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How to get damp smells out of clothes

Noticed that your clothes smell musty, even after they've been washed and dried? Keep reading to find out how to get rid of damp smells in clothes easily!


By Cleanipedia Team

Key steps:

  • Check your washing machine for mould that could make your clothes smell musty

  • Try reducing the amount of detergent you use: too much won't wash out properly

  • Air your clothes outside in the sun

  • Soak clothes in a freshening solution for a more direct treatment

There’s something quite dispiriting about donning a freshly laundered outfit, only to be assaulted by a musty smell. But don't despair: we're here to identify why your clothes are smelling damp after washing, and solve the problem once and for all. Let's go!

How to stop clothes smelling damp after washing

When clothes smell musty after washing, the first thing to do is to check the washing machine itself. If the washing machine smells musty, it might be the cause of the damp clothes smell!

Mould and mildew can build up inside washing machines, particularly around the seal, and pass on that musty aroma to your unsuspecting laundry. All you need to do is give the seal and the detergent drawer a good scrub with hot water, detergent and vinegar, and then set the machine on an empty hot rinse to get it ship-shape.

But how to remove the damp smell from clothes? A clean washing machine can be half the battle when it comes to knowing how to get rid of that damp smell in clothes. Read on for more answers!

Many clothes become musty after a long period in storage. Try keeping them hanging rather than folded if possible, and if not, placing a small scented lavender bag with them will help to ward off less pleasant odours.

How to get a musty smell out of clothes in the wash

Once you've cleaned your washing machine so that it won't make your clothes smell musty all over again, it's time to wash your clothes again. We've got some tips on how to get rid of the musty smell in clothes in a washing cycle, and replace it with a lovely, freshly-laundered scent.

  1. 1. Wash them with slightly less detergent than usual

    Excess detergent won’t rinse away properly and can remain trapped in the fabric, encouraging waterlogging and mould growth. An effective solution for how to get rid of that musty smell in clothes is to wash them in a clean washing machine as hot as their instructions allow, with slightly less than the regular amount of washing detergent.

  2. 2. Try adding one cup of vinegar to your wash

    Vinegar is a natural astringent and disinfectant and should deal with any mould or mildew in the fabric.

  3. 3. Wash with your favourite fragranced fabric conditioner

    A Comfort Intense fabric conditioner will leave your clothes smelling gorgeously fragranced, as well as super soft.

  4. 4. While you're at it, try a fragrance booster

    Add Comfort Perfume Pearls to the wash alongside your fabric conditioner to your regular wash to give your clothes an extra burst of fragrance.

  5. 5. Run a normal wash, as hot as the care label advises, with oxygen bleach

    Be sure to follow the directions on the label of any product, and read the advice on the care label of each garment before washing.

Prevent a damp clothes smell from developing after washing

Even after washing your clothes in a clean machine, there could be factors that make your washing smell musty when it's drying or in storage. Here's what to look out for:

  1. 1. Hang up clothes to dry as soon as they're out of the machine

    Leaving wet laundry sitting in the machine or a washing basket for hours before hanging it up is a recipe for your clothes smelling damp after washing.

  2. 2. Dry them outside whenever possible

    A bit of fresh air and breeze to dry and air out your clothes will leave them smelling beautifully fresh when they're dry. This is also a good solution for how to remove a damp smell from clothes if you don't have time to put them in the wash again. Often the combination of sunlight and constant breeze will be enough to lift the mildew smell. 

  3. 3. Make sure your wardrobe isn't making your clothes smell musty

    Check your wardrobe for signs of mould and mildew that need removing, and if it's all clear, leave it open and empty for a few hours to air it out before putting your clothes back in it.

How concerned are you about disinfecting while cleaning?

Now you've mastered how to get rid of a damp smell in clothes, you'll never have to start the day in a stale state again. Let's say goodbye to that damp clothes smell once and for all. Happy washing!

Read other articles from the Clothing Care category

How to get colour run out of clothes

What do the symbols on washing machines mean

How to remove static from clothes

How to stop clothes bobbling

How to make clothes smell good and stay fresh

Originally published