How to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes (+ Washer & Closet) – 8 Easy Tips
*As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. The price to you remains the same.
I bet that at some point or another, you’ve gone to put on some clothing that you haven’t worn in a while.
But, when you take a sniff, the clothing has an unpleasant musty smell!
Maybe the smell is there because the clothing has been sitting around in your wardrobe for a long time. Or, maybe it’s because your washing machine – or your closet – is harboring mold and mildew.
Whatever the reason, that smell has got to go.
So, how do you remove the musty smell in clothes? With a bit of tea tree oil or vodka, you can get those smells out of your clothing once and for all. Let’s take a deeper look!
Best Ways to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes – With or Without Washing
1. Leave the Smelly Clothes in the Open Air
When we’re doing the laundry, it’s easy for us to just want to get the job over and done with quickly.
However, in our eagerness to iron the clothes and see them folded in the drawer, we make the mistake of not letting the clothes completely dry. That’s especially true if you tend to air dry your clothes.
When we don’t let our clothes dry completely, they wind up with a musty smell.
The best thing to do in this situation is to hang dry your clothes in direct sunshine. That is, of course, if hang drying clothes is allowed in your area! Even if you’ve put your clothes through the dryer, if they’re at all damp when they come out, hang them up.
Just by changing a couple of habits, you can solve your musty smell problems!
2. Wash Musty-Smelling Clothes Using Baking Soda and Fabric Softener
Sometimes, fresh air and sunshine aren’t enough to get rid of the musty smells in your clothes. When that’s the case, you can break out the household cleaning agents.
Some people recommend adding distilled white vinegar to the laundry machine. Then, just throw the clothes you plan to wash in and start the cycle to remove the musty smell.
However, a more effective method is to soak the clothing in baking soda and, if you want, fabric softener, before washing it.
You can repeat this procedure as many times as you think is necessary.
3. Pay Attention to the Amount of Soap You’re Using
Did you know that sometimes the amount of soap you use to do your laundry can cause musty smells?
(Not to mention that too much detergent can cause buildup that’s really uncomfortable!)
Before washing your clothes, pay attention to the quantities of soap you use. The proportion of soap used depends on the capacity of your washing machine and how dirty the clothes are.
Follow the instructions on your laundry products’ packaging to avoid residue that leaves your clothes smelling bad.
4. Enter Steam
Another way to remove musty smells from clothes is to steam the clothes. Keep in mind that this method works best on unwashed clothes, not clothes that are fresh out of the laundry machine.
To get rid of the bad smells, use a steamer to go over the garment.
The thing is, hot steam is a badass when it comes to killing off those tiny fungi that compose mold. But it’s also a perfectly efficient deodorizer.
Just make sure to let the clothes dry post-steaming so you don’t end up with a musty smell again!
Pro tip: Handheld steamers are cheap and handy, but I suggest you use a big household steam cleaner with an adequate attachment (or rent one out if you don’t have it). The thing is, the handheld ones won’t give you nearly as much pressure and hotness. Which is exactly what you need to get deep into the fibers and hunt for the bad guys!
5. Apply Cold to Dispel Musty Odors
Did you know that cold temperatures are effective at dispelling bad odors?
If you’ve tried steaming and air drying and are still having problems with musty clothes, don’t worry. You can apply cold temperatures to your clothes to get rid of the smell! Here are two ways to do so:
- Use the freezer to get rid of the bad smell: place the garments in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. This should eliminate the musty smell.
- Use ice water: handwash your clothes in ice water. This works especially well if the smell isn’t overly strong
6. Use Vodka to Remove the Bad Smells
Did you know that vodka can be a great odor eliminator?
If you’re dealing with musty smells, try applying a bit of vodka to a clean rag. Gently rub the garment with the rag. You can apply extra vodka in spots where you notice the smell is especially pungent.
From now, on vodka isn’t just an ingredient in your favorite cocktails. Now it’s an ally for combating unpleasant smells!
Bonus: Where Does All That Mold Come From?
8. Check Your Washing Machine
Sometimes the musty smell in your clothes isn’t due to the fact that you left them stored in a drawer for a long time, but to fungus or mold hidden in the washing machine.
If you suspect that this is the case, you’ll need to check your washing machine carefully. Pay attention to how your clothes smell when they come out of the laundry machine.
If they seem to be coming out of the wash with an unpleasant odor, there’s a good chance that your laundry machine is to blame.
But how do you fix it?
It’s simple! Just wipe off the drum and the rubber seal with some baking soda and white vinegar. If that doesn’t work, pour those two into the detergent drawer and run a short cycle.
Pro Tip: conduct regular maintenance on your machine so this doesn’t happen.
9. Check Your Closet
I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes, musty smells aren’t the product of the washing machine, nor of poor drying. Instead, they’re the result of leaving your clothes to sit in the closet for a long time.
This is especially true for items, such as an old wedding dress, that you don’t use very often.
What happens is that sometimes moisture seeps in between the wall and the closet. Then, that moisture gets into your clothes, leaving them damp and causing musty smells.
Other times, just having the drawers of your closet or dresser closed generates a musty smell.
So, what you can you do about it? If you’re dealing with musty smells thanks to this issue, you can just leave the closet doors open for an hour or two. Usually, this is enough to air out the stench.
If it doesn’t, put coffee grounds inside, or empty it out and sprinkle some baking soda on every shelf. Leave it be for a day or two and then vacuum it.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes Left in the Washer?
If your clothes smell musty because they’ve been left in the washing machine for too long, the best solution is to wash them again but replace the detergent with a cup of baking soda. This usually helps get the scent out of the clothes. If you’re still struggling, add a cup of distilled white vinegar to help get rid of the stench.
How to Get Rid of Musty Smells in Clothes Fast?
To get rid of musty smells in your clothing quickly, you’ll want to put your clothes on a short wash cycle. Use a soap with a pleasant fragrance. If all else fails, you can add some distilled white vinegar to the wash, but good old-fashioned soap and water should work fine.