How to Get Rid of Mildew Smells for Good

Updated August 3, 2020
dehumidifier drying wet carpet with mildew

From homemade remedies to commercial products, there are many methods of successful mildew smell removal. Learn how to get rid of the mildew smell from your home, clothes, cars, delicates, laundry, and more.

The Cause of Mildew Smell

Mildew is a living organism that grows anywhere as long as organic matter is present and the following conditions are met:

  • Warm

  • Damp

  • Humid

Chemical compounds cause the musty odor the growing mildew produces as it spreads over its food source. Organic materials that mildew feeds on include natural fabrics, wood, paper, and leather. Therefore, it can easily cling to your clothing, laundry, car seats, and delicates like silk. Since you know the cause, it's time to eradicate it through a few natural methods.

How to Remove Mildew Smells From the House

Mildew growing in damp basements and bathrooms are common causes of the musty orders. However, there are many other places in a home where mildews can grow resulting in unpleasant smells permeating the air. Mildew odors can originate from many common locations, including:

  • Carpets

  • Furniture

  • Books

  • Under baseboards

  • Behind walls

  • Under sinks

  • In the bathroom

  • In sink drains

  • In washing machines

  • Laundry hampers

  • Laundry that has been left wet or only partially dried

  • In air ducts

Therefore, before you can get rid of mildew smells for good, you need to find the source and use a mildew remover to clean it. However, when it comes to your laundry, delicates, and car, there are a few special methods you can try.

How to Get Mildew Smell From Laundry

If you've ever accidentally left your laundry in the washer, you know that musty smell. And it seems even rewashing doesn't get that smell out of your towels. To make your laundry smell good, you need:

After grabbing the Borax, add one cup to your laundry and wash the load as normal.

Removing Mildew Smell From Clothing

clothes basket hamper full of dirty laundry

Towels and washcloths are one thing, but if your teenager's clothes got left in the hamper too long, then they could be producing that horrible smell as well. Mildew just needs damp and humid conditions to thrive, and a teenager's hamper is perfect. To remove mildew from fabrics, grab the:

Instructions for Clothing

  1. With your white vinegar in hand, run the clothes through a cold water rinse cycle with one cup of white vinegar.

  2. Do not add any laundry detergent.

  3. Once the rinse cycle is complete, wash the clothes as you normally would.

How to Remove Mildew Smell From Delicates

If you've got a load of delicates that mildew attacked, don't fret. Instead, you'll need to comb your cupboards for:

  • Baking soda (Arm and Hammer is recommended)

Steps for Delicates

  1. Fill your sink or a bucket with cool water.

  2. Add a tablespoon of mild detergent and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.

  3. Allow the delicates to soak for about an hour or so.

  4. Wash as normal and dry.

How to Get the Mildew Smell From Car

Did you leave the window down in your car and it rained? Now, you've got that mildew smell brewing. Thankfully, it's a pretty easy solution, but you'll need:

  • Hairdryer

  • Wet/dry vac

  • Baking soda


  1. With your tools at hand, use the hairdryer or wet/dry vac to remove the water and dry your carpets and seats.

  2. Once dry, sprinkle a bit of baking soda on the area to remove any residual odors.

  3. Wait a few hours and vacuum it up.

How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Basement

Your basement is another breeding ground for musty smells, especially if it is unfinished. Why? Because basements are typically damp. However, before you can remove the smell permanently, you need to find the source or sources and clean it. Vinegar or peroxide are great options for removing mold and mildew. You'll also want to:

  • Remove soggy boxes or wet clothing.

  • Pack things, like Christmas decorations, in airtight plastic containers.

  • Clean or throw away furniture with mildew.

  • Install a dehumidifier.

Once you've tackled all that, it's time to remove the odor.

  1. Fill bowls with baking soda.

  2. Set them around the room to absorb odors in the air.

Commercial Mildew Odor Removers

If you don't to go the home remedy way, there are lots of commercial cleaners available too.

  • Brite MDG Mildew Odor Control System is effective for three months and completely eliminates mildew odor in a 400 cubic foot area. These decorative bags are made to hang or stand up as they release a gas that is completely safe for people and pets.

  • FG 300 Mildew and Mold Blocker by Damp Rid Inc. works by forming a layer of protection that stops the mildew spores from sticking and growing. Additional mildew removal products from Damp Rid include:

    • Hi-Capacity Moisture Absorber

    • Refillable Moisture Absorber

    • Odor Genie

    • Hanging Moisture Absorber

  • Made for front-loading washing machines, Odor Medic's Smelly Washer Formula eliminates mildew odor from towels, clothes and the washing machine itself. Mold and mildew build up inside front loading washing machines is a common problem due to the design of the washer. Odor Medic's Smelly Washer Formula is biodegradable, non toxic, and has a neutral PH.

Tips for Removing Mildew Odor

When it comes to general mildew odors, give these tips a try for removing it.

  • Never put wet wash clothes or towels in a laundry hamper.

  • Use room sprays or burning scented candles to mask the smell of the mildew temporarily.

  • Periodically air out storage sheds and other closed areas.

  • If you find an extensive growth of mold anywhere in your home, call a professional. Some molds are toxic and should be removed professionally.

Removing Mildew Smells From Your Home

Although mildew smell removal gets rid of the unpleasant odor, it is important to remove the mildew that is causing the smell to prevent it from returning. Once you've got that tackled, a lot of methods are available to zap that smell for good. Next, learn how to get smells out of your fridge.

How to Get Rid of Mildew Smells for Good