5 Things People With Amazing-Smelling Closets Always do — They'll Help You Avoid Musty Clothes Smells

Delve into the secrets of how to achieve a closet that smells amazing and that makes you feel good every time you open those doors

a closet with an island
(Image credit: Michael Sinclair Photography. Design: Tala Fustok)

When getting ready, there’s nothing worse than opening up your closet and finding an unpleasant odor greets you. You might hope your closet smells like fresh laundry all the time, but there's not always the case. It could be musty, damp or maybe something even worse, but to open the doors and breathe in a fresh, clean scent will make you feel so much better about how you store your clothes.

Part of tackling the problem is prevention of bad smells in the first place, while you might also be able to make use of a few tricks for how to make your home smell good that you can apply to your closet, too.

We asked the experts how they approach making sure a closet smells fresh, ensuring your clothes also smell their best, setting you up for the day when you get dressed.

1. Keep bad smells out

a closet with mens shoes

(Image credit: Kimberly Harrison)

Wash your clothes, linens, shoes or other fabrics, deep cleaning any you may feel need it.​​ 'Avoid letting smelly items in,' warns New York-based professional organizer Amanda Wiss, Founder of Urban Clarity. 'For example, maybe keep your running sneakers and dirty laundry in another area of the home, and not below your sweet-smelling work clothes hanging above.'

'If you've worn an item of clothing to a strong-smelling restaurant, or been around a smoky bonfire for example, consider leaving it to air out or getting it dry-cleaned before putting it back with your other clothes,' Amanda adds. This will help to prevent any unwanted lingering odors.

2. Clean up

a closet painted in dark brown

(Image credit: Plain English)

It’s a good idea to entirely empty out the closet, either all in one go or in sections may be easier, depending on the size, but making sure you can access all areas to give the space a proper clean. Dust, dirt and grime easily accumulates in the corners of your closets, so wipe down all visible surfaces and vacuum the floor regularly to help eliminate any bad aromas.

The general rule of thumb for closet organization is to keep it clean and well-ventilated. If the closet door stays shut most of the time, moisture can build up and cause musty smells too, so consider using a dehumidifier to prevent this, but also be sure clothes are completely dry before storing them in the closet.

'A quick hack for a blast of freshness is to stick dryer sheets in the back of your closet shelves or near your sweaters,' suggests Amanda. 'It'll give your clothes a little boost, and, every time you open the doors, you'll get a whiff of freshness.'

3. Declutter and reset

a closet with linen clothes hanging

(Image credit: Plain English)

Decluttering your clothes and other belongings may be a good reminder of things you’d forgotten about. If you come across items you know you won't wear again, or that never fit, consider donating them. The more unnecessary garments you move out, the fresher it will feel when you go inside.

4. Create airflow

A large walk in closet with shelving for bags and purses

(Image credit: Alamy)

When clearing out the closet, consider adding more shelves before putting everything back in place. 'Maximizing airflow should improve any bad odors you’re experiencing,' Robyn Reynolds, Owner of Organize2Harmonize, suggests.

How you organize shoes in a closet is also an important factor in how your closet smells. 'Keep shoe deodorizers or keeping your shoes in plastic boxes with a lid,' Robyn adds.

5. Choose cedar for long term results

a closet with cedar interiors

(Image credit: Plain English)

Some people depend on pockets of scents in an attempt to keep a closet fresh, such as dried lavender, herb-filled pouches, charcoal deodorizers and more, but there are other options which you can make when choosing a closet.

This closet from Plain English, which have New York and Los Angeles showrooms, are crafted with the option of a Cedar of Lebanon lined interior. 'If you haven’t experienced the scent, Cedar has a wonderful, rather aromatic smell – fresh, woody with citrus and Juniper undertones,' explains Merlin Wright, Design Director of Plain English. 'Not strong enough to scent your clothes but an intoxicating aroma which acts cleverly as a natural alternative to pesticides in repelling insects and moths, to keep your clothes looking their best and prevent worry over moth holes in your favorite cashmere sweaters.' This is an idyllic design feature to opt for.

If you're stuck with the closets you've got already, look to cedar inserts that can help gently perfume your closet, while bringing all the benefits of a cedar built in to your storage.

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.