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How to Remove Musty Smell from Clothes
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If your clothes are musty, chances are they are infested with spores of a mold. Want to get the musty smell out? Sometimes it can't be done, but try this before giving up.
Kill the mold by soaking the clothes overnight in a solution such as ONE of the following:

One cup ammonia to one gallon warm water; or

One cup of white vinegar to one gallon warm water; or

One cup of baking soda to one gallon warm water

Soak overnight.

Wash normally with regular detergent and hang to dry on a sunny day.

If the above methods do not work, or if you have something that cannot be soaked (like a jacket that must be dry cleaned), you may need to try using chlorine dioxide to kill the mold spores. This is used on boats to control musty odors, and in libraries to control outbreaks of mildew.

There are several convenient sources of small amounts of chlorine dioxide that are sold for use in boats and closets. The consumer products with chlorine dioxide for this purpose are very difficult to find unless you know what they are called, so here are the names of two different products that you can try from different manufacturers:

One product that can be used is called Starbrite M-D-G Mildew Odor Control Bags.

Another product that is nearly identical but comes in larger quantities is manufactured and available from Quip Labs. That product is called MB DeoTrex-30 Sachets. Their site also has good information about chlorine dioxide as a deodorant biocide.

Tips and Warnings:

  • Products such as Tide w/Febreze or Oxyclean may do the trick for you.
  • There is a product called purewasher that is only sold on the internet that will remove odor from your machine and your clothing. They even have a guarantee. It works very well.
  • You can use a dryer sheet in the clothes dryer, in the hopes that the heat will release the fragrance, which will then get into the clothes. However, this will only help to cover the smell and will probably not eliminate your problem.
  • My wife has a terrible habit of leaving wet rags on the counter or table tops without hanging them to dry... Here is yet another *chemical free* method I have discovered to get rid of the musty/moldy smell that I have had success 100% of the time I tried. I dreaded using any kind of chemicals/soaps to handle this (short of throwing away the fabric). Directions are simple. Boil a pot of water (just enough water to fully soak the fabric through until it can no longer absorb anymore water). Pour boiling water on fabric (obviuosly do this in a sink and wear protective gloves and goggles if necessary), or just put clothing in the pot. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then wring out the hot water right away. Immediately rinse a few times with cold water. Note that I have only tried this on towels and rags that are constantly exposed to water, and thus more likley to build up mildew. I would not try this on delicate fabrics, unless you know the fabric can handle hot wash. This is pretty much the same as washing laundry in a hot load, but temperatures of a hot load can vary, and you don't want to waste too much water/energy just to treat one piece of clothing. Also, you avoid contaminating other clothing with the mildew..
  • If the above will not work, you might try soaking overnight in a solution of bleach if you don't mind lightening the color of the garment significantly. Just be careful not to mix the bleach with ammonia, as this mixture will result in a noxious gas which will harm those who breathe it.
  • Chlorine dioxide is an irritant. If you are using chlorine dioxide, air the room out before occupying it. Or keep the door closed if you are deodorizing a closet.
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