How to get mildew smell out of clothes?

crteam December 12, 2021 Cleaning Tips , Do It Yourself
Woman with folded baby clothes

Simple Ideas to Get Rid of the Musty Smell from Clothes

Aah.. Freshly washed clothes! Oops but it’s smelling musty! Often people expect the freshly laundered clothes to smell sweet but struggle with the mildew smell. Wondering, what could be the reason? Probably, you left your wet clothes in the washing machine too long, say a weekend (it does happen, not a crime) or might be your laundry machine is unclean. 

There could be many reasons for the musty smell, just chuck them out and focus on how to get that damn smell out of your clothes. Actually, don’t think about it either as we’ve got the best solution to tackle this mildew odor. 

Your clothes can be saved from the stink.

 Let’s see first what are Don’ts: 

  • Avoid using heavily scented detergents to treat the musty smell. It might worsen the smell more. Covering the stinky smell with perfume is not going to work.
  • When you wash mildew clothes, do not use fabric softeners as it causes residue build-up and makes the problem more critical.
  • Unclean washing machines might be the problem for musty smelling clothes. First analyze the machine, clean it if needed and then wash the mildew clothes. 

Effective solutions to get the musty smell out of clothes


When it comes to any sort of household remedy whether treating stains or eradicating odor, vinegar is a one stop effective solution. Easily available at home, white vinegar works wonders when it comes to getting rid of mildew. 

Hot water combined with the acetic acid property of vinegar will kill the bacteria that is growing up on the clothes and eliminate the musty smell.

What you need to do is

  • Make sure the water in your washing machine is set to the hottest temperature 
  • Now spread the items in the washing machine in an evenly manner and then pour a cup of white vinegar, if it is a top loader machine and if it is a front loader take ½ or ¼ cup of vinegar. 
  • The heat and powerful vinegar will sanitize the clothes and remove the musty smell

Baking soda 

Just like vinegar, even baking soda is a great household ingredient that acts as a powerful odor remover.  If you still find some smell after vinegar wash, try using baking soda next. 

What you need to do is

  • Sprinkle some baking soda (½ or 1 cup) on the clothes in the machine 
  • Wash it again by setting the water temperature to the hottest
  • This will help to neutralize the remaining odor on the clothes and make them smell fresh like before

You can follow both vinegar and baking soda washes back to back for the best results. 

Enzyme cleaners 

If the musty smell is caused due to some peculiar reason like pet urine or body odor then enzyme odor removers work best.  You’ll easily find it at any local store. Follow the instructions as per the manufacturer and see the odor getting vanished.

Bright sunlight 

There is no smell or odor that possibly bright sunlight cannot eliminate. The light emitted from the sun has the power to kill bacteria and microbes and brings freshness to the clothes. So make sure whenever you wash mildew clothes get them exposed under the sun. It acts as a natural bleaching agent.  

Natural sunlight not only is best for odor removal but also its disinfecting properties are much better for fabrics like cotton and synthetic. After every rinse cycle, let the clothes dry under the ultraviolet rays, or if that is not possible at least air-dry the clothes to completely dry and save it from mildew. 


Borax is actually a powdered white substance best known to get rid of mildew, stains and molds around the home. This ingredient also helps to fight the odor coming from clothes. Even the soiled musty clothes can be treated with Borax. 

What you need to do is

  • Soak the musty smelling clothes in a tub of hot water. 
  • Now, add a ½ cup of Borax powder to the water.
  • Let the clothes soak in for at least half an hour. 
  • After that wash the clothes normally as you do.

Laundry enhancer 

Do you know what works amazingly on your musty smelling clothes? It’s the laundry enhancer or laundry fragrance booster that works as an odor eliminator. There are many commercial products that claim to be the best. Examine and use what works the best for you.  

The amazing fragrance of the laundry enhancer will not cover up the musty smell but eradicate it completely. 

 What you need to do is

  • To get rid of the odor, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of laundry enhancer per washing machine load and then wash the clothes
  • For best results, at least perform 2 washes. The odor will certainly be gone. 

Note – Before using any commercial product or any chemical based product, it is better to examine and get a patch test done to ensure the safety of the fabrics. 

How to get rid of musty smelling clothes kept in the closet? 

There are 3 easy ways to keep the clothes smelling fresh even when kept in the closet for too long:

  • Closet doors – Keeping closet doors closed every time can stop the airflow due to which the clothes may start smelling bad. Whenever possible, keep the closet doors open for some time to let in some air. Better opt for Louver doors instead of totally packed doors as it allows enough ventilation inside the closet. 
  • Tiny fans to rescue – Tiny, small fans are easily available in the market. You can buy a couple of them and place them at the bottom of the closet. This will help in airflow and save the clothes from the musty smell. If you don’t want the fans to stay on all the time then you can opt for fans that come with a timer. Set a time for on and off as per your convenience. 
  • Clean, clean and clean – Cleaning the closet is undoubtedly an effective solution to protect the clothes from musty odor. As often as possible clean the closet, get rid of the unnecessary items and leave some room for the airflow.

These ideas would surely help you get the mildew smell out of the clothes. Try them without fail!