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Removing Musty Smell from Clothing

Category Odors
Allowing clothes to be damp for too long can result in a funky smell. This page is about removing musty smell from clothing.


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October 12, 2010

Here's the "Solution"

I had a brand new bedspread, that picked up a musty smell from an RV we had used. I tried everything, to get the odor out. Of course I could not use bleach on this fabric. A musty odor is almost impossible to get rid of, once an item has been exposed, no matter how clean you get it! Ahhh, at last, I remembered that I still had some "Simple Solution Stain and Odor Remover" on hand. You can buy it at most pet stores. It's the best thing I have ever found, for removing the smell left in the carpet from our aging, incontinent kitty. It has never damaged my carpets, so I thought, why not?! So I put two cups of "Simple Solution" into a washing machine full of water with the bedspread. I let it soak for four hours and then ran it through the normal cycle. The musty odor is now gone! And the bedspread has a very light pleasant scent. I am so happy that a brand new, very expensive item was saved! I would have no hesitation to use this product on any type of furniture that may have picked up a musty smell. Musty Odor? This nasty problem will not be a problem for me ever again!


By Diane =^..^= from New Braunfels, TX

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

April 21, 2011

All of our clothes have been stored for a year. Last night I washed them in All detergent and baking soda. The musty, oily odor is still there. What else can I use?

By DIANE from Iowa Park, TX


April 21, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Try washing them again, but add 1-2 cups of white vinegar along with the detergent.

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April 23, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

I find All detergent to have a musty smell of its own. Try a non-scented detergent.

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October 11, 2010

I've been hanging my clothes inside to dry. Lately they've been having a musky smell. How can I get rid of the odor?

By kathy


October 13, 20101 found this helpful
Best Answer

I would stop hanging your clothes indoors. That is likely what is causing the musty smell. You are not getting enough air circulation to dry properly.


What I would do first, if possible, is rewash these clothes with vinegar in the wash, and then hang them out in the sun and wind. If that doesn't work, check out the archives here as there are tons of suggestions, and one in the tips section of today's newsletter.

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September 6, 2011

I have some cotton shirts that were stored in the basement for 18 years. How do I get that smell out of them? I did soak them in borax and then in a lemon/water mix, but they still smell.



September 7, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

Hanging them out on the line for a day or so might help. The sun will kill the mildew and the fresh air would do them good.

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February 24, 2018

Stored clothing can develop a musty odor over time. Hanging it near an open window can help air it out and potentially cause the odor to dissipate.


This is a page about removing musty smell from a wedding dress.

Wedding Dress hanging in window

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

October 11, 2010

I have had a problem with my water heater leaking in my basement and leaving a ton of water on the floor. I didn't notice until it was too late, that some dark clothing got wet and sat in the water for some time.

I pre-washed and soaked everything in hot water with a combination of my normal laundry soap, Oxiclean, and color safe bleach and then washed everything in the same combination. Most things came clean just fine, but I have some jeans and such that still just plain stink like mold. Does anyone have any ideas to get these clean or should I just count my losses and throw these few items out?


By Danielle from MI


Musty Smell on Clothing

Have you tried putting vinegar in the wash? Sometimes it can remove odors from laundry. We normally use about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of vinegar, when our towels start to smell bad. (08/09/2010)

By Melanie Jackson

Adventures with the Musty Old Trunk of Doom- A Love Affair with Vinegar.

I recently went to an estate auction where I found a very nice, but very dirty, old clothing trunk full of old clothes. It's the kind that you see on the top of stage coaches in Clint Eastwood movies. I knew it smelled, but I was enamored with the piece of furniture and thought a little mildew smell would be no big deal. Poor, poor naive me. Knowing what I know now, it really wouldn't be a big deal. Bring on the vintage clothes, I got this. But getting to this point was chaos.

For starters, let me explain that this trunk had clearly been being stored in a barn. It was covered with dust and spider webs and frankly, filled with silverfish. I didn't know about the silverfish until I got home. But a little soap and water had the outside looking oh so vintage chic, with a little oil on the old leather and metal cladding. The outside was no big deal. Then, I turned my attention to the innards. I don't know how old the clothes in the trunk are, or how long they have been sitting in the old barn. But I was told that some of the sweatshirts were WWII issue, and there is one full length petticoat that is probably turn of the century.


Most of it is men's farmer garb, but evidently in good condition, and most strange of all, my size. I'm tiny all the way around. Now, I love me my vintage, so I wasn't about to throw any of this away. We're talking a little over two good washing machine loads of wardrobe here. There didn't seem to be any rot or even moth holes. The only problem really was the smell.

