How to Get Musty Smell Out of Clothes Without Washing

By: Annabel Love
10 minute read

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It's hard to be smelly and fabulous, but sometimes you just don't have the time to figure out how to get musty smell out of clothes without washing.   A lot of people are wondering how to get musty smells out of clothes without washing them, so we've compiled a list of some ways that you can freshen up your clothes! There are many different options for getting rid of that funky smell, so choose one based on what sounds appealing to you.

In this article, we will show you how to get that musty smell out of your clothes without washing them. Most people have a hard time figuring out how to get their clothes smelling fresh, but there are a variety of ways in which you can go about doing so.Some options include baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice with Febreze or dryer sheets. We hope these tips help you feel more confident when wearing your favorite articles of clothing! Now it's time for the list...

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What is Musty Smell?

In most cases, mustiness in clothes is caused by dampness and mildew from being stored away in a closet that doesn't have enough air circulation.  When the humidity goes up just a bit, your clothes absorb it and can start smelling mildewy. If you're asking "How can I get rid of that musty smell from my clothes?", it's likely you've attempted to use your washing machine, but the issue is that mildew can survive a cycle in a washing machine, so this could exacerbate rather than fix the problem.

What Causes Clothes to Have Musty Smell?

Clothes can have a musty smell for a variety of reasons. In the most common scenario, you might be wearing clothes that were stored away in your closet and never washed. This is often because most people don't have the time to do laundry every day or week, so they end up storing them away until they can sort through their clothing. When you wear these clothes, they can develop a musty smell.

Another reason for a musty smell in clothes is the type of fabric they are made from. Certain fabrics can absorb moisture more than others, and if your clothes are made of such fabrics, it means that they will become harder to dry as well as smell musty. If you want to reduce the chance of your clothes smelling like mildew, then try to avoid buying clothes that are made from materials that absorb moisture quickly.

Solutions for getting rid of mustiness without washing your clothes

There are several different ways that you can get rid of that musty smell from your clothes, but the most effective option is to add water and expose it to heat. This isn't an option for everyone because not everyone has a dryer in their home, but if you do, then try putting your clothes in the dryer for about twenty minutes. If you don't have a dryer, there are still some other options to consider in this article that might work for you!

  1. Try the Nori Fabric Facial: This signature steam solution is designed to improve your Nori's steaming performance. Filling your device with this solution will prevent calcification that is a result of using tap water and will often require descaling. It's important to note that Nori’s Fabric Facial not only increases the longevity of your iron but is blended with a deodorizing technology that will remove unwanted odors when emitted as a spray or stream. Now you can get rid of mustiness just by using the Nori Pres steam iron. 
  2. Baking Soda: Place your musty-smelling clothes into a plastic bag, sprinkle in baking powder and let your garment sit in the bag for several minutes.  This might not work well on darker-colored clothing as you're going to spend some time getting the white baking powder off but a good solution for almost all other colors.  
  3. Vinegar: Combine half water and half vinegar into a spray bottle.  Shake it up and spritz your musty-smelling clothing with the solution.  If you add a few drops of essential oils to the mix that will help eliminate the smell of vinegar.  You'll want to let your clothing air out for a bit otherwise.  
  4. Lemon Juice: Lemon juice works very similarly to vinegar because it's acidic, but it's also an antiseptic and deodorizer! So if you don't have any vinegar in your kitchen, just squeeze half of a lemon into some water until you get about two cups worth. Then, spritz your clothes with the mixture and let it sit while it dries.
  5. Febreze: Using Febreze is an easy way to get rid of that musty smell without needing any water! The only downside is that it's not a permanent solution. The best way to use it is to spray some onto your clothes before you put them away in a closet, and then spray it on again every time the smell comes back. This will get rid of that musty smell until you wash your clothes!
  6. Dryer Sheets: You can use dryer sheets between your folded and hanging clothes to help eliminate the musty smell.  
  7. Outdoors:  One of the most natural solutions is to just hang your musty-smelling clothes out in the sunshine.  The sunshine and heat should take care of those musty odors until you can launder them. 
  8. Essential Oils: If you don't have any vinegar on the shelf or any lemons then you can try mixing a few drops of essential oils with water into a spray bottle.  Shake the bottle and spritz your garments.  Let them dry and you should be good to go!
  9. Freeze: I know this sounds strange but believe it or not you can simply pop your musty-smelling garment into a freezer bag and let it sit for a few hours until they are frozen.  Allow enough time to thaw your clothing out before you want to wear them.  The freezing temperatures will kill many of the bacteria that caused the musty smell.  
  10. Over the Counter Fabric Sprays: If that musty smell happens to you often you might want to invest in an over-the-counter solution.  There are several on the market and they will quickly take care of the problem with a few well-placed spritzes!  The Laundress, Febreze Fabric Refresher, and Downey Wrinkle Release Spray are just a few.
  11. Cedar: You can find several cedar products on the market.  There are cedar blocks, hangers, drawer liners, and clothing sprays.  You can use these products in your closet to keep those musty smells away!
  12. Dryer: Some dryers today have a refresh cycle that can be used for this exact problem.  Simply follow your dryer instructions and fresh-smelling clothes are yours!
  13. Perfume/Fragrance: If none of the above solutions work for you, then it's time to break out the fragrance! Your favorite perfume or aftershave should do the trick.  Just lightly spritz some onto your musty-smelling garments and this should eliminate that musty smell until you have time to wash them.  
  14. Brush: Sometimes the methods above may not be an option, particularly if you're traveling.  You can try using a fabric or upholstery brush to eliminate the musty smells that sometimes get trapped in the fabric.  If there is still a musty problem then try using a bit of fragrance until you can get the garment home to wash.  

