How to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes - 3 Solutions to Try

December 31, 1989 | Blog

Wondering how to get musty smell out of clothes? Perhaps, the colder months got your clothes giving off a faint but distinct damp odor, even though you cleaned them before storing them. Clothes, especially cotton fabrics, tend to retain more moisture during winter. Besides the weather, a dirty washer and closet can leave an odd lingering smell on clothes. In addition to being embarrassing, musty-smelling clothes can trigger health issues, especially in people with respiratory problems, like asthma. Damp and moldy clothing may also increase the risk or worsen colds, flu, and chest infections. Many DIY damp-smell removal remedies are merely trial and error. If you’re tired of using guesswork, keep reading to learn three practical and effective solutions for removing musty smells from your clothes.

1. Clean Your Washer

washing machine with front door openYour clothes will continue to smell damp if your washing machine is not clean. This is especially true if your laundry smells musty when you take them out of the washer. If this is the case, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the washing machine. Over time, a buildup of grime and laundry detergent residue in hard-to-reach spots like hoses and pipes can cause your washer to smell bad. The smell will linger in your laundry if you don’t clean the washing machine regularly. In most cases, cleaning involves running an empty wash cycle with hot water. But the real secret to a clean and odorless washer is to use a washing machine deodorizer during the wash cycle. Remember to use non-toxic products when cleaning your washer. This will prevent potential damage and quick deterioration of your washer parts. Want to learn more? Check out this guide for more tips on using a washing machine cleaner and deodorizer.

2. Use Chemical-Free Laundry Products

laundry detergent bottles with a washer in the backgroundMany regular laundry detergent options aren’t designed to remove mold and odor causing bacteria. While they may remove dirt, they are ineffective for eliminating smells. In many cases, these products merely cover up unwanted odors with artificial fragrances. Thankfully, you can find non-toxic laundry products formulated to eliminate embarrassing odors. If you’ve tried other products and didn’t get the desired result, we strongly recommend the OdorKlenz Laundry Additive (available in liquid and powder form). It doesn’t matter how strong or stubborn the stink is; the highly effective laundry additive usually eradicates odors from garments within one or two wash cycles. Its all-natural ingredients make your laundry smell clean without covering up any smells. This product works great whether your musty smelling clothes are new or very old so that the damp smell seems like part of them. As an aside, you can get rid of the pungent odors detergents leave behind using the OdorKlenz Laundry Additive.

3. Clean Your Closet

unorganized closetIf you’ve tried the two tips above on how to get musty smell out clothes and still don’t get a satisfactory result, your closet might be the source of the unwanted bad odor. Closets can smell odd (and eventually affect stored clothing) for several reasons. For example, cigarette smoke can cause an unpleasant odor in clothing, so if you or someone in your household is a smoker, your closet and clothes may give off unpleasant smells. Also, footwear and workout clothes soaked in sweat or moisture from the weather can produce musty smells. For this reason, if you store your boots, sneakers, and other shoe types in the same space as your clothes, check that they ― especially training or running shoes ― are properly dried before storing them. Mice droppings in the closet can create a bad odor that will eventually linger on your garments. And if you have pets like cats or hamsters, they may mistake your closet for their bathroom and do their business there, causing a foul odor. One of the best things you can do to eliminate the musty smell from your closet and, by extension, your clothes is to use a fast-acting odor neutralizing agent, like the OdorKlenz Absorbent Granules, to remove the unwanted smell. Once you have your preferred chemical-free odor-removal product, follow the steps below to rid your closet of musty smells and a foul odor:
  1. Empty your closet, removing all clothes, footwear, workout clothes, and other items.
  2. Give the closet a thorough wipe-down using a non-toxic neutralizing agent. Make sure to clean the floor, walls, top, and all shelves.
  3. Check the closet for signs of mold and mildew, especially if your closet is in an area with limited airflow. Your clean clothes will get musty again if you don’t get rid of mold and mildew.
  4. If you have pets, look for signs of their urine (stains and odors) in the closet. It is usually a good idea to clean pet urine with pet-specific odor-removal cleaners, like this Pet Urine Eliminator.
  5. When you’re done cleaning the closet, leave the door open to allow for proper drying.
  6. While the closet is airing out, select any odd-smelling items and wash or thoroughly dry them. Once the closet is dry, restock it with the clean and dry items.

Laundry Tips to Prevent Your Clothes From Getting Musty

It is okay to know how to get musty smell out of clothes, but it is more helpful to learn ways to prevent your clothes from smelling musty. Here are a few of our top laundry tips to help prevent a musty smell or mildew odor in clothing:
  • Always let your clothes dry fully before storing them in the closet. Damp clothes will eventually smell musty if you store them or put them in a hamper.
  • Air-dry your wet clothes in the fresh air outdoors whenever the weather permits.
  • Check washing machines regularly for mold or mildew growth, and make sure to clean them with a deodorizer to remove foul odor.
  • Remember to leave the door or top cover of your washing machine open if you won’t use it for a long time (for example, when you’re going on a long vacation).