Here’s How To Stop Your Clothes Smelling Damp When Drying Indoors

One of the main problems associated with drying clothes indoors is that damp musty smell. It can be a huge problem, however, there are a few ways to prevent this from happening. If this is a problem you’ve been having, keep reading.

Getting laundry dry in the UK can be problematic during winter time. And with wet springs and damp summers you can’t even rely on getting clothes dry outdoors in the warmer months either.  

If you don’t own, or don’t want to use a tumble dryer, you will probably have already noticed that clothes can get that damp smell when they’re dried indoors.

What Causes Laundry To Smell Damp After It Was Dried Indoors?

The most common reasons for laundry to smell damp after being dried indoor include;

  • Insufficient Ventilation
    The area where you dry clothes indoors needs to be ventilated to prevent that damp, musty smell. This can be done by opening a window and allowing the breeze to circulate.
  • Not Removing Clothes From The Washing Machine Soon Enough
    If you leave wet clothes sitting in the drum of the washing machine, they start to form mould and mildew which breed and cause that damp, musty smell.
  • Placing Wet Clothes Too Close Together
    To ensure the clothes dry properly, they need to have sufficient space for the air to flow freely all around them. If the garments are overlapping or touching each other, some areas stay wet.
  • Storing Damp Clothes
    You should never pack your clothes away damp. They must always be 100% dry before storing them in wardrobes, cupboards or suitcases.
  • Overloading The Washing machine
    If the drum of your washing machine is crammed too full, not all of the items get washed properly. This can lead to clothes that already smelled of damp not getting that smell washed out of them.
  • Unclean Washing Machines
    Over time, washing machines can accumulate detergent, soap scum, dirt, mould and bacteria in the hoses, drum, detergent dispenser drawer and filter. All of these can be the cause of washing leaving the machine smelling damp. To prevent this, you should give the machine a service wash once a month. 

The Best Ways To Prevent Clothes From Smelling Damp When Drying Them Inside

clothes on a drying rack

If you always do the following, you should never have the problem of your clothes smelling damp when drying them indoors.

Always Remove As Much Water As Possible

Drying clothes indoors is always going to take longer than drying them on a clothesline in direct sunlight. To give them a better chance of drying, you will need to remove as much excess moisture as possible.

This can be done by running another spin cycle (at the highest speed suitable for the fabric). This is usually a good idea for thick, bulky items like denim or bedding that can take quite a long time to dry.

For more delicate items you should roll the item up in a towel and gently press on the towel. This will allow the towel to absorb much of the moisture from the delicate item. 

Hang The Clothes Up Straight Away

The longer clothes are left in the drum of the washing machine, the more likely they are to start smelling of damp. This is because the mould and mildew spores which are always floating in the air settle on those damp clothes and multiply.

This is especially likely if your machine is overdue for a service wash to remove mould and mildew spores.

Hang The Clothes Correctly

It’s not just a matter of removing the clothes from the drum immediately either. Where you hang them is important too. When using a clothes airer, you should hang smaller items low down with larger items on the higher rungs.

It’s also important to allow enough space between each item to allow adequate airflow.

Decrease Humidity Levels

Damp smells are formed when the air has too much moisture which creates the perfect environment for mould and mildew to form. To reduce the moisture content in the room where the clothes are drying, you should invest in a dehumidifier.

Russell Hobbs RHDH1001 10 Litre/Day Dehumidifier for Damp/Mould & Moisture in Home, Kitchen, Bedroom, Office, Caravan, Laundry Drying, 30m2 Room, Smart Timer, White
  • 10L MAXIMUM EXTRACTION RATE – Removes up to 10L of water in 24 hours
  • 30M2 ROOM SIZE – Perfect for medium size spaces such as bedrooms and utility rooms

Dehumidifiers work by removing water molecules from the air. The more water molecules that are removed from the air, the more can be released by the clothes as they dry.

This means not only will placing a dehumidifier in the room help remove damp smells, it will also help the clothes dry faster as well. Using a dehumidifier costs less than running a tumble dryer and it helps prevent mould and mildew buildup, in your home and any associated health related issues too.

Ensure You’ve Got Good Airflow

Another reason for that damp smell is not enough air flow. This is simple to achieve as all it involves is opening a window. However, placing a fan in the same room will help immensely.

