Do your clothes have this musty smell after a wash? If they are, then you have come to the right place. In this article we discuss some of the reasons your clothes smell musty and a quick fix for them. There are few quick hacks to freshen up your clothes within a few minutes.

Many a times even after a good wash, your laundry may smell foul or musty. The main reason for this unpleasant smell is “mildew”. The good thing is that, there are multiple ways by which you can get rid of this small.

You can either pre-treat your clothes before washing, during the wash, when drying them and finally when storing them. Let’s look at each now.

I have listed down a few products that can help at the end of the article in case you wish to see which ones to buy.

Separate Used vs Clean clothes

Don't mix dirty sweaty clothes with rest

Don’t mix dirty  with rest

Always sort clothes keeping away dirty ones together

Always sort clothes keeping away dirty ones together

Before we get into the treatment, I just wanted to touch upon this point which is equally important.

The more number of times we wear something, the more it smells due to the sweat or even due to worn outside. Hence, it is advised to keep used clothes separate from clean clothes.

This is to avoid the smell to be transferred to the clean clothes.

Pre-Treatment of Dirty Laundry

1. Used clothes in Laundry Box

Spray essential oils if clothes smelling really bad

Spray essential oils if clothes smelling really bad

While the old clothes lie in the laundry box, it can start to smell as a whole due to the smell getting transferred to each other.

If you plan to wash only after some hours, it is advised to spray a bit of an essential oil to the box of used clothes.

To make your own Fabric Spray – Take a cup of water. Add 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil. Pour this mixture in a spray bottle and its ready for use.

I usually use “Lavender essential Oil” as it helps prevent mildew and gives out a good fragrance. I have linked all the products that will help at the end of the article.

2. Sweaty or Dirty Clothes

Pre-soak dirty & stinky clothes

Pre-soak dirty & stinky clothes

Try to wash sweaty or moist clothes or in general dirty clothes immediately. If you cannot wash immediately, you can pre-soak them in some dish soap or even add vinegar into the bucket of water.

Dish soap typically having lemon can take off the foul odor. Vinegar also helps kill the foul smell and is a deodorizer.

Leave it there for a max of 30mins. Wash it with regular detergent after that.

However, if you cannot wash after 30mins, do not pile these stinky clothes with other used clothes as the stink will easily be passed on to them. Keep them in another box which is well sealed.

3. Stained Clothes

Clean any stain on clothes first

Clean any stain on clothes first

Stained clothes can cause foul smell depending on the size of the stain and also the content of the stain. Typically keep these away from other used clothes.

To tackle the stain, make a thick paste of baking soda and water. You can also add a drop of dish wash into this. Mix well and rub the paste around the stain with a brush.

After this, soak the cloth in a bucket of water along with 1 cup vinegar. Leave it soaked for 30mins after which you can use your regular wash cycle.

If the stain is too old, it could be difficult to remove it. A fresh stain however, is easier to clean off.

4. Moist Clothes

Dry away wet/moist clothes if not washed right away

Dry away wet/moist clothes if not washed right away

It’s always best to wash moist clothes immediately. If however you do not plan to wash them sooner, you must air dry it before dumping it in the laundry basket.

Moisture in the clothes can give out the musty smell which then transfers to other used clothes around it. Hence, keep them away.

Once they are air dried you can add them to the laundry basket for regular wash.

Treatment during the wash cycle


5. Wash your clothes often

Wash clothes regularly

Wash clothes regularly

As mentioned earlier the more you wear something, the more it smells. It is advised to put away used clothes for wash immediately than wanting to re-use them.

Often clothes like: socks, swimsuits, tights, leggings, tops, underwear must be washed after single use.
Pants, Dresses can be worn about 2-3 times before they are washed.

6. Wash in small loads

Wash in small loads

Wash in small loads

Use Washing machine balls

Use Washing machine balls

It’s always good to wash in small loads than stuffing all of them in one cycle. This will decrease the unwanted load on the machine and also allow the clothes to be cleaned better.

Adding washer balls or laundry balls help clothes to wrinkle less and trap air in between the clothes allowing every single cloth to be washed properly.

You can check out some washing Balls here – Washing Balls

7. Use a scented detergent

Scented detergent help clothes smell refreshing

Scented detergent help clothes smell refreshing

These days laundry detergents are of great smell and very refreshing. However, some strong smell detergents are available too.

Sometimes we are prone to add a bit more to the laundry to make our clothes smell better. However, it’s not always the best thing to do.

We must use the recommended amount only as they can leave a residue on our clothes. This in fact causes our clothes to smell bad after a while.

