Deer can smell laundry detergent, human body odor, and fragrances they are unfamiliar with from around 0.25 miles (402 m) away. And, if your position is downwind of the deer, it can smell you, a laundry detergent, and other scents from up to 0.5 miles (805 m) away. However, this can be mitigated by choosing the correct product to clean your clothes.
The best hunting laundry detergent is an unscented product without dyes, phosphates, and optical brighteners. Also, the hunting laundry detergent must eliminate all smells and stains, including blood, from the apparel without any residual odors of its own.
In theory, it’s almost impossible to get rid of every smell alien to deer’s natural habitat and the surroundings. Even so, you can use many tactics, and vastly improve your chances that the deer won’t smell you. This guide offers the best hunting laundry detergents and a few essential tips for a rewarding hunting season.
The Best Laundry Detergents for Hunters To Use
Here are the 3 best “deer proof” laundry detergents:
Wildlife Research Scent Killer Gold Autumn Formula Laundry Detergent is a 32 oz (~950 ml) pack, almost similarly priced as the other two on this list if you factor in the size differences. This detergent is a concentrated liquid offering deep cleaning and complete odor removal.
The ultra-premium formula is a proprietary blend using multi-surfactant natural cleaning agents to eliminate stains. It doesn’t have any unnatural or artificial residual scent on your hunting clothes. Naturally, this laundry detergent has thousands of fans in the deer hunting fraternity.
Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent is one of the most affordable options at your discretion. This 18 oz (~530ml) pack has no fragrance, so there’s no residual scent, but it can effectively clean and eliminate all the odor from your hunting apparel and other essentials.
On the field, your hunting clothes washed with this detergent may have a faint smell like natural dirt, which is probably what you want. Also, this detergent doesn’t contain any type of ultraviolet optical brightener that can otherwise enable deer to spot you from a long distance.
Dead Down Wind Laundry Detergent has two variants, unscented and natural woods. Both can reliably eliminate all odor and stains from hunting clothes, gear, and accessories. This 40 oz (~1.2 l) pack is as affordable as the Scent-A-Way if you factor in the size difference.
Also, the detergent is safe for sensitive skin. The Enzyme ScentPrevent Technology makes the detergent effective without any biocides. You can clean natural & synthetic fabrics and carbon or technical accessories and gear. Try the unscented one if you aren’t sure about natural woods.
Can Deer Smell Laundry Detergent?
Deer can smell laundry detergent and other scents that are unnatural in their habitat. Also, deer can sense mild but emanating body odor as hunters sweat on the field and develop the distinct human scent. Thus, combat both for a successful hunt.
Homo sapiens has about 50 million smell receptor cells. In comparison, rabbits and dogs have 100 million and 220 million smell receptors, respectively. Now, how many smell receptors do whitetail deer have? The number is 297 million, but there’s more to their biological prowess.
Like humans, deer also have the vomeronasal organ. Also known as the Jacobson’s organ, its primary task is to detect pheromones. While the organ assists the deer to sense the presence of doe or mates and track them, it also helps them detect the odors of predators.
Thus, you may want to be a step ahead of only cleaning your hunting clothes. Keep something like Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Spray (also available on Amazon) handy to eliminate odors from your hunting gear and accessories, including boots and bags. This odorless spray neutralizes bacterial odors.
Furthermore, ensure that your body doesn’t emit an excess odor for deer to sense imminent danger from half a mile away. You may try Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Liquid Body Soap & Shampoo (on Amazon as well). This 12 oz (~350 ml) liquid soap & shampoo is deodorizing but totally odorless.
Can Deer See Optical Brighteners in Clothing?
Deer can see optical brighteners in clothing, and its net effect on the visible light spectrum serves as a glowing warning sign for the animal. Using any laundry detergent containing ultraviolet optical brighteners is a recipe for failure in deer hunting.
Technically, optical brighteners absorb the ultraviolet and violet wavelengths ranging from 340 nanometers to 370 nanometers and reemit the light in the visible spectrum, 420 nm to 470 nm in particular, which is what we perceive as blue. Now, deer can detect and see blue light much better than people.
To worsen the matters for hunters, deer eyes & pupils get exposed to nine times the light than what humans perceive. Thus, deer see eighteen times better than us in low light conditions. Also, deer can see the blue light spectrum of visible light twenty times better than humans
Therefore, hunters cannot use any laundry detergent that contains optical brighteners. Some products using UV optical brighteners that reemit the absorbed light as red, reddish, green, or greenish may be less concerning for hunters because deer don’t see these colors as well as blue. However, it’s better not to take any chances.
How Do You Get the Smell Out of Hunting Clothes?
Hunters must embark on their mission with clean and odorless clothes. Also, it’s essential to keep these clothes, gear, and accessories odorless during a hunt. Thus, you need two sets of solutions, one at home and another for the field.
To get the smell out of hunting clothes at home, use Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way, Dead Down Wind, or Wildlife Research Scent Killer laundry detergents. Consider their sprays to get the smell out of hunting clothes, gear, and accessories when you’re on the field.
What if You Accidentally Washed Hunting Clothes in Regular Detergent
One option is rewashing the hunting clothes using the unscented laundry detergents listed in this guide. Alternatively, you may use scent-killing sprays (easily available on Amazon, like the ones below) or wafers and unscented dryer sheets. Choose a combination that works for you based on your preferences and specific conditions.
Use Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Spray, an odorless spray. The bestseller has a variant, Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Max Spray, which is equally effective at neutralizing bacterial odor. Also, the latter gives you the advantage of the smell of fresh earth.
A second option is the Wildlife Research Scent Killer Gold Spray Combo Pack. This spray works on dry and wet hunting clothes, gear, and accessories.
The Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Home Kit can be handy if you accidentally wash hunting clothes in regular detergent. This pack has an odorless laundry detergent, antiperspirant, and body wash & shampoo. On the field, you can carry one of the sprays for swift countermeasures.
Should You Dry Hunting Clothes in the Dryer?
You should not dry hunting clothes in the dryer, certainly not with other apparel or using the same sheet. Air dry hunting clothes or use special dryer sheets. Also, you must keep dried hunting clothes in a sealed bag, and you may add cover scent or doe estrus wafers.
Use Hunters Specialties Scent-A-Way Dryer Sheets for clothes and Dead Down Wind Dryer Sheets (both on Amazon) to eliminate odor from hunting gear and accessories. You may choose packs based on the number of sheets you need. Also, you may choose Scent-A-Way unscented or earth odor.
Another reliable option on Amazon is Wildlife Research Scent Killer Autumn Formula Dryer Sheets. This variant adds a subtle forest floor scent to your hunting clothes during drying. You may choose the unscented Scent Killer Gold Dryer Sheets that also soften hunting clothes to reduce noise.
Hunting clothes, boots, gear, and accessories must remain fresh and odorless when you hit the ground. Thus, use Hunters Specialties Cover Scent Wafers (available on Amazon) in a sealed bag to impart the smells of fresh earth, natural pine, and white oak acorn, depending on the variant you prefer. Also, you may use Hunters Specialties Doe Estrus Scent Wafers (on Amazon as well) to lure deer, particularly around the rut.
Deer have exceptional senses, especially smell and sight. Thus, hunters should not bring any unnatural odor to the field and steer completely clear of optical brighteners for clothes. Also, all clothes and accessories should be frequently unscented on the field to neutralize odor buildup.
Thanks for reading!
For more, check out What Can Deer Smell? (How To Avoid Detection).
Hey, I’m Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!