Nobody likes musty smells. It's stale, unpleasant, and can even cause allergies. But despite our best efforts, mildew-y smells often creep into our clothes and linens. No one wants to throw out their favorite sweater because it's been saturated by an obnoxious aroma. If you want to wear it again, you need to how to get musty, moldy smells out of your clothes, towels, and linens.

We are here to help. This article will walk you how to get rid of mold, mildew and musty smells from your clothes and textiles. But first, let's discuss the causes of these troublesome scents so you'll know how to prevent them, to begin with.

1. Clean Your Washing Machine

A washing machine.

We know. You bought your washing machine to clean things, not so you can mess with cleaning it. But mold and mildew thrive in damp environments, and this is what leads to musty smells. And your washing machine is nothing if it's not damp.

Moisture can build up over time and lead to mildew and mold. This results in unpleasant smells in your washing machine latching on to your freshly washed towels and clothes. Fortunately, it's easy to keep your washing machine free of mildew and mold.

What You'll Need:

  • ½ cup white distilled vinegar
  • ½ cup baking soda


1. Add half a cup baking soda and half a cup of distilled vinegar to your empty washing machine.

2. Run the empty washing machine on the hottest, longest possible cycle.

3. Open the door after the cycle has finished. This will allow the interior of the machine to dry.

4. Repeat as needed or once every two months.

Tip: You should always be sure to remove laundry from your washing machine as quickly as possible. The longer your clothes and towels sit there, the greater the chances are that mildew and odors will sit in.

A woman plugs her nose with her fingers.

2. Dehumidify Your Damp Areas

If you live in a damp climate or store your clothes and linens in a subgrade area such as a basement, chances are you're no stranger to musty odors. Moisture and mildew go hand and hand. The easiest way to combat this pesky problem is to draw the moisture out of the area so it stays out of towels, blankets and clothes.

Keep your damp areas heated and dry. Keeping your basement warm will help chase the moisture away, whether you're using forced air, a space heater, or a fireplace. Use a fan to keep the air circulating for even better results. You can also use a dehumidifier. These handy machines will keep the moisture in your home under control with minimal muss and fuss.

If you don't own a dehumidifier, it's easy to make your own.

What You'll Need:

  • Two large buckets (the five-gallon plastic buckets you get at the hardware store are perfect).
  • Rock salt


1. Drill holes in the bottom of one of the buckets.

2. Place the bucket with the holes inside the other bucket.

3. Place four to five pounds of rock salt in the bottom of the bucket with the holes.

4. Check the moisture and empty the buckets every two or three days.

Rock salt.

3. Air Out Your Closets And Drawers

Airflow is a key part of keeping your clothes and linens from developing an unpleasant, musty smell. This means it's important not to overpack them and allow space for the air to circulate through and around them. If space is a factor and you simply must overpack a closet or drawer, be sure to empty it once in a while. Open a window or turn on a fan to make sure it gets plenty of air.

Meanwhile, give your clothes and linens a good shake. Wash them if necessary. Wait a few hours before you put them back in.

A closet packed with colorful sweatshirts.

Now you know how to keep your clothes, towels, and linens from developing a musty smell. But what do you do if, despite all your best efforts, the smell of mold and mildew still manages to creep in?

1. White Vinegar

Run the textiles through the washing machine with a cup of distilled white vinegar. Use the hottest cycle recommended for your fabrics. Remove the finished clothes from the wash immediately and put them in the dryer or hang on a line to dry outside. If the odors persist, move on to step number two.

2. Baking Soda

Put the clothes and linens back into the washing machine. Add half a cup of baking soda and repeat the steps above.

3. Put Them In The Freezer

If your musty smells are the product of bacteria, freezing them overnight just might take care of the problem. Just make sure you seal your clothes thoroughly in a capsule or bag before you stash them there. You don't want that musty smell to permeate the meat you're planning to cook for dinner.

4. Hang Them Outside

If the items in question are delicate and you can't wash them, you can hang them outside on a clothesline to let the sunlight and air work their magic. This method is especially useful when it comes to battling the musty smells that often accompany clothes and linen that have been stored too long in an overstuffed closet or drawer.

Old fashioned, white underthings hanging to dry.

5. Vodka

Vodka is colorless, odorless and it kills bacteria. Spray all over your clothes or linens and allow it to dry. This will help eliminate many bothersome odors. If you have top shelf tastes, we recommend you purchase an inexpensive bottle for these purposes. There's no sense wasting good vodka on your sneakers.

6. Enzyme Odor Remover

If your musty smells are caused by body or pet odors, an enzyme odor remover will work wonders. Just add to your washing machine as directed. And, of course, remember to remove your clothes and dry them as soon as possible.

There you have it. Easy solutions for ridding your clothes, linens, and towels from musty odors. Best of all, most of these tips involve items you already have around the house. Rid yourself of pesky odors today!

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