Have your clothes ever come out of the washing machine with a musty smell? If so, it's likely a mildew smell.
Why does it happen? Mildew loves moisture and warm environments, so if your clothes are left damp for a long time or stored in a humid place, they're at risk of developing mildew.
How do you get rid of this musty smell? We answer this question in detail below!
Mildew Smell Main Causes
While we briefly mentioned the main reason for a mildew smell in your clothes, let's go into a little more detail.
Mold and mildew love damp environments. They thrive in moist, warm, and dark places like basements, attics, closets, etc.
Your clothes are also susceptible to mildew if you leave them damp for too long. That's why experts would tell you to dry your clothes as soon as they're washed, whether in a dryer or on a clothesline.
Sometimes, the humidity in your home can be too high. Although your clothes may not feel damp, they can still absorb the excess moisture in the air and develop a musty smell.
Not drying your clothes properly can also leave them smelling a bit musty. But what is ''proper drying'', you ask?
Again, don't leave your washed clothes in the washing machine for too long. It's best to take them out and move them to the dryer as soon as possible.
If you tumble dry your clothes, use the right heat settings, depending on the fabric. Also, clean the lint filter regularly (after each load) to prevent trapped water and moisture from building up.
A mistake many of us make is that we don't wait for our clothes to dry completely before putting them away. We get impatient and just toss them in the closet or drawer.
Unfortunately, that's a recipe for disaster. Since your clothes are still somewhat damp, they'll create the perfect environment for mildew growth.
How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Clothes
If you forgot to dry your clothes, or they were stored improperly and ended up smelling stinky, you can use these steps to get rid of that mildew smell.
Step 1: Wash in White Vinegar
White vinegar works wonders when it comes to removing musty smells. It also kills the bacteria that may be causing any other foul odor in your clothes.
For this method, fill your washing machine with water as usual. Instead of using laundry detergent, add a cup of white vinegar to the water. Alternatively, you can add half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of your liquid laundry detergent.
However, don't go for the second option if you're using a natural soap-based detergent. Since vinegar breaks the fats in soap, the combination of the two will be ineffective.
Step 2: Add Baking Soda
Baking soda is your best ally if you want to remove odor from any garment, from a stinky pair of shoes to gym clothes. If the vinegar wash hasn't done the trick, put half a cup of baking soda into the washing machine.
The baking soda will neutralize any remaining odors. Run the wash cycle with warm water.
Step 3: Wash With Oxygen Bleach Detergent
Your regular detergent might not fix moldy clothes. Instead, use a detergent that contains oxygen bleach. If that's not available, you can add Borax powder to hot water in the washer tub.
Step 4: Wash With an Enzyme-Based Detergent
If the unpleasant, mildewy smell in your clothes is due to sweat, an enzyme-based laundry detergent is the deodorizer you need. You can either use it alone or add it to your regular laundry detergent.
Preventing Mildew Smell in the Long-Run
No one wants to deal with mold smell every time they do the laundry – it's better to prevent this foul odor in the first place. Here are some tips to avoid smelly clothes.
Dry Clothes Properly After Washing
It's the simplest and most inexpensive way to prevent mold smell in clothes. Make sure your clothes are completely dry before you organize them in your wardrobe.
Also, follow the care label's instructions for drying. Air dry if the label recommends it.
Clothes take a little longer to dry in winter, especially on a clothesline. Don't store your chunky sweaters away until they're completely dry.
Another drying tip is to do it outside. The sun's rays can kill mold spores and bacteria. Sun drying works particularly well for natural fibers like wool and cotton. A downside is that excessive sun exposure can bleach some colored clothes.
Store Clothes in a Dry Place
When storing seasonal clothes, choose a dry place. Avoid damp or humid areas like basements or attics.
You can also use moisture-absorbing products like silica gel packets or cedar balls to keep your clothes fresh and dry.
Even when storing everyday clothes, ensure good ventilation in your closet. If a surface is damp, wipe it with a dry cloth before placing your clothes on top.
Use a Dehumidifier
Many places in a home, especially bathrooms and laundry rooms, are prone to humidity. That's why your towels often smell musty.
Use a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture level in your home. It'll also help prevent mold growth on other surfaces like walls and furniture.
Wash Clothes Frequently
If you're not washing clothes often enough, they'll start to smell. Wash them regularly, especially if you're sweating a lot or wearing them for exercise.
Avoid Using Fabric Softeners
Fabric softeners may leave a nice scent on your clothes, but they can also cause a build-up of bacteria and mold. Instead, use a natural alternative like white vinegar in the rinse cycle to soften your clothes. It'll also help prevent static cling and keep colors vibrant.
Keep Your Clothes Away from Mildew Smells with Rinse
Maybe work is keeping you on your toes, or you have a busy social life. Either way, laundry may not be at the top of your to-do list. That's completely okay.
At Rinse, we serve as your designated laundry and dry cleaning partner. We know every trick in the book to keep your clothes looking and smelling fresh.
All you have to do is put your clothes in a bag and tell us a day to come by for pickup. We'll take care of the rest, including separating whites and colors, pre-treating stains, using high-quality detergents, drying your clothes properly, and so on.
Some clothes just don't belong in the washing machine; we understand that. We also offer dry cleaning services for delicate items like suits, dresses, and silk.
Contact us at Rinse today to see our skill in action.