Why Do The Clothes In My Drawers Smell
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Why Do The Clothes In My Drawers Smell

The Clothes Drawer May Smell
The clothes drawer may smell awful after an extended closing time!

“Why do the clothes in my drawers smell?” Have you ever asked yourself something like that when you open the dresser drawer? And can you think of any reason for the musty smell in your drawers?

You may bump into a strange, usually musty, smell when you open the wardrobes, closets, cupboards, or drawers that you may not use very often. If those spaces have a weird smell, it’s time to figure out what happened and try to fix the problem! Are you ready?

This article will explain why your drawers smell so bad and some helpful ways to deodorize that smell. More exciting information is coming up next, so don’t leave the screen and scroll down for more!

What Causes Clothes To Smell In Your Drawer?

Let’s just sit down and have a sip. Thinking about the reasons for the smelly drawer, I believe that the odor comes from two key factors: the clothing itself and the environment inside of the dresser drawer.

The Garments May Be The Problem

The Messy Of Clothes In Drawer
The messy piles of clothes in your drawer may turn out to be the main cause of that musty smell!

The clothing items inside of the drawer may not be handled well before getting into the enclosed space. They may still consist of body substances like oils or sweat, the dirt or grime from somewhere. Those things will build up over time and cause a bad smell!

If the clothes are still wet after drying, but you did not notice them before putting them into the drawer, then it may be a huge cause for the moisture that creates humidity and foul-smelling odor inside your drawer.

Another reason relating to clothing is that they may get through the wringer or dryer that contains a lot of different odors coming from other clothes. If these smells directly touch the fibers, there is a high chance that they linger to them and impact the smell of your garments.

To prevent this, the best thing you can do is to wash your clothes with care every time. Try to follow the care label attached to each item and pay attention whenever you wash or dry them. Use some deodorizer such as scented fabric softener to get rid of available bad odor.

Check your clothing inside the dresser drawer regularly to see whether the smell comes from them and treat them by rewashing or some odorizing methods that I will show you in the next sections. You can easily minimize the cause of your garments with care!

Inconvenient Environment Inside The Drawer

Inconvenient Environment In Drawer
The enclosed environment inside the drawer can become musty over time.

What if you have washed and dried your clothes carefully, but the drawer still smells weird? Then the cause may come from the environment inside. Remember the last time you opened your drawer? Is it yesterday or a week ago?

If you don’t air out the drawer frequently, the darkness and lack of air circulation may be the culprits for the musty smell. In the worst circumstances, the moisture inside that enclosed space may cause more severe problems like mildew and dampness.

The bacteria, mold, fungi, spills, stuck rodents, and insects may also be the reasons for the musty smell of the drawer. Like the substances from clothes, those elements may have gathered up from time to time, especially when the drawer is not cleaned regularly.

The tight and narrow spaces from the piled of unorganized clothes can be another reason! You can actually improve this by reorganizing your drawer and folding every piece of garment into even shapes.

When you can smell the foul odor from the dresser drawer, then it’s time to do something with it to get rid of the smell. But how? I will show you right away!

Let’s Get Musty Smells Out Of Your Clothing Drawers!

So, what will be the first thing to do when it comes to cleaning up the mess inside of your drawer? Here are some great tips and tricks that you can use to eliminate the foul odor from the drawer.

Keeping Your Clothes Organized
Keeping your clothes organized in the dresser drawer is always a great tip to start with!

Empty The Drawer And Wash Smelling Garments

First thing first, you need to remove all of the garments or sheets inside the drawer. Sort out the damp clothes and the suspicious items that you think may get some awful smell and affect the whole clothes inside.

After that, shake the garments off to see if there is any mold or mildew. If it does exist, remove it with some paper towels and squeeze some lemon juice on the stained area. Air dry them before you wash.

For the clothes that smell bad but don’t contain any sign of mold, hang them outdoors for 2 to 3 hours before you get them to wash in the washing machine. You may want to pour a cup of white vinegar during the wash to eliminate the smell.

Adding White Vinegar While Washing
Adding white vinegar while washing can help you get rid of the bad smell on clothes easier!

The high-moisture content in those items can cause dampness and mildew in the drawer, which can be one of the biggest reasons for the foul odor inside your dresser drawer. Therefore, you should remove and wash all of the items in the drawer before the next steps.

Another thing to jot down, you should always air dry the washed garments by hanging them outdoors in lines. Fresh air and sunlight are always the best treatment for bad-odor clothes.

