How Long Can Clothes Sit in the Washer?

How Long Can Clothes Sit in the Washer?

We've all been there – life gets busy, and sometimes, we forget about the load of laundry sitting in the washing machine.

But have you ever wondered how long clothes can sit in the washer before they start to smell or get damaged? In this guide, we'll look at the factors that determine how long you can safely leave your clothes in the washer and what steps you can take to maintain their freshness and quality.

Factors Affecting Clothes in the Washer

Type of Fabric

The type of fabric your clothes are made of plays a significant role in how they react to prolonged moisture. Delicate fabrics like silk or wool are more susceptible to damage and odors. Cotton and synthetic fabrics are generally more resilient.


The water temperature during the wash cycle also influences how long clothes can sit in the washer. Hot water can accelerate the growth of odor-causing bacteria, while cold water may slow it down. Warm water is often recommended for most loads.


The type and amount of detergent used in the wash can affect the cleanliness and freshness of your clothes. Insufficient detergent may leave behind dirt and odor, while excess detergent can contribute to a soapy residue that attracts odors.

The Safe Time Frame for Wet Clothes

Immediate Attention

The golden rule is to attend to your laundry promptly. Ideally, you should not leave wet clothes in the washer for more than 8-12 hours. After this timeframe, the risk of odors and mildew growth increases significantly.

Extending the Time Frame

In some cases, it may be possible to leave clothes for up to 24 hours in the washer without major issues, especially if the washer has a "soak" or "pre-soak" setting that prevents spinning and draining. However, this should be done sparingly.

Best Practices

To minimize potential damage or odor, aim to transfer wet clothes to the dryer as soon as possible after the wash cycle completes. If you can't do this immediately, consider rewashing.

Preventing Odor and Mildew

Use the Right Detergent

When it comes to detergent selection, it's important to opt for a high-quality product specially crafted to tackle stains and eliminate odors with precision. Consider using Tru Earth's laundry detergent – a reliable choice known for its effectiveness and eco-friendly credentials. Tru Earth offers detergent strips that are not only powerful but also environmentally conscious!

Properly Measure Detergent

Avoid overloading your washer with too many clothes, as this can hinder effective cleaning and rinsing, potentially leaving detergent residues that contribute to odor. Using too much detergent can also lead to problems, so carefully measure the recommended amount.

Regular Cleaning

Clean your washing machine regularly, including the detergent dispenser and rubber gasket. Mold and mildew can build up in these areas and transfer to your clothes. Run a cycle with hot water and white vinegar or a washing machine cleaner at least once a month to keep your machine fresh.

Dealing with Odor in Wet Clothes


If you discover that your clothes have an unpleasant odor after being left in the washer for an extended period, consider rewashing them with an odor-eliminating detergent or vinegar. Use the hottest water recommended for the fabric to help remove odors.

Vinegar Soak

For particularly stubborn odors, you can soak your clothes in a mixture of water and white vinegar (about 1 cup of vinegar for a large load) before rewashing. The acidity of vinegar can help break down odor-causing compounds.


Sunlight is a natural disinfectant and deodorizer. Hang your clothes outdoors in direct sunlight to help eliminate odors. This is especially effective for items like towels and bed linens.

Preventative Tips for Laundry Management

Create a Laundry Schedule

Establish a routine for doing laundry, so you're less likely to forget about wet clothes in the washer. Set specific days or times for laundry tasks to help stay organized.

Use Timers

Set alarms or timers on your phone to remind you when a load of laundry is done, especially if you tend to get busy with other tasks. Most modern washing machines also have built-in timers and alerts.


Use the time while your laundry is running to complete other household chores or tasks, so you're more likely to be available when the cycle finishes. This can help prevent delays in transferring wet clothes to the dryer.

Last Thoughts on Forgotten Laundry

So, how long can clothes sit in the washer? Ideally, it's best to transfer wet clothes to the dryer as soon as possible, aiming for a maximum of 8-12 hours to avoid odors and mildew. Factors like fabric type, water temperature, and detergent also play a role in how quickly odors can develop.

By following best practices, using Tru Earth’s laundry detergent, and establishing a laundry routine, you can ensure your clothes come out of the washer fresh and clean every time. And if you ever forget about a load, remember that there are steps you can take to save your clothes and eliminate unwanted odors.

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