12 Simple Ways to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes

That pesky smell 

Going to do our laundry can be therapeutic, the idea of washing away the weeks-old smells from clothing and coming back with soft lavender-scented threads can give a euphoric feeling.

It almost feels like you bought brand new clothing, doesn’t it? But what if you leave the laundry place with almost identical grotesque smelling clothes like when you first walked in? not only will you feel like you wasted your time but now you have to figure out a way to erase this foul odor.

This problem can arise with clothes that have been stored away for some time without washing. It happens to the best of us, sometimes we tend to forget about laundry day or put the plan on the back burner until we have a moment to go back and tend to that responsibility.

This can be especially true with some towels, bedsheets, or other household linen that you simply seldom wash when it comes to laundry time.

There is nothing more daunting than having a guest over and having them notice the particularly awful smell of musty clothing. While some may try to rack their brains and continue to ask themselves the question of how to get musty smell out of clothes, others pay for a laundry service elsewhere due to their unawareness of how to solve this issue.

You may try to remove the smell with a couple of washes, this will not only use up your detergent but leave you feeling frustrated if the smell persists. But don’t fret, we’re here to tell you that there are various answers as to how to get strong odors out of clothes. You will need the following products:

  • White vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Enzyme Odor Removers
  • Borax
  • Lemon Juice
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Alcohol
  • Essential Oils

Not only will we show you how to stop clothes smelling musty in your wardrobe but we will show you how to avoid them from becoming musty in the first place. Here are 12 simple ways to get the musty smell out of clothes:

1. White Vinegar

How does white vinegar help remove odor from clothes?

White vinegar has been known in the cleaning community as not only an effective chemical that removes stains and bacteria but it has a pungent odor that can easily erase as well as combat tough smells. This is due to white vinegar’s odor absorption power which can help you in a pinch.


So, if you’re wondering how to get mildew smell out of clothes quickly then white vinegar is the solution. Simply use white vinegar instead of softener when you’re going to do your laundry, we recommend adding one cup of vinegar per load.

If you’re having a tough time removing odor from towels, we recommend using hot water (which tends to remove all bacteria) and one cup of vinegar in place of detergent. This is a great way to instantly remove the mildew smell.

2. Alcohol and Water

How does the combination of alcohol and water helps remove foul odor from clothing?

Although using alcohol and water seem unorthodox, you’ll be surprised at how incredibly potent this combination can be when it comes to removing foul smell from clothing. For this you will need to buy alcohol, however, we recommend not buying alcohol that is sweet or has sugar in it as it will be very sticky to remove afterward.


It is best to use alcohol like vodka. You will need to do the following:

  1. Mix three parts vodka with three parts water
  2. Fill a spray bottle with this mixture
  3. Spray the odorous areas of your clothes

After these steps, you can go ahead and wash your clothing or let it dry in the sunlight. This mixture works as an antibacterial solution so you won’t only be getting rid of the putrid odor but you will also be getting rid of the microscopic bacteria that cling to the dirt and grime of your clothing.

3. Baking Soda

How does using baking soda help in the removal of musty-smelling clothes?

When asking yourself how to get remove bad odor from clothes, there is one product that many people tend to skip over without giving it a second thought and that’s baking soda. Baking soda has been around for decades as a secret ingredient when it comes to removing stains, odor, grime, dirt, or microscopic bacteria.


Although many have this in their home and find it fairly easy to use for cleaning, others are hesitant to use it due to its simplistic nature. However, baking soda is one of the most potent options on this list.

It is best to use baking soda with water to form a paste, when you do this, we recommend you spread it on the areas of your clothing that are odorous. After these steps, you will leave it dry for some time. You will then brush or remove the paste after it has hardened.

For others who have less time to casually spread this mixture, you can simply put the baking soda in a plastic bag with the odorous clothing and shake it plenty of times. When the baking soda has completely covered the clothing inside, you’ll let the clothing stand for approximately ten minutes for it to be more effective. Then you’ll remove or brush it off.

4. Lemon Juice

How does lemon juice reduce and destroy odorous musty smells in your clothing?

Lemon juice is not only a great way to reduce bacterial growth as well as cancel out the odorous smell, but it’s also a fundamental ingredient in making your clothes smell fresh like a detergent would.


The reason lemon juice works so amazingly well in eliminating odor is due to the citric acid that breaks down the oils in any material. You can use lemon juice in various ways,


  1. Pour one cup of lemon juice into the laundry machine as a softener
  2. Mix lemon juice with water and soak the odorous areas, then leave it to dry in the sun or a dry area

Lemon juice works as well as any other ingredient on the list and you’ll be amazed at how wonderful it will smell after coming out of the washing machine.

5. Coffee Grounds

How do coffee grounds help in removing odor from clothes?

Had yourself a cup of coffee this morning? Well, don’t throw out the leftover coffee grounds just yet! Although this may sound a bit bonkers, you’ll never believe the effect coffee grounds can have against aggressive odors.


The best part of this method is the availability it has in every household, chances are if you are a coffee lover, you’ll find yourself delighted to use this strategy.

