How to Make a Closet Smell Better

woman's closet Are you tired of a musty or unpleasant odor greeting you every time you open your closet? Making your closet smell fresher and more inviting can be easy with a few simple steps and some household items.

You might be wondering why your closet smells bad in the first place. Damp clothes, lack of proper air circulation, closed spaces, and even the buildup of bacteria lead to a smelly closet. By taking care of some basic cleansing and focusing on maintaining the cleanliness and freshness of your closet, you’ll soon be able to enjoy a better-smelling space.


Table of Contents

Causes of Closet Odor

Poor Ventilation

Closet odors can be a result of poor ventilation, which leads to stagnant air. Trapped air in your closet prevents the smell from dissipating, resulting in unpleasant odors. Make sure your closet has a proper ventilation system, such as vents or air ducts, to reduce odor buildup.


Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew thrive in dark, damp environments and can grow on items in your closet. To prevent mold and mildew growth, ensure your closet is dry and well-ventilated.


Stale Clothes

Clothes left unwashed or damp for extended periods can accumulate bacteria and produce an offensive smell. To keep your closet smelling fresh:

  • Wash clothes regularly
  • Make sure clothes are completely dry before storing them
  • Properly seal and store seasonal garments in vacuum-sealed bags or bins



Pets may be a source of closet odors, particularly if they often lie down or hide in the closet. Pet hair, dander, and bodily fluids can be absorbed by your clothes and other fabric items, causing unpleasant odors. To minimize pet-related closet smells, clean your closet regularly and make sure your pets are groomed and bathed.


How to Make a Closet Smell Better

There are several natural ways to make your closet smell fantastic:

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is a powerful odor neutralizer and a very affordable solution. To use it, simply:

  • Pour some baking soda into a small container or an old sock.
  • Place the container or sock at the bottom of your closet.
  • Replace the baking soda every 1 to 2 months.

Baking soda absorbs odors, ensuring your closet stays fresh.


Essential Oils

Essential oils can be a delightful way to add a pleasant scent to your closet. To use essential oils:

  • Add a few drops of oil to a cotton ball.
  • Place the cotton ball in a small container or pouch.
  • Hang the pouch in your closet or tuck it into a corner.

Remember to refresh the scent every few weeks by adding more essential oil to the cotton ball.


Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal naturally absorbs odors and can be an excellent choice for a closet freshener. To use it:

  • Purchase a packet of activated charcoal or a charcoal air purifier bag.
  • Place the charcoal in your closet, either on a shelf or hanging from a hook.

Activated charcoal typically lasts for 2 to 3 months before needing to be replaced or reactivated by placing it in direct sunlight for a few hours.


Natural Air Purifiers

Natural air purifiers like plants can help improve air quality and reduce odors in your closet. Consider adding:

  • Spider plants: Easy to care for and effective at removing odors.
  • Peace lilies: Cleans air and adds a subtle scent.

Place these plants near your closet for continuous fresh air. Remember to provide them with proper care and sunlight.


Deep Cleaning the Closet

organized closet

Empty the Closet

First, empty your entire closet.  Sort items into separate piles or bins based on their type: clothes, shoes, accessories, etc.


Clean the Surfaces

Next, clean all the surfaces in your closet. Use a damp cloth or sponge and a mild cleanser to wipe down shelves, rods, walls, and the floor. Be thorough in reaching corners, cracks, and crevices, as these can harbor dirt and odors. Don’t forget to clean closet doors, handles, and light fixtures as well!

Surface Cleaning Method
Shelves & Rods Damp cloth or sponge with a mild cleanser
Walls & Floor Vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment
Doors, Handles, & Light Fixtures Damp cloth or sponge with a mild cleanser


Prevent Future Smells

Keep It Dry

One of the primary causes of bad odors in closets is excess moisture.  Here are some tips to keep it dry:

  • Use a dehumidifier: Place a small dehumidifier in your closet to help maintain proper humidity levels.
  • Desiccants: Use desiccants such as silica gel packets or damp-rid products to absorb excess moisture.
  • Avoid storing damp items: Don’t store damp clothing or shoes in your closet. Dry them completely before storing them in the closet.


