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How to Keep Stored Clothes Smelling Fresh

Storing clothes that are out of season can free up a lot of closet space. But, storing clothes for a while can also cause them to not smell their best. This is especially true if they didn’t smell fresh when packed away the first time or if they were stored improperly. So how do you keep stored clothes smelling fresh?

The best way to keep stored clothes smelling fresh is to wash them before storing them. Then, depending on how you’re storing them, you can use any of the following methods to make sure they stay fresh:

  • Dryer sheets
  • Essential oils
  • Perfumed tissue paper
  • Cedar hangers
  • Activated charcoal
  • Baking soda
  • Coffee beans or grounds
  • Dehumidifier/climate control
  • Chalk sticks
  • Vodka
  • Vinegar

Some of these methods may work best for particular storage methods, whether you prefer to store your clothes in boxes, bins, drawers, or a spare closet. But don’t worry, I’ll explain how to use each in this article.

How to Keep Stored Clothes Smelling Fresh

What Causes Clothes to Smell After Being Stored?

Before we get into how to keep your stored clothes smelling fresh, it helps to know what causes clothes to smell after being stored in the first place. That way, you can take the proper steps to make sure they smell fresh the next time.

For starters, the most common reason that clothes smell after being stored is that they weren’t clean when they were stored. Maybe you didn’t have time to wash them before being stored, or you found clothing that you thought was clean in the bottom of your closet and stored it away. Either way, clothes that are stored with odors, stains, or any other debris on them may not smell fresh when you pull them out of storage.

Another common reason that clothes smell after being stored is that they were exposed to moisture or other elements such as heat, air, or moths while they were in storage. This can be due to not storing them in a proper container, such as a cardboard box, or storing them somewhere in which they could be exposed to these elements. Luckily, unless the clothes are severely damaged, you can restore their fresh scent by washing them and storing them properly the next time.

How to Keep Stored Clothes Smelling Fresh

How to keep drawers fresh

Now without further ado, here’s how to keep stored clothes smelling fresh. Remember that some of these methods work better for certain storage methods than others, so keep that in mind when deciding which one to use and how to store your clothes.

1. Wash the Clothes

First and foremost, you want to make sure the clothes are clean before storing them. Clothes that are stored with stains or odors on them may retain those stains and odors while in storage and can attract insects such as moths and other pests.

Smells especially will remain if the clothes are stored in an area without airflow. You don’t have to wash them in any special way. Just launder them as you normally would to remove stains and prevent any unpleasant odors from lingering on the clothes while they are in storage.

2. Choose the Proper Storage Container

Next, choosing the proper storage container or method is necessary to ensure that clothes stay fresh. It’s best to store clothes in a sealed, airtight container if you aren’t be wearing them for a while. Plastic tubs and totes with lids are the best options, or you can opt for vacuum-sealed bags. Any of these options do a great job at keeping pests and elements such as moisture and heat away from the clothes.

Avoid cardboard boxes that can be hard to seal and can be eaten by pests and ruined due to moisture. If you’re storing your clothes in drawers, make sure the drawer is cleaned and all the clothes that will be stored in it. You can clean the drawer by vacuuming it and wiping the inside down with a spray mixture of vinegar and water and a paper towel.

For clothes such as dresses, suits, and coats that won’t fit in a storage container or drawer, you may have to store them in a closet. In this case, keeping them inside garment bags is best to protect them from the elements. At the very least, ensure that the closet is away from a room where moisture, heat, and light can affect the clothes. You want to keep them as cool, dry, and dark as possible.

3. Place a Dryer Sheet in the Container

How to keep closet fresh

If you’re storing your clothes in a sealed container, one of the easiest and best ways to keep them smelling fresh is to place a dryer sheet in the container along with the clothes. You can place it on top of the clothes just before closing the lid, or you can tuck one or two in between them.

If you’re storing your clothes in drawers, you can also place a dryer sheet in the drawers to freshen the clothes. Place one dryer sheet in each drawer. Don’t load the container down with dryer sheets, or the smell may be too overwhelming when you open the container back up.

4. Use Essential Oils

Cliganic USDA Organic Lavender Essential Oil - 100% Pure Natural Undiluted, for Aromatherapy Diffuser | Non-GMO VerifiedIf you don’t use dryer sheets when you launder your clothes and prefer to use dryer balls instead, you don’t have to go out and buy any dryer sheets just for this purpose. You can always use essential oils instead. Place a few drops of your favorite essential oil on a wool dryer ball. Then toss it into the container or drawer with your clothes.

If you don’t have any wool dryer balls, you don’t have to go out and buy any of those either unless you just want to. You can also place a few drops of essential oils on a clean rag or paper towel and place it in the storage container instead.

5. Perfume Tissue Paper

Another great and easy option for keeping clothes fresh that are stored in tubs is to use perfumed tissue paper. All you have to do is spray some perfume on a piece of tissue paper and place it in the container with your clothes. You can also spray perfume on a wool dryer ball, paper towel, or clean rag if you don’t have any tissue paper.

6. Hang Cedar Hangers

FairyHaus Natural Cedar Wooden Coat Hangers 18Pack, Smooth Finish Wood Suit Hangers - Slim Sleek & Flat Cedar Shirt Hangers with 360° Rotating Hook, Durable Cedar Clothes HangersCedar hangers or cedar blocks help to keep moths away from clothing because moths don’t like the smell of cedar. Cedar wood also emits a strong smell, so it can freshen your clothes. This is a great method for keeping clothes fresh and stored in a closet.

