How to Keep Clothes Smelling Fresh in the Wardrobe

Have you just opened your wardrobe door only to be hit by a stuffy or musty smell? Yep, it happens to us all. It’s not exactly a welcoming odour, and you probably don’t feel like dressing yourself in your funky garments!

But it’s generally nothing major to worry about. And it’s usually a sign that the clothes have been stuck in the wardrobe for too long and need to be refreshed so that they continue to smell clean!

Read on to find out how you can keep your clothes fresh and fragrant when they’re kept in a wardrobe.


Why Do Clothes Smell in the Wardrobe?

man smelling clothes in the wardrobe

Wardrobes and the clothes inside of them can smell for several reasons, including:

1. Wardrobes are usually enclosed spaces

Wardrobes are closed spaces that only get opened at certain times of the day (morning/night, for example). Other than that, their doors are typically shut tight, so very little sunlight and fresh air can enter the space.

Consequently, all the foul fragrances get trapped inside the closet, and eventually, everything inside the wardrobes starts to smell musky.


2. The wardrobe hasn’t been taken care of

Like other cupboards in a house, a wardrobe needs to be cleaned every so often. The closet will become a dusty, cobweb-filled space if it isn’t maintained. It’s not ideal for your nostrils or your clothes.


3. What you store in your closet may make it smell

Mucky clothes, sweaty gym gear, and muddy, damp shoes can leave your wardrobes smelling stale.

As a result, the laundry in the closet can also take on the stench! And you may even rub dirt onto your freshly cleaned laundry.

Imagine tossing your muddy boots into your wardrobe only for them to get caught up in your clean jumper – what a mess and stench!


4. Mould and mildew are likely to be at the heart of the problem

Mould Growth in the Wardrobe

Closets that are dark, poorly ventilated, and filled with moisture-logged laundry are the ideal places for mould and mildew to set up a home in.

If your clothes have an earth-like and musty odour, you must inspect your wardrobes and cure the mould/mildew problem before it takes over the space. Mould and mildew can spread onto your garments and move around quickly.


5. A leak/damp may be at the centre of the issue

There may be a small leak or patch of damp in your wardrobe, which could be a pongy. It could also give rise to more severe issues like structural problems and mould. Ultimately, the moisture could make your laundry whiffy.


6. An infestation could be to blame

bugs in wardrobe

Occasionally, rodents, moths, and insects can enter wardrobe spaces. In turn, they can create a home for themselves in the dark area, and of course, they leave droppings behind.

If this is the case, your clothes may smell odd because they’ve been subjected to the smell of faeces.


How to Keep Clothes Smelling Fresh in the Wardrobe

1. Make sure your wardrobe is clean and is in good condition to start with

vacuum wardrobe or closet

One of the simplest and cheapest ways to make sure your clothes smell nice when stored inside a wardrobe is to ensure the closet is clean.

Take note of the following:

  • You can dust and hoover your wardrobe to keep it clean – Just empty the closet of its contents and wipe each shelf, rail, base, and side down. You can use a multipurpose cleaner (but do a patch test first). Ensure that every surface is dry before you return your items to the wardrobe.
  • Make sure there aren’t any dirty items in the wardrobe – Remove your muddy boots, pop your gym wear in the washing basket, and take out your damp coats!
  • Stop mould and mildew from plaguing your wardrobes and clothes – You can remove mould with an off-the-shelf product. You can make sure it doesn’t return by ensuring there’s sufficient ventilation in your closet, no moisture, and by keeping it clutter-free.
  • Ensure there are no infestations in your wardrobes, and if there are, treat them.


2. Make sure your clothes are clean and dry when they’re stored

store folded clothes in the closet

It goes without saying that to keep your clothes smelling fresh in a wardrobe, the garments in question must be cleaned before they enter the closet.

If you put dirty gear and outfits into a wardrobe, these clothes will start to smell fouler as time goes on, and the other items will also take on board the dreadful odour.

You must also store your clean laundry when it is completely dry. Damp laundry can start to smell when it’s stuck in a confined space with very little air or room to breathe!

Plus, moisture gives rise to mould. And, ideally, you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole because you’ll have a load of other problems to deal with!

Tip: Don’t leave damp clothes sitting in a washing machine. Peg them out on the line or tumble dry them immediately. Wet clothes that are left inside an appliance start to smell stale. Don’t allow your clothes to go funky before they hit the wardrobe.


3. Open the wardrobe door to allow fresh air in

wardrobe door open

As mentioned, wardrobes are enclosed spaces. Naturally, this means they’re not exposed to much fresh air and sunlight.

Consequently, none of the closet’s contents sees much light or feels much air!

So, open your wardrobes up when you leave the bedroom and leave them open until you go to bed.

During this time, plenty of fresh air will be able to enter and move around inside the closet, and your clothes will thank you for it!


4. Don’t overcrowd and clutter your wardrobe

maintain and clean the wardrobe

It’s also worth remembering that you shouldn’t overfill your wardrobes. If your closet is cluttered and ram-packed with stuff, air won’t be able to circulate.

Dust and grime will settle in the space, and the area will be more susceptible to mould!

As a result, you’ll get a stale sort of smell permeating throughout your closet!

So, don’t add too many items to your wardrobe, and make sure that air can pass around your garments with ease.

To declutter your wardrobe, you could donate your clothes to charity. Or if the garments are old and unwearable, bin them.


5. Add vents to the wardrobe to ensure good airflow

wardrobe vent

In addition to opening the doors on your wardrobe daily, you could add vents to ensure adequate airflow even when the doors are shut.