Wipe Down The Drawer To Clean

When you have poured down all the clothes in the drawer, you should clean it carefully by sweeping or vacuuming all the excess dirt in the space.

You will need a soft piece of cloth, warm water, antibacterial spray and your favorite essential oil. Don’t wet the cloth too much, or else the moisture will make it worse. Start to wipe down both the inside and outside surfaces of your drawer.

If you observe any mildew during the process, use a brush or a paper towel to get rid of it, then wipe the drawer with a wood soap. Make sure that there’s no moisture left inside the dresser, then it’s good to go!

Wiping Surface Drawer With A Proper
Wiping every surface of the drawer with a proper detergent may help you get rid of the bad odor.

Air Out The Drawer

After removing all the garments and cleaning the drawer, let the drawer open to air out for at least 1 day and up to 3 days. Ventilate the drawer well by leaving them outdoors in dry weather, especially when your drawer is included in a piece of free-standing furniture.

If the smell is still strong after airing out, you can try to neutralize it with coffee grounds or baking soda for a few more days, then air the drawer once again. You can also cover it with baking soda while it is airing out.

Sand, Prime, And Paint The Drawer

If you have done all the things above, but nothing actually works, then do something bold! When you notice the thrift store smell or “old lady” smell, it means that the material of the furniture has absorbed the buildup of mustiness for a long time.

You can only fix this by replacing the surface, which means sand, prime, and even painting a new coat for the drawer. If it is made of varnish, natural wood, or paint, sand the surface down with sandpaper, prime it, and give it a new layer of varnish, or paint.

If the drawer is made of laminate, head to the hardware store near your house and tell them what you need. They probably recommend the proper product for you to use.

It will be a little bit tricky with more time and effort, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day! Believe me; this is the best method to repel the mustiness forever!

Organize Your Old-But-New Drawer

When you have done everything, now it’s time to put your clothes back into the drawer as usual. Consider sorting out some items you aren’t likely to wear anymore and making a giveaway or donating them to thrift stores.

Fold every piece of garment in nice shape. Try not to stuff your clothes too much, or else the awful, musty smell may come again! If you are living in humid weather conditions, open the drawer and place a dehumidifier next to it. A small bowl of baking soda will do.

Some more helpful tips and tricks to get your garments out of the stinky musty smell!

Watch this video: Hacks to Remove Musty Smell

Most Effective Ways To Keep Garments Smelling Fresh In Drawers

Now it comes to the century’s question: Which products are the best to use in eliminating the bad smell? Cleaning the drawer is one thing, but maintaining the fresh smell of newly-washed clothes for a long time is a totally different story.

Don’t know how to do it and what to use? Come through this section, and you will know it all!

Two Best Disinfectants For Your Drawer

Before deodorizing the space, you should disinfect it first, using borax or vinegar. Both of them will help kill the germs, bacteria, mildew, and mold inside the drawer. You can choose any of them since they are both affordable and easy to find anywhere!


Vinegar is one of the best natural odor-absorbing liquids you may ever use! It works so well in eliminating bacteria, mildews, and molds in every drawer or enclosed space in your house. (1)

Don’t worry that the sour smell will linger on your clothes after use since it will fade away soon when it completely dries. So if you have some vinegar in your kitchen, don’t hesitate to use it!

Some Vinegar Be A Great Absorbent
Some vinegar will be a great absorbent to disinfect your old drawer!


  • Vinegar
  • Warm water
  • A clean rag
  • A towel


Step 1: Combine 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 quart of warm water.

Step 2: Wet the clean rag with the solution. Remember, don’t submerge the rag into the mixture; just dampen it a little bit. This is especially important if you’re disinfecting a drawer made of wood.

Step 3: Wipe down both inside and outside of the drawer with the damp rag. Make sure that you don’t miss any spot of the furniture.

Step 4: Use a dry towel to blot the excess vinegar solution. Let the drawer dry completely.

Step 5: Air out the drawer by leaving them outdoors overnight.

Using vinegar to wipe down every surface of the wooden furniture is a great idea!

Watch this video: How To Eliminate Musty Moldy Smells


Borax is a natural mineral, insect repellent, mildew fungicide, and disinfectant. It stays in the form of a white, chalky powder that looks like baking soda. It doesn’t have any specific smell. You may find Borax in any store or supermarket near your house in the cleaning section.

