6 Ways to get the musty smell out of clothes and towels

My eldest son love wearing gym shorts shorts made with synthetic fabric. After a while, they get a musty smell that just won’t come out. (Until last week.) He also showers in the basement bathroom – and doesn’t swap out his towels very frequently. Over the years I’ve found ways to get rid of all but the most stubborn laundry odors. (Last week I took care of those, too, which was pretty awesome! My laundry has never smelled this good.)

My husband’s great uncle ran a commercial laundry for many years, and he swore by white vinegar for stain and odor removal. It also helps to remove hard water and detergent build up on clothes. (Detergent residue traps moisture, making it more likely that you’ll end up with musty towels and lingering odors on sweaty clothes.) I’ve used white vinegar in the rinse cycle (instead of fabric softener) for years.


Fill up the fabric softener spot (about 1/4 -1/2 cup per load) and you’re good to go. Some online guides suggest washing your musty towels in hot water with a full cup of white vinegar (no detergent) to remove mildew odor. 2. Baking Soda

Since body odor was largely responsible for my son’s musty clothes, I figured enzyme cleaners could help break down the stink. The synthetic shorts got better, but not 100%. I had better luck with them removing pet urine odor. The BioKleen product was better than the product from the local farm store, because it was odor free. Strangely, the farm store product had a heavy, perfume-like scent. Click here to order BioKleen Bac-Out. 4. 20 Mule Team Borax

I’m a big fan of line drying clothes when the weather allows. Sunlight exposure kills some odor causing microbes, and a nice breeze helps improve air flow to all the nooks and crannies. The downside of using sunlight is the bleaching effect. Over time, it will lighten clothes, making them look more worn. Sunlight also breaks down elastic and spandex with repeated exposure – like it makes plastic brittle. The odor removal power of sunlight also works much better on natural fibers such as cotton, and not so well on synthetics.

The results I’ve had with EnviroKlenz Laundry Enhancer are nothing short of amazing. The musty shorts aren’t musty anymore. They just smell clean – no perfume, no cover up. After one wash, I noticed improvement. By two washes, the odor was gone. This is a stink I’ve battled for years. (My mother-in-law told me I should have just thrown the shorts out, but he only wore them around home.) I ran around the house making the entire family smell the no longer stinky shorts.

The EnviroKlenz product line has been around for five years, and can be purchased online and at some health care providers who deal with chemical sensitivities. I received several sample products to review for the site. (So far, so good.) It’s fairly expensive, so you may want to reserve it for stubborn odors and/or intermittent use. I’ve been using about 1-2 tablespoons per load (since that’s what fits in the dispenser) with good results. (You normally use 1/4 to 1/2 cup per load.) I’ll easily get more than 15 loads out of the 15 load bottle.

First, examine the layout of the closet, and look for mold and mildew. Our homes are being built tighter. Less airflow = increased mold and mildew risk. Closet corners are notorious for harboring mold and mildew. Out of site, out of mind. If you find mold or mildew, you can use the all purpose spray cleaner and carpet deodorizer recipes from the DIY natural cleaners post to keep clean up. Note: If the problem is severe, please contact a trained mold remediation team. Mold spores can cause a variety of health problems. If you have a room or basement that smells musty, check out “ Musty Smells in the House – Finding Them and Getting Rid of Them“. Three DIY steps for when clothes in the closet smell musty:

• Clean your closet! Get rid of unused or rarely used items, and organize what’s left to improve airflow. When you clean, you may want to consider the old trick of reversing the hangers as you put the clothes back in. When an item is worn, the hanger gets returned to normal. After a given amount of time, anything not worn is removed from the closet and donated.

• Consider a small fan at floor level. My in-laws had a basement closet with a chronic musty odor. The finally purchased a couple of tiny fans and put them in the bottom of the closet, directing air in and out. This got rid of the mildew and odor. You could set these up on a timer if you didn’t want them running 24/7. Click here to purchase Holmes mini fan.

GREAT post! Don’t know why, but since becoming chemically sensitive persistent BO ( I know why mustiness does it: Mold produces arsenic fumes) can really wind up the reactivity. For some reason dry baking soda and boric acid powder burn my skin and cause a painful rash. I have used baking soda fairly effectively for odors, but have to be carefully to rinse extremely thoroughly, and when you hand pump all your water, triple rinsing takes way too much day! I It never occurred to me to add white vinegar to my wash, though I use it for cleaning. Lately when something sours I have been dropping it into boiling water and simmering it for a few minutes but it still needs a thorough rinse and a rapid dry. BTW, The boil/simmer technique will work on bird mites. Running a fan, even a small one, to prevent mold works because disturbing the air interrupts the sporification cycle. Nature is such a perfect thing–it gives us an invincible destructive mechanism like mod, and gives us a simple little out. Heads up on the BioKlenz: It’s main ingredients sound good, but it has a little titanium dioxide (TiO2), the same white stuff that gives extended exposure to sunburn cream and printing with coated stock a risk factor for ingesting or inhaling titanium, a heavy metal. TiO2 in a liquid may just be a cosmetic ingredient to give it a more substantial look. How much risk this product poses would be hard for me to judge, but they might want to check this out.