Top tips on how to tell someone (politely) that their clothes smell!

Top tips on how to tell someone (politely) that their clothes smell!

  • Read Time 2 min read
  • Date Nov 10, 2021
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One of life’s more awkward social scenarios deals with unwanted smells. For people with physical jobs, it can be hard to stay smelling fresh all day. Dancers, performers, personal trainers or gym instructors, are just some of the professions that have a daily battle with perspiration - & then there are people who don’t do anything active, but they just kind of smell.

There are a few reasons that clothes can end up smelling & some of them can be a bit sensitive. Being blunt or direct might seem like the best way of alerting someone, but it can be hurtful & unhelpful.

However, having to work in close proximity to a stinky colleague isn't easy either, so if you can’t put up with it any longer, or if you know it’s having an impact on others, here’s a few pointers on how to approach this rather delicate matter.


1) Try to understand why their clothes smell

If the person in question has an aroma that’s quite musty, or a distinctive odour that’s not dissimilar to cat pee, it’s more likely to be a laundry issue, than a case of B.O.
The damp, mouldy smell comes when garments haven’t been aired or dried quickly after becoming wet, allowing odour-causing bacteria to accumulate in the material. Don’t forget, not everyone has easy access to a washing machine, or the space to hang out lots of clothes to dry.

It can also be a financial issue. Washing machines can also develop their own funk when there are drainage issues. Also, if you have to wear a uniform, certain fabrics, especially synthetics, aren’t very breathable, making smells worse. Take these factors onboard & try to tailor your approach.


2) Don’t initiate the conversation in front of anyone else

It’s an embarrassing topic for both parties, so make sure you take the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation in private.

3) Try to be tactful

Don’t just blurt out the words that they smell. Say you’ve noticed their clothes smell & that you’re worried it's affecting others, or that it might affect their progress within the company. Tell them that you want to help them.

4) Empathise

Ask them if they are aware of the problem & if they need any help. Talk about the times you’ve noticed your own clothes smelling & what you’ve done about it.

5) Make suggestions on how to fix it

Sometimes, it’s a simple case of suggesting they take a shower in the morning,  instead of the evening, or wear fresh clothes everyday instead of putting on the same outfit again. You could also recommend that they use a stronger anti-perspirant or a specialist detergent.