3 Ways to Remove Musty Smell from Clothes - wikiHow

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29-01-2023, 13:10
If your clothes smell musty, chances are they are infested with spores of a mold. This can happen if you leave them too long in the storage or let them sit for a few days in the washing machine. You can get rid of the smell using handy household products like vinegar, baking soda or borax. After washing your clothes, dry them outside in the sun to completely get rid of the smell.

Treating Machine Washable Items

  1. Choose a household product to use. Clothes with a mild musty smell can often be treated using a common, nontoxic household product. This method is also best for delicate fabrics that can't be bleached. If your clothes have mold spores, they won't stop smelling musty until the spores have been killed. Check around your house to see which of the following mold killing products you have on hand:
    • White vinegar
    • Borax
    • Baking soda
  2. Start a load of wash. Put the musty clothes in your washing machine with the amount of detergent you normally use. Let the washer fill with water as the cycle begins. Allow it to completely fill before continuing.
    • It's best to use hot water to ensure the mold spores get killed.
    • If you're washing clothing that can't be washed in hot water, try using cold water instead. You may have to wash the clothes more than once to get rid of the smell.
  3. Pour a cup of your chosen product into the water. Once the washer has filled with water, pour in a cup of vinegar, borax or baking soda. Pour it straight into the water so it will get evenly dispersed. Finish running the wash cycle as usual.
    • Each of these items has properties that help to kill mold spores and remove bad smells. If the clothes are particularly musty, you can use baking soda and vinegar together.
    • If you aren't able to pour the product straight into the water, mix it with a cup of hot water and use the liquid detergent dispenser.
  4. Hang the clothes outside to dry. Drying your clothes on a line in the sun will help to kill any remaining spores and freshen the smell of the clothing. Even during the winter, you can dry your clothes outside on a sunny day. Try to place them in an area that gets full sun and wind.
    • If it's raining outside, you'll need to use your dryer instead. This isn't ideal, since the dryer is an enclosed space that doesn't allow fresh air to flow through your clothes.
    • If your clothes come out of the dryer still smelling musty, wait for a sunny day to wash them and dry them outside.

Treating Dry Clean Only Items

  1. Try a no-rinse cleaner. If you need to get the smell out of a coat or another clothing item that's dry clean only, submerging it in water isn't an option. No rinse cleaner effectively rinses the surface of an item without completely saturating the layers of fabric, so there's less chance of warping. Look in the laundry products section for a "no-rinse wash." It's a concentrated solution that comes in bottles, similar to detergent.
    • In most cases you'll mix a capful of the no-rinse wash with several liters of water. Pour it into a spray bottle.
    • Spray your musty garment so that all parts of it are slightly damp.
    • Hang the garment to dry outside in the sun and wind. When it dries, the smell should be gone. If it still smells musty, repeat the process.
    • Note that this does require wetting the fabric. Don't use this method on items that shouldn't get wet, like leather or suede.
  2. Use baking soda. Instead of washing your clothes with baking soda, you can use dry baking soda on your dry clean only garments. Baking soda will absorb the musty smell. You may have to repeat the process more than once for best results.
    • Lay the garment on a clean surface. Sprinkle it all over with a fine layer of baking soda. Turn it over and do the same. If you don't wish to put baking soda directly on the item try placing the item in a plastic bag next to an open container of baking soda.
    • Let the baking soda sit on the garment overnight.
    • Take it outside and shake it well. Use a soft brush to remove excess baking soda.
    • Hang it outside for the rest of the day.
  3. Try spraying your garment with vodka. If you don't want to go to the expense of getting a special cleaner, you cause use cheap vodka. Pour some vodka into a spray bottle. Spray the musty item all over, making sure you don't miss a spot. Hang it outside in the sun to dry. This should remove or weaken the musty smell.
  4. Get it dry cleaned. If no at-home methods successfully remove the musty smell, you may need to take the item to a dry cleaner store. Dry cleaners use powerful chemicals to deodorize fabric, and in most cases they can effectively get rid of mustiness. If you're not interested in having your clothing coated with chemicals, look for a "green" dry cleaning store that uses liquid carbon dioxide cleaning.

Treating Moldy Items

  1. Place the clothes in boiling water. If your items are extremely moldy and you don't want to throw them away, you can try putting them in boiling water to kill the mold spores and remove that musty smell. This method should only be used on items like towels, sheets, and other sturdy linens that can stand up to boiling water. If you place delicate fabrics in boiling water, they will probably fall apart. To boil moldy items,
    • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. You need enough water to thoroughly saturate the garment you're treating.
    • Place the garment in a separate large pot. Pour the boiling water over it, making sure it gets fully soaked.
    • Let it sit for five minutes.
    • Wring out the water. If it's still very hot, you may want to wear rubber gloves.
    • Wash the garment as usual in the washer. Dry it outside in the sun.
  2. Use bleach. Bleach is an effective mold killer. It will remove mold and mustiness from items that are safe to bleach, like towels, sheets and socks. Be sure to check an item's tag before bleaching it. If it says "Do Not Bleach," use a different method. Whenever you use bleach, do it in a room with plenty of ventilation, and protect your skin with gloves. To bleach your clothes,
    • In a large bucket, mix up a solution with half a cup of bleach and a gallon of water.
    • Place the musty clothes in the bleach solution.
    • Wash the clothes in your washing machine with detergent, as normal. Dry them outside in the sun.
  3. Try ammonia. Ammonia has a strong smell that is toxic to the lungs, so make sure your laundry room is well ventilated before using. Put your clothes in the washer and start a wash cycle without adding any detergent. Add a cup of ammonia to the water. Let the cycle run, then do a second cycle with detergent only. Hang your clothes in the sun to dry.
    • Never mix bleach with ammonia. It creates a gas that can cause lung damage if breathed.
    • Handle ammonia with care. You may want to wear clothes to prevent it from getting on your skin. If you breathe in ammonia, leave the area to get fresh air. Call poison control if you feel light-headed.


  • If you have a front-loading washing machine, look at the rubber ring that seals the door. If the bottom part, where the water drains, looks moldy; then that may be contributing to your problems. Try cleaning that with a bleach solution, or, in extreme cases, it is possible to replace the rubber ring without having to buy a new washer. When the washer is not in use, keep the door ajar (a little open). This will help it dry and prevent mold from growing.
  • There is a product called "Purewasher" that is only sold on the internet that will remove odor from your machine and your clothing; they even have a guarantee. It works very well.
  • You can use a dryer sheet in the clothes dryer, in the hopes that the heat will release the fragrance, which will then get into the clothes. However, this will only help to cover the smell and will probably not eliminate your problem.
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  • Never mix bleach with ammonia, as this mixture will result in a noxious gas which will harm those who breathe it.
  • If you spill bleach or ammonia on your skin, immediately rinse your hands with plenty of cold, running water.
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