The first really bad idea was to throw half of the mess into the clothes washer with as much bleach as was reasonably safe for the local water table. I probably did some injury with the sheer amount of bleach I actually used at the end of this. Within minutes, the entire house stunk of the horrible, greasy, evil mildewy smell. My instinct was to remove it from the house as soon as the load was done, but my mother was a little quicker on the gun than I was and ran it through again with more bleach, just trying to get the smell out of the house. I think we were shell shocked and didn't really understand what was going on at this point. After two washings, I took it all outside and dried it overnight on the chain link fence. It still reeked. I was now thoroughly terrified of the other half of clothes still left with the trunk.

Basically the house stunk for a week. We opened windows, we washed walls, we burned candles. We ran the clothes washer through various cleaning cycles with bleach. All we really ended up doing was making ourselves sick with mold allergies (and probably bleach fumes). And the clothes still stunk, and now they were a little faded from all the bleach. While I was trying to figure out what to do with the clothes, I began to tackle the trunk itself. First, I stripped the old paper out of it and scrubbed the insides with comet. It still smelled, but at least I was sure the silverfish were eradicated. Then I bought a quart of lacquer to seal the wood.

My thinking was that since lacquer is so thin, it would soak up really good and seal down any remaining mold. And it did, but the lacquer smell was pretty potent too. And the wood was so old and dry that the quart can didn't even make two coats. So I ended up getting another quart of polyurethane (clear satin), which is slightly thicker and far less stinky, and gave it another three coats. Finally, after five coats, the pores were starting to fill in, it started to have that satiny rich look, and the mold smell is completely gone.

But back the clothes. Frankly terrified of these toxic clothes and wondering if I was going to have to toss the whole thing in the garbage, I read online that several people had used either liquid fabric softener or vinegar to get rid of moldy smells in towels. So I hedged my bets and got both. I got the uber cheap fabric softener, Purex lavender, I think. Then, not about to bring these clothes anywhere near the house, I got out this big vat we usually use as a dog bed. To give you an idea, it's large enough that our 90 lb. golden retriever has had puppies in it. I filled it with water from the hose, dumped in a gallon of vinegar (might have been overkill), three capfuls of fabric softener, and in went the washed-half of the moldy smelling clothes.

The effect was instantaneous. I don't know what the science is, but vinegar did what bleach could not do. I want to know if the smell is caused from the living mold, if bleach is just not killing the fungus, or if the vinegar somehow breaks down some sort of toxin in the air? I really want to know the mechanics of this. For good measure I let them soak for another three hours in the sun. I am so smitten with this notion of a wise and powerful vinegar that I honestly don't know if I have any cause to buy bleach ever again.

Long story short, I tossed these over the chain link and dumped in the other half of the clothes. I was a little dubious, even still. This second batch hadn't been machine washed and bleached twice and had been sitting sealed in a garbage bag outside all week in some corner where we could give it a wide berth. Again, instantaneous results. If I had only known about this before sealing the wood inside the trunk, I certainly would have given it a good dousing with vinegar just for good measure. I mean, maybe I'm downplaying the fabric softener too much here, but I really think it was the vinegar. I went inside and poured a bunch of both vinegar and fabric softener in the washing machine, ran it on a cleaning cycle, and the funky smell in the house went away completely with just one cycle, after a week of terrorizing the entire house.

Listen to me, I'm practically waxing poetic over vinegar. (But seriously. Distilled White. Try it, it will change you.) I've also learned over the years that you can put a couple of drops of vinegar in a Netty Pot (sinus rinse doohickey) and it helps with things like sinus infections (because, as you might have guessed, I'm very allergic to mold). Diluted vinegar is also great for breakouts or just that tacky moist skin you, or at least I do, sometimes get on the face and neck. And apparently, it can rehabilitate vintage barn finds. Vinegar, old friend, you just vamped me with a new wardrobe. (10/10/2010)

By Stacey

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April 21, 2011

I am looking for way to remove the musty smell from clothing that has been in storage.

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October 13, 2010

I have gym clothes that I am ready to replace due to a musty smell. They are not too old and they appear to be in good condition otherwise.

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August 8, 2010

How do you get the smell out of clothes and towels that have a moldy, unfresh odor?

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March 2, 2010

Last spring I put my winter clothing in my garage. Now that I am getting them out, they smell very musty. What can I do to get rid of the smell?

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September 22, 2009

How do you get rid of musty smells in clothes?

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April 14, 2009

My basement flooded and all of our son's clothes got soaked and started to smell musty within that day. We washed them, but they still smell.

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October 16, 2008

I have a very small closet space in my room, therefore I have to store my clothes in my basement in a closet during the off seasons.

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November 30, 2006

I have some clothing that was in storage and became damp. So far there isn't any mold just a musty smell.

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Home and Garden Cleaning OdorsNovember 29, 2012
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