Home Cleaning Tips Reader Q & A: How Do I Remove “Musty” Smells From My Laundry?

Reader Q & A: How Do I Remove “Musty” Smells From My Laundry?

by Catherine

Yay! Another reader question gets answered today!

Have I told you how much I love hearing from you? Have I told you how much I love reader questions? Well… I love hearing from you and I love reader questions!

Last week, a reader wrote to me to ask for any additional tips on getting stubborn smells out of clothing. She was also wondering about any other techniques I could share for cleaning clothing that was exposed to a moldy environment, or that her husband had worn while traveling. Well, of course I had tips and techniques to share with her! Today, I am going to share those with you too!

So that you know where we are starting from, here is her question:

Hi, Catherine,

What is your protocol for cleaning clothes that still seem to hold onto a stubborn musty smell, even after I use the EC3 Laundry Additive? Also, my husband travels every week for work, and brings home a suitcase full of dirty work clothing that sometimes causes me to react—I know this, because the minute I start handling the clothes to wash them, I start sneezing. How should I deal with his travel clothes? FYI some of his work clothes are “dry clean only”, making this task even more difficult.

Thank you for your help!

Before I go into my response, first, here are links to my most in-depth posts on laundry and cleaning clothing for mold:


In the hope that it can help some of you too, here is the advice, word-for-word, that I wrote to that lovely reader:

I am so glad you wrote to me! First, make sure that your husband is keeping his clothing and shoes separate in his luggage. This is just a more sanitary way to travel. Have him pack some plastic bags that he can put his shoes in before putting them in his luggage. Also, keep his travel clothing separate from your other laundry until it is properly cleaned—no sense in contaminating anything else.

As for any musty or smelly laundry and any of the travel-tainted laundry that is washable, I just finished doing some experiments of my own for the blog, and here is what seems to be working best for me:

I add either 1 cup of baking soda or 1/2 cup of Borax (Borax is what I actually prefer and usually use), in addition to the EC3 Laundry Additive, in wash loads that need a little extra help, like when I feel that our clothes may have gotten some mold in them (aka your husband’s travel clothing), or if something is smelling a little musty. Both baking soda and Borax are extremely alkaline and deodorizing. Their alkalinity aids the EC3 Laundry Additive in eliminating the mold, because mold likes a more acidic environment, usually in pH’s of 3 or lower. Neutralizing acidity will both help to kill the mold and cut through any skin oils that may be trapped in the clothing fabrics. These residual oils hold onto the mold and bacteria and sometimes can cause musty smells that tend to linger. In my normal, everyday loads, I just use our regular, unscented liquid laundry detergent, and the EC3 Laundry Additive, per the package instructions. I do this in EVERY wash. I know using the laundry additive in every wash may seem excessive, but if you think about that every time you wear something and leave your home in it, it is getting exposed to dust, mold, bacteria and other allergens, it doesn’t seem so excessive, right? The laundry additive will also to work to prevent mold and bacteria from attaching to and getting into the fabrics. Using it is just an everyday precaution that provides so many benefits; it is hard not to do it.

Back to the method of how to add the baking soda or Borax to your normal wash routine. So, if you need to go the route with the baking soda or Borax, simply load the clothes in your washing machine as you would normally do, select the hottest temp that those clothes can handle, and begin the cycle, allowing the drum to start filling with water. As it fills, add your normal laundry detergent. (As you know, I advocate for always using unscented, clear, liquid detergent.) Then, add 1 cup of baking soda or Borax to the drum, on top of the clothing and the liquid detergent. Close the machine lid and allow the agitator to work, mixing the detergent and baking soda/borax up into the water with your clothing. Once the machine has agitated for a few minutes and has finished filling, stop the cycle and allow the clothes to soak for 30 minutes. Even if you have a front loading washing machine, you can stop the cycle, once the drum has filled with water and allow the clothing to soak. You just need to push to stop button after it has filled with water. After 30 minutes, open the machine and pour your EC3 Laundry Additive into the fabric softener reservoir. Turn the machine back on and allow the washing cycle to run its course.

Here are the tools you need to conquer your musty laundry.
More tools for neautralizing stuborn odors.
Set your wash temp as hot as the load can handle, begin filling the tub, pour in detergent and baking soda/Borax, and get ready to stop the cycle for a good soak.
Don't forget to add your EC3 Laundry Additive to the fabric softener reservoir after the soak is complete. This will ensure that any mold is eliminated from the fabrics.

This should effectively eliminate any mold or biological smells that any of your clothing has picked up. Let me know if any of this doesn’t make sense. It has worked wonderfully for us and has even removed some stubborn smells from my husband’s dirt bike gear that gets super sweaty and gross.

For any items that cannot be regularly laundered, spray those items thoroughly with the EC3 Mold Solution Spray. Allow them to air dry. Then, you can spot clean and tumble them in a hot dryer, for an at-home dry-cleaning effect, or you can choose to locate a professional cleaner that employs liquid carbon dioxide cleaning or professional wet cleaning. These are the only two methods that I have found that do not use toxic chemicals that could further aggravate your allergies. If you go with the wet cleaning method, make sure that they do not use chemicals. Some cleaners treat the clothing with the same chemicals that they use for dry cleaning in their wet application. These are usually petroleum-based and can cause more harm than good, getting absorbed into the clothing fabric, so that when you wear them, you have all of those chemicals touching your skin. After doing your own “dry cleaning,” or when you get the clothes home from the cleaner, mist once again with the EC3 Mold Solution Spray and allow to air dry. This should effectively eliminate any mold or bacteria.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.


That’s all for today. Write to me too, if you would like your cleaning for mold question answered.

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Renae Arnston August 10, 2022 - 12:48 pm

Does the laundry additive need to go in the fabric softener reservoir or can I go in with detergents?

Catherine August 10, 2022 - 1:24 pm

You can put it in with the detergent if you prefer to do it that way. I’ve had success with doing it either way.

Catherine August 17, 2017 - 3:01 am

Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it. Hearing from people, like you, who are being helped by anything I can put out there makes this totally worthwhile for me.

Kris Lawler, ND August 16, 2017 - 9:59 pm

Catherine this is so helpful! I counsel on food and environmental allergy issues with patients of medical doctors. After they are educated on what is allowed and what to avoid the clothing/furniture issues come up.
I can’t tell you how many times I have had an allergic reaction to the person I’m counseling who is wearing moldy clothes, got out of a moldy car, came from a moldy house. They are literally dosing themselves with poison. It is difficult enough for them to cope with the big picture but In order to get well, they must do this fine tuning.
I am so glad you specialize in “How to clean for mold” to create total wellness.
Kris Lawler, ND


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