How to Keep Your Laundry from Smelling Like Vomit

My son is a puker. I've had a lot of stinky loads of laundry and a lot of stinky dry clothes. Find out how to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit. 
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My son is a puker. I’ve mentioned it before that he has a super sensitive gag reflex and every cold (think phlegm) brings on the vomiting. During the more than two years of my son’s life, I’ve had a lot of stinky loads of laundry and a lot of stinky dry clothes. If you are a parent, read along to find out how to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit. 

The Short List for How to Keep Your Laundry from Smelling Like Vomit:

  1. Don’t get sick.
  2. Don’t have kids.
  3. Don’t have guests over. 

My son is a puker. I've had a lot of stinky loads of laundry and a lot of stinky dry clothes. Find out how to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit. 

Ok. Now that we got that out of the way, lets move on to some more practical tips to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit. 

Most of the time, my son vomits in my arms so my clothes catch the majority of it. He gets some on himself, too, but not usually as bad as me. Usually I can contort and stretch my clothing enough to peel it off without gagging myself. 

Usually. 

Last week, I was wearing a freebie t-shirt so I just took the scissors and cut it from neck to waist. But if you don’t have the luxury of throwing away items that just got puked on, hang in there. I’ll be sharing some of my tips to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit. 

How to Keep Your Laundry from Smelling Like Vomit

1. Wash off the chunks

If at all possible, before the vomit dries on the garments and sheets, wash it off. If you have a sink with a garbage disposal, wash it in there. Otherwise, wash in the sink or tub and let generous amounts of warm or cool (hot water could bake the food residue and cause problems) water run down the drain after it. 

For smaller clothing items you could rinse them in the toilet if you are worried about your plumbing. 

If you have an outdoor spigot, wash everything outside. No worries about plugging anything up. Better yet, grab a hose with a spray nozzle

and blast away the vomit. 

This first step is important because a washer (unless you have a ringer washer) isn’t great at moving chunks of dirt away from the laundry. It just washes everything and then spins it right back into place causing more of a mess than when you began. 

2. Let it soak

After you’re done washing off all the chunks, let the laundry sit in one big heap in your sink or tub: wet. Or in a dish pan or empty trash can. 

If you yourself are not sick, go ahead and pour some washing soda in with the wet clothes, add some more clean water and swish it around for a little pre-soak. 

Otherwise, just go lay down for a bit and rest. 

 

3. Pre-wash

Most washers have the option of a pre-wash. I have a front loader. I push the button for my normal wash and then push an extra button for pre-wash. Search this manuals data base to find your washer. 

4. Detergent

I don’t use special detergent to my laundry from smelling like vomit. I’ve tried the most expensive and the cheapest; the most scented and the fragrance free. Nothing makes a difference. 

So I just use my homemade soap

If you want the best detergent, scour this chart from Fluff Love University for detergents that contain enzymes. They may be pricier, but the enzymes will help remove the odor. 

5. Vinegar

I normally use white vinegar as my fabric softener so this is nothing different for me. All you have to do is pour white vinegar in the softener slot in your washer. This will work as a great rinse aid and if you added baking soda in the previous step, what is left after the detergent wash will be activated and lifted by the vinegar. 

6. Hydrogen peroxide

In the bleach compartment of your washing machine, add hydrogen peroxide. Just the regular strength stuff you use in first aid. 

7. Wash on warm

In the past, I haven’t noticed a difference in results washing in hot versus warm. I prefer warm because the heat of the water doesn’t bake on any vomit chunks that got missed in the initial washing off step. 

8. Heavy Soil

If your machine has the option, select the heavy soil setting. This will allow more water to fill the drum while washing. Again, check this manuals data base to find out which setting on your machine will allow it to fill with extra water. 

9. Line Dry

The first option to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit is to hang it to dry outside in the sunshine. The sun has amazing ability to remove stains and smells. It’s that powerful!

Read More: My Natural and Affordable Laundry Routine

10. Essential Oils 

If line drying is not an option, use the dryer. As you may know from some of my other articles, I don’t use dryer sheets because of the artificial fragrances.  

Side note: one time I was lazy and threw a Bounce dryer sheet in my vomit laundry to dry thinking it would really take out the smell. Sure, when I folded the laundry it smelled good. A week later when I pulled my son’s pajamas out of his drawer, the vomit smell was so strong I threw them right back in the dirty laundry! 

I always keep wool dryer balls in my dryer in place of dryer sheets. If I want my laundry to be scented, I put a drop or two of an essential oil on a ball. 

In the case of vomit laundry, I use Young Living’s Purification. It is the perfect blend of citronella, lavandin, lemongrass, rosemary, myrtle, and tea tree for eliminating odors. Now, don’t get scared off because you don’t like the smell of one of these oils. (I have a hard time with tea tree.) This blend smells wonderful and truly eliminates odors rather than just covering them up. 

I put a drop of Purification on each of my dryer balls and dry the load of vomit laundry. The clothes come out smelling wonderful! After a week of sitting in the dresser drawer, the clothes smell neutral: no vomit, no oily scent. 

But you can always use straight up lemon or some other oil if you don’t have Purification on hand. Most (pure) essential oils have some properties that kill bacteria.  


I see on Instagram how some people just throw everything out if it gets puked on, but I don’t have that luxury. 

If you don’t have that luxury either, try this method for how to keep your laundry from smelling like vomit and let me know how it goes!

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