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How To Get Musty Smell Out Of Clothes

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One of the most difficult odors to eliminate is the musty smell in any of your clothing. At Odorcide we have the solution for you!


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The Odor Problem

Getting the Musty Smell Out of Your Clothes

We’ve all been there: you open your closet or take out a load of laundry only to be greeted by that unmistakable, unpleasant smell—mustiness. Whether it’s an old favorite sweater or a rarely worn dress, musty odors in clothes can be frustrating. In this blog post, we will delve into the causes of these odors, the science behind them, and why they can be hard to eliminate.

Musty Smell Out of Clothes

Understanding the Problem

A musty smell in clothing is usually caused by mold and mildew. These fungi thrive in damp, dark, and poorly ventilated environments. When wet clothes are stored in such conditions, they become the perfect breeding ground for musty odors. Bacteria can also contribute to musty smells by breaking down organic matter like sweat and skin cells trapped in the fabric, releasing compounds that cause the mildew smell.

How to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes

To get the musty smell out of clothes, you can use baking soda or white vinegar in your laundry. Add baking soda to your laundry detergent to neutralize musty smells. Alternatively, use white vinegar or scented vinegar as a fabric softener to remove the musty odor. Simply add half white vinegar to the rinse cycle to ensure the unpleasant odor is eliminated.

Preventing Mildew Smells

To prevent mildew smell, ensure clothes are thoroughly dried and stored in well-ventilated areas. After washing clothes, hang clothes in direct sunlight, as the sun’s natural antibacterial properties help kill remaining bacteria and mold spores, eliminating the funky smell. If you can’t air dry your clothes outside, make sure to dry clothes completely in the dryer. Using dryer sheets can also help keep your clothes smelling fresh.

Additional Tips for Musty Smelling Clothes

For stubborn stains and musty odors, try combining a few drops of essential oils like tea tree or lavender with your washing soda. This can enhance the cleaning and leave your clothing items smelling pleasant. You can also use a spray bottle filled with a mixture of lemon juice and warm or cold water to pre-treat funky smelling clothes before washing them.

Dealing with Stinky Laundry

If you deal with stinky laundry regularly, make sure your laundry room is well-ventilated. Avoid leaving dirty clothes in a damp environment, such as a gym bag or plastic bag, as this can cause a mildew smell to develop. Use a laundry basket that allows air circulation and ensure dirty clothes are washed promptly.

Managing Mold Smell in Washing Machines

Over time, washing machines can accumulate mildew spores and bacteria, contributing to an awful smell. To combat this, run an empty wash cycle with plain white vinegar and hot water to clean the machine. Repeat this process monthly to keep your laundry smelling fresh.

Quick Fixes for Musty Odors

For a quick fix, use a spray bottle with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water to spritz your clothes. This can help remove odor temporarily. For upholstery or non-washable items, an upholstery brush can help remove mildew smell and freshen up the fabric.

DIY solutions can be less effective than professional cleaning solutions for eliminating musty smells and mildew odors in clothes. Here’s why:

  • DIY methods like using baking soda, washing soda, or essential oils can help temporarily, but they often don’t fully remove musty odors or mildew smells from wet clothes.
  • Adding white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to the rinse cycle can mitigate the musty smell, but too much vinegar can leave an unpleasant odor on clothes.
  • Air drying in direct sunlight leverages the sun’s natural antibacterial properties, but it might not be sufficient for completely eradicating the musty smell and mildew spores.
  • Scented vinegar, lemon juice, and essential oils can mask funky smells, but they rarely remove the underlying odor-causing bacteria that professional products can tackle.
  • Professional laundry detergents and fabric softeners are designed to target and eliminate musty smells and mildew odors effectively, ensuring clothes don’t smell musty.
  • Professional cleaning solutions often contain specialized ingredients that can absorb moisture, neutralize mildew spores, and remove odors deeply embedded in fabrics.
  • DIY approaches may fail to prevent mildew smells in damp environments such as gym bags or laundry baskets, whereas professional solutions provide a more thorough clean.
  • Regularly washing clothes with professional-grade products ensures that stubborn stains and unpleasant odors are fully addressed, unlike many home remedies.
  • Professional products often come with added benefits like UV protection, which helps in eliminating remaining bacteria and preventing future mold smells.

In summary, while DIY solutions like using baking soda, white vinegar, and essential oils can help address musty and mildew smells temporarily, professional cleaning solutions offer a more complete and effective approach to keep your clothes smelling fresh and clean.

