Why Do My Jeans Smell Musty?

Have you opened your wardrobe and discovered your jeans smell musty? Not good right? Jeans are everyday go-to pants.

Most people depend on their jean pants for most of the week and it becomes frustrating when you can’t wear them because of the musty smell on them. Nobody likes smelly clothes.

They would leave you and others around you uncomfortable. But, it doesn’t stop at that, you should want to know why they smell musty.

Reasons Jeans Smell Musty

There are many reasons why your jeans smell musty. If you live near water or in a humid climate, your clothes are at risk of getting a musty smell on them.

Also, the way you store your jeans, leaving them in the bottom of your wardrobe for a long time, leaving your jeans in the washer, not taking care of your washer, and not drying your jeans properly are part of the factors that contribute to a musty smell on them.

Even jeans you just bought could smell musty. The musty smell on your jeans is a result of mildew or mold growing on them.

Mildew growth is triggered by a damp or humid environment. The fungus grows and multiplies and causes the smell on your clothes. This can also put your health and that of others at risk.

If your jeans have stayed too long at the bottom of your wardrobe they are very likely to get moldy and smell. Denim Jeans are made of cotton and cotton is prone to damage by mold.

The cotton absorbs moisture which breeds mold on them. Again, storing your jeans in a damp place or storing them when they are not well dried will cause them to develop a musty smell.

Also, not removing your jean immediately from the washer can cause this smell. They will grow moldy and smell. Furthermore, your washer is at risk of growing mildew in them when you don’t clean them regularly.

Remnants of detergent can decay and cause fungal growth, moisture also causes this growth and when you put your jeans in the washer, they come out with a moldy smell.

Why Won’t Musty Smell Leave Your Jeans?

The musty smell on your jeans won’t leave when you don’t wash them properly. Your basic laundry detergent may not do the trick alone.

You would need to use some special cleaning agents that can kill the fungus and absorb the smell. The following are reasons why the musty smell won’t leave your jeans.

Using Strongly Scented Detergents

If you use detergents with strong perfumes to wash your musty smelly jeans, the perfume will mask the musky odor, but may not do away with the fungi. This will make the musty smell quickly return.

To do away with the musty smell completely, you would need to take care of the fungus causing the smell first. So a detergent with a very strong perfume may not do the job.

Using Your Laundry detergent

Washing your jeans with your usual laundry detergent may not get the work done. This cleaning agent may not have all it takes to kill the fungus. So after washing, your jeans remain with the smell.

Your Washer

Your washer could be the cause. Even right after washing your jeans, you may still notice the smell because your washer has the smell also.

If your washing machine smells moldy, it would get your jeans smelling moldy too and it would just be the case that the smell never leaves.

Using Fabric Softener

If you use fabric softener on your jeans, the residue could cause a build-up of new mold and you would still have the smell.

How To Get Musty Smell Out Of Jeans

To get the musty smell out of your jeans, follow these steps:

Use White Vinegar

White vinegar is more than just a seasoning for food. It is an excellent cleaner for all kinds of tasks. It’s very effective in removing stains and smell from surfaces and clothes.

If you want to remove the musty smell from your jeans use White vinegar instead of fabric softener. Get the Lucy Natural distilled vinegar.

To use vinegar on your jeans, follow these steps

  • Fill your sink or bowl with cold water and soak in your jeans properly
  • Add 1-2 cups of white vinegar depending on a load of jeans. If the smell is very strong add 2 cups
  • Allow the jeans to soak in for 1 hour or more. Then remove the jeans and rinse off properly with cold water
  • Set your washer to a regular wash cycle and use a cold setting. Hot water can cause your jeans to shrink.
  • Use your normal detergent and allow the cycle complete
  • Allow your jeans to air-dry. This will remove what is left of the odor. You can repeat until the odor is out

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is another multipurpose household item that does more than help your baking. Baking soda is good for absorbing stains and smell as well. Get Arm and Hammer baking soda.

  • Fill your sink or buckets with cool water and add 1-3 cups of baking powder depending on the load and smell. Mix well
  • Put in your jeans and allow to soak in properly. You can turn the mixture to get the solution into the jeans fabric. Allow it to stay overnight
  • Remove the jeans and rinse off the baking soda
  • Set your washer to the normal cycle and use a cool setting. Use your normal detergent
  • Add 1-2 cups of baking soda to the rinse cycle to eliminate what is left of the smell
  • Hang your clothes to air-dry

Use Alcohol And Water

It might be surprising to you that alcohol also eliminates the smell. Mixing alcohol with water can do the trick.

It would also do away with the mold causing the musty smell. It’s best to avoid alcohol that contains sugar as It might be difficult to remove later. Vodka is a good choice.

