Have you ever opened your closet only to be met with a strange odor? One that can only be described as musty and probably reminds you a bit too much of your grandparents’ home or that beach house you AirBnB’d all those years ago? Unfortunately, this musty smell results from mold, mildew, and more, and can penetrate your favorite garments– leaving you with stale-smelling clothes. To avoid all that, we’ve compiled our best tips to not only get rid of but also avoid the musty smell altogether– even if you’re Summer-ing by the beach and trying to beat all that humidity.
What Causes That Musty Smell?
The first thing we need to understand is what exactly causes that musty smell that seems to have taken over your closet and clothes. Unfortunately, your small closet space hides away more than your secrets (and heels), it also traps in air and moisture. Hidden and excess moisture is what leads to that musty smell, green/black mold, and white/gray mildew.
You’re probably wondering where does all this excess moisture even come from? There are many factors, primarily where you live and the season. For example, someone in LA will have a different experience than someone in Seattle, where the humidity and rainy season varies drastically. But the issue of mold becomes a particular fear for anyone spending the Summer months near the beach (or any major body of water).
This humidity caused by the heat and water, can cause already bad situations to become worse. For example, even if you lived in a dry city and it was Wintertime mold could still be a problem depending on where your closet is located. If it is next to the bathroom or basement, the humidity of those rooms can permeate the walls and leak into your closet. Then the lack of ventilation in the closet can cause that moisture to multiply until it becomes a musty problem.
Another external factor to consider is which garments are actually going into your closet. Any clothes (including outerwear) hung wet, or wet/sweaty shoes, can contribute to the moisture and musty smell in the closet. Luckily, all of these issues have non-too-complex solutions.
How Do You Get Rid of the Musty Smell?
The first thing you have to do to eliminate a musty smell is pinpoint its origins. These steps can seem a little tedious, but they are necessary for the long-term health of your closet (and favorite garments).
- Take Everything Out. To find mold, mildew, or moisture, you will need to take everything out of your closet first. If the clothes have picked up the musty smell, you should set them aside to be washed– for obvious reasons.
- Hunt Down the Smell. Grab a flashlight (or use your phone) and look around your closet for the source of the smell. This may appear as mold (black, green, red, blue), pet urine stains, or watermarks. If the issue is mold, you can create an at-home spray: fill a spray bottle with warm water and two capfuls of bleach. There are commercial neutralizers for pet urine stains.
- Get to Cleaning. Even if you couldn’t find a specific source of the smell, it is important to clean out the closet as a whole. Begin by dusting and vacuuming the dust (and maybe moths). Then mix some water with a little bit of washing liquid, and using a slightly damp sponge wipe down and clean the inside of the closet. This includes the shelves, rods, and any other surface.
- Air it Out. Allow your closet to completely air out by leaving the wardrobe doors open. Drying time and ventilation are essential to keeping the musty scent at bay. If you live near the beach, this is an especially important step: ensuring that your closet gets regularly aired out.
- Still Smell Something? If the scent is still lingering, there are a few things you can do to help absorb the odors. While baking soda is normally used in cakes, it actually works miracles when it comes to absorbing odors. Simply leave a dish of it overnight out in the closet. If the next day you still smell something, swap out the baking soda (not powder!) with a fresh batch until the problem is solved. Alternatively, ground coffee can also help alleviate the scent.
How to Keep The Musty Smell Away?
Whether you managed to get rid of that musty odor or never had an issue, to begin with, it’s important to take a few steps to ensure you never have to deal with it again. Closet freshness is the ultimate goal and we’ve compiled the best ways to keep your garments smelling good. If you’re in a climate where mold is more likely, such as by the beach or a lake, it is important to do a few of these actions, repeatedly throughout the year.
- Get a Dehumidifier. As established, excess moisture and humidity are the leading cause of musty odors. Therefore the easiest way to avoid any hardship in the future and ensure peace of mind is to invest in a small dehumidifier. These can range anywhere from $25-150+.
- Don’t Cram Your Clothes. When you tightly pack your clothing, you limit air circulation which can lead to a build-up of moisture. Generally, just think about the suffocating heat generated by all those cramped sweaters. If you don’t know how to fold, we suggest looking into the KonMari folding method.
- Ensure Your Clothes are Dry. The last thing you want to do is add more moisture to the enclosed space. If you consistently store damp clothes, you will likely end up with mildew.
- Buy a Long-Lasting Scented Ribbon. Sometimes the fix to an odorous problem is to cover it up with something pleasant. Our Scented Ribbon is the modern, mess-free take on potpourri. Strategically hang in closets or place amongst your intimates for an aromatically zen hidden corner designed especially for you and your morning routines. The Scented Ribbon is proven to last three months and up to one year and can be tied directly on your hanger to gently perfume your clothes. Alternatively, place it amongst your socks, gym clothes, or sweaters.
- Use Baking Soda or Coffee Grounds. Both of these items absorb odors without emitting much of a scent themselves. All you need to do is place a bowl or plate of baking soda or coffee in the back of your closet and just leave it be– changing it every few days.
- Don’t Put Shoes in the Closet. Okay, we don’t mean ever. But you should avoid placing your shoes directly in your closet after wearing them– yes we’re looking at your favorite sneakers. If you did want to place them in the closet before airing them out, consider placing the shoes in a confined space that won’t allow the sweaty foot odor to infiltrate your entire closet space.
- Keep Your Pets Out. This one has less to do with musty smells and more to do with odors in general. Anyone with a cat or dog could tell you that pets love going everywhere they’re not supposed to, either to play or to pee (unfortunately). Avoid any mishaps by ensuring your wardrobe door is secure and that Muffy or Fifi or Butch has no way of getting in.
Now that you have managed to eliminate the musty smell from your closet, you can store your garments and shoes without any worries– knowing that they will stay clean, dry, and smell-free. Just remember to keep moisture out of the closet either through dehumidifiers or ensuring your wet clothes don’t make a direct beeline for your hangers. As an additive, keep everything smelling nice and fresh with “life hacks” like the Scented Ribbons which will do more than keep your closet musty-free but also have it aromatically pleasant.