What The Sulfur?

              How to remove the odor of sulfur from clothing.

If you’ve ever been to a geothermal area, you know this almost rotten egg-like smell very well. At first it’s absolutely awful, but then you almost get used to it.

Geothermal areas are stunning. It’s almost like something out of a movie. You’re walking around steamy rocks and the mud is boiling so hot that it is bubbling (almost like that scene in The Labyrinth.)

A couple of weeks ago, I spent some time in Rotorua, New Zealand, which is nicknamed “ The Sulfur City” ( GROSS!) There is a park right in the town that has hot pools and mud pools, so you can pretty much smell it throughout the whole place!

During my stay there, I went to a park called Hells Gate. It is Rotorua’s most active thermal area. You can find mud pools, hot pools, steaming cliffs, a cooking pool and even a mini mud volcano that erupts every now and then!

Once you’ve finished your walk around this park, you can then go into the Hellsgate spa where you can relax in a mud bath or a thermal pool. I did both because I figured I would never have the opportunity to do it again! At the entrance to the spa, they have a little area where you can rent a bathing suit and towel if you so wish to. I thought this was just for people that forgot their bathing suits, and I had my perfectly comfy one, so why would I rent one!?

The pools felt incredible, and have amazing health benefits. It is great for your skin and good for muscle pain. I had just done a hike a couple of days before so I needed that. It was almost so much fun that you didn’t even notice the smell of the sulfur !

After my 20 minutes in the mud pool were up, I went to go wash all of the mud off. They warned that the sulfur smell might stay on your skin for a couple of days after, but I thought I had washed it all off, so I put my nice clothes back on, and threw my bathing suit and towel in a plastic bag and went on with my day. When I got back to the hostel I was staying in, I hand washed my bathing suit and towel and hung them out to dry.


A couple of days later was laundry day, and also happened to be the eve of the day I left New Zealand, so I figured I would wash all of my clothes so that they would be nice and clean for my trip to Australia. I put all of my clothes in one load, along with my bathing suit and towel.


I went to open the door of the washer so I could put all of my clothes in the dryer and the smell of sulfur hit me like a truck. I was horrified! It was all over all of my clothes. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to put my clothes in the dryer anyway… I thought it might help. IT DID NOT! It made it even worse.

After a lot of googling and time spent watching my clothes dry just to see if they smelled okay yet, I figured out how to get the smell out.  Here are some tips on how to avoid this, or how to deal with it if it happens to you.

1.Rent a bathing suit : I know it seems kind of gross, but they do wash them with ammonia, which gets everything out! It is not worth having to either throw your bathing suit away or deal with having to get the smell out of everything you own. If you decide to take your own bathing suit anyway, make sure you don’t wash it in with your clothes until you’re 100% sure all of the sulfur is out of it.

2.Wear old clothes the day of : You’re going to a spa so you want to look nice, I know, but even if you think you have washed the smell off yourself after, it will keep coming out of your pores for the rest of the day, and then your clothes will smell. You want to wear clothes that you don’t mind soaking in ammonia the night of.

3.Don’t put your head under : First of all, it will sting your eyes, and second of all, you don’t want your hair smelling like sulfur for the next couple of days. Make sure that if you have long hair, your hair is back.


  1. Do not put them in the dryer : The heat from the dryer makes it even harder to get the smell out in the long run.
  2. Rinse your clothes under cold water : Warm/ hot water is your worst enemy for the next couple of days, avoid it!
  3. Soak your clothes in baking soda overnight : Put a whole cup ( I know it’s a lot) of baking soda in a bathtub full of COLD water and make sure it is fully dissolved before putting your clothes in. If you don’t have a bathtub (hostels generally don’t have bathtubs,) you can use a recycling box.You might have to do two loads if you have a lot of clothes and are using a recycling box. Leave the clothes in the bath tub with the baking soda overnight.                 
  4. Rinse in cold water (again) : You don’t have to rinse thoroughly, just try and get most of the baking soda out.
  5. Soak in white vinegar : Put 250ml of white vinegar into your bathtub and fill with COLD water, then soak all of your clothes for one hour.
  6. Question your sanity : You could go back to sleep for an hour, but you’re probably too nervous about your clothes to do that, so try and find something fun to do so you don’t question yourself as a person for making such a silly mistake. Word search  is always good!
  7. Rinse your clothes in COLD water : Ok last time, I promise. Just make sure most of the vinegar is gone.
  8. Wash your clothes in a washing machine : I know it seems so technologically advanced now that you’ve been hand washing your clothes, but you can do it! Select a cold cycle and make sure to use scented laundry powder, and even fabric softener if you have some. If you don’t have a washing machine because you’re staying in a hostel or hotel that doesn’t have any, make friends with your local laundromat.
  9. Air dry your clothes : DO NOT put your clothes in the dryer. You are not 100% sure yet if all of the sulfur is out of your clothing. Hang them out to dry, anywhere will do, but in the sunlight is best! If you can’t hang them outside, that’s fine, your room just might look like a clothing bomb exploded!
  10. Smell check all of your clothes when they are dry : Make sure you take breaks to avoid nose blindness! If you think you might have gone nose blind, try sniffing coffee beans like you do when trying on perfume in department stores. If you smell any hint of sulfur on the clothes, throw them in a separate pile, make sure you check the collars of shirts or the waistline of pants, because those areas are thicker.
  11. Repeat all these steps with the clothes that still smell bad : It took me 5 tries to get the smell out of all of my clothing completely, and I still have a very stubborn sweatshirt, but every time you do it, the load will get smaller and the smell will get weaker, I promise!!!
  12. Buy yourself a beer: You’re a trooper, that was ridiculous, you deserve it.


Good luck !!  Maddie