The Impact of Musty Odors

Musty odors don’t just make your clothes smell bad. They can have a broader impact on your daily life and health:

1. Health Concerns

Mold and mildew release spores that can trigger allergic reactions, respiratory issues, and skin irritations. Prolonged exposure to these spores, especially through contact with contaminated clothing, can lead to more serious health problems.

2. Damage to Fabric

The presence of mold, mildew, and bacteria can weaken the fibers in your clothing over time, leading to discoloration and deterioration. This can shorten the lifespan of your favorite garments.

3. Spoilage of Other Items

Musty smelling clothes can transfer their odor to other items in your closet or drawers, creating a pervasive smell that can be difficult to remove from your entire wardrobe.

Why Musty Odors Persist in Clothing

Understanding why musty odors persist can help you address the root cause more effectively. Here are some reasons why these odors can be so stubborn:

1. Porous Fabrics

Clothing is often made from porous materials like cotton, wool, and synthetic blends. These fabrics can absorb moisture and retain it for a long time, creating an ideal environment for mold, mildew, and bacteria to thrive.

2. Repeated Exposure

If clothes are frequently stored in damp or unventilated areas, they are continually exposed to conditions that promote the growth of odor-causing organisms. This repeated exposure makes it harder to eliminate the smell entirely.

3. Inadequate Cleaning

Sometimes, regular laundry methods aren’t sufficient to remove all the mold, mildew, and bacteria from clothes. Standard washing may not reach deep into the fibers where these organisms are hiding, allowing them to survive and continue producing odors.

4. Residual Contamination

Even if you manage to remove the musty smell temporarily, residual spores or bacteria in your washing machine or storage area can re-contaminate your clothes. Without addressing the source of the moisture and contamination, the problem will likely return.

The Science Behind Odor-Causing Bacteria

Musty Smell Out of Your ClothesTo effectively combat musty odors in clothes, it’s useful to understand the science behind odor-causing bacteria. Here’s a brief overview:

1. Bacterial Growth

Bacteria multiply rapidly in warm, moist environments. When sweat and body oils are left on clothing, they provide an excellent food source for bacteria. As these microorganisms break down organic matter, they produce volatile organic compounds (VOCs) responsible for the musty smell.

2. Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are types of fungi that thrive in similar conditions as bacteria. They grow in colonies and release spores into the air. When these spores land on damp clothing, they germinate and form new mold colonies, perpetuating the cycle of mildew smell.

3. Chemical Reactions

The breakdown of organic materials by bacteria and fungi involves chemical reactions that release gases. Compounds like methanethiol, isovaleric acid, and dimethyl trisulfide are common byproducts of microbial activity and are notorious for their foul smells.


Eliminating the musty smell in clothes can be very challenging. ODORCIDE® Laundry eliminates serious odor problems!

Our past customers have let us know how well our products have helped them. Read these testimonials to help you understand the impressive results that occur when using our products.

ODORCIDE® products feature a unique, non-enzymatic formula that works, regardless of what products have been previously applied!

Specialized Odor Elimination

No matter what the cause of the odor issue, we understand you want it fixed quickly.  When bad odors need to be eliminated, people often begin a search for specialized odor-elimination products. Discovering these can truly transform any areas with strong odors.

At ODORCIDE® we offer top-tier, professional-grade solutions. Our products are designed to provide superior odor elimination in your vehicle and your home.

We are committed to helping people maintain odor-free environments. Whether the task at hand is getting rid of smells in clothes, carpets, and kennels or ensuring your home smells great, you can count on ODORCIDE® products.

Easy To Use Products

One of the key attributes of ODORCIDE® products is its ease of use, even if you have tried other products without success. A single application is often sufficient to eliminate odors. However, for strong or old odors, reapplication might be necessary. ODORCIDE® products are also safe around people and pets because we use natural, non-toxic ingredients.

ODORCIDE® offers an affordable solution to your intense clothing odor issues, providing immediate results with minimal effort, making it a cost-effective choice.

Our odor-elimination products have been lauded for their effectiveness in dealing with stubborn odors. Our professional strength concentrates and ready to use products can combat a wide array of odors, including those from food, smoke, urine and sweat. Odorcide can also be used on various surfaces such as carpet, upholstery, and hardwood.


ODORCIDE® is a family-owned business located in Smithville, Missouri where we manufacture what we sell. Unlike many other companies, ODORCIDE® only manufacturers ODORCIDE® products. We have dedicated ourselves to providing the answer to your odor problems with products you can use and recommend with complete confidence.

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