If you are wanting that extra smell on your clothes, you can add a few drops of essential oils to the detergent. Some of the good ones for this purpose are: Lavender oil, Orange essential oil, Tea tree essential oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Rosemary and Thyme essential oils.

8. Add fabric softener

Use Fabric Softner in every wash

Use Fabric Softner in every wash

These days many fabric softeners are available. They add a pleasant smell to your clothes. In your washer, you can add fabric softener. You need to read the machine instructions to know where to add.

Fabric softener is mostly used after the wash cycle. It is used in the rinse cycle when the clothes have been washed.

They make your clothes smell beautiful and also soften or condition the clothes.

9. Essential oils in the last cycle

Essential Oil make clothes smell great

Essential Oil make clothes smell great

After the wash cycle is the rinse cycle. If you do not use fabric softener, though there is no reason why you must not, you can also use essential oils.

During the last rinse cycle, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils. The clothes will be rinsed along with the essential oil to give the fragrant smell.

You can mix a few essential oils to come up with your favorite fragrance.


10. Dry your clothes as soon as they are washed

Dry clothes as soon as they are washed

Dry clothes as soon as they are washed

Many a times we leave our clothes in the washer and forget about it. The washed clothes remain crumpled in the washer. The moisture of the clothes leads to form mildew which then gives the musty smell even though the clothes were washed.

It’s always good to dry the clothes sooner. You can either Air dry them completely or put it in the dryer.

During the rains, due to high moisture level in the air, clothes do not air dry soon. This leads to musty smell too.

Drying clothes in an air dryer helps dry the clothes completely. You can also treat your clothes in the dryer cycle to add some fragrance.

11. Clean the washing machine regularly

Clean the washing machine regularly

Clean the washing machine regularly

It is advised that you clean your washing machine at least once every 6 months. This will take away any bad odor inside the drum which could be adding smell to your washed clothes.

Add 2 to 4 cups of vinegar in the detergent box. Run a complete wash cycle with hot water. After this add a cup of baking soda to the drum and wash on highest setting again.

Once complete, buff the inner drum dry.

You can also use readymade descalers available in the market. Some products are listed at the end of the article.

Treatment when drying clothes

As discussed earlier, it’s important to dry the clothes as soon as they are done with wash cycle. And make sure the clothes are completely dry before you store them away.

1. Air Dry

Air Dry washed clothes

Air Dry washed clothes

Hang your clothes on a clothes hanging rack or on a drying line outside your house. Air drying can help the clothes fresh and smell good.

Drying clothes in the bright sun can lead to the colors to fade. If you dry clothes inside your house, make sure the room is well ventilated.

Air drying is good during the summers when the sun is bright. But, during the rainy season the air has moisture content and this makes the clothes to dry slowly and sometimes left undried for days.
Moist clothes lead to having a musty smell which can be very unpleasant.

Also, if the air around you is polluted with dust and vehicle emission, it may not really be a good idea to air dry.

Another caveat with air drying is that these clothes may not be as soft as those which are dried in the dryer. These clothes are crisp no doubt, but won’t be as soft.

Again, need yo make sure that the clothes are completely dried before you store them away.

2. Using dryer

Use of Dryer sheets

Use of Dryer sheets

Use of Dryer Balls

Use of Dryer Balls

When using a dryer, you can be sure that all the clothes are 100% dry. You can also add fragrance to the clothes when drying by adding dryer balls or dryer sheets.

Dryer balls or sheets allow the clothes to tumble around them getting air trapped in between and hence drying clothes faster.

Dryer balls and sheets can be sprinkled with essential oils before tossing them into the dryer. This gives additional fragrance to the clothes.

You can check out some dryer sheets here – Dryer Sheets.
Dryer Balls can be found here – Dryer Balls.

You can also check out our detailed guides on how to buy a Dryer here:

  1. Dryer Buying Guide – How to buy a Dryer?
  2. Washer Dryer V/S Tumble Dryer – Which one should you buy?

3. Keep the dryer clean

Clean Dryer regularly

Clean Dryer regularly

Always clean the vents of the dryer. This will help get rid of the lint that is collected after every cycle.

Another way is to dry 2-3 towels soaked in vinegar which will help deodorize the inner drum of the dryer.


Storing clothes

It’s important to take care of our washed clothes and store them away appropriately. Check out some of the ways to to keep the closet and clothes smell refreshing.

1. Avoid Mixing

Avoid keeping washed clothes with used ones. Make sure they are away from each other.

2. Naphthalene or Camphor Balls





Make sure the cupboard you store them is also well kept. You can keep naphthalene or camphor balls inside the cupboards so that they smell good.

