpets, cloth furniture, and pretreating, but the makers recommend testing in a small, hard-to-see area first. While it has a 4.3 rating on Amazon, some customers noted that it wasn't as effective on cat urine as they'd hoped.

Reviewers say: "I keep self-warming mats outside for stray cats, who absolutely demolish anything in their path and then pee on it all. A 1/4 cup of this in my front-loader HE washer and they come out of the wash smelling like absolutely nothing. I use a few tablespoons in the laundry when I'm washing workout clothes or on musty towels that I've forgotten to take out of the washer... It really does the trick."

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