Skip to Content

Why Does My Quilt Smell? (Causes and Solutions!)

Please share!

*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclaimer for additional details..

Sometimes, even quilts that do not seem dirty may become smelly. This might get you wondering, “why does my quilt smell?”

Of course, if the quilt were just dirty, answering the question would be easier. But since it isn’t, the smell may be confusing. Thankfully, your confusion ends here.

Why does my quilt smell?

Your quilt may smell for various reasons. The most obvious one would be that the quilt is dirty. But if the quilt does not seem dirty, it may smell because it has become home to microorganisms. Your quilt may also smell if the various perfumes and chemicals used in producing it combine.

Below, we discuss the causes of a smelly quilt further. We also talk about how to remove smell from quilts. So, read to the end and learn new solutions to your smelly quilt problem.

quilt with colorful patchwork

Why Does My Quilt Smell?


The Quilt Has Microbial Contamination

One reason why your quilt may seem clean but still smell is microbial contamination. Quilt fabrics are typically thicker than regular materials, making them a thriving environment for germs, bacteria, mold, and other microorganisms.

Once bacteria, germs, or any other microbe finds home in your quilt, they can release malodorous substances from their metabolic processes. Once they release those substances, the odor will taint your quilt, making it smell.

The Quilt Is Damp

Like any fabric, if a quilt is damp, it will become a breeding ground for mildew and bacteria. And as we mentioned earlier, if microorganisms contaminate your quilt, it will start smelling as the microorganisms produce volatile substances.

The Dyes and Fragrances Used in Production or Cleaning

The smell from chemicals and dyes and the fragrances from detergents and other cleansers may also make your quilt smelly.

When the smell and the fragrances combine, they can form an unpleasant odor.

closed up patchwork

The Quilt Has Been in a Place With Limited Airflow

Any space with limited airflow will have issues with dampness. When air does not circulate well enough, there will be condensation. With condensation comes moisture build-up and subsequent dampness.

The Quilt Is Dirty

Well, this is the most obvious reason why your quilt might be smelling. If filth stains your quilt, no matter how little, it may smell.

So, if the quilt appears to be clean but still smells, examine it thoroughly to be sure there isn’t some filth on/in it.


There are washing and non-washing solutions for removing smell from your quilt. We discuss both types of solutions below.

woman buying fabric conditioner

How to Wash Smell Out of Your Quilt

Wash and Dry the Quilt With a Machine on Gentle Cycle

If the quilt is not fragile, you may get the smell out by washing it in a machine on gentle cycle. Use a mild detergent – one safe for delicate fabrics. Then dry the quilt on low heat.

Wash the Quilt With Vinegar or Baking Soda

You can add half a cup of baking soda or vinegar to the water you use to wash the quilt. The vinegar or baking soda will kill odors and may help kill microorganisms in the quilt.

Wash the Quilt With Febreze

You can add Febreze to your regular laundry soap and wash the quilt with the mixture. You can machine-wash the quilt on gentle cycle with this mixture. Then dry on low heat.

Some manufacturers now produce formulations that combine laundry soap and odor-eliminating substances like Febreze. So, you can get one of those brands to wash your quilt.

 blanket or linen is pulled out of the dryer or washing machine

How to Get Smell Out of Your Quilt Without Washing

Spray the Quilt With Vinegar, Lemon Juice, or Febreze

Instead of adding vinegar or Febreze to your wash water, you can spray them on your quilt lightly. Just pour the vinegar or Febreze in a spray bottle and spritz over the quilt sparsely. Then, set the quilt out in the sun to dry.

In place of vinegar or Febreze, you can also spray the quilt with lemon juice.

Lay the Quilt on the Grass After Washing

After washing and rinsing the quilt, you can lay it on the grass. Do not lay the quilt directly on the grass as it may get soiled. Instead, place a sheet on the grass first, place the quilt on the sheet, then place another sheet on the quilt. Leave the sheets and quilt in place until the quilt dries. Also, ensure you anchor them to keep the wind from blowing them away.

It appears chlorophyll – the substance that gives green plants their color – helps remove odors. So, when you place the quilt on grass, the chlorophyll should help pull some of the foul odors out.

Tumble the Quilt With Dryer Sheets

Place the dry quilt in a dryer with a dryer sheet. Then run the dryer on cool (no heat) cycle. While there is no set time to leave the quilt in the dryer, leave it for about 20 minutes or as long as you want. Then get it out and sniff to confirm if the result is pleasant.

If the result is not as good as you want, you may run the quilt in the dryer longer. Alternatively, you may try another one of the methods we have discussed.

Air the Quilt Out in the Sun

Airing the quilt out in the sun may be all you need to get the smell out. This option should be your first choice for a damp quilt.

Also, as a general rule, you should consider airing your quilt in the sun after getting it out of its package.

Final Thoughts

Quilts smell for various reasons; they could smell because they are dirty, damp, or stored in a space with limited air circulation.

The off smell on your quilt may also come from the various dyes, chemicals, and fragrances used in producing or cleansing it.

The good news is, no matter the reason for the smell on your quilt, there are solutions for removing the odor.


Please share!