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How Do I Prevent My Closets From Smelling?

How Do I Prevent My Closets From Smelling?

Have you ever taken clothes out of your closet and noticed a stale or musty smell? You might wonder why your freshly washed clothes even have an odor. Typically, closets are small, enclosed spaces with little to no airflow. Because of this, your closets are prone to having stale air inside them, which can seep those pesky smells into your clothes. 

So are you wondering, “how do I prevent my custom closets from smelling?” The good news is that it is possible to close the door on those smells. 

Stay tuned for some inside tips below!

What’s the Source of the Smell?

First things first, you can’t eliminate or prevent your closets from smelling if you don’t know where the smell is coming from or what is causing it. That means you need to put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and try to find the source of the problem.

Some of the most common causes include:

  • Dirty Clothes Hamper: If you keep your dirty clothes in a hamper in your closet, then that could be contributing to the bad smell. You workout, go to work, sweat, and live your life, and your clothes take on those “life smells” before being washed.
  • Dust and Pet Hair: Nobody is immune to dust and dust mites, and that dusty smell can become more pungent over time.
  • Smelly Shoes: Your shoes take a beating. Sweat, dirt, and grime build up on and inside shoes, making them extra stinky.
  • Mold and Mildew: While the above are some of the most common causes of bad smells in closets, mold and mildew could be the real culprits and need to be addressed promptly. Often, the first noticeable signs of mold and mildew are stale, musty smells.

How Do You Know If It’s Mold or Mildew?

In 14 Ways to Prevent Mold Growth in Your Closets, Innovative Home Storage notes that it’s important to inspect your closets for signs of water leaks, water damage, and visible discoloration to your walls, ceilings, and floor. Mold and mildew, while similar, have different appearances. 

  • Mold has many color variations, such as blue, green, black, and red
  • Mildew is often gray or white in color

Closets offer mold the ideal environment for growth because they are dark, damp, cool, and have little air circulation.

Tips to Prevent Your Closets from Smelling Funky

Now that you know some of the most common causes of closet odors, it’s time to prevent those smells from getting started. But where do you start?

Custom Closet System

Keep Your Closets Clean

While it’s common practice to clean other parts of your home regularly, closets often get overlooked. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Here are some simple tips and tricks to keeping your custom closets clean and smelling better:

  • Vacuum the floors inside your closets regularly
  • Remove all of your clothes, shoes, and items during deep cleaning days
  • Use an all-purpose cleaner on the walls, inside drawers and cabinets, and on shelves and rods
  • Have carpeted floors steam cleaned from time to time
  • Use a dehumidifier and fan after thoroughly cleaning to ensure all moisture is removed before returning items to your closets

Remove Damp and Dirty Items

Remember those smelly clothes in the dirty clothes hamper? If you keep your dirty clothes basket in your closet and the clothes inside it are even slightly damp, that will cause your entire closet to stink again. 

Instead, consider either washing and drying them immediately, or putting them in your laundry room on a hanging rack. The same principle applies to damp, dirty, or sweaty shoes. Consider leaving them in a sunny space outside or on your porch to dry before bringing them inside again.

Let the Air Flow

All smells generally worsen in areas with poor air circulation, so helping your closets increase airflow is an easy way to reduce bad smells. But how do you that?

  • Leave Some Space Between Items: A tightly packed closet or crammed drawers don’t allow for air to move well.
  • Keep the Floors Clear: Use cabinets or storage bins for items you would normally store on the floor.
  • Get Rid of Items You Don’t Use Anymore: You’ll be clearing space in your closets and giving back to the community by donating unwanted items.
  • Open the Doors: This will help bring fresh air into your closets. You can also use a dehumidifier or air purifier while your closet doors are open.

Freshen Your Closets to Prevent Smells

After you have identified the source of the smell, have thoroughly cleaned your closets, removed damp items, and increased airflow, the next step is to continually freshen your closets. Thankfully, there are some super easy and affordable solutions.

  • Try Wooden Hangers: Did you know that wood can absorb some of the moisture in the air and help prevent bad closet odors? Plus, wooden hangers are better for your clothes! Cedar hangers bring the smell of the forest to your closet and also help to prevent moths from finding your clothes.
  • Baking Soda for the Win: Good old-fashioned baking soda has been absorbing odors and freshening refrigerators, closets, and other spaces for decades. Thespruce.com says simply opening a box of baking soda in your closet will absorb odors for “up to a year!” 
  • Consider Coffee Grounds: Like baking soda, coffee grounds also absorb odors. Put dry coffee grounds in a container and poke holes in the lid and remember to replace the coffee grounds monthly. Voila!
  • Give Activated Charcoal a Try: Getgreenbewell.com states that activated charcoal works by helping purify the air and absorb smells. It comes in pre-filled cloth bags. To activate the charcoal, place the bags in the sun for two hours. Then place them inside your closets.
  • Place Soaps or Scented Dryer Sheets in Your Closet: These nice-smelling items are likely already in your home. They add a fresh, light scent to your closet, and you don’t have to leave home to find them.
  • Put Fragrant Herbs in Linen or Cotton Bags: Angi.com explains that you can naturally freshen your closets and prevent odors by buying herbs, such as lavender or rosemary, placing them inside a linen or cotton bag, and leaving the bag in your closet.
  • Try a Freshening Spray: These linen sprays come in a variety of scents and aren’t overpowering. However, be aware that air fresheners don’t eliminate odors. They only mask them for short periods of time. 


No matter what is causing your closets to smell, keeping them clean and smelling fresh is important. Nobody wants smelly closets or smelly clothes, and with these simple yet effective tips and tricks, your closets will be smelling better and will be cleaner in no time at all.


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