5 Ways to Get Fish Smell Out of Clothes

Fish smell is utterly dreadful, but it is unavoidable for many in the fishing industry. Fish smell lingers on clothes for extended periods, and no amount of detergent can seem to remove it.

Luckily some easy techniques can effectively remove fish smell from clothes, and other precautions can prevent further incidence.

5 Ways to Get Fish Smell Out of Clothes

Your first step after getting fish smell on your clothes is to place them in the washer and run a hot wash cycle. The hot wash cycle should be enough, but if not, there are easy tips you can apply.

Utilize Direct Sunlight

The sun is a powerful light, heat, and life source. It is also a bleaching and deodorizing agent.

Since the beginning of time, people have hung their clothes outside to freshen them, and the practice continues today because it is effective.

Spread your clothes outside on a clothesline, preferably when the sun is brightest. Even at night time or when the sun’s rays are not as harsh, the clothes will benefit from receiving a constant breeze.

You can spread your clothes after washing them or before washing. It will help minimize the musky smell, making it easier to treat the clothes further.

An alternative is hanging your clothes on a dryer rack in a room inside your house. This room should have access to direct sunlight from the window so you can place the drying rack there.

Another advantage of utilizing direct sunlight for your clothes is that it will kill the germs and eliminate stains from the clothes.

Soak the Clothes in Baking Soda

Baking soda is not just a cooking ingredient; it’s also a cleaning agent, a stain remover, and a deodorizer. It works by absorbing dirt, stains, and smells, making it easily removable upon rinsing.

Many DIY laundry solutions have baking soda in their formulas, making it a staple in many homes.

Method 1:

  • Spread the smelly clothes on a flat surface.
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on the clothes.
  • Leave the treatment on the clothes for an hour or more.
  • Afterward, the smell should be gone. If it isn’t, repeat the process.
  • Transfer the clothes to the washer and run a hot wash cycle.

Method 2:

  • Pour baking soda into a plastic bag.
  • Place your smelly clothes inside the bag as well.
  • Shake the bag vigorously till the baking soda coats the clothes completely.
  • Leave the clothes in the bag for more or more.
  • When you remove the clothes, the smell should be gone. If it isn’t, repeat the process.
  • Transfer the clothes to the washer and run a hot wash cycle.

Wash with Vinegar

Vinegar is another multi-functional household staple similar to baking soda. It is another item capable of removing the musty smell of fish from your precious clothes.

Some might think that swapping white vinegar for another kind of vinegar is possible; they would be wrong. Fruity vinegar contains coloring that can transfer to your clothes, staining them instead of removing stains.

Method 1:

  • Fill a bowl, bucket, or bathtub with warm water.
  • Pour one cup of white vinegar into the water and mix.
  • Submerge your smelly clothes in the vinegar water.
  • Let the clothes soak in the vinegar wash for an hour.
  • Rinse the clothes with cold water.
  • Wash the clothes with warm water in the washer and pour ½ cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle.
  • Air-dry your clothes.

Method 2:

  • Pour one cup of white vinegar into a spray bottle.
  • Fill the rest of the bottle with water and shake well till it combines.
  • Spread the smelly clothes on a flat surface.
  • Spray the vinegar water over the clothes and leave the treatment for an hour.
  • Rinse the clothes with cold water.
  • Wash the clothes with warm water in the washer and pour ½ cup of white vinegar during the rinse cycle.
  • Air-dry your clothes.

Detergent and Lemon Juice

Lemon can kill odor-producing bacteria that naturally live on clothes. The great thing about lemon is that it freshens and brightens your clothes while deodorizing.

There is conflicting information about the reaction lemon has on colored clothing, so perform a patch test on your clothes and draw your conclusions.

Mixing lemon juice with detergent will create a powerful cleaning and deodorizing agent that will make fish smells on your clothes a thing of the past.

Method 1:

  • Pour a cup of lemon juice and a cup of liquid detergent into a spray bottle.
  • Add a little water into the mix and shake it till it combines.
  • Spray the mixture on the smelled clothes, especially in problem areas like the armpit region.
  • Leave the clothes alone for 40 minutes before transferring them to the washer.

Method 2:

  • Fill up a bowl with water and pour detergent and lemon juice inside.
  • Submerge the clothes into the mixture and let them soak for two hours.
  • Transfer the clothes to the washer.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is well-known for its medical uses in treating wounds. However, Hydrogen peroxide can also remove odors from clothes.

The mechanism behind hydrogen peroxide is that it breaks down into water and oxygen when in use. This reaction is useful for cleaning, bleaching, and killing bacteria, like the odor-producing bacteria found in smelly clothes.

In high doses, hydrogen peroxide can be harmful, but no worries because the generic ones sold over the counter contain a 3% active agent.

Because of the bleaching effect, hydrogen peroxide is only suitable for white or light-colored clothes.


  • Fill up a bowl or bucket with cold water and pour one cup of hydrogen peroxide inside.
  • Pour in laundry detergent, although this step is optional.
  • Submerge the musty clothes into the water mixture and let them soak for 15 minutes.
  • Rinse the clothes under cold running water.
  • Check the clothes for the musty smells and re-soak if possible.
  • Transfer the clothes to the washer and follow the clothes care label instructions for a proper wash cycle.
  • Pour a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the washer for better results.

How to Keep Your Clothes Smelling Fresh

It’s always better to take preventative measures to avoid terrible fish smells on clothes.

  1. Use a Work Uniform

If you are in the fishing trade or you fish as a hobby, it will be advisable to earmark certain clothes as ‘work clothes and keep them separate from the rest of your clothing.

Having work clothes will prevent the spread of fish smell to your other clothes.

  1. Use an Adequate Detergent

Get a suitable detergent that can effortlessly remove fish smells from your clothes.

Enzyme detergents are some of the best for this purpose because they target specific protein stains and smell like fish smells or bodily fluids.

Read the instructions on the directions label to know the correct amount of detergent for the wash cycle to avoid overdosing.

  1. Air your Clothes Regularly

As stated earlier, sun and fresh air will work wonders for the smell of your clothes. Make it a daily habit to spread your clothes on a drying rack or clothesline to remove the musty smells before it becomes unbearable and irremovable.

  1. Clean your Washer Regularly

Washing machines can develop debris residue and musty smells without proper care. If the fish smells linger in the washer, they can transfer to other clothes on subsequent washings.

Clean your washer regularly with the proper materials to avoid this problem.

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