How can I clean out musty odors from closets?

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Moved into a older home and my closets smell “old”, you know like gramma old. I have painted a few and it helped but one is stubborn, any suggestions?


  12 answers
  • Kristie Kristie on Feb 09, 2020

    I wanna kno too!😁😁😁

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Feb 09, 2020

    Having lived in a 100+ year house for over35 years, here are my methods:


    Empty the closet out, deep clean it. If it continues with that smell, caulk all openings or gaps, seal all surfaces with Kilz.


    Maintenance: leave the door open once in awhile so it gets fresh air. Invest in some bamboo charcoal bags and recharge them monthly (keeps the musties out of your car if you keep one there, too. The brand I use is Miso, but there are many other brands. Supposedly they only last two years, but, mine have lasted longer.


    Good luck!

  • Flipturn Flipturn on Feb 09, 2020

    Sensible advice from Cynthia. I would also suggest putting a fan in the room and getting a dehumidifier. Run them both with the closet doors open.


    If these measures do not eliminate the malodors, then you will likely have to step up to the next level, and go with William's remedy.

  • William William on Feb 10, 2020

    You can seal the odors in with shellac.


    How to Eliminate Odors in Wood, Drywall, and Plaster


    Your best hope for sealing in any odors is shellac. It makes an excellent barrier coat over all wood species, drywall, and plaster and it sticks to almost anything. Zinsser makes a great product for this purpose, called Bullseye SealCoat. It’s a clear dewaxed shellac that you can apply to drawer interiors, closet walls etc. It dries quickly and should help to diminish mice, mildew, musty, smoke, urine smell. And since it doesn’t contain wax, you can apply other finishes like lacquer or varnish over it — they’ll stick just fine. SealCoat is also handy to have around the shop as a general purpose wood finish and sanding sealer. So, I’m sure you’ll find other uses for what’s left of the quart you buy.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 10, 2020

    You might have a moisture issue. I would place a couple of the DampRid bags in the closet and check after a couple of days to see if they are filling up. This is a common problem. As for painting, you may need to prime with a blocker like Kilz Original then paint once you are sure all the moisture is handled.

  • If, as Kathy suggests, there is a moisture issue, you'll need to track down that issue ASAP and fix it to keep it from creating expensive damage.

  • Betsy Betsy on Feb 10, 2020

    Hi Robin: It may be the floor that is smelling. Paint or seal that. Did you paint the ceiling, too? Good luck

  • Lindsay Aratari Lindsay Aratari on Feb 27, 2020

    I would try diffusing some essential oils or maybe vacuuming with lemon essential oil on the filter

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on May 01, 2021

    Hi, Use Damp collectors sold in stores very cheaply ( full of Crystals that hold onto the water) Silica Gel! until the smell has gone.