One common issue we encounter when doing laundry is how to remove mildew smell from clothes. It’s as easy as forgetting a load of laundry in the washer after a long day at work or going too long without washing your used gym clothes. With the average person’s busy schedule, it’s only natural that mildew odors will sometimes seep their way into our clothes and our homes.
While mildew smell in towels and clothes can be frustrating, it does not have to be permanent. There are several options available when tackling musty odors in your clothing.
Many of these choices provide natural solutions, with ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda, that are already in your pantry! Here are nine different ways to help you remove mildew smell from your laundry room.
Nine Amazing Ways to Remove Mildew Smell from Clothes and Towels
1. Vinegar: The Number One Solution to Remove Mildew Smell
The best advice for how to remove mildew smell from clothes is by using distilled white vinegar. Vinegar contains acetic acid, which is ideal for neutralizing the base properties of most odors. This combination is what kills mildew and helps clothes smell great again! Vinegar for laundry also works well for removing cigarette smell from clothes.
For moderate smells or smaller loads of laundry, use a ½ cup of white vinegar. For stronger, stubborn odors, use a full cup of vinegar. Turn the water temperature to the hottest setting
For towels, the vinegar can be added directly into the wash basin, without detergent. For clothes, add the vinegar the same way you use your fabric softeners. Add detergent, run the wash, and add vinegar during the rinse cycle. Dry and rewash the items as necessary.
For washing machines that are front loading, add the vinegar through the detergent dispenser when washing either clothes or bath towels. Heavy odors may also require additional soaking.
If this is the case, stop the wash cycle midway and let the clothes soak for an hour before completing the cycle. Otherwise, just run the longest sequence you have on your machine.
2. Use Baking Soda as a Natural Mildew Killer
If vinegar doesn’t work for you, another effective solution for how to remove mildew from clothes is baking soda. Baking soda is used like vinegar and can even salvage fabrics that are difficult to wash. Mold on leather, for example, creates a musty smell that can easily be removed by applying baking soda to the area, without having to run the item through the washer.
Measure out one cup of baking soda and add it directly into the wash basin of the washing machine with the detergent to get mildew smell out of clothes and towels. Run the cycle on the hottest water temperature possible. Dry, and rewash as necessary.
For front loader washing machines, add the baking soda in the same place as the fabric softener. Some experts also use a combination of vinegar and baking soda by using a ½ cup of each solution.
You can also use baking soda as part of a DIY washing machine cleaner. After all, your washing machine needs cleaning sometimes, too!
3. Add a Laundry Booster Like Borax to Erase Musty Smell
Borax is another popular cleaning product that offers a simple alternative for how to remove musty smell from clothes. Like vinegar and baking soda, Borax kills mold without emitting harsh chemicals or fumes.
Use laundry detergent with Borax already in it or add it to your clothes separately. Either option will work.
Mix the Borax with hot water, completely dissolving the solution before adding it to the laundry. Like previous options, add the solution to your clothes during the rinse cycle. If you use a laundry detergent with Borax already in it, wash the clothes the same way you would regularly clean them.
4. Oxygen Bleach to Reduce Detergent Build Up
Oxygen bleach, like Oxiclean, is another simple solution for removing mildew smell in towels and clothes. Unlike the other options, use oxygen bleach in place of your current laundry soap, not in addition to it. This alternative can be especially helpful for musty smells caused by detergent residue – build up from adding too much detergent to a load of laundry.
In extreme cases, you can let the clothes soak for several hours before loading the washer. Otherwise, just run the product through the wash the same way you would regular detergent.
Unlike Clorox and chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach is gentle on most colors and patterns and is considered “eco-friendly” by moms and household gurus. Avoid using it on materials like silk or wool. These materials should be taken to the dry cleaners instead.
5. Use Lemon Juice for a Fragrant, Natural Mildew Remover
For a natural, environmentally-friendly solution that is less pungent than vinegar, lemon juice is a great option. There are many ways to use lemon juice, especially when you want to know how to remove mildew from clothes or bath towels.
Combining lemon juice with salt creates a paste that can remove mold and mildew odors. This method is also a great option when there are rust stains on clothes.
To create the lemon paste, combine the lemon juice and salt. Add the paste to any mildew stains or areas with heavy musty odors and let it sit for approximately two minutes. Afterward, scrub the area with a washcloth or toothbrush. Then, run your clothes through the wash.
Straight lemon juice can also be used by putting it in a spray bottle and applying it to the fabric. For garments that require less attention, dilute the lemon juice with water before use.
6. Spray Enzyme Odor Removers to Eliminate Mildew Smell Caused by Sweat
When learning how to remove mildew smell from clothes caused by body odors and sweat, an enzyme odor remover is best. These types of cleaning solutions are in floor cleaners and pet stain and odor removers.
However, there are plenty of laundry detergents and cleaning products available that use enzymes to break down odors and stains. For laundry detergents, look for products that say “stain-fighting enzymes” or “with enzymes” to ensure you are getting the right product.
7. Let Clothes Air Dry for Naturally Fresh Scent
Drying your clothes outside can make a huge difference, as long as the weather permits and space is available. Exposing your clothes to fresh air is a great way to tackle harsh musty smells that can arise from poor air circulation and lack of sunlight.
You can combine air drying with any of the previous options, instead of using dryer sheets, to improve the smell of clothing. While sunlight is a great way to manage some bacteria that cause odors, over-exposure to sunlight can also harm clothes.
In some cases, clothes may lose color due to “bleaching” from the sun. It is better to use this method on garments made from materials like cotton or wool. Sunlight wears down the properties in synthetic clothing, causing them to lose their shape or elasticity.
8. Freeze Clothes to Kill Odor-Causing Bacteria
Just like heat, exposure to frigid temperatures kills most bacteria that cause odors. Placing clothes in the freezer not only eliminates odors and freshens clothing, but it can also extend the life of the clothing.
This technique is especially helpful for workout clothes, which are generally only used for a couple of hours a day. Afterward, we run them through the laundry as quickly as possible to avoid that mildew smell.
Doing this is not only tough on the clothes but tough on our wallets. Why run the washing machine for only a few garments, when you can shove them in the freezer and use them again?
Roll clothing tightly and place it into a Ziploc bag. Seal the bag tightly before putting it into the freezer overnight, or at least for several hours.
The smell should dissipate from the clothes and allow you to wear them once more. This technique is also an excellent option for jeans and keeps them from fading.
9. Clean Up Your Closet to Minimize Musty Smell
Sometimes the solution is cleaning the area clothes call home. If you trace the origin of the smell back to your closet, it’s time for deep cleaning.
Remove everything from your closet. Shoes are often the leading culprit. Baking soda, vinegar, or any of the other above solutions can be used to clean and remove odors from shoes.
Wipe down the walls with a disinfectant or mildew remover. If you choose a mildew remover like vinegar, dilute the solution with water before using it to clean the walls. Afterward, check the floors for any signs of mildew or pet stains.
If you do find pet stains, use an enzymatic cleaner. Otherwise, sprinkling baking soda and letting it sit for an hour before vacuuming will work fine. Finally, leave the closet doors open and allow the air to circulate for a few hours.
Now, you have several ideas on how to remove musty smell from clothes and bath towels. Remember to check all product labels for proper handling and instructions before use.
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