If your clothes are stored in containers, you can also use cedar blocks to keep clothes fresh or place cedar blocks on shelves in your closet. Another option is to add water and a few drops of cedarwood essential oil to a spray bottle and spray it in the closet or storage container to keep moths away or use mothballs and moth traps instead.

7. Hang Activated Charcoal

Activated Charcoal Odor Absorber 10x3.5oz w Hooks. Nature Fresh Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bag Home Closet Air Freshener Deodorizer Odor EliminatorHanging bags of activated charcoal in your closet can also help keep clothes fresh.

This is because activated charcoal can help absorb odors quickly, although it won’t necessarily make your clothes smell good. They’ll just keep them from smelling bad.

This is a great option for people with skin sensitive to fragrances such as essential oils. You can also place activated charcoal bags in storage containers with your clothes.

8. Place Boxes of Baking Soda

Baking sodaBaking soda also helps absorb odors quickly and can keep your clothes smelling fresh. But, like activated charcoal, it won’t necessarily make your clothes smell good like dryer sheets and essential oils do.

If you have shelves in your closet, place an opened box of baking soda on one of the shelves and let it absorb odors over time. Baking soda can also absorb moisture if any were to get in your closet.

You can also use baking soda in storage containers if you don’t mind washing your clothes after pulling them out of storage. Just pour a little baking soda into the bottom of the container before you add your clothes. It won’t ruin your clothes and will wash right out. You can also place an open box of baking soda in the container, but it may spill anyway.

9. Use Coffee Beans or Grounds

illy Whole Bean Coffee - Perfectly Roasted Whole Coffee Beans – Classico Medium Roast - with Notes of Caramel, Orange Blossom & Jasmine - 100% Arabica Coffee - No Preservatives – 8.8 Ounce, 6 Pack (packaging may vary)Coffee beans or grounds are also great for keeping clothes smelling fresh. This method works best for clothes that are hanging in a closet. Just place an open coffee beans bowl on a closet shelf. The strong smell of coffee beans and grounds can also keep pests away.

If you want to use coffee grounds in storage containers, you can place them in a ventilated but sealed bag or container.

Use a mesh bag with holes that the grounds are too small to fit through or a jar with holes in the lid. You just want to keep the grounds from spilling in your storage container.

10. Use a Dehumidifier/Climate Control

HOGARLABS 50 Pint Dehumidifiers for Home and Basements, with 3 Working Modes, Overflow Protection, and Auto Shut off Restart. Ultra Silent Dehumidifier with Drain Hose and Digital Control Panel.If your clothes are stored in a closet and you live in a humid climate, or the closet is prone to moisture, you can also use a dehumidifier to help remove moisture from the air in your closet. This is necessary because excess moisture can cause odors and mildew on stored clothes. The odors will usually wash out, but mildew may not always.

If you lack the storage space in your home or apartment or just don’t have adequate storage for your clothes, you can also put your clothes in a climate-controlled storage unit.

This will help keep moisture, heat, and other elements off your clothes. But it’s still best to store them in another container while the clothes are inside the storage unit.

11. Chalk Sticks

Amazon Basics Dustless Chalk with Eraser, Assorted and White, 48 PackChalk sticks are another easy way to absorb odors on your clothes.

Place a few chalk sticks into a cloth or mesh bag, then hang them in the closet or on a shelf.

The chalk will help absorb moisture as well, preventing mildew and odors.

You can also place bags of chalk in storage containers.

12. Vodka

Using vodka may seem unlikely to keep stored clothes smelling fresh, but it works really well, especially for clothes hanging in a closet. To use it, mix 1 part water with 1 part vodka in a spray bottle. Then, just spray it in your closet and on your clothing. It won’t stain your clothes! Do this once or twice a month for as long as your clothes are in storage.

13. Vinegar

VinegarWhite vinegar can keep stored clothes smelling fresh in multiple ways. First, you can add ½ cup of vinegar to your washing machine when you wash the clothes before putting them in storage to remove unpleasant odors. You can also use a mixture of ½ cup of white vinegar and ½ cup of water to clean your storage container.

You can also spray a mixture of vinegar and water into your closet while your clothes are in storage to remove unpleasant odors. The smell of vinegar should go away when it dries. If you can’t deal with the vinegar smell, dilute the vinegar with more water or make sure just to lightly spritz the clothes. After taking the clothes out of storage, you can use vinegar in the washing machine again to help freshen the clothes.

Should You Wash Clothes After They Come Out of Storage?

You don’t have to wash clothes after they come out of storage as long as you washed them before they went into storage. They still smell fresh and were in a sealed or climate-controlled container. If clothes smell funny, feel funny, have stains, or feel damp or moist, it’s a good idea to wash them before you wear them.

And, of course, you can wash them after you take them out of storage if you’d feel more comfortable doing so. If they smell funny, adding ½ cup of vinegar or baking soda to the wash, along with your regular detergent, can help freshen them up.


Washing clothes before you store them, then storing them so they aren’t exposed to elements is the best way to keep them smelling fresh while in storage. But there are plenty of other effective ways to keep stored clothes smelling fresh, depending on how you choose to store them. I hope this article was helpful and that you enjoyed it.