In the months when winter weather batters the outside of your home, the inside often takes on a closed-in smell. This is nowhere more prevalent than in your clothes closets. Clothes hung when they're not completely dry, and wet or dry shoes and outerwear, all contribute to that musty smell when left inside the closet. Fortunately, there are ways to improve upon this smell.
Empty the Closet
Remove everything from the closet and set it aside. Place any machine-washable footwear, damp clothes or launderable wet outerwear into the washer, and then dry them thoroughly after cleaning. Do the same for any clothes that smell musty. After you wash them, you can hang the clothes outside to dry for a fresher scent. Don't put wet shoes into the closet, because they can make it smell musty again. Let them dry in the garage or near the laundry room.
In your closet, look for signs of mold, mildew, or anything else that contributes to the musty smell. Check the closet for water leaks in the ceiling or along the walls by looking for water stains. If discovered, be sure to repair them.
Clean the Closet
After you remove everything from the closet, clean it thoroughly by vacuuming or sweeping up loose debris and then wiping down shelves, doors and walls with a cloth dipped and wrung in a gallon bucket half-filled with warm water and 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let the surfaces of the closet completely dry after cleaning. Place a circulating fan on a chair in front of the closet to speed up the drying process.
Reorganize and Reorder
Cleaning out your closet will also alleviate odors caused when things are too crammed together. Once the closet is clean, go through your clothes and donate what you don't wear. You may even consider organizing the inside of your closet by clothing type -- identified by different colored hangers -- to make it easy to find what you need. Place off-season items in plastic see-through bins on top shelves out of the way, or on the floor beneath clothes. This will give you some extra space.
Keep It Smelling Fresh
Keep your closet smelling fresh by adding baking soda or coffee grounds to a container with holes in the lid. Put it in a back corner of the closet to absorb odors. You can also add freshly dried lavender to the container or your favorite potpourri if you prefer a fragrance instead.