How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Clothes The Easy Way

Can mildew smell be washed out of clothes? Yes. Find out how to get mildew smell out of clothes, even after they've been dried.

Have you ever pulled your clothes from the wardrobe and then been hit with that musty, mildew smell? The frustrating part is that this changes your plans: if you wear it, you’re stuck smelling musty all day.

However, the good news is that there are ways to get mildew smells out of your clothes. Sometimes, simply air-drying your clothes in the bright sunlight can do the trick, but other times, the smell has penetrated deep into the fibers and needs a little more effort to remove. 

In this article, we show you how to get mildew smell out of clothes quickly and easily. We’ll explore different methods used by the pros so you can enjoy fresh and clean laundry once again.

What you’ll need

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Washing machine
  • Hot water
  • Clothesline


How to get mildew smell out of clothes (2 ways)

To get mildew smell out of clothes, add 1 cup vinegar to your clothes and wash with hot water. Next, check for lingering odors. If the mildew smell persists, rewash the clothes with 1/2 cup baking soda and hot water. Then, air-dry in the sun.

Below, we’ve included detailed instruction for this method, along with one other highly effective method. 

Method 1: Vinegar and baking soda

Follow these instructions to get mildew smell out of clothes with baking soda and vinegar. 

Add vinegar to the laundry

Start by adding one cup of white vinegar to your laundry. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant that can kill the mildew spores causing the odor. It also helps to break down any residue that may be clinging to your clothes.

Use hot water

Run the washing machine with the hottest water possible to help remove any remaining mildew spores. The heat will also help activate the vinegar, making it more effective in removing the odor. 

Check for lingering odors

Once the cycle is complete, check your clothes for any lingering mildew smell. If the odor persists, try washing your clothes with baking soda.

Wash with baking soda

Add 1/2 cup (120 mL) of baking soda to your washing machine and run it through another cycle with hot water. Baking soda is an excellent odor absorber that can help eliminate the mildew smell. It also helps brighten and soften your clothes.

Air-dry the clothes

After the wash cycle is complete, it's best to air-dry your clothes in the sun. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant and can help eliminate any remaining bacteria or mildew spores. 

Hang your clothes outside on a clothesline and let the fresh air and sunlight do their work. Not only will your clothes smell great, but they'll also have a fresh, crisp feel to them.

If you don't have access to outdoor space, you can still air-dry your clothes indoors near an open window or a fan. Just make sure the area is well-ventilated to prevent any new mildew from forming.

Method 2: Bleach or borax

When added to laundry, bleach can kill any mildew spores that are present on the clothes, eliminating the source of the odor. 

Borax is a natural mineral compound that has cleaning and deodorizing properties. It works by altering the pH balance of the water, which helps to break down dirt and neutralize any odors, including the musty smell of mildew.

To remove mildew smell from your clothes using bleach or borax, follow these steps.

  • Check the care label: First, make sure the clothing is safe to wash with bleach or borax. As a general rule, avoid using this method on silk, wool, or leather.
  • Fill sink with bleach/water: Fill a sink or bathtub with warm water and the recommended amount of oxygen bleach according to the package instructions. 
  • Or borax: If you’re using borax instead, simply add 1/2 cup (120 mL) of borax to the water.
  • Submerge clothes: Submerge the clothes in the solution and let them soak for several hours or overnight.
  • Move clothes to machine: Next, drain the water and transfer the clothes to your washing machine.
  • Wash with hot water: Add your regular laundry detergent and set the water temperature to the hottest setting possible.
  • Hang to dry: Once the cycle is complete, hang the clothes to dry in the sun or in a well-ventilated area.

Meanwhile, if the musty smell has spread throughout your home, here’s how to get rid of the musty smell.

Why do my clothes still smell like mildew after washing?

If your clothes still smell like mildew after washing, it’s either because of detergent residue, overloading the washer, insufficient drying, or a dirty washer. To prevent this, use proper detergent amounts, don’t overload the washer, allow clothes to dry completely, and clean your washer regularly.

How do you get mildew smell out of clothes that have been dried?

If your clothes still smell of mildew after they have been dried, rewash them with vinegar or baking soda. You can also use odor-eliminating sprays, borax treatment, or enzyme-based laundry detergents. These methods help to neutralize odors and combat mildew growth.

How do you get mildew smell out of clothes without rewashing?

To get mildew smell out of clothes without rewashing, mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle with a few drops of essential oil. Spray the mixture on the clothes and air dry. Meanwhile, you can also air the clothes out in sunlight or use odor-eliminating sprays. 

How to get anything and everything out of clothes

Get mildew out of clothes completely

Nobody likes the musty smell that comes from mildew in clothes, but thankfully there are several solutions to eliminate it. So, whether it's using vinegar, baking soda, borax, or bleach, there's a method for everyone. 

Need help keeping on top of your other house cleaning tasks? 

With Homeaglow, you can easily book an affordable, top-rated cleaner in your area. Read reviews, compare your options, and schedule online in minutes.

Cleaning model putting rubber gloves on

Book a top-rated cleaner in 3 easy steps

Cleaning model putting rubber gloves on
Pick a date and time
Whether you need a cleaning tomorrow or next month, there's always a cleaner that fits your schedule.
Choose your cleaner
Browse the profiles and images of cleaners before selecting the right one for your home.
Enjoy your clean home
Your cleaner will arrive at the scheduled time and give your home a cleaning you'll love.

Affordable, professional cleaners in your area

Choose from a range of 5-star cleaners at a reasonable price.
Book your first 3 hour cleaning for only $19.

Top-rated cleaners

Pick from Huntington Beach’s best cleaners. All reviewed, background-checked, and certified.

Affordable rates

The best cleaning prices you’ll find in Huntington Beach. Get your first clean for as low as $9.

Easy, online booking

Book a time that suits you with our easy online booking platform for Huntington Beach.

Reclaim your time and give yourself the clean home you’ll love