Sniffing out a mystery odor in your closet is probably in the lower echelon of how you’d like to spend your morning. But if you find yourself wrinkling your nose while looking for a pair of pants, any number of items could be the culprit. Stinky shoes, a sweater that never seems to make it to the dry cleaner, or even mold and mildew could be making things funky in there. Because closets generally do not have windows or great air circulation, the smell will only get worse if you don’t start troubleshooting fast.
If you need a little motivation to tackle the stinky situation on hand, remember that scents do affect mood. According to Scientific American, the aromas we find pleasing are based on personal experiences, which is why we have strong preferences in this department. Smelling an aroma that you enjoy promotes a good mood and more productivity, while unpleasant scents stir up the opposite. So rather than start your day feeling (and smelling) foul, make your closet a lovely place for your nose by eliminating a few factors. Below you’ll find a number of proactive approaches to keeping your closet fresh, as well as ways to incorporate scents that may just trigger a little olfactory joy.
Identify odor-causing clothing
If your closet is starting to stink, a plausible reason is that you have a few items of clothing in there that have become nefarious. Do a simple smell test to see where the problem lies. Once you’ve found clothes that could use some care, consider Persil’s tips on tackling long-lasting odors in fabric, such as smoke or mustiness. If items are overdue to be dry cleaned, don’t put it off any longer, and be sure to alert the cleaners of smells that have been lingering on your clothes so they can treat them effectively. If your clothes have a persistent odor after you wash them, the problem might be that you need to clean your washing machine.
If you have the option, consider removing all sneakers and other shoes you wear most often from your closet. Instead, store them somewhere with natural light and better ventilation. If your closet is the only place for your footwear, be sure to wipe down shoes regularly and throw sneakers in the wash when necessary. Slip odor-fighting sachets in the shoes that need it to keep them fresh between cleanings.
If your closet smells musty, too much moisture in the air might be the cause. You can test humidity easily with a tip from Affordable Closets. Fill a glass with water and a few ice cubes. Place it inside your closet and close the door for four minutes. If the outside of the glass is beaded with condensation when you return, the conditions inside are humid. This may also be a seasonal problem, depending on where you live, so that musty odor will come and go when humidity levels tip over 60%.
To help control humidity, avoid hanging wet clothes in your closet. Instead, dry them outside on a rack. The same rule applies for sweaty workout clothes or damp towels. A closet packed with clothing has less airflow, so consider paring down what’s inside to allow a little breathing room between hangers. Packets of silica can absorb moisture, or you can use activated charcoal (via Breathe Fresh). An even cheaper trick involves tucking a small container of baking soda in a corner of your closet. Per DIY Melon, baking soda naturally absorbs moisture and fights odors. You can deodorize the carpet inside your closet with baking soda too, by sprinkling it generously across the fibers, then vacuuming it up a few hours later. If you’re dealing with extreme humidity, you might run a dehumidifier or fan.
Add in some heavenly scents
A subtle scent will give your closet a spa-like atmosphere, and there are many closet-friendly options from which to choose. Scented soaps are commonly used in closets, and are typically inexpensive. Plus, the variety of fragrances out there will let you easily track down a favorite scent to waft among your clothes. OoBuenRollito offers a simple tutorial for creating a soap freshener that you can hang in your closet (via YouTube).
Aromatic herb-filled sachets are also widely available, and some varieties come with strings to hang in closets. Crafts by Amanda suggests making your own with a favorite herb, like dried mint, lavender, or rosemary. An ingenious use for dryer sheets involves hanging or tucking them around your closet. You can do the same with cotton balls dipped in essential oils. Scented cedar blocks, balls, and hangers will create a pleasing aroma (while also warding off moths). Per Storables, there are different varieties available, and they should be changed out every three to seven years.
Use odor-absorbing hacks
Simple products found in your pantry or linen closet are known to suppress odors and can be used to keep closets smelling fresh. Along with reducing moisture in the air, baking soda is an inexpensive option for neutralizing odors. This means that small container you’ve already got in your closet will keep air from getting stale too, Arm & Hammer notes. A tiny amount of activated charcoal also goes a long way. According to Charcoal House, a single teaspoon can cover the surface area of an entire football field! Use charcoal in sachets or small containers to absorb odors, then reactivate it after a month or so by placing it outside in the sun, advises Detox & Prosper.
If you love the smell of coffee, then consider this tip: USA Today says you can use grounds to neutralize odors in your closet too. Pack a few scoops into sachets or tie them into brew bags, then hang them inside your closet. Alternately, you can poke holes in a coffee can lid and store it in there for a month or two before switching it out. For sneakers that tend to get stinky, place small pouches of coffee grounds inside them.
Look for mold and structural issues
If you’ve torn through your entire wardrobe and still can’t find the source of a weird odor, take a closer look at the closet’s walls and structure. Any number of larger issues could be occurring, including a bout of mildew or mold. According to Look Mold, you can often smell mold in your house, even before you see it. Check along the shelving and walls for white, green, black, or blue spores. Wooden shelves may produce mold in humid conditions or when wet clothing saturates them. Dry wall, baseboards, and ceiling tiles can begin to grow mold in certain conditions as well. While cleaning mold can sometimes be a DIY project, it’s important to take care, and call in some help if the growth is over ten square feet in length, Modernistic advises.
Mold might also be occurring due to a leaky pipe. Water stains and cracked paint or wallpaper are a sure sign of a leak, writes Restoration 1, and sometimes you’ll notice dripping or find little pools of water. If little critters occasionally find their way in your walls, consider the possibility that one got trapped inside. Dryer sheets and fancy soap will not cover up some of these larger issues, so it’s best to take care of them before things get worse.