How to freshen clothes that have been in storage

How to Freshen Clothes that have been in Storage – 6 Easy Methods ( January – 2024 )

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With the changing season comes changing of wardrobe. You will store your summer clothes and reach out for your favorite winter sweaters and hoodies. But in doing so, you will find that the clothes that have been stored away for a long time are now smelly, musty, and stale. These clothes must be freshened up before they are ready to wear.

The main reason to freshen up the clothes is that they might have absorbed foul odor from the environment in which they have been stored. Another reason is that they might have been infected by insects such as moths and other pests, or there may be a buildup of moisture or bacteria.

No matter the reason, this in-depth guide on “how to freshen clothes that have been in storage” will discuss different tried and tested methods on that work like a charm. Before moving on to freshening your clothes, it is essential to know why these clothes become smelly in the first place.

Related Article: How To Keep Clothes Fresh In Storage

Why do Clothes Smell After Being Stored?

Clothes become smelly after storage due to a variety of reasons. One of the most common reasons is the lack of air circulation. As clothes are stored in a closed environment with no ventilation or fresh air, it will cause moisture to build up and provide an environment for mold and mildew to grow; as a result, clothes become smelly and musty. 

Another reason is that if clothes are stored with items with a strong odor, such as food items and other cleaning supplies, etc., they might catch a bad smell from them.

Other than that, pests, such as moths, beetles, and silverfish, can cause bad smells in the clothes because of their secretions. 

In a nutshell, the combination of all these factors, such as lack of air circulation, absorption of odors, and presence of pests, can cause a bad smell in the clothes that have been in storage.

How To Freshen Clothes That Have Been In Storage

There are several methods for freshening clothes that have been in storage. In this guide, our focus will be on the following methods that we have tried on our own and can say that they work:

Airing out

Airing out clothes is one of the most effective, easy, and simple methods of freshening the clothes that have been in storage. The fresh air and sunlight help neutralize any odors that may be present and also help get rid of any moisture that may have been accumulated.

To air out the clothes, hang up all of the clothes on a clothesline or drying rack or simply lay them on a flat, clean surface, but it is important to do so in a properly ventilated environment such as a balcony or a room with a window which can be opened.

Allow the clothes to circulate and breathe in the fresh air for a few hours or even the whole day. By doing so, clothes will become free from musty smells and freshen up eventually.

Woman hanging clothes on clothesline to air out the smell after storage

Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for centuries for their therapeutic and aromatic properties. Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts, and their pleasant smell helps in masking the odor of clothes that have been in storage. Essential oils can be used in different ways to freshen up clothes, such as:

Mist

Make a mist by putting a few drops of the essential oil and water in a spray bottle. 

Shake it well.

Then mist it on the clothes. 

It will freshen the clothes and make them odorless.

Sachets

You can also make small sachets filled with dried lavender and add a few drops of essential oils. 

Place these sachets with the clothes in the storage bag, container or storage cupboard to make them smell fresh for a long time. It will help in deodorizing the clothes. 

The most recommended essential oils to deodorize your clothes include tea tree oil, peppermint oil, lemon oil, lavender oil, and eucalyptus oil.

As essential oils have a strong smell, so it is vital to use them sparingly and on small areas before using them on overall fabric.

Dryer sheet

Put a few drops of essential oil on the dryer sheet and place it in the dryer with the clothes.

This method is best for clothes that are already clean and cannot be washed.

Storing Clothes with Natural Freshener

Storing clothes with natural fresheners is also one of the best measures to freshen clothes that have been in storage for a long time. One of the best natural fresheners includes cedar chips. Cedar chips are made up of cedar trees and have a strong and beautiful woodsy scent that can make the clothes in storage smell pleasant.

Additionally, you can also use lavender sachets as a natural freshener. Other options for using natural fresheners include dried herbs such as thyme, mint, and rosemary. Some natural fibers, such as wool, can also be used as a freshener as they absorb and eliminate odor.

Cedar chips in a bag to freshen clothes that have been in storage

Professional Cleaning

Professional cleaning is the cleaning of clothes and other textiles by an experienced and professionally trained person. Professional cleaning is the best way to freshen up clothes that have been stored for a long time and are damaged or in dreadful condition.

Professional cleaning includes using specialized tools and techniques such as dry cleaning, steam cleaning, or spot cleaning to remove any stale odors, specific marks, or stains.

Professional cleaning is the most expensive compared to other methods of freshening clothes, so it is preferable for delicate and expensive clothes.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer. It is a non-toxic and inexpensive way to freshen up clothes. Using baking soda, you can freshen up the clothes within no time. All you will need to do is:

  • Place clothes in a bag, container, or pillowcase.
  • Sprinkle some baking soda on the clothes. 
  • Close the container so that no air can enter. 
  • Shake the clothes so that the baking soda can cover all the clothes. 
  • Allow the baking soda to sit with the clothes for at least 24 hours. 
  • Take out the clothes and dust them off to remove the excess baking soda.
  • Launder as usual or simply air dry them. You can also add a small amount of baking soda to the laundry detergent when washing the clothes.
Person adding baking soda to washing machine to get rid of storage smell from clothes

Vinegar

The acetic acid in vinegar makes it a natural neutralizer and also helps kill bacteria or germs that might have accumulated on clothes while in storage. As it is disinfectant, it can be used for cleaning and freshening clothes that have been damaged and deodorized because of pests. Here is how it can be used: 

While washing the clothes, simply add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of your washing machine or add a cup of white vinegar to a basin of warm water and soak the clothes for 15-20 minutes before washing.

Let the clothes air dry. 

It is important to take into consideration that vinegar is harsh and might result in discoloration of some clothes, so before you apply it on the entire garment, do a patch test on a small inconspicuous area of the garment.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, freshening clothes that have been in storage is easy and can be done in multiple ways. Airing out clothes, essential oils, natural fresheners, professional cleaning, baking soda, and vinegar are the most common and easy methods to freshen up clothes. You can choose the one which is best suited for you.

Freshening up clothes is not a one-time thing, so it is essential to freshen them up regularly by airing them out. In doing so, you will find clothes always fresh and ready to be used and while you are here don’t forget to check out our article on “How To Stop Clothes Smelling Musty In Wardrobe