  • Mix three parts alcohol with three parts water
  • Fill this mixture into a spray can
  • Spray it on your jeans
  • Air-dry your clothes or wash in the machine with the regular cycle and cool temperature
  • Then air-dry afterward

Use  Oxygen Bleach

Don’t use chlorinated bleach on your jeans. It will cause the color to bleed and leave you with faded jeans.

Oxygen bleach is safer to use. But to be on the safer side, do spot testing first. Oxiclean is a good oxygen bleach to use. Get the Oxiclean laundry bleach.

  • Fill your bucket or sink with enough water. Check the packet of the bleach for the quantity to use. Add the right quantity to the water
  • Put in your jeans and allow the water to cover them completely. Stir the mixture to allow the bleach to work into the jeans fabric. Leave it to soak overnight
  • Rinse your jeans properly to remove the bleach
  • Put in the washer set to a regular cycle with a cool setting. Use your laundry detergent
  • Allow the cycle to complete and hang to dry afterward

Use Borax

Another cleaning agent that works well in removing stains and smells is Borax. It will help remove the musty odor from your jeans.

However, you have to be careful with the usage. It may fade your jeans. Do spot testing first.

  • Set your washer to the normal wash cycle and remember to use the cold setting and put in your jeans
  • Use your normal detergent and add half a cup of borax
  • Remove your jeans after the cycle is completed
  • Hang your jeans to dry

Use Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is another excellent odor removal. It is not only good in the kitchen but also good for cleaning.

You might want to be careful with using lemon as it also has a bleaching effect.

  • Fill a sink or large bowl with water
  • Add one cup of lemon juice and mix well
  • Completely submerge your jeans and stir. Allow it to soak for hours
  • Rinse off properly with clean water to remove the juice
  • Wash in the machine with the normal wash cycle and cool setting
  • Hand to air-dry

Take note to always dry your jeans naturally. Don’t be tempted to dry it faster with the tumbler dryer. The heat from the tumbler can lock in the smell permanently.

How To Prevent Musty Smell On Jeans?

To keep yourself from worrying about jeans that smell musty, the best thing to do is to prevent the smell. So how do you prevent your jeans from smelling musty?

Do Not Store Them In Damp Places

A damp environment is a good breeding ground for mold. It causes their growth and multiplication. To prevent a musty smell from getting to your jeans, store them in a dry and airy place.

Do Not Store Them Away For Too Long Without Washing Or Wearing Them

Most times we store our clothes including our jeans in our wardrobe and if they’re stacked at the bottom, they are very likely to get moldy if you leave them there for too long.

This is because they don’t get enough air in them. So when next you remember to wear it, you will notice that smell.

So, learn to use your jeans clothes very frequently and if you’ve kept them for too long without using them, you can wash them if they smell musty.

Do Not Leave Them In The Washer For Too Long

After you’re done with your laundry, remove them immediately and dry. Leaving your jeans in the washer will cause the growth of mold and mildew and this, in turn, will cause them to smell musty when you’re ready to dry and use.

Always Clean Your Washer

Your washer needs to be cleaned regularly especially if you’re using the front door washer. Dirt and detergent can get stuck on the rubber seal of the door and decay.

This will cause the washer to smell which in turn will get to your jeans and cause a musty smell.

Opening the door when you’re not using the washer can help, but you have to also clean it frequently too and keep it dry. Moisture can also contributes to the smell of the washer.

Is It Okay To Wear Jeans That Smell Musty?

No, it’s not good to wear jeans that smell musty. Apart from the fact that the offensive smell could keep you and others uncomfortable, it also puts your health and that of others at risk. The fungus can be harmful to your health.

When you put your jeans with a musty smell on, the fungus can leak into the air and irritate the throat and lungs. It can cause itching, coughing, runny nose, and watery eyes.

Children, older adults, and those with respiratory infections are more prone to infection from mildew. More serious infections can lead to nausea, fatigue, headache, and neurological problems.

So, it’s safer to wash your jeans properly when they smell musty and do your best to prevent the smell.

Why Your Jeans Smell Musty Even After Washing

Your jeans will smell musty after washing if it’s not washed properly. You should use vinegar, baking soda, and some other odor neutralizer to kill the fungus and remove the smell.

And also, if the washer is the cause of the smell, your jeans will always smell musty after every wash. Learn to clean your washer and eliminate the smell before using it for your laundry.

Furthermore, drying your jeans in a damp place can cause them to develop a smell. Also if your jeans are not properly dried and you go ahead and store them, they will grow moldy and smell.

So, to eliminate this smell after washing, dry your clothes in a dry place and always make sure they are well dried before storing them.


Musty smells are very common with clothes especially if you stay in a cold environment. But you can always prevent this smell on your jeans by preventing the growth of the fungus causing the smell.

Store your jeans properly and remove the smell from your washer. Smelling clean and fresh in your jeans is always refreshing. It will keep you feeling smart and boost your confidence.

When you eliminate the musty smell from your jeans, you’re also protecting yourself and others.

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