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How to Remove a Musty Smell From Clothes Without Washing Them

Sometimes you do everything right. Wash your clothes, dry them well, store them in your wardrobe, and yet when you eventually take them out to put them on, they still manage to smell musty. 

Before you start getting annoyed or begin questioning your clothes washing methods, remember that this can happen to any of us. And we now know what’s causing the issue.

Why do Clothes Smell Musty? 

Clothes can smell musty for a variety of reasons. Your washing machine may be the culprit, especially if you haven’t cleaned it in a while. Or you may have inadvertently put away an item while it was still a bit damp. Clothing items can also absorb smells wafting around the house or inside the wardrobe.

Whatever the cause of your musty-smelling clothes may be, there are numerous easy solutions you can reach for, and you won’t even have to do another round of washing. 

Steam Your Musty Clothes

You must already know that steam is a powerful tool when it comes to fighting bacteria and mould, and it can also help you get rid of that unpleasant smell clothes can sometimes acquire. 

Once you use a steamer or an iron with the steam turned on, or leave your clothes in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, their fibers will relax and the odour will disappear. 

Air Them Out In the Sun

You might remember that before the era of dry cleaning, our grandmothers used to air out everything from carpets to pillows. They weren’t doing this just to show off their nicer possessions. 

Airing clothes outside (provided that it isn’t raining or freezing cold, of course) can do wonders, especially if it is also sunny. 

The sun’s ultraviolet rays (the same ones we actually try to keep out of in the summer in fact) can kill both bacteria and other causes of bad odours in clothing, so exposing a questionable item to sunlight will do the trick in as quickly as an hour. Bear in mind, the stronger the sunlight, the more powerful it is.

Use Your Dryer and Some Dryer Sheets

Heat is another powerful weapon in your battle against bacteria and other germs. Instead of washing awkward-smelling clothes, you can simply throw them in the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. Just make sure to use the hottest setting available to allow the high temperature to do its trick.

Alternatively, you can use dryer sheets as a quick fix. All you have to do is rub them on the musty-smelling piece of clothing before you intend to wear it. 

Dryer sheets can also be useful as a preemptive measure. Layer them between your clothes as you store them, and they should help them come out smelling fresh.

Freeze Your Clothes 

Just like hot temperatures are able to kill the culprits responsible for bad odours, cold temperatures are said to be able to do the same. Putting your clothing in the freezer might seem extremely odd, but the logic behind the process is sound, as most bacteria will die at freezing temperatures. While your freezer isn’t actually cold enough to kill all germs, it will still be able to stop their reproduction, and effectively remove any odd smells.

If you are ready to experiment, put your item in a freezer bag and keep it in the freezer for a few hours, after which the bad smell should be gone. You will need to re-warm your clothes before putting them on, though. 

Treat Them with Vodka

Having a bottle of vodka lying around somewhere in the house is always a good idea, at least when it comes to removing the musty smell of clothes. It works well for unexpected guests too. 

Mix three parts vodka with one part water, pour it in a spray bottle and spray your clothes. The alcohol in the vodka will absorb the smell and once it evaporates, the smell will be gone as well.

You can mix yourself a vodka martini while you’re at it as well. 

Treat Them with Distilled White Vinegar

Vinegar will probably go down in history as one of the most popular go-to ingredients for general cleaning. From your bathroom to the kitchen, there isn’t a place where it can’t be used effectively, due to its powerful anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. 

If you want to use it to eliminate unpleasant odours from clothing, mix distilled white vinegar with 10 drops of an essential oil of your choice in a spray bottle and use it on your clothing. 

Don’t skip out on the essential oil, as you don’t want to be smelling like vinegar either. 

Treat Them with Baking Soda

The list of what baking soda is able to help us do around the house just keeps getting longer and longer. Considering how efficient it is in getting things clean, it is not particularly surprising that it can also help your clothes smell fresh. 

There are two ways to use it. You can either make a paste using water and baking soda and then rub it all over the clothing, or at least the smelly parts of it. Once it dries, it can easily be brushed off (together with the bad odour). 

Or, you can simply put your clothing and some baking soda in a plastic bag, shake it well, let it sit for 10 minutes, after which you can simply shake out the item, which will smell fresh once again.

Treat Them with Charcoal

Charcoal is a very common ingredient in many odour removers for good reason, as it is able to bind and absorb foul smells.

Charcoal can be used in a similar way to baking soda. Get some charcoal pieces and put them on the bottom of a paper bag with the smelly piece of clothing placed on top. Make sure to seal the bag as tightly as you can and let it sit overnight. 

Treat Them with Unused Coffee Grounds

Another less known method you can try is to use coffee grounds to remove bad smells from your clothes. 

Because of the nitrogen that is found in coffee grounds, they are able to soak up that musty smell or any other type of unpleasant tang. To allow them to work their magic, place them in a bowl with your clothes placed on top and leave them overnight. In the morning, air the clothes out for a bit and they should smell fresh afterwards.

Don`t Forget About Prevention

Even though this list of methods proven to remove that musty smell from clothes can go on and on, prevention should never be underestimated either. 

Make sure that your regularly clean your washing machine and tumble dryer. If you notice that your clothes smell funny when you take them out of the washer, it probably means it needs a bit of attention. Run an empty cycle on a high temperature setting and throw in some bleach. Or, get yourself some cleaning tablets or cleaning fluid and use it regularly. 

Never put your clothes away before they get a chance to dry completely, as damp clothing is a breeding ground for mould and bacteria. 

Finally, freshen up your drawers and wardrobes every once in a while, as foul odours tend to spread inside them. Keeping some coffee grounds or baking soda in there can be all you need. 


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