You can simply do the same technique as you did with the baking soda and place the clothing in a plastic bag with coffee grounds in your clothing. Except for this time, you don’t need to shake the bag as the coffee grounds will naturally absorb the smell. Make sure to leave the clothing in overnight for maximum efficiency.

When you remove the clothing from the plastic bag the scent of coffee can be a bit overwhelming so it’s important to air it out as much as you can afterward. The reason coffee is so effective in removing odors is due to its containing nitrogen. Nitrogen helps not only neutralize odor in your clothing but also the air quickly.

Coffee is the natural alternative to baking soda if you don’t have any at home. So, if you keep racking your brain and asking how to get old smell out of clothes, fear not! This is a simplistic solution that will work to minimize your efforts and remove the bad scent.

6. Essential Oils

How can essential oils help in the removal of bad odor on clothes?

Naturally, for some using perfume can be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about removing foul odor when it comes to clothing. This is especially true for those that don’t have time to take their clothes to the laundry or for those who are in a pinch.


However, for those who have a sensitive nose, this smell can be extremely overwhelming. Some perfumes can even stain clothing leaving abysmal marks that only serve to worsen the clothing. So, if you ask yourself how to remove bad odor from clothes, we recommend using essential oils.

Essential oils are already a staple when it comes to making your home smell wonderful. The same could be said about clothing, all you need to do is mix a few small drops of oil with water in a spray bottle and then spray your clothing freely.

Since the essential oils are strong, they will take over and replace the foul odor with a much better one. We recommend using lavender, grapefruit, or lemon to combat the strong odor more efficiently.

7. Borax

How can borax help remove foul odor from clothing?

A popular cleaning staple in every household for stain removal is Borax. This powerhouse chemical works to remove any persistent stains and odor from your household. Usually used in habitually dirty places like the kitchen and bathroom, borax is known for its full-proof use in any grime-filled environment.


So how does that translate to clothing? Well, for starters, let’s say you have a lot of bulkier items in your repertoire. For example, towels, bedsheets, couch linen, and more could be a handful to tackle with all of these other methods when it comes to the musty smell.

Borax can be used in this case and it will be easier to spread out for the bigger items. You will just need to soak some or all of these items in a bathtub full of hot water and half a cup of Borax. Then after it’s soaked for a good amount of time, you can wash these items normally. This should remove any lingering smell for a good as new odor after washing.

8. Sunlight

How can sunlight help remove odor from clothing?

Say you just finished washing your clothing, and you start removing the clothing from the washing machine only to find out that a smell persists. Those who throw their clothing into the dryer will have a rude awakening and realize that the laundry smells bad after drying.


It will smell even worse when the clothing has dried completely. Believe it or not, one method of lessening a musty smell is sunlight. As a natural combatant for anti-bacteria, the sun not only works to remove the odor but also to extinguish any stain you may have as it also works as natural bleach.

This will not only save you energy but clothing that is dried in the sun will likely smell better than if using a dryer machine.

9. Freeze It!

How can you remove bad odor from clothing by freezing it?

This one is going to sound like something straight out of a madhouse, but believe it or not, it works just as efficiently as the other methods when it comes to removing foul odors. Freezing your clothing by putting it in a freezer bag overnight or for a few hours can kill and fight the odor-causing bacteria in your clothing.


Once you remove the clothing from the freezer, it will freshen up your threads and smell as good as new. We recommend leaving your clothing in the sun after airing them out from the freezer, this will also help in enhancing the delightful smell.

10. Open Your Closet Doors

How can you avoid a musty smell by opening your closet doors?

When it comes to preventive measures against the musty smell, an effective way is to open your closet doors. Musty smells occur when there is little to no airflow in your closet, so if there is clothing that hasn’t been washed and your closet is closed it will likely worsen over time.


This could also happen in the corners of the closet as it is the place with the least airflow, we suggest removing the clothing at least once a month or disposing of old clothing that is taking up space.

11. Use a Fan

How can a fan prevent a musty smell in your closet?

If you have the kind of closet doors that prevent any airflow like solid wooden doors, it can be problematic for the stored away clothing. The most efficient way to reduce moisture and foul odors are to let your closet breathe or use a fan to create airflow in your closet.


Whether you use a floor fan or tiny fans in your closet area, you can circulate air more efficiently and lessen the risk of harboring mold in your closet. So, your best bet is to continue to let air into your closet to avoid persistent odors.

12. Remove Old Clothing and Clean

How can you avoid chronic odor in your closet?

When thinking about the question, “How to get mold out of clothes?” you will need to tackle the root of the problem. When you leave your clothes without cleaning for a long period in your closet, without any airflow it is easy for mold to grow.


The perpetrators amongst your regular clothing are usually the older clothing which tends to not get touched, hence the less you will wash them.

This will eventually manifest as mold and it can easily transfer to your other clothing if it’s hanging next to them. That’s why we insist that you throw away old clothing from your closet and do a deep cleaning to prevent this issue from occurring.