Is Leaving Clothes In The Washer Overnight OK?

Should You Leave Wet Clothes in the Washer Overnight?

should you leave wet clothes in the washer overnight

You should avoid leaving your wet clothing in the washer overnight as much as possible.

There are ways to salvage your laundry if you find they have that musty odor, but for the health of yourself and the longevity of your clothing, try not to leave damp clothes in the washer overnight.

A few hours usually won’t hurt anything but the problem is that it’s so darn easy to forget they’re still there! Once enough time has passed you’re stuck with a stinky, uncomfortable odor.

How Long Can You Leave Wet Clothes in the Washing Machine?

Leaving your clothes in the washing machine for longer than eight or so hours overnight is an invitation for mold, mildew, and smelly clothes.

Leaving them in the machine overnight is okay in some cases, but for the most part, try to move them to the dryer within a few hours.

Why Do Clothes Smell if Left in the Washing Machine Too Long?

why do clothes smell if left in the washing machine too long

Clothes start to get that mildew smell after sitting in a damp environment because mold begins to grow on the clothes.

This is especially problematic because not only will you need to rewash the load, likely with an agent like white vinegar to get rid of the smell, but you also might be exposing yourself to mold. Mold can cause allergies and other reactions likely to adversely affect your health.

If you do rewash the load, consider adding a fabric softener to help make the clothes feel better and to add a scent to the clothing.

What to Do if You Left Wet Laundry Too Long Without Drying

what to do if you left wet laundry too long without drying

If you have left your wet laundry too long without drying, there are a few ways to salvage the load:

  • First, smell the clothes to see if there is a musty odor. If so, you may be at risk for mildew on your clothing.
  • In this case, wash them again in hot water with white vinegar. You can also use bleach for light-colored clothing.
  • If there’s not a noticeable smell, you might be okay to throw them in the dryer right away without any issues. Using a non-scented laundry detergent is important here because if you use a scented one you may not be able to smell the musty odor.

How Long Does It Take for Mold to Grow on Wet Clothes?

how long does it take for mold to grow on wet clothes

It takes about 24-48 hours for mold to start growing on a wet surface. This means that leaving your clothes overnight will likely not result in mold growing on your clothing.

How Long Do Clothes Take to Air Dry?

how long do clothes take to air dry

Because clothing is made of different types of fabric, there is no general rule about how long they take to air dry. Thicker material takes longer to air dry than thinner material.

However, in my experience,  in sufficiently dry air:

  • Thicker fabrics like in socks, jeans or pants, and sweaters etc. can take about 24 hours to 1.5 days to dry indoors.
  • Clothing drying outside on the clothesline is often about the same or 10-18 hours in good weather.
  • Thinner material can sometimes be dry by the next morning if you hang them out or use a drying rack.

If you leave your clothes in the washer for multiple days at a time they’ll end up drying quite a bit. However, there will likely be a smell and mold spots even if you open the washer after a while and find dry clothes.

If you would like to air dry your clothes, be sure to take them out of the washer in the same timely manner as if you were going to use a tumble dryer. Then hang them to dry.

Does a Fan Dry Clothes Faster?

Yes, a fan can help speed up drying clothes if used properly.

If you hang your clothes out to dry and turn a fan on, the air will likely help the clothes dry faster. This is why people often hang their clothes outside to air dry so the temperature, wind, and lower humidity will help carry away moisture.

James Marshall
About the author

James is a business management professional and consultant with a former background in maintenance, repair, and hands-on projects. He enjoys DIY tasks and maintenance around the home as well as part-time writing. Read more »