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Can You Leave Wet Laundry In The Wash Overnight?

It’s the middle of the night and you’re fast asleep. Suddenly, you hear a loud noise coming from your laundry room.

You rush to investigate, and find that your clothes are overflowing out of the washing machine! This may seem like a scene from a horror movie, but it can easily become reality if you leave your laundry in the washer for too long.

In this blog post, we will discuss 10 catastrophes that can happen if you leave laundry in the washer overnight. By knowing what to avoid, you can prevent these disasters from happening and keep your clothes (and sanity) intact!

Can You Leave Wet Laundry In The Wash Overnight?

can you leave laundry in the washer overnight

The short answer is, no. Leaving laundry in the washer overnight can result in several disasters, including:

1. Mold and Mildew Growth: leaving wet clothes in the washing machine for too long can create an ideal environment for mold and mildew growth, which can be extremely hard to get rid of.

2. Color Bleeding: leaving wet clothes in the washer can cause colors to bleed, leaving your favorite shirt with a blotchy stain or streaks of pink and blue.

3. Clothes Hardening: leaving clothes in the washer too long can cause them to become hardened and stiff due to soap build-up and other residues.

4. Bad Smells: leaving damp clothes in a warm environment can create an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, resulting in bad odors and musty smells that are hard to get rid of.

5. Staining: leaving wet clothes in the washer too long can cause them to stain, making it impossible to remove the stain without damaging the fabric.

6. Nutrient Loss: leaving wet clothes in the washer for too long can cause nutrients like iron and magnesium to be lost, leaving them dull and lifeless.

7. Fabric Deterioration: leaving wet clothes in the washer too long can cause fabrics to break down over time, leading to thinning and weakening of the fabric.

8. Electrolysis: leaving wet clothes in the washer for too long can cause a build-up of electrolytes that can damage or short-circuit electronic components within the machine.

9. Fire Hazard: leaving wet clothes in the washer for too long can create a fire hazard due to the build-up of heat from the motor and drum.

The first eight to 12 hours after is crucial for bacteria and mildew. According to the Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science, they can thrive beyond this period.

A closed washing machine filled with wet clothes is a perfect breeding ground for mildew and bacteria.

But according to Martha Stewart, expert cleaning and domestic lifestyle guru,  while leaving wet clothes in the washer every once in a while isn’t likely to cause any harm, it’s always best to try and solve the issue right away if you can.

What To Do If You Left Your Laundry In The Washer Overnight?

If you left your laundry in the washer overnight, there are a few things you can do:

1. Check for Mold and Mildew: if you suspect that mold or mildew has grown on your clothes, remove them from the washer immediately and place them outdoors in direct sunlight to dry.

2. Remove Stains Immediately: if you find any stains on your clothes, use a stain remover as soon as possible to reduce the chance of permanent staining.

3. Rinse Clothes Again: give your clothes another rinse in the washer to help reduce the amount of soap and residue build-up.

4. Dry Clothes Thoroughly: make sure to dry your clothes completely to prevent the growth of bacteria and other bad odors.

How to Remove the Wet Clother Odor?

We all know the musty odor that lingers even after you’ve dried and put away your forgotten laundry. So, how do you get rid of this smell?

1. Check For Mold or Mildew

The first step is to check if there is any mold or mildew growth on your clothes. If there is visible mold or mildew, then it may be best to discard those items as they can be hard to get rid of entirely.

2. Use Vinegar To Remove The Smell

If you don’t have any visible mold or mildew, then vinegar can help remove that lingering odor from your clothes.

Fill a bucket with 2 quarts of hot water and 1 cup of white vinegar, submerge your clothes in the mixture for an hour and then rinse them off with cold water.

This method should help to remove most odors from your clothes.

3. Use Baking Soda To Remove Odors

If you still have a lingering odor after using vinegar, baking soda is another great option for getting rid of it.

Sprinkle some baking soda onto damp clothing (after rinsing with cold water) and let sit for 30 minutes before washing as normal in hot water with detergent and fabric softener (if desired).

Baking soda is great at absorbing odors so this should help get rid of any remaining smells from sitting too long in the washer!

4. Use Essential Oils To Freshen Up Your Clothes

Essential oils can be a great way to add a pleasant scent to your clothes after washing them and help eliminate any lingering odors from leaving laundry in the washer overnight. Simply add 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil to a cup of baking soda

How Long Can You Leave Clothes In The Washer?

The general rule of thumb is not to leave your clothes in the washer for more than 8 hours. However, this can vary depending on the type of laundry you are washing and the temperature at which it is being washed.

Should You Rewash Clothes If You Left Them In The Washer Overnight?

It’s always best to give your clothes a quick rinse if you left them in the washer overnight. This will help reduce any soap residue and odors as well as remove any bacteria or mold that may have begun to grow. It’s also important to thoroughly dry your clothes afterwards to prevent further bacterial growth.


Nobody wants to put on stinky clothes! Thankfully, if you ever find yourself dealing with musty-smelling clothing that has sat in the washer too long, there are a few simple steps that can help you get rid of the odor quickly and easily.

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