How to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes (12 Simple Ways)

When you put on clothes in the morning, you want to feel clean and fresh, right? It can be really frustrating to wear clothes that feel damp or smell musty, especially if you just washed them!

The good news is, there are ways to make sure your clothes look, feel, and smell clean and fresh. Keep reading to find out how to prevent your clothes from smelling damp after washing and how to get rid of that musty smell.

Why do clothes smell damp?

Well, there are several reasons for it. One common cause is excess moisture trapped in the fabric that can’t escape, leaving your clothes with a musty odor. Here are some reasons your clothes might not smell as fresh as you’d like:

  • Sweating during activities like jogging or rushing for the bus can make your clothes smell.
  • Leaving wet laundry sitting in the washing machine prevents the fabric from “breathing.”
  • Putting damp clothes in the tumble dryer can also result in a musty smell.
  • Storing damp clothes in enclosed spaces like drawers or wardrobes.
  • If your washing machine has a bad smell, it can transfer that odor to your clothes.

The good news is that getting rid of damp smells in your clothes is easy

Ways to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is fantastic for eliminating musty smells in your clothes. It reduces bacterial growth and cancels out odors, leaving your clothes smelling fresh.

The citric acid in lemon juice breaks down oils in fabrics. You can use lemon juice by pouring a cup into the laundry machine as a softener or mixing it with water to soak odorous areas, then letting it dry in the sun.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is a powerful cleaner known for its ability to remove stains and bacteria. It’s also great at tackling tough smells due to its strong odor absorption.

If you’re dealing with a musty odor, use white vinegar instead of softener in your laundry. Add one cup of vinegar per load.

For smelly towels, try using hot water and one cup of vinegar instead of detergent to instantly get rid of mildew smells.

Alcohol and Water

Combining alcohol with water might seem unusual, but it’s surprisingly effective against foul odors in clothing. Use a clear alcohol like vodka, mixing three parts vodka with three parts water. Put the mixture in a spray bottle and apply it to the smelly areas of your clothes.

Afterward, you can either wash your clothing or let it dry in the sunlight. This mixture acts as an antibacterial solution, eliminating both the unpleasant odor and microscopic bacteria clinging to your clothes.

Baking Soda

Don’t underestimate the power of baking soda! It’s a secret ingredient that has been used for decades to remove stains, odors, grime, dirt, and bacteria.

Make a paste by mixing baking soda with water and spread it on the odorous areas of your clothing. After it dries, brush or remove the hardened paste.

Alternatively, if you’re short on time, put baking soda in a plastic bag with the smelly clothes, shake it well, let it sit for about ten minutes, and then remove or brush off the baking soda.

It’s a simple yet potent solution to eliminate bad odors from your clothes.

Coffee Grounds

Don’t toss out your used coffee grounds! They work surprisingly well against stubborn odors. Just like with baking soda, place your clothes in a plastic bag with coffee grounds.

Unlike baking soda, you don’t need to shake the bag; the coffee grounds naturally absorb the smell. Leave the clothing in the bag overnight for maximum efficiency.

Afterward, be sure to air out the clothes, as they might have a strong coffee scent. Coffee grounds contain nitrogen, which quickly neutralizes odors in both clothing and the air.

Essential Oils

If you’re not a fan of overpowering perfumes or worried about stains, essential oils are a great alternative. Mix a few drops of essential oil with water in a spray bottle and freely spray your clothes.

Essential oils like lavender, grapefruit, or lemon are potent enough to replace bad odors with a much more pleasant fragrance.

This method is especially useful for those with a sensitive nose, providing a simple solution to remove unwanted smells without the need for a trip to the laundry.


Borax, a common household cleaner known for tackling tough stains, is also excellent at eliminating foul odors from clothing.

Especially useful for larger items like towels and sheets, Borax is easy to use. Just soak these items in a bathtub filled with hot water and half a cup of Borax.

After a good soak, wash them as usual to get rid of any lingering musty smells, leaving your items smelling fresh and new.


If you’ve washed your clothes and still notice a lingering smell, sunlight can be a natural solution. After washing, instead of using a dryer, let your clothes dry in the sun.

Sunlight not only helps eliminate odors but also acts as a natural bleach, getting rid of stains.

Drying your clothes in the sun not only saves energy but also leaves them with a pleasant, fresh scent compared to using a dryer.

Freeze It

Believe it or not, freezing your clothing is a surprisingly effective method for removing bad odors. Place your clothes in a freezer bag and leave them in the freezer overnight or for a few hours.

Freezing kills odor-causing bacteria. When you take the clothes out, they’ll be refreshed and odor-free.

For an extra boost, let the clothes air out in the sun after removing them from the freezer, enhancing that delightful smell. It may sound a bit unconventional, but it works.

Open Your Closet Doors

To prevent a musty smell in your closet, a simple and effective step is to keep your closet doors open.

Musty odors often develop when there’s limited airflow, especially if there are unwashed clothes in a closed closet.

If your closet has corners with poor airflow, it’s recommended to take out the clothes monthly or discard old items that might be contributing to the issue.

Use a Fan

For closets with doors that restrict airflow, like solid wooden ones, preventing moisture buildup is crucial.

You can achieve this by either allowing your closet to breathe naturally or using a fan to create airflow.

Whether it’s a floor fan or small fans within your closet, improved air circulation reduces the risk of mold growth, helping to keep your closet and clothes fresh.

Remove Old Clothing and Clean

To address persistent odors and potential mold growth in your closet, it’s essential to deal with the root cause.

Leaving clothes unwashed and untouched in a closed closet provides a breeding ground for mold, especially with minimal airflow. Old clothing, often neglected in regular use, tends to be the culprit.

To prevent the issue, it’s recommended to dispose of old clothes and perform a deep cleaning of your closet. This proactive approach helps maintain a fresh and mold-free environment for your clothes.

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