If you direct the airflow from the fan at the drying clothes with an open window behind the clothes this will allow the water molecules to go outside. This in turn, makes the laundry dry faster and it’s less likely to smell damp too.

While we’re on the subject of air flow, it’s also important that wardrobes and storage cupboards have adequate airflow too. This will prevent any chance of the clothes getting damp from environmental issues.

For instance, cooking on a hob can cause moisture levels in the home to rise. If you live in a small place, that moisture could very easily seap into storage cupboards etc.

Place Airers In Front Of Radiators

If you’re drying clothes indoors because it’s winter time, presumably your radiators will be running. You can utilise that heat to get your clothes dryer faster. Simply place your clothes airer in front of the radiator, be sure that no clothes touch the radiator to prevent any damage.

Rainberg 5 Bar Radiator Clothes Airer Rack, Foldable Clothes Airer with Adjustable Arms, Laundry Dryers Clothes, Hanging Drying Rack Airer (Pack of 3)
  • ✔️ STURDY - By simply hooking these racks onto a radiator, they will firmly stay in position due to their strong iron arms keeping your clothes secure whilst they are drying.
  • ✔️ LAUNDRY MADE EASY - Easily attach either one or both of these racks over your radiator, using the adjustable arms, then you’re good to go to start drying your clothes! No messing around, straight and simple.

There are even radiator airers designed to be fitted on the radiator to dry clothes safely.

Use The Airing Cupboard

If you’re fortunate enough to own an airing cupboard, this is a great place to dry your laundry. The airing cupboard uses the heat from the water heater to get the clothes dry.

The clothes can then be stored away once fully dried.

Get A Heated Clothes Airer

Dry:Soon 3 Tier Heated Clothes Airer Cover – Reduce Drying Time Improve Airer Performance
  • Improve the performance of your 3-Tier Heated Airer by placing this dual-purpose cover over it
  • Speeding up the drying process by keeping heat contained. Machine washable polyester cotton

If it’s not cold enough to warrant putting the heating on and you still have a mountain of laundry that needs drying, you might do well to invest in a heated clothes airer.

These look just like regular airers except they have a heating element that heats up the bars of the racks. This allows clothes to dry faster.

The best ones are the ones that come supplied with a cover to keep all of the heat and moisture contained. However, it is possible to use a bedsheet to cover the heated airer if yours doesn’t come with a cover.

It’s worth noting that although overall, heated airers are safe, they should not be left on unattended.

Run A Service Wash

To prevent your washing machine from producing a damp smell, it should have a 90 degree C service wash once a month. The service wash removes all of the germs, bacteria and mould and mildew spores as well as any dirt, unused detergent and soap scum that accumulates in various parts of the washing machine.

As part of this cleaning routine, you should also remove and clean the pump filter to ensure there is no blockage which could potentially cause a damp musty smell attaching itself to your clothes. A clean washing machine is less likely to produce damp smelling laundry.

What About Clothes Smelling Damp From The Tumble Dryer?


This is another problem that could be the cause of clothes smelling damp after being dried. This is a particular problem for condenser type tumble dryers. Especially if you don’t empty the water reservoir after each use.

The problem is mould and mildew spores thrive in dark, damp places and the water reservoir on a condenser dryer fits that bill exactly. Every so often it will pay to give the reservoir a good clean out too.

You should clean the condenser and the filter to remove any dirt, mould or gunk. This will help the clothes to dry faster as well as removing potential smell inducing mould spores.

In vented dryers, check that the vent hose isn’t blocked as this can also cause the same damp smell in clothes. Then there’s the lint filter, this should be emptied after every use to not only prevent bad smells but also to keep the dryer functioning as it should.

How To Remove Damp, Musty Smells From Clothes

If your clothes already smell damp, don’t despair, there are a couple of ways to remove that nasty smell. 

Use White Vinegar

White Vinegar for Cleaning, Pickling, Marinating & Cooking - Distilled White Vinegar- 5 Litre Bottle - Produced in The UK,5 l (Pack of 2)
  • PERFECT FOR COOKING - Use in vinaigrettes, sweet-and-sour dishes, marinades, pickles, chutneys, and butter sauces. Or infuse with fresh herbs to make flavoured vinegar. Whatever the occasion our Fresh White wine vinegar will be perfect.
  • FABRIC SOFTENER - This white vinegar is perfect for households that have pets and children around as well as commercial premises where health and safety is of paramount importance

Simply rewash the items and add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle. This will leave the laundry not only smelling fresh, but white vinegar is also great as a replacement fabric softener too.