6. Take out your clothes to give them an air

empty wardrobe

From time to time, it’s a good idea to empty the contents of your wardrobe so that your items can be exposed to fresh air.

You could also put some things on the line to refresh them for an hour or two!

At this point, you could also sort through your clothes and donate what you no longer need or use. Now would also be a good time to give the closet a clean.

Tip: If you think your clothes could do with a scent boost, add some fabric softener to your washing machine when running a cleaning cycle. And use scent boosters if need be!


7. Buy scented sachets to take out foul odours in your closet

woman putting scented sachet in wardrobe

Scented sachets come in a variety of aromas and can be hung up or laid flat in a wardrobe. For inspiration, have a peek at these sachets:

  • LASENTEURS Scented Sachets come in a wealth of scents, including Rose and Sandalwood, Lavender, Patchouli, and Cherry. In a pack, you get ten sachets (all different smells), which can be used to freshen wardrobes (and the clothes in them), drawers, cars, living rooms, and kitchens. You can either pop them on a rail or leave them flat on a surface.
  • If you’re after a traditional smell like linen, look no further than Scenti-Hi’s Scented Sachet Bags. Each pack contains six bags, each with a hanging hook so you can put the sachet on a rail next to your laundry in your closet. The bags also boast weeks of freshness (give the sachet a shake to renew its linen-y aroma)!

Another version of this method is to hang tissue paper, sprayed with a perfume/essential oil of your choice, up between your clothes. (Do a patch test first, just in case the product reacts with your garments).


8. Grab some activated charcoal bags and toss them in the wardrobe

charcoal bag hanging on door knob

Activated charcoal is excellent at absorbing poor smells. So, stick a few bags in your closet or hang them up, and leave them to do their work!

Charcoal bags like these Nature Fresh Air Purifier Bags can be reused over a two-year period. There are no harsh smells or chemicals to handle! And the bags can be used in various areas around the home to eradicate unpleasant fragrances.

Tip: You could also make your own scented bags. All you need to do is buy some drawstring cotton-ramie bags, fill them, and hang them up in your wardrobes. Dry lavender and rose are popular scents.


9. Potpourri can keep your wardrobes and clothes smelling fresh

scented lavender sachet or Potpourri in the closet

If you want to be more creative, you could create multiple small potpourris and pop them around the base of your wardrobe.

When making up your potpourri, consider using scents that repel bugs and moths, like peppermint, cedar, eucalyptus, and mint.

Depending on what ingredients you use, you may have to swap and refresh your potpourri pots every month or so to continue getting use out of them.


10. Spritz clothes with vodka/white vinegar/essential oil to refresh them

fabric spray

A quick way to keep your clothes smelling fresh in the wardrobe is to squirt them with a refreshing potion.

There are a few ways you can create a clothes freshener at home. Follow the examples below:

  • Mix one part white vinegar with three parts water in a spray bottle and spray a fine mist of the solution over your items. There’s no need to soak the garments. The fine mist will be enough to remove the aromas from your laundry. (Turn your clothes inside out before you spray them).
  • Fill a clean spray bottle with a few shots of neat vodka, then top the bottle up with water. Turn your garments inside out, step back from them, and spray a fine vodka mist over them. (If you soak the clothes by accident, remove them from the wardrobe and allow them to dry before storing them again – remember, you don’t need to drench your garments in freshener to refresh them!).
  • Drop a little essential oil of your choice into a clean spray bottle and fill it with water. Step away from your clothes and spray a fine mist of the solution over them.

Always do a patch test first.

Tip: To make your laundry extra fragrant before you store it, stick the load inside a tumble dryer, toss in a neutral-coloured cloth coated in a few drops of essential oil, and run a quick cycle. The essential oil will find its way onto your laundry and make it fragrant. It’s kind of how a dryer sheet works! (Make sure the clothes are dryer-friendly!)


11. Dot some absorbent dishes around the closet to keep laundry fresh

essential oil and cotton balls

In addition to activated charcoal, you’ll find it useful to dot either ground coffee, bicarb, or essential oil balls around your wardrobe to wane off foul smells.

All you need to do is fill a shallow dish with a few teaspoons of either bicarbonate of soda or ground coffee and set the dish(es) down in the corner(s) of the closet. The dish(es) can then be left in place to remove the stench for you.

Similarly, you can dip multiple cotton wool balls in an essential oil of your choice and pop them in shallow dishes inside your wardrobe.

The odour from the wool balls may wane a little quicker than the coffee method above, but when this happens, you can just replenish the dish with new wool walls. You could even try a fresh scent at this stage.


12. Keep clothes smelling clean by putting some dryer sheets in your closet

dryer sheets

Just stick a few dryer sheets inside your wardrobe to manage the odours and to keep your clothes smelling fresh.

Yep, these dryer sheets are the same ones you add to your tumble dryer when drying laundry.

You can either hang them up, lay them flat on the base/shelf of the wardrobe, or stuff a sheet or two into your whiffy shoes! (Just do a quick patch test to ensure the chemicals won’t impact your clothes in any way).


13. Cedar hangers can make laundry smell fresher for longer

cedar hangers

Something that’s often overlooked when it comes to wardrobes is the hanger that you use. Interestingly, you can control some of the aromas in your closet by buying the right kind of hangers: natural cedar ones like these from HANGERWORLD.

The hangers are great at absorbing moisture and poor smells, and they can even keep moths at bay because the creatures don’t like cedar wood. You could call them multipurpose hangers!

Tip: If your wardrobes are extra smelly, you should try a combination of the methods above to reduce and eventually eradicate the unpleasant aromas. Consequently, your clothes will smell fresh when they’re in the wardrobe.