Removing Odor from Clothing

— Written By Trudy Pickett and last updated by

Thrift store purchases, old, packed-away seasonal clothes, clothing exposed to dampness can all carry musty smells. The smell can range from the stale odor of being stored to the moldy scent of damp-associated with mildew in the clothes. To save them, you need to know how to get musty smell out of clothes. Here are the steps to rid your clothing of these odors:

Remove the smell from the clothing.

There are times when the smell is caused by using too much detergent on clothes and not rinsing properly. The smell sticks to the soap deposits. Another cause could be the accumulation of fabric softener on the clothes, making them less absorbent. The build-up of soap and fabric softener can be easily remedied using ordinary cleaning items in your home.

Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to water in the washing machine and soak the clothes for at least thirty minutes. Drain the water and wash as usual, or wash along with the vinegar solution. The vinegar smell will disappear from the clothes once they are dry. If possible, dry the clothes in the sun so that the ultraviolet rays can kill any mildew or mold. Another natural solution is to add a cup of baking soda to the water with the clothes then run a normal cycle.

Fresh, unscented cat litter can be used for removing odor from a lot of things, including musty clothes. Leave the litter in a box or wardrobe with the clothes for a week, and the musty smell will dissipate. Baking soda and newspaper can also be used to absorb smells.

If the mold or mildew has spread and spot treatments are not enough, you can purchase a commercial mildewcide. These are specially formulated to fight mold and mildew on clothing. Follow manufacturer’s directions for use.

Clean the washing machine.

Sometimes the washing machine is responsible for a musty smell in freshly washed clothes. Front-loading washers are easy living spaces for mildew because they are always kept closed and rarely dried out. Clean the machine by running a short, normal cycle with hot water and a cup of bleach. Leave the machine empty of clothes. Drain after the cycle. This should get rid of bacteria and other odor-causing germs. After that, leave the door open from time to time to air the machine out. Wipe with bleach if needed.

Change odor-causing habits.

Sometimes, preventing a musty smell in clothes is as simple as keeping them dry so mildew doesn’t form in them. Make sure the clothes are dry before tossing them into the hamper. Use a towel bar instead of a hook so that the towel dries faster. Any time you spot mold or mildew on clothing, deal with it immediately or it will thrive.

If these steps on how to get musty smells out of clothes are not successful with repeated tries, the fabric probably cannot be renewed. Time to toss it!

Resource: NCSU Extension

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Written By

Photo of Trudy PickettTrudy PickettRetired (252) 527-2191 (Office) trudy_pickett@ncsu.eduLenoir County, North Carolina
Posted on May 3, 2013
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