Borax Is The Mildew Killer
Borax is also the mildew killer that can work well in disinfecting your drawer.


  • Borax
  • Warm water
  • A cotton piece of cloth


Step 1: Mix a quarter cup of Borax in 1 quart of the warmest water you can use.

Step 2: Dip the cotton cloth in the solution, but you have to wring it well before use because it should not be too wet.

Step 3: Wipe down the drawer with the damp cloth inside and out.

Step 4: Place the drawer somewhere outdoors so it can air out. Leave it there at least overnight.

Tips: You should apply these two methods on a sunny day! Sunlight is also a good disinfectant from mother nature!

6 Items You Can Use To Deodorize Your Drawers

After you have disinfected the drawer, now it’s the most important part to bring the drawer as well as your clothes the fresh, like-new smell! Below are the most effective deodorizers that you can use in this case.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is such a common product that can be a useful deodorizer for your musty drawer. If some odors are still there after disinfecting, you may want to use baking soda to absorb all the remaining foul odors.

Baking Soda Cleaning Purposes
Baking soda will never let you down when it comes to cleaning purposes!


  • Baking soda
  • Vacuum
  • A container


Option 1: Sprinkle the baking soda

  • Step 1: Sprinkle a layer of baking soda into the drawer.
  • Step 2: Air out the whole thing for a few days.
  • Step 3: Use a vacuum to get rid of the baking soda in the drawer.

Option 2: Put inside the container

  • Step 1: Use a container at lunchbox size, put some baking soda inside.
  • Step 2: Put the container with baking soda in each drawer of the furniture. You can use a box with a lid on, but remember to poke some holes on it so that the baking soda can do its job. Leave it there for several weeks, and there will be no bad odor left.

You can apply option 2 even when the drawer has garments inside. Placing the powder in a container will not spill when you open or close the drawer regularly.

Another brilliant and creative way to use baking soda to deodorize your drawers!

Watch this video:


It’s Borax again! Borax is not only a great disinfectant but also an awesome deodorizer. Besides killing molds and mildews, it can get rid of all musty smells in your drawer or any other disclosed spaces and stop the odor from returning.


  • Borax
  • Garage bag
  • A vacuum


  • Step 1: Place a layer of Borax inside your drawer.
  • Step 2: Shake the drawer containing Borax to ensure that it is distributed evenly in the space.
  • Step 3: Put the drawer with Borax in a big garbage bag and tie it tightly. You can also fold the bag to the end. Leave them exactly like that for 24 hours.
  • Step 4: Use the vacuum to vacuum out the Borax powder the next morning.

Kitty Litter

Kitty litter is used to deodorize the cat’s “natural waste.” It is made of clay, a substance that can absorb odors pretty well. If you use this to get rid of the smell, make sure to use the unscented type of kitty litter.

Kitty Litter Deodorizing The Drawers
Kitty litter is not only used for your kitty but also for deodorizing the drawers!


  • Unscented kitty litter
  • Containers having lid


Step 1: Place kitty litter inside some plastic containers having lids (yogurt containers maybe a great deal!).

Step 2: Poke holes on the lid to make the kitty litter spread the smell. Put the lid on as usual.

Step 3: Place one container with kitty litter in each drawer. Remember to always close the drawer when you’re not using it, or else your cat may find out and think that you have made them a new litter box! Can’t think about the further scenes, huh?

You may want to replace the kitty litter every month to control its absorbent abilities.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is basically carbon, which can be a great odor-absorbent to get rid of bad smells and impurities in a lot of circumstances. (2)

If you use activated charcoal, try to minimize the direct contact with the clothing items; otherwise, it may leave black stains on them.

Activated Charcoal Is Common Deodorizer
Activated charcoal is a common deodorizer that can be seen in small sachets in the closet.


  • Activated charcoal
  • An appropriate container


  • Step 1: Place activated charcoal in a container (it can be a plastic box or a sachet – specifically made to store charcoal).
  • Step 2: Put the container inside the empty drawers.
  • Step 3: Replace the old activated charcoal with a fresh one every few weeks. The charcoal will absorb the odor and purify the air continuously, so you should always renew it.

Coffee Grounds

You should know that coffee grounds are a wonderful natural odor-neutralizer. If you are really into the coffee smell, then this one’s for you! The grounds consist of nitrogen that can absorb the awful odors pretty well, and the coffee grounds also have an aromatic smell itself.

