10 Ways to Make Your Closet Smell Amazing

Megy Karydes
Written by Megy Karydes
Updated August 13, 2021
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Make stepping into your closet feel like a breath of fresh air—literally

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Keeping clothes in closets smelling good involves making sure the clothes going in are as clean as possible and there is enough air flowing through spaces. Whether it’s keeping closets clean and organized or using essential oils and a dehumidifier, it’s possible to keep odors and musty smells at bay. Here are 10 ways to keep the scents in closets smelling pleasant and great.

How to Make a Closet Smell Good

It turns out the clothes really do make the man (or person). The clothes we wear influence the way people see us and the way we think. Research shows we make accurate assumptions on someone's personality, politics, and income just from looking at the shoes they wear most often. One way you can put your best foot forward (no pun intended) is by keeping your clothes and closet fresh and clean.

The reasons a closet sometimes smells musty or stale is due to moisture and stagnant air. It’s common to think that to make a closet smell good you need to include pleasant-smelling items like lavender sachets or spritz some perfume. While doing those things will mask nasty odors, they’re more of a quick fix rather than a long-term solution. To make a closet smell good, think about what you’re putting into your closets that are creating any odors and how you can keep the air flowing.

Here are 10 ways to make a closet smell good.

1. Store Only Clean Clothes

Having a nice smelling closet actually starts in the laundry room. It’s not unusual to wear a pair of jeans, sweaters or other clothing and throw them back into the closet before washing. However, it’s important to wash clothes properly so your body oils and environmental elements don’t linger in the closet too long.

2. Wash and Dry Exercise Clothes Properly

Washing and drying clothing properly can play a big part in how your closet smells—especially your workout gear. When you’re washing exercise clothes, add a cup of baking soda or white distilled vinegar to your wash to help neutralize odors and make your detergent work better. Don’t throw the exercise clothes in the dryer. Instead, hang them to air dry.

3. Wear Your Clothes

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Don’t forget to wear the clothes in your closet. Most of us only wear 20% of our clothes in our closet 80% of the time which means that gorgeous cashmere sweater you bought on sale may not have seen the light of day in years. Clothes that haven’t been worn and washed can start to smell stale or like mildew. It also allows insects like moths to lay eggs, which then turn into larvae and snack on natural fibers like cashmere, silk and wool. If you don’t have the occasion to wear something and you can hang the clothes outside for a few hours, the breeze can help dissipate odors. For items you don’t think you’ll wear or want anymore, consider selling or donating them so someone else can enjoy wearing them.

4. Let Your Clothes Breathe

When clothes are bunched up next to each other, air can’t circulate around the fabric so the clothes start smelling musty. Whenever possible, hang clothes instead of folding and stacking them so there is more space between each item. If you must fold and stack, try to keep the stack to a minimum so the items on the bottom have at least a bit of breathing room.

5. Get Organized

Instead of letting things pile up or get lost, organize your closet. Having things in their place allows you to see things easily so you can make the most of your entire wardrobe and prevent your clothes from collecting dust or attracting pests.

6. Ruthlessly Declutter

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If you find yourself ducking from falling handbags every time you open the door, it may be worth decluttering or storing items for other seasons in a different space. You don’t need heavy sweaters and boots, for example, in the middle of summer and the bathing suits and summer dresses can go into storage in the winter. It’ll not only free up more space in your closet and allow you to find clothes you can wear right now, but that added room will allow air to circulate around the existing inventory.

7. Add Cedar or Pine

A person whose clothes smell of pine was rated as relatively more successful, intelligent, sociable, sanitary, and attractive than one whose clothes smelled of onion or smoke, according to one study. Adding aromatic closet liners like pine wall panels, cedar closet liners, or even cedar panels to help keep your closet smelling good. Cedar’s natural aroma helps prevent the spread of mold and mildew by removing moisture from the air, especially important in humid climates. Pine naturally repels insects, has a pleasant smell, and is generally less expensive than cedar.

8. Bring the Kitchen Into the Closet

OK, maybe not the entire kitchen—but lavender, lemon, and coffee can help neutralize odors. Lemon’s acidity helps neutralize odors. Boil lemon peels to bring out the fragrant acids. Make some lavender sachets and hang them in a closet or place them in drawers to not only keep your closet smelling fresh and clean, but also to help repel moths.

There’s a reason many perfume counters feature little jars of coffee beans: they clear the olfactory palate. Add a small jar in your closet to pick up foul odors. 

Spray the interior parts of your closet with equal parts vinegar and water to help deodorize your closet. Finally, baking soda is great for odor absorption, too. Add a few spoonfuls to a jar, just like you would in your refrigerator, and let its moisture-absorbing work do its thing.

9. Hang Eucalyptus Sprigs

Eucalyptus repels bugs like moths and other insects. Its oil is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, making it a great room deodorizer, especially in closed spaces like closets. Its pleasant and earthy scent makes it a popular, natural, and easy way to keep your closet and clothes smelling good.

10. Get the Air Flowing

Wet and stagnant air is a breeding ground for mold, so getting air flowing through your closet can help keep things fresh. Because most of us don’t have a window in our closets, open the window in the adjoining room to let air flow. If opening a window isn’t an option, a fan will do. Turning on the air conditioner can help, too. If moisture continues to be an issue, consider adding a dehumidifier.

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