Why Don't You Wash Hunting Clothes

Why Don’t You Wash Hunting Clothes

Hunting clothes require special care when it comes to washing them. Many hunters wonder if they should even wash their hunting clothes at all. Understanding the best practices for caring for and cleaning hunting gear can help you remain scent-free and ready for your next hunt.

This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about Why Don’t You Wash Hunting Clothes

Introduction to Washing Hunting Clothes

Washing hunting clothes properly is critical to reducing the human odor that could alert deer and elk. Yet many hunters neglect cleaning hunting garments or do it incorrectly, leaving a scent behind. Follow these best practices when washing hunting clothes:

  • Use scent-eliminating detergent
  • Air dry instead of machine drying
  • Wash after every hunt
  • Handwash sensitive clothing
  • Use baking soda to remove odors
  • Line dry out of sunlight

Properly washing hunting clothes removes odors and bacteria while maintaining garment performance. Implement these techniques into your hunting laundry routine to remain scent-free.

Should You Wash Hunting Clothes?

Should You Wash Hunting Clothes
Why Don't You Wash Hunting Clothes 5

Many dedicated hunters debate whether washing hunting garments is even necessary. Some avoid washing clothes at all to retain natural odor masking. Others wash religiously after every hunt. Here are perspectives on both sides:

The Case for Not Washing Hunting Clothes

  • Washing can eliminate natural odors and alarm deer
  • Special hunting detergents still leave unnatural smells
  • Air drying and sunlight fading can remove UV brighteners
  • Less washing extends garment lifespan

The Argument for Washing Hunting Clothes

  • Sweat and bacteria buildup harbors human scent
  • Dirt, blood, and grime hold odors
  • A clean start each hunt gives consistent scent control
  • Outer layers collect foreign smells like smoke

Given the risk of contaminating clothes with human odor, properly washing garments is still recommended. With careful cleaning methods, you can wash clothes without leaving a residual scent.

Why Don’t You Wash Hunting Clothes

As a seasoned hunter myself, let me tell you, the question of washing hunting clothes is about as complex as tracking a wily old buck. While some might scoff at the thought of ever throwing their camo in the wash, there’s more to the strategy than meets the eye. Here’s the dirt on why we hunters sometimes hold off on the Suds cycle:

Scenting the Game

It’s true, many of us believe unwashed clothes hold the key to masking our human scent, the ultimate nemesis in the field. Accumulated earth, leaves, and even a touch of “Eau de nature” can blend us into the environment, leaving the game none the wiser. However, this is a delicate balance. Excessively ripe garments might have the opposite effect, alerting animals to their olfactory superpower.

Preserving the Arsenal

Modern hunting gear is infused with magic – scent-blocking tech, waterproof coatings, fire resistance – but washing can be its kryptonite. Frequent sudsing can strip these vital treatments, leaving your once-impervious outerwear vulnerable to the elements and, worse, your quarry’s nose.

Wool Wonders and Fabric Foes

Some materials, like wool, thrive on fresh air, not a spin cycle. Washing can shrink our trusty wool base layers, turning them into uncomfortable cocoons. On the other hand, cotton blends and synthetics might need more frequent cleaning to combat sweat and the dreaded post-hunt musk.

The Logistics of Location

Let’s face it, when you’re deep in the wilderness, laundry facilities aren’t exactly abundant. Hauling water and battling backcountry elements to wash clothes might not be the best use of precious hunting time.

Personal Preference

Beyond the practicalities, there’s a certain mystique to seasoned, unwashed gear. Some hunters believe it carries the essence of past successes, a lucky charm woven into the fabric. Others just plain find comfort in the familiar scent of the hunt clinging to their clothes.

How Often to Wash Hunting Clothes

Deciding how often to wash hunting garments comes down to personal preference and hunting style. Use these best practices when establishing a washing routine:

  • Base layers – Wash after every wear to prevent bacterial growth and odors in sweat-prone layers.
  • Mid layers – Wash every 2-3 wears or when dirty or smelly. Brushed and fleece fabrics hold more scents.
  • Outer layers – Wash every 3-5 hunts or whenever contaminated by foreign smells.
  • Hats – Wash whenever visibly dirty or contaminated by smoke, food, etc.
  • Gloves – Hand wash after every 2-3 hunts as odor lingers in fabrics.
  • Socks – Wash every wear to prevent bacterial buildup leading to odor.

Keep separate hunting clothes for animal processing to prevent contamination. Always store cleaned gear in sealed bags or totes until your next hunt.

How to Wash Hunting Clothes for Scent Control

How to Wash Hunting Clothes for Scent Control
Why Don't You Wash Hunting Clothes 6

Follow these detailed steps to properly wash hunting clothes for maximum scent elimination and performance.

Supplies Needed

  • Scent-free detergent
  • Baking soda
  • Washers without fabric softener residue
  • Hangers, clothing line, drying rack

Handwashing Sensitive Items

  • Use scent-eliminating soap
  • Let soak for 15 minutes
  • Gently scrub with a soft brush
  • Rinse twice in cold water
  • Line dry away from sunlight

Using the Washing Machine

  • Shake out loose debris
  • Zip up clothes to protect the fabric
  • Check pockets for items
  • Use scent-free detergent
  • Add 1 cup of baking soda
  • Use cold water setting
  • Extra rinse cycle
  • Line dry or dry on a rack

Drying Without Leaving Scent

  • Hang clothing evenly on the rack
  • Space out items for airflow
  • Dry away from sunlight
  • Use fans to speed air drying
  • Store fully dried clothing sealed

Be sure to thoroughly dry all hunting clothes before wearing or storing them. Any lingering moisture can lead to mildew and bacteria buildup.

