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How to Remove Mildew Smell from Clothing

Nothing is worse than throwing on your favorite outfit and heading out the door, only to realize that you smell like mold and mildew. If you are plagued by constant musty odors emanating from your clothes, then you may need to do some proactive action to rid your washer and laundry of mildew. You'll be breathing a breath of fresh air once you do, and with only a few simple steps to boot.


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    Check your washer. It may sound strange, but your washer could be the source of the mildew. Front-load washing machines are especially prone to trapping moisture and growing mold and mildew over time. Pour percarbonate solution in the detergent slot, and vinegar in the fabric softener slot. Run your washer on the sanitary cycle, and toss some of the percarbonate solution into the gasket for good measure. Wipe the washer out with a dry towel when finished, and leave the door open between uses to keep the inside aired out and dry.[1]
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    Don’t use too much detergent. When your clothes begin to smell musty, the first reaction you might take is to use a bit of extra detergent. This could actually be what is worsening your clothes’ smell though. Too much detergent won’t get washed out and will cling to clothes, trapping in moisture. This detergent buildup will increase mildew growth and make your clothes smell worse. Therefore, use the regular amount or less of detergent to keep your clothes from being overwhelmed with soap.
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    Let your clothes air-out. If your clothes are just lightly mildewed, the easiest option is to let them air-out. Hang them up (whether they are wet or dry) on a clothesline outside. The natural scents of the outdoors and the constant breeze will remove the mildew stench. You can also air-dry your clothes outdoors after trying other mildew-killing treatments on them.[2]
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    Use a bit of vinegar. This all natural product is a deodorizer as well as a disinfectant, and will kill any mold and remove the mildew smell that accompanies it on your clothes. Add a cup of vinegar directly into the gasket with your clothes and let your washer run on the longest cycle it has. Add an additional cup during the rinse cycle, and your mildew stench should be gone!
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    Try baking soda. Yet another all natural cleaning solution, baking soda will clean and remove odors from clothing. Add a cup of regular baking soda to your clothes in the wash cycle. Use the longest and hottest wash cycle you are able. You can do this multiple times on the same load to get rid of really deep mildew odors. Dry your clothes with some fabric softener, and voila! Your clothing should now smell clean and fresh.
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    Wash with a heavy detergent. You may think that you are washing with a strong detergent, but there are some specifically marketed for clothes that are dirty and smelly on a regular basis. Look for detergents advertised for hunters, mechanics, or construction workers. These have extra strong odor-fighting ingredients that should work away your mildew concerns. Wash as per the directions on the bottle and you should be good to go.[3]
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    Use borax. This is one of the stronger cleaning methods; borax is an all natural mold-killer which is sure to get rid of the mildew smell in your clothes. To use, mix ½ a cup of borax with a cup of very hot water, allowing it to dissolve. Add this solution to your washing machine after it has filled with water (and you’ve put your clothes in). Run your washing machine on the hottest and longest cycle your clothes can tolerate, and you should be set.
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    Try using oxiclean. Yes, this infomercial cleaning product may be worth the purchase. Oxiclean has shown to work wonders on getting rid of the mildew smell in clothes. Follow the package directions for adding the detergent to your wash cycle. You can continue to use the product over time with your laundry to keep them smelling fresh and looking brand-new.[4]


  • Avoid leaving clothes laying around for several days when they are damp. If your clothes have become wet (from rain or sweat, for example) allow them to dry before banishing them to the laundry hamper.
  • Bleach can remove the mildew scent of clothing, but will lighten colors and wear out your fabric over time. Use bleach as a last resort.
  • Put the clothes in the dryer and dry as usual. The heat will draw out any other odors left in the clothing. You can also throw in a scented bag (the sort you leave in drawers) to add a sweeter odor to the clothing and air around the laundry.

Article Info

Categories: Clothing Stains