11 Unique Ways to Get the Musty Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing

man-smelling-dirty-clothes

You’ve probably worn clothes with a musty smell and you didn’t like them. And you’re not the only one who has experienced this before—the majority of other people have experienced the same.

In some cases, this musty smell could be a result of your washing machine not cleaned for a long time. In some cases, it could be that your clothes aren’t properly stored.

Now, whatever the case, you need to get the musty smell out of your clothes and restore the pleasant smell.

This post will walk you through 11 amazing ways of getting musty smells out of your clothes.

So let’s get started.

What Causes the Smells?

Like I mentioned above, there are many reasons why your clothes could develop a musty smell.

For example, fibers used to make your clothes can pick up some weird scents, such as cooking smoke, cigarette smoke, among other strong scents.

So if you didn’t store your clothes properly, they could end up picking up these weird scents, making them have a musty smell.

Keeping your clothes damp could also lead to the growth of molds. When molds grow on your clothes, they will stink up your clothes, resulting in that musty smell.

Additionally, clothes you hang on your closet or wall can get smelly, especially if they are damp and have attracted some of the strong scents we discussed earlier.

The bottom line here is that there are many causes of smells in clothes. And they all result in poor storing of your clothes.

So the first step to preventing musty smell is ensuring your clothes are stored properly.

Why Should I Not Wash Them?

You could get the musty smell out of your clothes by washing, but I bet this isn’t practical all the time. First, washing your clothes whenever you don’t have to will push your water bills up. And, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time washing clothes you didn’t have to wash. 

The good news, though, is that there are many ways to get the musty smell out of your clothes without even washing them—sounds crazy, but this is real, proven and tested—you can get the musty smell without having to wash your clothing.

That said, let’s look at some of the 11 unique ways you can get the musty smell out of your clothes without washing them, shall we?

11 Amazing Ways to Get the Musty Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing

1. Use Vinegar

Using vinegar tops my list and there’s every reason to give it a priority too. You can use distilled vinegar because it contains acetic acid, which helps with the neutralization of base properties.

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The coming of the acetic acid and the base property is what removes the musty smell from your clothes. And the best of all is that vinegar for laundry will also help in eliminating cigarette smells.

If the smells aren’t as strong, ½ cup of vinegar will just serve its purpose. However, if you have a more pungent odor, you might want to be a little ruthless with it by using a full cup of vinegar.

If you want to remove the bad odor from your towels, you can add vinegar directly to your basin but with no other detergent.

On the other hand, if you will remove the musty smells from clothes, just introduce vinegar the same way you’d add your fabric softeners.

2. Air Your Clothes in the Sun

This is basic, but I did have to mention it and maybe give a few insights you probably aren’t aware of. Airing your clothes in the sun is one of the best ways to get rid of the musty smells.

But this will heavily depend on the weather—usually, a sunny day will do, but it could still work even on a calm day. The UV is perfect for drying the dampness in your clothes and kills the bacteria that cause the musty smell.

Rainy seasons aren’t the best for this hack. You can’t remove your clothes out when it’s raining, even when you want to remove the dampness in your clothes.

If it’s a rainy season, the best thing to do is air your clothes on your balcony to let them dry slowly as the dampness is removed in the process. This way, you don’t have to wait until the sunshine returns.

3. Use Baking Soda

Now, in some cases, you may not love the idea of vinegar, or simply, it may not just work for you—please don’t fret because I have another hack for you—using baking soda.

Baking soda works like vinegar and the best of all is that it can remove even the most stubborn fabrics. So it could serve as your alternative to vinegar without using a different approach.

By using baking soda, you could just apply a bit of it to the affected area of your clothes (the area with mold) and the mold will disappear even without running your clothes through a washer.

That said, use a cup of baking soda and add it to your basin to get rid of the musty smell in your clothes. Do this at the highest water temperature as much as possible.

Some people do a combination of vinegar and baking soda, but that is up to you. Depending on what works for you, go with your instincts.

4. Leverage Alcohol and Water

It sounds a little weird, but many people, including myself, have found success with mixing water and alcohol in a spray bottle. However, the alcohol you’ll use must not be old alcohol, though—red wine might be your best bet.

Alternatively, you can purchase high-strength vodka and mix it with water in a ratio of 3:1 parts of water. Once that is done, spray the affected area of your clothes to remove the musty smell.

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The advantage of using vodka is that it doesn’t only kill bacteria and removes the musty smells from your clothes—it also doesn’t leave any smell once your clothes have dried.

5. Use a Laundry Booster

Using a laundry booster is also an alternative when you want to remove the musty smell out of your clothes—and Borax is an excellent alternative to vinegar and baking soda.

Like vinegar and baking soda, you can also use borax to remove molds on clothes without leaving any harsh chemicals on your clothes.