Using Baking Soda to Wash Hunting Clothes

Adding baking soda to your hunting garment laundry routine helps absorb and neutralize odors for better scent elimination.

How It Works

Baking soda is alkaline and neutralizes acidic odors from sweat, bacteria, smoke, etc. It also absorbs smells without leaving its scent behind.

When to Use It

Add 1 cup of baking soda along with your choice of scent-free detergent during the wash cycle. Use it when washing base layers, mid layers, socks, and hats that directly contact skin.

Baking Soda Scrub

For heavily soiled hunting clothes, let them soak for 15 minutes in a sink with warm water and 1 cup of baking soda before washing. The soak lets odors release from fabrics so the baking soda can neutralize them.

More Uses for Baking Soda

Keep a tub of baking soda in your hunting vehicle or space. Use it to quickly de-scent gloves, knee pads, boots, and other gear while out hunting.

Baking soda is highly effective at removing odors during washing without leaving a scent. Add it to your hunting laundry routine for better results.

Choosing the Right Hunting Laundry Detergent

Choosing the Right Hunting Laundry Detergent
Why Don't You Wash Hunting Clothes 7

Specialized hunting detergents improve scent elimination when washing garments. Look for these features in a quality option:

  • Scent-free formulation
  • Enzymes to remove odor
  • Optical brightener free
  • Biodegradable ingredients
  • Concentrated formula
  • Cold water directed

Brands like Dead Down Wind, Sports Wash, and Hunter’s Specialties offer trusted hunting laundry detergent choices. Test out a few to find your favorite.

Washing Different Hunting Clothing Fabrics

The fabric blend and construction of hunting clothes impact how to best wash them. Use these tips when cleaning different garment materials:

Merino Wool

  • Handwash or gentle cycle
  • Cold water
  • Dry flat away from heat

Synthetic Fabrics

  • Machine wash cold
  • Low heat drying
  • Use laundry bags

Natural Fibers Like Cotton

  • Warm or hot water
  • Line dry

Waterproof Breathable Layers

  • Wash the outer layer only when soiled
  • Use tech wash formulated for waterproof items
  • Air dry instead of machine drying

Follow fabric-specific care instructions from the clothing manufacturer for the best results in washing hunting apparel.

Washing New Hunting Clothes

Brand-new hunting clothes likely have chemical coatings and residue from manufacturing. Wash them a few extra times upon purchase to remove any foreign smells.

Process For Washing New Hunting Clothes

  • Check clothing tags
  • Handwash first wearing
  • Machine wash 2-3 times after
  • Use baking soda washes
  • Hang dry completely
  • Seal in a storage bag or tote

Thoroughly washing new garments helps eliminate any UV brighteners, chemical coatings, dye smells, and other scents unrelated to nature.

How to Dry Hunting Clothes Without Leaving Scent

Proper drying is just as crucial as washing methods when removing odors from hunting clothes.

Best Practices For Drying

  • Line dry out of sunlight
  • Hang items evenly for airflow
  • Use clean drying racks indoors
  • Position fans to circulate the air
  • Dry fully before storing

Prevent fabrics from retaining moisture by ensuring they dry entirely before your next hunt. Store dried hunting clothes sealed in bags or totes away from anything with an odor.

FAQs About Washing Hunting Clothes

You probably still have some questions about the best practices for maintaining your hunting wardrobe. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.

Should I Use Fabric Softener When Washing Hunting Clothes?

Avoid using any fabric softeners when washing hunting apparel. The synthetic fragrances leave residual smells that deer can detect. Stick to fragrance-free detergents.

How Do I Remove Smoke Smells From Hunting Jackets?

If your outer jacket gets contaminated with campfire smoke, wash it separately from your other clothes with baking soda. The baking soda will help absorb and neutralize lingering odors.

What Is the Best Way to Dry Boots and Gloves?

Carefully dry leather and rubber boots away from direct heat so they don’t crack. Use crumpled newspapers or shoe dryers to help absorb moisture faster. For gloves, use a fan to air dry fully extended over a rack.

Why Can’t I Use Dryer Sheets When Drying Hunting Clothes?

Dryer sheets have overwhelming fragrances and chemicals that transfer onto clothing. Always line dry hunting clothes or dry on a rack instead to prevent contamination.

Key Takeaways on Washing Hunting Clothes

Keeping hunting clothes scent-free without ruining them takes some special care and the right process. Follow these main tips whenever you wash hunting apparel:

  • Use a specialized scent-eliminating detergent
  • Add baking soda to absorb odors
  • Wash clothes apart from regular laundry
  • Select cold water and extra rinse cycles
  • Skip the fabric softener and dryer sheets
  • Air dry fully extended on rack or line
  • Store-dried hunting clothes sealed off from other odors

Implementing a strict hunting garment laundry routine helps eliminate odors for better concealment. Take your scent control as seriously as choosing a tree stand location for improved success.


As you can see, properly washing hunting clothes takes some extra steps compared to regular laundry. While the debate continues whether you even need to wash garments, doing so with the proper technique ensures you start each hunt with neutral scent control. Use the recommendations outlined to care for hunting apparel without leaving human odors behind.

Similar Posts