Proper Ventilation

Good ventilation is crucial for preventing bad smells in your closet. You can improve your closet’s ventilation by:

  • Leave the door open: Keeping the closet door open when possible allows fresh air to circulate.
  • Install a vent: If your closet has poor air circulation, consider installing a vent to improve airflow.
  • Use an air purifier: A small air purifier can help filter out unpleasant odors and maintain clean air in the closet.


Regular Cleaning

Regular cleaning is vital to prevent bad smells from accumulating in your closet. Be sure to maintain the following routine:

  • Clean the floors: Vacuum or sweep the closet floor regularly to remove dust and dirt that can contribute to bad smells.
  • Wipe shelves and surfaces: Use a mild cleaner to wipe down shelves and other surfaces.
  • Wash and rotate items: Launder clothing, bedding, and other stored items periodically, even if they haven’t been used. Rotating items in your closet also ensures that everything gets a chance to air out.


Products to Try

Use Air Fresheners

Air fresheners are an excellent way to make your closet smell better. Some options are:

  • Sprays: You can easily apply these by spritzing them in the closet area. Be sure to choose a mild, long-lasting scent.
  • Gel or solid air fresheners: These are convenient to use, as you can simply place them in a corner of your closet.
  • Plug-in air fresheners: If your closet has an electrical outlet, a plug-in air freshener can provide a continuous release of fragrance.



To eliminate bad odors in your closet, consider using deodorizers. Here are a few options:

  • Activated charcoal bags: These natural deodorizers can be placed in your closet to absorb
  • Baking soda: A cost-effective option, baking soda can be placed in an open container in your closet to absorb foul smells.
  • Deodorizing sachets: Filled with scented materials like lavender or cedar, these sachets can freshen your closet while also combating odors.


Fabric Refreshers

Fabric refreshers work by spraying them directly onto your clothes and fabrics. Some fabric refreshers include:

  • Branded fabric sprays: These sprays, available in several scents, can help to refresh and deodorize your clothes.
  • DIY fabric refreshers: You can create your own fabric spray by mixing water, essential oils, and a small amount of unscented fabric softener in a spray bottle.

Remember to follow the instructions on any products you choose to ensure proper use. With these options at hand, keeping your closet smelling fresh and clean is an easy task.



messy closet

What are some natural ways to deodorize a closet?

You can use baking soda to absorb odors by placing a small bowl of it in the corner of your closet. Charcoal briquettes or activated charcoal can also be used in a similar way. Additionally, placing dried lavender sachets or essential oil-infused cotton balls can help keep your closet smelling fresh.


What DIY solutions exist for freshening up a closet?

A simple and effective DIY solution is creating an odor-absorbing mixture featuring equal parts white vinegar, water, and lemon juice. Place this in a spray bottle and lightly spritz the closet. Alternatively, you can stir a few drops of your favorite essential oil into a box of baking soda and place it in the closet.


How can I keep stored clothes smelling fresh and clean?

First, make sure all clothes are completely dry before storing them. To maintain a fresh scent, add small sachets of dried lavender or cedar blocks to your containers.


How can I remove lingering odors from clothes without washing them?

To remove lingering odors, you can try airing out the clothes by hanging them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room. Alternatively, you can place the garment in a sealed plastic bag with a fabric softener sheet or a sachet of baking soda to absorb the odor. In some cases, spot-cleaning with a mild detergent or vinegar solution can help target specific areas of odor-causing stains.

Written by Laurie Graves

Laurie is a 50-something wife and boy mom, who loves to share easy recipes, DIY home ideas, and food hacks. She truly believes that with a little inspiration, anyone can make their home and meals feel special.