Coffee Grounds Save Smell Drawer
Coffee grounds are here to save your bad-odoring drawer!


  • Coffee ground
  • An old, clean pair of socks/ Tea bag(s)


  • Step 1: Fill a moderate amount of coffee grounds into the tightly-knitted socks or a tea bag.
  • Step 2: Place it anywhere in your drawer. It should be an unnoticeable corner. The musty odor will fade away after a few hours!

Note: Remember to replace the coffee grounds inside the container every month. Since the grounds can absorb the odor, its own smell may fade away over time.

Scented Items

You can find some scented items such as your favorite essential oils, cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, herbs, etc., to put inside the drawers to deodorize the foul smell and even bring your garments new scented aromas.

You may want to put the solid items into a container like a bowl or a small sachet and leave it in a deep corner of the drawer for weeks.

You can also place an odor-eliminating pad inside every drawer. This pad is specifically designed to remove noxious odors in enclosed areas.

An old air freshener should be reused for deodorizing your drawers. The key is to use an old, not fresh one. When you treat a more narrow area than a car or a room, an old air freshener is enough. Hide one in a corner of each drawer.

Another great scented thing to use in this case is a bar of regular soap. You may want to wrap the whole soap bar with a piece of thin cloth and place it under your garments inside the drawers. It will make a good-odor impact on your clothing and leave a fresh smell.

Essential Oils Defeat The Foul
Essential oils may be a tremendous scented liquid to defeat the foul, musty odor from your old drawer.


Here are some collected questions with short answers that may satisfy your remaining concerns! You can read through the section and find your question; if it isn’t here, you may ask me through the comment section below, and I will reply to them as soon as possible!

What is the best drawer odorizer?

You can choose the odorizer based on the material and conditions of your drawer. Baking soda and charcoal may be the most common and easy-to-use odorizer for your foul-smelling drawer.

My clothes smell of wood from the drawer. How can I remove that smell from them?

Mix two teaspoons of vinegar with one liter of warm water to make a solution. Apply the vinegar solution to a clean towel and wring it out. When cleaning wooden drawers, avoid getting the cloth too wet. Wipe the drawer inside and out thoroughly.

How can I remove the odor of the new dresser drawer?

You can always use baking soda to deodorize it. All of the dresser’s surfaces and drawers should be coated with baking soda, inside and out. To maximize the baking soda’s efficacy, use a soft microfiber cloth to rub it into the dresser.

Why does my shirt drawer smell musty?

Mildew may cause a musty odor in your clothes or your drawer if it is allowed to grow. In moist and gloomy places, mildew spores build-up that can cause a musty odor in your shirt drawer. You can clean up your drawer frequently to get rid of this smell.

What can I do to keep garments smelling fresh in storage?

You may want to try to put in some odor-neutralizers to keep the clothing fresh in storage or narrow spaces. Some of them are coffee grounds, essential oils, air fresheners, dryer sheets, vodka and vinegar.

In what ways can I prevent my clothing item from smelling like a wardrobe?

Place lavender or potpourri bags randomly among your clothing. If you don’t like the lavender smell, putting a small container with baking soda in your closet to absorb odors is another easy way to stop your clothes from smelling like a wardrobe.

Be Patient, And Your Drawers Will Smell Fresher Than Ever!

Now that you know the reasons for the foul smell in your drawer, you should try to deodorize it with the methods I provided earlier to get a clean, fresh-smelling drawer and minimize the chances of getting the foul odor in the future!

If you have any questions, just raise your voice in the comment section, and I will reply to you all one by one! How do you feel about this article? Does it help you somehow in solving your problems? If it does, don’t forget to like and share! Sharing is caring, isn’t it?

Why Do The Clothes In My Drawers Smell


  1. En.wikipedia.org. 2021. Vinegar – Wikipedia.
  2. Medicalnewstoday.com. 2021. Activated charcoal.

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Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones

Home Cleaning Specialist

Expertise: In-depth Knowledge of Cleaning Agents and Their Uses, Advanced Home Sanitization, Techniques Expertise in Cleaning and Maintaining, Various Floor Types, Innovations in Home Cleaning Tools

School: American College of Home Economics

Kevin Jones is a seasoned home cleaning specialist with over a decade of experience in the industry. A stickler for cleanliness and organization, Kevin brings a systematic and innovative approach to home maintenance. His expertise ranges from traditional methods to modern cleaning technology, ensuring homes are not just clean but healthy environments too.

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