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10 Ways How to Keep Clothes Smelling Fresh in Storage

There are a few ways to prevent odors from finding your items in the off season. Read our article to find out how to keep your clothes smelling fresh in storage.

a beautiful woman smelling a bouquet of fresh flowers

It’s always exciting to put away clothes from last season, and bring out some of your treasured favorites for the new season. But it will likely dull your enthusiasm if your clothes smell musty from being in storage.

What you hoped to wear right away now has to be laundered.

Fortunately, you can prevent odors from finding your items in the off season with a few tips and tricks.

Why Do Clothes Smell After Being Stored?

There are many reasons for clothes to smell after being in storage. The location itself is a factor. Do you store your off-season items in a storage unit, in an attic or basement, or in a seldom-used closet? Climate is another factor. Is your storage space climate controlled, temperature controlled, or neither?

Climate even plays a role when storing clothing in your home. For example, if you live in a humid area such as Palm Beach or Beverly Hills, your closet might lack airflow, which can cause mold growth and lead to musty-scented clothing.

Also, if you store your clothing in containers, drawers, or boxes, be aware that small, cramped spaces tend to hold on to odors, both pleasant and unpleasant.

10 Ways to Keep Clothes Smelling Fresh in Storage

Regardless of why your clothes tend to smell musty, there are ways to prevent it from happening. Here are 10 ways to keep clothes fresh in storage bins, closets, drawers, and storage units:

1. Invest in a Climate-Controlled Storage Unit

Circulation and temperature are critical. When you add airflow to a sealed unit, such as a storage container or attic, you inhibit mold growth and keep clothing fresh. Also, some items might be more susceptible to certain temperatures; wool and cashmere are sensitive to heat. To best protect clothing in storage, rent a climate-controlled storage unit.

2. Purchase a Dehumidifier

a woman placing a dehumidifier in her home

If a climate-controlled unit is unavailable, the second best option is a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers prevent bad odors in three ways: they remove humidity, keep mold and mildew from growing, and make the environment less hospitable to moths.

A dehumidifier requires electricity to run, which may be problematic in a storage unit, and they only work in temperatures above 70℉. If you live in a cold climate, opt for a climate-controlled storage unit instead.

3. Deodorize Before Storing Clothes

To stop clothes from smelling musty in drawers, deodorize the container first.

Start by cleaning the airtight container, box, closet, or attic from top to bottom. Make sure you remove items already in the container. Then, use a vacuum to remove the dust and dirt, and wipe down the container with an odor-neutralizer.

For a more natural solution, use a vinegar and water mixture. Once the solution dries, any unpleasant smells should be gone.

a bottle of vinegar

4. Pack With Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets are ideal for keeping your stored clothing smelling fresh. Old or new, a single dryer sheet among your packed clothing will give them a pleasant fragrance for several months.

5. Protect with Essential Oils

If you want to repel moths and other insects while keeping your clothes fresh, consider using essential oils. A few drops of lavender or cedarwood oil on a wool dryer ball will diffuse a pleasant scent while protecting your clothing from damage. You can also put some essential oil on a paper towel or dryer sheet.

6. Store with Baking Soda

Baking soda has many benefits, including absorbing odors. Simply place a box of baking soda in your closet or storage space. Over time, the baking soda will absorb moisture and odors that could affect your clothing. Replace the box of baking soda every couple of months.

7. Include Perfumed Tissue Paper

If you have a signature scent, use your perfume to keep your clothing fresh. This method is also easy—just grab some acid-free tissue paper and spray it with the perfume. Let the tissue paper dry (wet paper could stain clothing), and place it underneath your stored clothing.

8. Hang Some Activated Charcoal

Like baking soda, activated charcoal can absorb odors swiftly. Add bags of bamboo charcoal to your closet, and eliminate odors within 30-60 minutes.

9. Use Cedar Clothes Hangers

Cedarwood hangers repel moths similar to lavender, and they also have moisture-absorbing properties. As a bonus, they have an earthy scent that will freshen your clothing.

Another option is to place cedarwood blocks in your closet or inside airtight storage bins.

bamboo charcoal in a woven bag

10. Properly Store Clothing

Whether you are using a storage unit, large storage bag, or an unused closet, it is vital to store your items properly.

Laundering items before storing removes any remnants of sweat, dirt, or food that may damage your clothing and attract pests.

Place clothing in an airtight container to protect it from light, dust, and moths.

Add your preferred odor-absorbing items, such as cedarwood, baking soda, or activated charcoal, and use as described above.

Freshen Up Clothing After Removing It From Storage

Follow these recommendations, and your clothing should smell good while in storage. But it’s likely you will still want to freshen up everything when you take items out of storage.

Here are some tips:

  • Air out everything that has been stored, even if the items are staying in storage. This gives you time to replenish the baking soda, lavender sachets, and other odor-absorbing items.
  • Remedy any smells by making a 50/50 water and vodka mixture and spraying it on your clothing. This solution will remove odors and kill bacteria, without leaving behind the scent of alcohol.
  • If clothes still have an odor, give them a quick wash—about 15 minutes on the fastest cycle. Use only a bit of detergent and laundry conditioner.
  • Use a fabric refresher spray for better smelling clothing instantly.
clothes being aired outdoors


1. Why do clothes smell after being stored?

Clothing odors can come from a variety of sources. Unpleasant smells can be caused by mold and moisture. Unremoved sweat, dirt, or food that remained on the clothes may also cause foul odors. Storing clothes in a place that lacks airflow can lead to mustiness as well.

2. How do you freshen clothes in storage without washing them?

While you should always launder clothing before storing it, there are ways to keep clothes smelling fresh while in storage. Use activated charcoal or baking soda to absorb moisture and odors in the space. Afterwards, consider essential oils, dryer sheets, cedar blocks, or lavender sachets to maintain a good smell.

3. Should you wash clothes that have been in storage?

You don’t have to wash clothing that has been in storage under the following conditions: 1) if it was washed prior to storing, 2) if it was stored in an airtight container, and 3) if it still smells fresh.

However, if you’re concerned about the way the garment feels or smells, you can certainly have it laundered.


Keeping your clothes smelling fresh in the off season all starts with laundering
the items before placing them in large storage bags. Store the items properly in airtight containers and clothes storage bags. Use items that absorb moisture and odors in the space. And, finally, add fragrances using your favorite trick from the ways we shared above.

Then, your clothes will be fresh and ready-to-wear whenever you are ready to remove them from storage.

a man standing by the washing machine smelling freshly laundered clothing
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