The dreaded damp clothes smell and how to remove it

Discover easy steps for how to stop clothes smelling damp even when you’re drying indoors.

Updated 14 November 2023


AuthorBy Cleanipedia Team

Reading Time5 minutes

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Clothes drying on a washing line against the sky to get the damp smell out of clothes

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Key Steps

  • Wash clothes ASAP, especially if you get sweaty or wet while wearing them.

  • Wash clothes inside out to give them a deeper clean.

  • Add a cup of baking soda or 2 cups of vinegar to your wash cycle to shift odours.

  • Don’t forget to clean your washing machine too!

There is nothing worse than picking out your favourite outfit only to discover it has a musty damp clothes smell lingering. Don’t panic, we have an easy guide for how to get damp smells out of clothes, and prevent them in the future.

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  • What causes clothes to smell damp after drying?

    There are a few reasons you could end up with damp smelling clothes, including:

    1. 1

      Sweating in your clothes, and the sweat not washing out properly.

      Sweating in your clothes, and the sweat not washing out properly. Remember that common skin bacteria can produce body odour, which may transfer to clothes.[1] Don’t have the time to drop your clothes in the laundry for another cycle? Check out our guide on how to get sweat smells out of clothes.

    2. 2

      Wet laundry left in the washing machine for too long.

      Wet laundry left in the washing machine for too long. Check out our guide on how to use a washing machine to get the best results for your clothes.

    3. 3

      Putting clean laundry away before it is fully dry.

      Putting clean laundry away before it is fully dry. Instead of folding your clothes immediately after getting them from the dryer, hang them under the sun. You can also let them air dry for a couple of hours before putting them away.

    4. 4

      If clothes smell damp after washing, you could be using a washing machine which is overdue a clean.

      Check out some simple steps to remove the smell from your washing machine

    5. 5

      Inadequate drying.

      If you don’t know how to stop clothes from smelling damp when drying indoors, they can build up a damp and musty smell.

  • Top tips for how to get rid of damp smell in clothes

    If you want to get the damp smell out of clothes and prevent it from building up in the first place, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few simple tips and tricks for how to stop clothes smelling damp:

    1. 1

      Wash damp or sweaty clothes as soon as you can.

      To get rid of damp smells, clothes should be washed as quickly as possible. This will also help to prevent sweat stains!

    2. 2

      Try some washing machine tips and tricks for how to get damp smells out of clothes:

      Wash clothes inside out. Especially if you have been sweating in them! This will also help to protect the colours.

      Wash your clothes on the hottest suitable setting. Double check the care label and wash at the hottest temperature recommended by the manufacturer to help eliminate odours.

      Add a cup of baking soda to your wash. This will soak up any unwanted odours during the wash cycle. If you don’t have baking soda, 2 cups of vinegar will do the job too. After all, vinegar has antimicrobial properties, allowing it to eliminate odour-causing bacteria.[2]

      Include a good fabric conditioner. Using a high quality fabric conditioner such as Comfort Intense Fresh Sky will give your clothes a fresh boost.

      Hang clothes outside to dry. This is the best way to blow away lingering odours, add a fresh, outdoors scent to your clothing, and avoid your clothes smelling damp after drying.

    3. 3

      On cold or wet days, you may wonder how to stop clothes smelling damp when drying indoors. We recommend:

      We recommend:

      • Crack open a window and let in the fresh air. • Use a dehumidifier to remove the damp air. • Speed up the drying process by giving them a quick once over with a hairdryer.

    4. 4

      Never hang damp clothes in the wardrobe.

      Once you know how to get rid of damp smells in clothes, make sure they don’t build up again in storage. Putting clothes that aren’t fully dry away in a drawer or wardrobe will trap moisture in the fabric and lead to damp smells. So, wait until they’re fully dry first.

    5. 5

      Spray with essential oil.

      Another quick fix is to mix your favourite essential oil with water in a spray bottle. Spritz the solution all over the garment and let it air dry before putting it away or wearing it.

    6. 6

      Use a dehumidifier.

      If there is water in the air, it will take longer for your clothes to dry. Moreover, garments can smell damp because of excess moisture in the atmosphere. So, we recommend using a dehumidifier in the room where you hang your clothes to dry. If you don’t have one, try drying your clothes in an airconditioned room.

So, with our simple guide you have all the tips and tricks you need for how to remove the damp smell from clothes with ease.

FAQs about damp smell on clothes

Q. What can I spray on my clothes to stop them from smelling damp?

You can add about two tablespoons of Comfort fabric conditioner to a cup of water inside a spray bottle. Shake the bottle, then spray the solution on your clothes.

Q. Why do my clothes still smell damp?

As we’ve mentioned, when clothes do not dry properly, the excess moisture gives off a damp smell. So, we recommend following our tips to ensure that your clothes will dry completely and smell good.

Q. What does dampness smell like?

Dampness has a musty, stale smell. Some say that it is similar to the decaying smell inside a dark basement.


1. Lam, T. H., Verzotto, D., Brahma, P., Ng, A. H. Q., Hu, P., Schnell, D., Tiesman, J. P., Kong, R., Ton, T. M. U., Li, J., Ong, Lu, Y., Swaile, D. F., Liu, P., Liu, J., & Nagarajan, N. (2018). Understanding the microbial basis of body odor in pre-pubescent children and teenagers. Microbiome, 6(1).

2. Zinn, M., & Bockmühl, D. P. (2020). Did granny know best? Evaluating the antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral efficacy of acetic acid for home care procedures. BMC Microbiology, 20(1).

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