You can use Borax with any of your preferred laundry detergents or just add it directly to your clothes and get rid of that musty smell.

If you choose to use Borax, boil some water and dissolve Borax before adding it to your laundry. Like you’d do with any of the softeners, add the solution during the rinse cycle to remove the musty smell.

Of course, this might involve a little bit of washing, but it’s only rinsing the smelly clothes in the solution. I’m assuming that your clothes are clean and that they just have a musty smell. There’s a difference between a smelling cloth and a dirty cloth.

6. Use Essential Oils

I know that you love essential oils because they make your room feel fresh and fabulous. But did you also know you could use that essential oils to remove the musty smells from clothes?

Well, yes, you can use essential oils to get rid of the musty smell from your clothes, making them feel fresh and smell nice once again.

If you don’t have essential oil already, I recommend you get one at your local store. And once you have it, mix with water in a spray bottle and spray your musty-smelling clothes.

And because the essential oils possess a robust and pleasant smell, they’ll soon overpower the musty smell, making your clothes regain their initial pleasant smell.

Using essential oils is one of the best ways to freshen up your damp clothes that could soon have molds growing in them, without necessarily washing your musty-smelling clothes.

7. Find Oxygen Bleach

If the remedies mentioned above didn’t work, here is a remedy that works for many—using an oxygen bleach like the Oxiclean.

Unlike other remedies where you could use the remedy and other detergents, you can use an oxygen bleach solely without combining it with any other detergent.

Oxygen bleach comes in handy, especially if your clothes have developed the musty smell due to the build-up of detergents used, causing detergent residues.

The advantage of using oxygen bleach is that it’s neutral with all colors, so you don’t have to worry about your clothes getting discolored.

However, you must avoid using oxygen bleach on materials, such as silk or wool, as dry cleaners best handle these two materials.

8. Make Good Your Coffee Grounds

I understand the love you have for coffee and please pardon me for persuading you to use your coffee ground to remove a musty smell from your clothes.

That said, place your coffee grounds in a bag and then put in your musty-smelling clothes in the same bag and leave to stay overnight, then the clothes in the morning.

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You don’t need to shake the bag because the coffee grounds will absorb the musty smell during the night. It’s that easy with the coffee ground home remedy.

9. Use Lemon Juice

Lemon juice home remedy for getting rid of musty smells on your clothes is an environmentally-friendly solution. It’s a bit less intense than vinegar but a good substitute.

There are many ways you can use lemon juice to remove the musty smell from your clothes.

A good example is to combine the lemon juice with salt to form a paste that you’ll use to get rid of the musty smells from your clothes.

The best of all is that this method will also help if your clothes get some rust on them.

Once you have formed the paste using the lemon juice and salt, apply the paste to your clothes’ affected areas and allow it to sit for some minutes.

This doesn’t have anything to do with washing, but you’ll just run some water on the clothes once you have applied the paste to the clothes.

10. Freeze Clothes to Kill Bacteria

Exposing bacteria to extreme temperatures—either too cold or too hot will kill most bacteria that cause the musty smell in clothes.

With this remedy, you’ll need to have a freezer, which you’ll use to freeze the affected clothes. Freezing will get rid of the musty smell as all the bacteria causing the smell will be gone.

However, it is essential to note that this remedy is best suited for training or workout clothes usually used for just a couple of hours per day.

Apart from helping remove the musty smell, using this remedy also saves you some time and money.

In other words, you don’t have to use a lot of water to wash clothes that don’t require washing.

11. Clean Up Your Closet

In some cases, all you need to do is clean up your closet and give it the fresh smell it has always had. And this will be straightforward if you can trace where the musty smell is coming from.

Start by removing everything in your closet, including shoes, clothes, and other items you might have kept in the closet. Once that is done, use any of the solutions mentioned above—vinegar, Borax, baking soda, among others, to clean your closet.

Dust all the areas and make sure that you check the squeezed places to see if there could be anything causing the musty smell—pet stains are always culprits, so ensure you have checked this, especially if you have a pet at home.

Bottom Line

As we wind up, I want you to understand that it’s normal for your clothes to have a musty smell. In some cases, it’s not even your fault—so don’t get angry with yourself and instead look for a solution from any of the remedies discussed in this post.

If your clothes get musty a couple of times, then you need to reconsider how you store them. The chances are that you are storing them the wrong way. The recommendation I’d give is to fold your clothes nicely and arrange them in your closet after they have dried properly.

About Sarah Walker

Sarah is a homemaker and is passionate about fixing little things in and around her house. She loves to do DIY hacks and keeps on writing about those things in her blog. When she is not writing, she keeps herself busy with her twins Cathy and Mickey.