Mildew Smell in Stored Clothes

Updated on March 15, 2011
K.M. asks from Carthage, NY
6 answers

I have had some clothes, from my older son, stored for years waiting for my youngest sons to wear. Now is the time, and I have discovered that apparently they got wet. I do not know when, or how long they were sitting wet. They smell very mildewy (?). There is no sign of mold, just the mildew smell, and I can't wash it out. I use Borax in every load of clothes I wash for hidden smells and it hasn't worked for this. I have tried vinegar and all I end up with is clothes that smell like vinegar AND mildew. We even used baking soda and that didn't work. I bought some Oxyclean, but it doesn't say anything about taking out odors. I haven't tried it yet. Luckily after washing one load about 3 times the smell doesn't take your breath away anymore, but the clothes still can't be worn. Any ideas? I'll try almost anything since these clothes are garbage if the smell can't be removed anyway.

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So What Happened?

When I was at Walmart checking the shelves for some of the things mentioned I found Fabreeze Laundry Odor Remover! It comes in a big container like liquid Clorox 2. It worked!!!! It was amazing. It only took one load of wash with the Fabreeze. Now I use it with all the clothes that I think will have the slightest odor that could remain. Thanks for the reccommendations! And now I know not to store anything in cardboard boxes again. We have lots and lots of plastic storage boxes now!

More Answers



answers from New York on

HI mom,

I would just hang them outside for a few days,yes DAYS
thats what i do with my rugs.

I let them air out in the sun, and then after a few days I bring back inside, if it still smells I spray it with FEBREEZE
saturating it, wait a few more days and then scrub it,

With clothes, its diffrent,i learned the hard way,
Now when I store clothes I add a packet of dried scents
BAth and body works has them and so do other stores, like yankee candle, and walmart.

These work great,

for blankets, and towels
I add baby powder sprinkling it right into the plastic bin,
or baking soda.

LAst resort, would be using dryel

or febreeze sheets for the dryer

Good luck




answers from Utica on

I would definitely try the oxyclean - if that doesn't work there is a great Product called SOS that gets out any organic stain or odor (you can purchase it exclusively thru If all else fails you can add some bleach to the wash. I know it'll fade darker colors but if they can't be worn anyway it's worth a shot!



answers from New York on

when storing clothes, pack them in Cardboard boxes only. we use diaper boxes and things like that along with the ones you can buy in walmart.

if you pack them in rubbermaid or any other plastic container, they will have a smell to them from the chemicals released from the plastic.

we pack all the kids clothes in the cardboard boxes. This also keeps food stains from coming back out (the plastic's fumes does this to clothes).

they've been fine for the past 10 years my cousins have been doing it for clothes they give for my kids... :)




answers from San Diego on

I had same problem, but some of the clothes had red or orange spots on them too. I tried everything: vinegar, baking soda, Soil Luv, oxyclean, zout, rubbing alcohol, cream of tartar, and nothing worked. Then I found this hint online: Try pine oil. Most of us have pine sol under our sinks which contains pine oil. pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup into water, fill with water and let soak for two hours. (I have front loader so can't really soak for that long, so I used bathtub). Drain the water and run through longest cycle using detergent and oxyclean. If still smells repeat above steps using more pine sol (can use up to a cup or two, but smell will be VERY strong). Make sure before drying that the smell is gone. Note: I tried this for my grey & black comforter using the bathtub. My pine cleaner, at the time, was green in color and I soaked it overnight. It removed the smell perfectly BUT it stained my tub green/black, which I have not been able to get rid of.



answers from Glens Falls on

I wonder if Clorox 2 would do anything. Safe for Colors... but I don't know if it has the same germ/mildew killing factor that actual bleach would.



answers from San Francisco on

The problem with clothes in cardboard boxes - there are aromatic compounds in cardboard that become more pronounced when the cardboard gets damp. The boxes don't have to be wet. Humidity in the air can make cardboard smelly. This article in Science News explains in more detail. It also references a scientific paper on the problem.

One way to remove smells from fabric is with a safe enzyme solution used to remove pet odors. It is sold in all pet stores. I buy Simple Solution. Nature's Miracle is another common brand.

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