Tips on how to avoid having a mildew problem in the future

To avoid having to use any of the above solutions in the future, just keep your clothes stored in an area with good airflow. This will guarantee that you don't have a musty smell on your clothing.  It's a good idea to wash or dry clean items at the end of a season if you won't be wearing them until next year. Keeping your closet sorted out and cleaned out will allow for better airflow and better-smelling clothing.   

Be certain that your clothes are completely dry before putting them away.  This will help prevent mildew.  if you live in a humid area you may want to purchase a small space dehumidifier for your closet.  There are also products like DampRid or AirBoss.  These are low-cost moisture absorbers that will help keep the moisture and mildew out of your clothing.  

If you still notice musty smells on your clothes after washing, then you may want to re-wash adding a little baking soda or borax to the wash. Then just be certain that. they're completely dry before you put them away.

You can hang your clothing near a heat source or outside in the sunshine to make certain that they are completely dry before putting them away.

The Dangers of Mildew and its Effects on Your Health & Clothes

Mildew can cause some health problems for people with respiratory conditions. Inhaling mildew spores on a regular basis can also lead to asthma attacks in some individuals with asthma. In addition, mold and mildew do not only affect the smell of your clothes; they can eat away at certain fabrics and ruin the colors of your clothing, making them look dull. Just remember that your clothes, as well as you and your family's health, are very important. 

Preventative Steps You Can Take To Stop Mildew From Forming Again In Your Home or Closet!

Make sure to clean your closet regularly, especially if you are storing clothes for an extended period of time. If clothing isn't dried properly after washing, then create good airflow by opening your closet door.. Checking to make sure your shelves aren't damp or wet will help prevent any musty smells from forming! Remember, mold and mildew love moisture and humid conditions! Check your vents to make sure they aren't blocked by any furniture or appliances. Be sure to dry clothing thoroughly after washing them before putting them away, especially if you live in a humid climate.  If you do live in a humid climate you may consider a small space dehumidifier for your closet or one of the products on the market that absorb moisture. If you suspect that musty smells are coming from clothes that have been in storage for a while and you cannot wash the musty smell out, you may consider throwing them out. They might not be as clean as you think they are, and it is better to be safe than sorry!


It doesn't take much for your clothes to start smelling like mildew, especially if you store them for too long or live in a humid climate. If you notice that your clothes start to smell like mildew, then don't panic. There are plenty of ways that you can get rid of the smell without having to wash them. All you have to do is to follow some of the tips we offered above.

Remember to clean out your closet regularly and dry clothes thoroughly before packing them away for a long time, since mildew loves moisture and humid conditions! All in all, there are many ways to keep musty smells at bay so you can wear your favorite clothing without any worries.

Use discount code "SHOP10" at checkout to save 10% on The Nori Press!


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