12 Hacks To Keep Your Clothes Smelling Great

From wardrobe freshener to charcoal.

by Miki Hayes
Originally Published: 
Find out how to make your clothes and closet smell good, from wardrobe freshener to charcoal.
JGI/Jamie Grill/Tetra images/Getty Images

Ah, your closet. It’s that magical place that holds all the things that make you wonder whether material goods can, in fact, make you happier. And, while you know that things can’t truly buy happiness, your closet can still be that place of calm that gives you a little lift from time to time. And yes, it likely makes you smile even when it is a little bit messier than you’d like.

That said, most closets are small. Scratch that: miniscule. And there’s just something about a small space like a closet that makes scents linger, which we certainly can’t have happening in our happy places, right? Well, fortunately for you, there are some pretty cool tricks to make your closet smell better nearly immediately and in a lasting way.

One of the best ways to make sure that your clothing doesn’t have any lingering scents is to wash them with a detergent and fabric conditioner with odor-fighting properties. But, sometimes even the right detergent isn’t enough to combat the effects of your clothing being trapped in drawers for days — or months.

Just so your favorite pieces have a little extra help along the way, here are some tried and true hacks for a better-smelling closet.

1. Perfumed Tissue Paper

Instead of spritzing perfume directly on your clothes, which can be overpowering, try infusing the scent instead. Cosmopolitan recommends spraying your favorite perfume on some tissue paper or cotton balls. Wait for them to dry, then simply line your dresser drawer with them and place your clothes on top. Trapped with your signature scent, your clothes will smell heavenly in no time.

2. Old Dryer Sheets

After using a dryer sheet in your laundry, don't just toss it. Even used dryer sheets still carry enough fragrance to help scent your closet and clothes. Tuck used sheets into the corners of dresser drawers or into the pockets of some of your more infrequently worn pieces. The best part is that you won't have to worry about conflicting scents because you also use it for the laundry.

3. Air Fresheners

Even when it seems like your car air freshener has lost all of its scent, moving it into a smaller space that isn't as well ventilated (like your closet or dresser) will prove that it has some life left in it. Hang it in the back of your closet or tuck it away in the back of a dresser drawer. The amount of fragrance it should have left will be enough to keep your clothes smelling great without it being overpowering.

4. Coffee Grounds

Not only do coffee grounds absorb bad odors, but they also just smell pretty amazing on their own. Fill a container with grounds, poke a few holes in the lid, and store it in your closet. Just make sure to recycle your grounds at least once a month so everything stays fresh.

5. Vodka

If you keep vintage pieces or perhaps are just pulling out some sweaters from storage, vodka can actually help eliminate musty odors. Try mixing some in a one-to-one ratio with water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz over any areas that smell stale, and hang your clothes in a well-ventilated area. Just be sure to test the mixture on a small, unnoticeable area first.

6. Essential Oils

You can actually do quite a bit with essential oils to help keep your clothes smelling fresh. If you prefer to use them in the wash, try adding 10 to 20 drops of your oil of choice during the final rinse cycle.

Another option is to add a few drops of your essential oil to a clean scrap of fabric or a clean washcloth and then toss it in the dryer with the rest of your clothes. This will lightly scent all of your garments as they dry.

Finally, try making your own solution of water and essential oil (you may need to play around with the ratio to find your ideal fragrance level) to lightly spray on any clothing that needs a little pick-me-up.

7. DIY Potpourri

Tucking little sachets of potpourri into closet corners or dresser drawers will also help keep your clothes smelling nice. Try tying up a couple tablespoons of lavender or lemongrass in a small cotton pouch or in some tissue paper. You could even hide these bundles in the pockets of pants or jackets that may not get as much wear to keep them smelling fresher longer.

8. Bar Soap

Whether good old Dove, or something a little more bespoke, consider using hand soap to scent your closet. Simply place the bar of soap atop a paper towel or piece of extra fabric and leave it in there for a few hours. After a one-time trial, your clothing will smell better than ever before.

9. Baking Soda

Many people already know the magic that is putting an open container of baking soda in your fridge to prevent it smelling like the most pungent of food items, but the same hack works for your clothing closet as well. Consider tucking some baking soda in the back of your closet to absorb any unwanted odors without adding another to the mix.

10. Wood

Ok, so not just any wood works for this hack, but stronger smelling wood, like Sandalwood or Cedar, works wonders. Whether you head to the local hardware store to grab a little sample to stick in the back of your closet, or shop for a pre-manufactured hanging piece, consider using this earthy scent to refresh your closet this season.

11. Charcoal

Ok, talk about magic. Just like with chemicals or liquids, charcoal absorbs smells. When placed in a small baggie or breathable container, a small piece of activated charcoal will absorb any unwanted odors and trap them deep inside the material. The coolest part is that the scents then need to be released from capture, so every few months, it’s a good idea to put the piece of charcoal into the outside open air for an hour to effectively “re-set” it.

12. Citrus

Create a DIY scented sachet with citrus. The next time you reach for a lemon or orange, consider using what you would otherwise throw out to make your closets smell a little less stale. Zest the citrus and place it in the sun to dry. Or, if you’re impatient, an oven sheet at 180° for 10 minutes will do the trick, too. Tie them up in a breathable pouch or bag and you’re good to go.

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