Use Bicarbonate Of Soda

Grow Chem Baking Soda, Sodium Bicarbonate (5kg Bucket) UK MADE Pure Baking Soda for ECO Friendly Cleaning, Baking, Bath Bombs, Odour Removal and Teeth Cleaning
  • ECO-FRIENDLY: Sodium Bicarbonate / Baking Soda is one of the top eco-friendly , safe and inexpensive cleaning, baking and household products available.
  • CLEANING: Baking Soda is particularly useful in food preparation, cleaning surfaces, ovens, grills, microwaves and fridges whilst also deodorising and freshening without leaving any harsh chemical smells.

Bicarbonate of soda is also a natural deodoriser and can be used to remove that damp musty smell from your clothes. All you need to do is add ½ a cup of bicarbonate of soda to the wash cycle.

Use An Odour Removing Detergent

Persil Ultimate Active Clean Laundry Washing Liquid Detergent fights odours and stains for 14 days of freshness 52 Washes 1.404 L
  • Persil Ultimate Active Clean Laundry Washing Liquid Detergent fights odours & stains
  • Formulated with FreshBurst technology, this bio liquid detergent provides 14 days of freshness that lasts

There are several detergents that have been specially formulated to remove odours from clothes. Using one of these will ensure your laundry doesn’t smell damp.

Use A Laundry Sanitiser

Dettol Laundry Sanitiser, Fresh Cotton Fragrance, Multipack of 4 X 1.5L, Total of 6L, Laundry Cleanser, Laundry Disinfectant, Kills 99.99 Percent of Germs, Antibacterial, Disinfecting, Laundry
  • KILLS 99.9 Percent BACTERIA AT 20C: Dettol laundry cleanser liquid disinfectant is proven to work in rinse cycle temperatures as low as 15C saving energy and money whilst preventing colour fading and leaking
  • 50 WASHES: Two capfuls per wash in the fabric softener drawer of the washing machine saving you. Bulk multipack of Dettol antibacterial laundry cleanser. Dettol Laundry Cleanser is designed to be added to your laundry, along with your regular detergent

The main problem with modern washing machine programmes is they’re designed to be used at low temperatures. These low temperatures are not so good at removing bacteria that can cause damp smells. 

Using a laundry sanitiser that is designed to work at low temperatures can remove 99.9% of all bacteria.

Spray With Essential Oils

ASAKUKI Essential Oils Set, Starter Kit for Diffusers for Home Top6 Aromatherapy Gift - 6 Bottles*10mL(Lavender, Eucalyptus, Lemongrass, Tea Tree, Sweet Orange, Peppermint)
  • Complete Essential Oils Pack - The ASAKUKI STARTER KIT ESSENTIAL OILS are made with all-natural plant extracts that are safe and effective, and come in lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, tea tree, sweet orange and peppermint. We only ever add gentle, synergistic carrier oils to enhance our steam-distilled formulas.
  • Professional-Grade Quality Certificated - This essential oils set is water soluble which means it can be used for creating a serene atmosphere with a diffuser or humidifier, or creating DIY candles, sopas, bath bombs, or other fun ideas. The dark bottle will help keep the oils FRESH & STABLE for 36+ months, so you can enjoy the soothing benefits of your oils for longer.

To prevent your clothes getting that musty, damp smell, you can add a few drops of your favourite essential oils to a spray bottle filled with water. Then simply spray the clothes whilst they are still damp. When they are dry, they’ll smell of your favourite fragrance and not damp.

SEE ALSO: How Long Can You Leave Clothes In The Washer?

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I dry my clothes indoors without smelling damp?

To dry your clothes indoors and prevent them smelling of damp you should; Spread them out on a drying rack with adequate space around each item, use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture, ensure there is sufficient airflow by opening a window and always remove wet clothes from the washing machine drum as soon as the machine has finished.

Why do my clothes smell musty after drying indoors?

Clothes smell musty and damp after drying indoors because of excess moisture that gets trapped in the material and isn’t able to escape. This can be caused by the clothes not being spread out enough on an airer etc.

Why do my clothes from my dryer smell damp?

If your clothes smell damp after they come out of the tumble dryer, it could be the condenser, filter or water reservoir need cleaning or in vented dryers, the vent hose could be blocked.

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