How to Remove Musty Smells from Stored Items & Old Clothes

Woman smelling clothes in a moving box

Clothing items stored for a long time tend to give off an unpleasant moldy or musty smell, which may not be very healthy. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a musty smell indicates the presence of microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs) and is often linked to mold growth.

Fortunately, you don’t have to discard your old clothes or other valuables just because they smell a bit funky. This guide explains how to get old smell out of clothes and shares useful tips on how to remove musty smell from stored items.

How to Get Old Smell Out of Clothes

Clothes with old smells can be off-putting. Unfortunately, washing with regular laundry detergents is not very effective for removing the dank smell. Instead, they simply mask the odor with a more pungent chemical smell.

A better option is to use a fragrance-free, odor-fighting product like the EnviroKlenz Laundry Detergent to tackle odor-causing microbes in fabrics as well as remove stubborn stains.

Here’s how to get old smell out of clothes using cleaning products specifically formulated to fight odors.

  1. Fill your washing machine with the recommended water quantity.
  2. Add half a scoop of laundry detergent for high efficient (HE) washers. Add one scoop of the detergent for standard washing machines.
  3. Put the funky-smelling clothes in the machine and set it to your preferred wash cycle.
  4. Rinse thoroughly using an extra rinse cycle for better results.

How to Remove Musty Smell From Clothes Without Washing

Clothes hanging on a line

Want to remove musty smells from clothes but don’t really have the time and patience to do laundry?

No worries!

There are several other ways to effectively eliminate funky smells from clothes without the hassles of washing.

Keep in mind that putting smelly clothing in a drying machine alongside scented dryer sheets is not the best way to care for clothes. In addition to increasing the wear and tear of garments, machine drying can increase your energy bill.

Here are two effective tips on how to remove musty smell from dirty clothes without washing them.

1. Air-Dry the Smelly Clothes

Air-drying clothes outside is a natural, simple, and effective solution for removing or reducing foul smells from clothing items that have picked up moldy odors.

Hang the musty-smelling clothes outside for an entire day or two to air-dry. The odor will fade away on its own. This method is a bit slow, so it is best to apply it a few days before you want to use the clothes.

2. Hang Clothes in the Sun

Hanging your clothes out in the sun can make them smell fresher and help get rid of odor causing bacteria. The UV rays from sunlight are powerful enough to take care of musty odors on clothing items, even if you don’t wash them.

However, this method only works if the clothes are clean and haven’t been in storage for a long time. Keep in mind that sunlight can damage fabrics, particularly delicate ones, so don’t leave your clothes in the sun for more than two to three hours.

How to Get Rid of Thrift Store Smell

Musty smells are common with vintage and thrift clothing. Depending on the storage conditions in thrift stores, some items on sale smell incredibly awful and have a mold smell.

Unfortunately, most name-brand laundry detergents can’t remove smells safely because of their abrasive chemical content. In most cases, they don’t eliminate the bad odor at the source.

The best way to get rid of thrift store smells without damaging the delicate fabrics of vintage or thrift clothing is to use a natural, fragrance-free cleaning product alongside any regular unscented laundry detergent and fabric softener you use.

We recommend the EnviroKlenz Laundry Enhancer, which comes in liquid and powdered form. Here’s how to get rid of thrift store smell using a laundry enhancer when washing clothes:

  1. First, read the care instruction on the clothing tag to be sure your thrift clothes can be cleaned with water.
  2. The first washing should be done by hand, not the washing machine. Fill a basin or bucket with warm or cold water (depending on the care instruction) and add your preferred unscented detergent alongside the laundry enhancer.
  3. Soak the clothes for a few minutes and wash using gentle massaging strokes.
  4. Rinse properly and hang them on a line to dry.

After the first wash by hand, the off-putting thrift smell or musty odor should disappear or reduce significantly. Subsequent washing can be done using a washing machine.

How to Remove Musty Smell from Stored Items

Basement with various items

Items kept in storage for a long time will develop less-than-ideal smells, especially if there is too much moisture in the storage location. The musty odor will eventually permeate every item in storage and may lead to mold growth, even if you can’t see any visible mold.

Remember that prolonged exposure to musty or moldy smells can trigger allergic reactions and symptoms like sneezing, coughing, or headaches in some people.

While it may not be practical to completely eliminate mold spores in the air, ridding stored items of musty odor is important to prevent health problems.

Here’s how to remove musty smell from stored items:

Use Closet Deodorizers

Closet deodorizers are great for neutralizing bad smells in confined spaces. A good-quality closet deodorizer without masking agents or fragrances is your best bet if you want to avoid fragrance allergies.

Put the items in a storage container, preferably a spacious plastic bin, alongside the deodorizer, and cover it for several weeks. The deodorizer will absorb and dismantle the odor-causing microbes.

For a more effective result, avoid putting the items in cardboard boxes, as mold is easily attracted to cardboard.

Place Items in the Sun

Put large items (like furniture) and other non-washable items outside in the fresh air to help with the musty smell and bad odor.

Sunlight is a powerful disinfectant that can reduce fungal contamination on stored items. It does so by killing odor-causing mold spores and microbes. Also, the gentle breeze outdoors improves airflow, reducing the musty smell from items placed outside to air-dry.

Remember to clean the musty-smelling items first before placing them outside. Similarly, wash or clean stored garments, linens, and other clothing items using a non-toxic detergent before line-drying them outside to avoid that mildew smell

EnviroKlenz Laundry

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EnviroKlenz® Medical Disclaimer:

“Any information that is provided on this website is not for the use by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The material and statements illustrated within this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. Nor does the author in any way guarantee or validate the validity, totality, or efficacy of any claims and will therefore not be held responsible for the content of any claims. Always consult your medical physician for any specific medical advice or recommendations.”

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