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Here’s How Long Clothes Can Stay in the Machine Before Rewashing

Modern washing machine full of a white load with baskets and plants nearby.
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Oh no! You left your clothes in the washing machine for too long, and now they have a musty smell. That’s a relatable issue most of us have experienced at one time or another. While it’s okay sometimes, leaving clothes in the machine for too long will definitely necessitate a rewash.

So how long can clothes stay in the machine before rewashing? The magic number is somewhere between eight and 12 hours.

The (icky) truth is that washing machines are dark, damp, and warm—which is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to grow. Leaving your clothes in the machine for up to 12 hours is fine, but anything past that is a recipe for stinky garments.

In fact, bacteria, mildew, and even visible mold can grow on clothes in as little as 24 to 48 hours. When unwashed, they create that distinctive stinky smell we all recognize.

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For those garments that just need a little extra care.

If you’re uncertain that your clothes have sat for too long in the machine, the best way to tell is with your nose. Once that musty odor sets in—which can be as little as 8 hours—it’s not likely to go away in the dryer.

Simply rewashing the clothes with laundry detergent and hot water will do the trick. It’s also helpful to rearrange the clothes in the machine so that they get a thorough washing and don’t stick together.

We know nobody wants to spend longer than they have to on laundry day. Setting a timer or reminding yourself with a sticky note may be your answer to rotating the laundry at a decent time, keeping you and your clothing smelling fresh.

Lindsay Ray Lindsay Ray
Lindsay is a lifestyle and beauty writer currently living in Arizona. She has several years of experience as a freelance writer and reporter, with a specialized interest in the beauty and lifestyle space. From beauty hacks to DIY home décor and everything in between -- Lindsay has a passion for crafting stories that entertain, educate, and inspire. Her writing has appeared in Thought Catalog, The List, Drink Me Magazine, the Auburn Examiner, and Litro Magazine in the United Kingdom. Read Full Bio »
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