Get Rid of that Musty Smell!

You might have noticed that your closets get musty at this time of year. Is it possible that the problem is your storage method for winter clothes? You might not realize that when you store winter garments you run the risk of inviting that musty odor, because it can be difficult to remove all dampness from outdoor fabrics. To avoid this problem, be sure that any winter clothing, boots, hats, gloves, and coats are clean and thoroughly dry before you hang or store them in closets.

In fact, any clothing can begin to smell musty due to damp storage, re-wearing, or even unclean laundry machines. We discovered some tips for people hoping to remove musty smells from clothing. Below is a summary of some of those tips:

  • Make sure your clothes washer itself is clean; if clothes smell musty right after a washing, clean the washer by running it through an empty cycle with hot water (using laundry detergent or bleach). It also helps to keep the lid open in-between washings (but be careful about the safety hazards of leaving laundry machines open if you have pets or young children).
  • If the manufacturer's cleaning instructions allow, wash your clothes in the hottest water possible to eliminate odors.
  • Add a cup of vinegar or a cup of baking soda to the wash to combat odors.
  • Consider using a clothesline to dry your clothes outside to get a fresh outdoors scent.
  • Use half a cup of pine scented cleaner in the washer (the pine smell will be eliminated after a cycle in the dryer).
  • Put musty, dry clothing in the freezer. After a couple of hours you will notice that the musty smell has disappeared.

If you think your closet itself is the source of the musty smell, there are a number of potential sources of the problem (in addition to the possibility that you’re storing damp clothing).Shoes, for example, are often stored or tossed into closets while still damp from weather or sweat. Pets can sometimes mistake the closet for a bathroom, and mice can leave droppings behind. And if you’re a smoker (or live with one), you know that smoky garments can create a serious odor problem in any closet.

The following steps can help eliminate the odors in a musty closet:

  • Empty out the closet completely.
  • Set aside any clothes or footwear that aren’t thoroughly washed and dried and wash and dry them before returning them to the closet.
  • Clean the closet from top to bottom – sweep the floor thoroughly and wipe down any shelves and walls (white vinegar is a great natural deodorizerHowtoCleanStuff.Net suggests mixing 1/2 cup in a bucket of warm-to-hot water and wiping down the shelves, walls and floors of your closet – if you spot mold or mildew, the site suggests eliminating it with a spray bottle 3/4 full with hot water, adding in two capfuls of bleach). Make sure to read our blog post on home deodorizing tips as well. 
  • If pet urine is a problem, instead of using a household cleaner buy a pet urine neutralizer from a pet store. Nature’s Miracle is a popular product used for this purpose and is available at most pet product stores.
  • Be sure to let the surfaces in the closet dry completely by leaving the door open and airing out the closet before replacing any items.
  • Re-stock your closet once it is cleaned, aired out, and deodorized, and store only clean, dry items.

The best way to prevent musty smells from returning to clothes or closets is to launder and dry clothes properly and completely, to avoid storing damp footwear in closets, and to prevent pets from entering storage spaces. If you do find the musty smell creeping back at any point, repeat the process of emptying, purging, cleaning, and re-stocking.

Then enjoy some deep breaths and a fresh, dry closet!