How to Get Rid of That Closet Smell


If I asked you about “closet smell” there’s a good chance a particular closet would come to mind. Perhaps your grandparent’s musty coat closet. Maybe your childhood closet in the back room that smelled of moth balls. Perhaps you’d actually think about your current closet that smells of dirty socks.

Whatever it makes you think of, here are a few tips on how to get rid of that closet smell.

How to Get Rid of That Closet Smell

Clean it out:

Most closets are stuffed to the brim with clothing, storage boxes, accessories and footwear. Just like any other area of the home, when air isn’t circulating, it can get stuffy.

The first step to getting rid of that closet smell is to clean it out: 

  • Purge, purge, and purge again! Clear out your closet and give your clothes room to breath.
  • Vacuum the floor and corners.
  • Wipe down the walls and paint if necessary. For some reason, paint smell makes me think “new.”
  • If you do have storage boxes in your closet, add a fabric softener sheet or sachet to the box to minimize the musty odor boxed up clothing often gets.

Get rid of the Source:

Shoes are most often the culprit for causing closet smell. They’re locked in 24/7 only escaping one pair at a time.

I don’t know about you, but I have way too many shoes. And most of them I don’t even wear! I’m not in the corporate world anymore so I don’t wear heels on a daily basis. I could technically wear them to church, but I’m usually holding a baby in one hand and wrangling a toddler in the other. I just need to embrase the fact that heels aren’t the best choice for me in this phase of life. I also have too many running shoes because I can’t seem to throw out old shoes when I get replacements. Not to mention all the other shoes I find on clearance that end up not fitting properly.

It’s a problem. And I’m working on it. Slowly…

If you can relate to any of the above, here are a few tips for getting rid of that shoe smell:

  1. Keep shoes to a minimum. If you don’t love them and wear them, donate them. (Talking to myself here and I’m taking notes.)
  2. Clean the shoes you do have. Wipe and/or shine the outside. If one pair stinks and they’re washable, try these shoe cleaning tips. If those tips don’t work, you may just need to bite the bullet and replace them.
  3. Prevent shoes from smelling in the first place by spinkling insoles with baking soda or baby powder. You can also insert a fabric softener sheet or odor eater when storing.

Use an Odor Absorber:

Once you clean out your closet and get rid of the dirty shoe smell, it’s time to incorporate an odor prevention plan for you closet. Here are a few natural odor absorbers you can try.

  • Coffee Grounds
  • Baking Soda
  • White Vinegar

You just need a small, breathable container. I’ve used old oatmeal containers but my new favorite is a plastic baby food container. Have you noticed we’re going through baby food like crazy right now? I like that they’re small, clean and unobtrusive.

Just punch a few holes in the lid, fill with your odor absorber of choice, close the container and store in the closet. Inexpensive and easy!

Question: What does “closet smell” mean to you? Do you have another method for getting rid of it?

linked to Your Green Resource


  1. Rachel H. says

    I actually had to do this in the built-in cabinet in my bathroom. I keep the towels in there and found they would smell like mildew if in the cabinet for more than a couple of days (especially if hot showers were taken). I figured it was due to the moisture seeping into the cabinet and making the towels damp. I punched holes in the top of a small plastic container, filled it with baking soda, and put it in the cabinet (along with a couple of those silica packets that come with shoes). Haven’t had a problem with the mildew smell (or damp towels) since.

  2. says

    Living in the basement of a dorm, we had a closet that stunk to high heavens when we move in. It smells all through our entryway. NO CLUE what it is. But I’m going to try coffee grounds … that’s got to be better than funky basement scent.

  3. Kira says

    Oh my gosh! With every sentence I read in this article I kept looking at my closet screaming YOU STINK! Im going to do the above and thinking about adding a closet fan or ventilator and removing my shoes completely cause I cant stand it.. I know this maybe extreme but extreme funk takes some extreme measures! My shoes will have a new home on the balcony…it makes me feel dirty like germs are everywhere! N e wayz lol.. thanks for the clost funk tips.

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