Camphor balls and Naphthalene balls also help get rid of any insects that can crawl into the cupoboard.

So, not just smell, it also helps get rid of unwanted insects.

3. Scented Sheets

Scented sheets

Scented sheets

You can keep dryer sheets inside the cupboard to give out that fragrant smell which will also make your clothes smell good.

You can also resuse the sheet by adding your favorite essential oils to it.

This way the closet and also the clothes smell great.

4. Essential Oils

Essential Oils

Essential Oils

Put a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a small piece of cloth, small towel or cotton balls. Place this inside your cupboards on different shelves so that every shelf has a fragrance which will be transferred to the clothes.

Essential oils release fragrant smell which will be transferred to all your clothes and also the closet. And you can reuse the rag or cotton ball when the smell has diffused off.

5. Candles or Soaps

Unused Candles and Soaps

Candles & Soaps

You can also keep unused soaps and candles inside the cupboard or dresser.

These days a variety of scented candles are available in the market. Unused soaps, you can easily find at home.

The pleasant smell of candles or soaps will be transferred to the clothes.


6. Deodorizer

Baking soda as Deodorizer

Baking soda as Deodorizer

Always deodorize the cupboard so that any bad smell can be wiped out. Keep a small container filled with baking soda inside the cupboard. This will absorb all the bad smell.
Keep the container open.

After a few days you may see the powder has formed some crumb like texture. This is the time to replace the baking powder.


7. Spray Vinegar and water mixture

Vinegar Water Spray

Vinegar Water Spray

For a quick deodorizer, you can make a mixture of equal parts of vinegar and water (1:1) and put it in a spray bottle.

Spray your clothes with this mixture. The vinegar smell instantly disappears. However, if you want you can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.


8. Keep the cupboard and your room clean

Clean you closet & Room regularly

Clean you closet & Room regularly

As important it is to treat the clothes, it is also important to keep the surrounding clean. So, make sure your room is clean and also the cupboard.

Keep away the unwanted things by decluttering every now and then. Also make sure your room is well ventilated so that fresh air flows inside the room to keep away bad smell in the room.



Here is a list of the things you can use to make your clothes smell refreshing and good.

Essential Oils

Lavender Oil – Lavender Oil.

Lemon Oil – Lemon oil

Tea Tree Oil – Tea tree oil

Eucalyptus Oil – Eucalyptus Oil

Orange Oil – Orange Oil

Rosemary Oil – Rosemary Oil

Dryer Sheets & Balls

Purex Dryer sheet – Purex Dryer sheet

Bounce Dryer Sheet – Bounce Dryer Sheet

Washing machine ball  Washing Machine balls

IianStar Dryer Balls – IianStar Dryer Balls

Galaksy reusable Dryer balls – Galaksy dryer Balls


BlueOxy Descaler – BlueOxy Descaler

LG Smart Shelter Descaler – LG Smart Shelter Descaler

Fortune Multi Use Descaler – Fortune Descaler

Baking soda

NutroActive Baking soda (1.25kg) – NutroActive Baking Soda

Pure Baking Soda (1kg) – Pure Baking Soda


HealthKart white Vinegar – HealthKart White Vinegar

Heinz Vinegar – Heinz Vinegar

Naphthalene & Camphor Balls 

Pure White Naphthalene ball (1kg) – Pure white Naphthalene balls

AirQon Naphthalene balls (500Gms) – AirQon Naphthalene Balls

Colorful Naphthalene Fragrance Cubes – Colorful Naphthalene Fragrance Cubes

Camphor Balls – Camphor Balls

Spray Bottles

Home REPUBLIC Spray Bottles – Home REPUBLIC Spray Bottles

Crysta Refilling spray bottles – Crysta Refilling Spray bottles

Fragrant Detergent

Tide Plus Extra Power Detergent Washing Powder – 2 kg – Tide Plus

Syclone Matic Top Load Detergent Powder for Washing Machine, 2kg – Syclone Matic

Rin Detergent Powder 2 kg – Rin

Surf Excel Matic Front Load Detergent Powder, 2 kg – Surf Excel

Henko Matic Top Load Detergent – 2 kg – Henko Matic

Ariel Matic Top Load Detergent Washing Powder – 2 kg – Ariel 

Fabric Softener

Softouch fabric Softener – Softtouch

Comfort After wash Softener- Comfort 

SafeWash Fabric Softener – SafeWash

Clothes drying Rack

Foldable Rack by Bathla – Bathla Mobidry Foldable Rack

Parasnath Stainless steel Stand – Parasnath Prime Stainless Steel Drying Stand