How to Prevent Odors in Stored Clothes

Clothes smell fresh all year long with proper storage.
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When summer's warmth fades or winter's chill melts away, you'll need to put some garments in storage to make room for seasonal clothing. If you don't store your clothes properly, though, they'll be vulnerable to humidity, pests and nasty odors. Before you pack your garments away, take the time to safeguard your storage area from bad smells. Your clothes and your nose will thank you.

Launder all clothes before storing them to remove odor-causing food particles, stains and other debris. To remove stubborn odors, add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the laundry load.

Ensure that clothes are completely dry before storing. If any moisture remains on a garment, mildew and a bad odor can develop.

Select an ideal place to store your clothes. A bedroom closet is a good choice. If you don't have room in a closet, consider renting a unit in a storage center. Avoid storing clothes in the attic or basement. The heat and humidity may damage clothes or cause them to develop a musty odor.

Clean out your closet or storage area before putting clothes in it. Remove any dirty clothing or smelly shoes so they can't transfer odor to your stored garments.

Vacuum the closet floor and wipe down the walls with a damp rag. If the closet has shelves, wipe them down as well. Leave the closet door open to allow it to air out for a few hours. Repeat this cleaning at least once a year.

Hang clothes with a few inches between each garment. This allows air to circulate between garments, which helps prevent bad smells from developing.

Pack clothing in opaque plastic bins with tight-fitting lids, if possible. Plastic bins are better than cardboard boxes because insects and rodents can chew through cardboard easily.

Sprinkle some baking soda inside each shoe to absorb odors and prevent new ones. Baby powder and fabric-softener sheets also work.

Put coffee grounds, baking soda, cedar chips or white vinegar in a bowl, then set the bowl inside the storage area near your clothes. Alternatively, fill an old sock with charcoal briquettes, then set it on the closet floor or on a shelf. All of these things absorb odors well.

  • Mothballs work to ward off moths, fleas, mites, carpet beetles, rodents and other pests that damage clothes. They do, however, have a very strong odor that tends to transfer to clothes. If your clothing smells like mothballs, let it air out for about a day. When you launder the garments, add 1 cup of white vinegar to the wash to get rid of the smell.

Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.