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My clothes smell of mold 2017/12/30 09:58
I recently found myself in a rather embarrassing situation, and so I thought I'd seek some help from the fine people on this forum.

So I recently went home to Europe for the winter holidays for a few weeks and brought with me some clothes to wear during that time. Pretty much the next day, my parents told me my clothes smelled kind of moldy. Shocked to hear this, I changed into some other clothes, but got the same reaction from them. Upon further inspection, it appeared that all my clothes had a moldy smell to them.

I felt so embarrassed since I'm someone who takes very good care of my clothes and my appearance and the thought of having clothes that smell of mold is just horrifying to me. Yet I'd failed to notice this until my family told me. There were even some clothes I'd bought just a few months ago that were still brand new, but those too smelled moldy.

Anyway, it seems clear to me that I have a mold problem in my apartment but I don't know what to do about it. To give you more details about my living situation: I live in Kanagawa in a 1K apartment by myself. During summers, I only really open the windows in the evenings for about 15-20 minutes after temperatures cool down, but otherwise I always leave them shut, and use the dehumidifying option on my AC instead which I set to about 23-24 degrees. During winter, I open my windows for about 30 minutes either in the evenings or sometimes the mornings on weekends. I also regularly use the heating function on the AC which I then run on 25-26 degrees for a few hours a day.

Apart from that, in order to reduce humidity during summers, I've started using various products bought at the home centers this year which I've placed in my closet as well as my drawers. I've had that charcoal in a plastic container thing with an elephant on it, but I've also been using those white bags you can hang up in your closet with a paper hook, as well as other plastic contraptions with moisture absorbing elements you can place both in closets and in drawers. They last for a year and say "owari" when they're done.

My drawers are those made of plastic yiu can get at the home centers, and I have one small of those plastic owari products in each drawer to protect my clothes from mold and humidity. Despite all these precautions, my clothes seem to turn moldy anyway. So, should I get myself a dehumidifier to combat this, or is there anything else I need to consider to solve this embarrassing issue?
by Teos (guest)  

Re: Help, my clothes smell of mold 2017/12/30 12:30
You probably need to open up your house/apartment more often. I dont think you are getting enough fresh air into it. Especially in the hotter months.

Maybe not a moldy smell, but a musky smell.

Either way, you probably need to check you house apartment and washer/dryer for dampness and take action as required.
by hakata14 (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: Help, my clothes smell of mold 2017/12/30 12:33
If you are using liquid laundry detergent, try switching to powder. I found that liquid leaves a lot of residual smell.
by Firas rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2017/12/30 15:27
Do you always dry your clothes in the dryer, moving them from the washer to the dryer? By any chance do they sit in the washer once washed, say when you are at work, before you are able to dry them? Have you got one of those outdoor pole lines on a balcony that you can put laundry style clothes hangers out, with your shirts, or clothing , so the lighter things can be out in a breeze airing as well as drying. Look around your neighbors, how are they drying clothes? Even the little plastic clothes dryer things with attached pegs, are good for small items, that can be put outside. Make sure your dryer has all the lint removed from the filters. If you have clothes or towels that are not completely dry, have you got an airing type cupboard where your gas/electric water heater is, where things could be racked for several days until bone dry. Just suggestions!
by LoveJapan (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2017/12/31 00:08
do not leave your clothes in wet condition for a long time.
do not hang up your wet clothes in your room.
you may use ワイドハイター, when you wash your clothes.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2017/12/31 08:41

You're probably right. Musky is closer to what I meant than mold, since there aren't any mold stains etc. but just an unpleasant smell.

You and other people mentioned the washing machine which is something I hadn't considered yet, so thanks for the idea.


Yes, I actually switched over to using a liquid washing detergent a year or so ago. Switching back to powder is an option that's worth trying out. But to be honest, it's not so much the laundry process itself that leaves a bad smell, it's the storage of my clothes after the laundry process.


I don't own a separate dryer. My washing machine (Haier) has a dryer function built into it, so I can set the laundry course to dry automatically after the wash cycle is over. The dryer is just hot air blowing through the machine, so nothing as fancy as what we have back in Europe though.
I usually do my laundry on the weekends when I'm home, so I never leave it in the machine for more than a half hour after wash and dry cycles are finished. I should also note that after the machine drying, the clothes are still a little wet, so I still hang them up to dry. I have a special laundry line that was installed inside the apartment for that purpose. I think some tenants in the building probably hang their clothes out to dry on the balcony using a metal pole and plastic hangers etc. (which I also have), but I've always dried my garments inside because I found it more convenient.

Good point on the lint in the lint filter of the washing machine by the way! I only ever remove that once the filter is completely full, but I should probably change that habit now.

Finally, I'm not sure what you meant with an "airing type cupboard", but chances are I probably don't have that.

Overall, I'm happy with the different suggestions you guys have given me, especially with air drying my clothes and the things I can tweak regarding my washing machine. It's worth trying out. That being said, as mentioned above to hakata14, it's more the actual storage of the clothes themselves (including the ones I don't wear that often and consequently don't need to wash that often) that I think is causing this musky smell, and maybe not so much the washing process per se. I could be wrong, however.
by Teos (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/2 03:34
If you sometimes hang your clothe to dry, during the wet seasons when the whether is cold, never hang them in your room, there is a good chance of it getting the smell, if you must, your room must have plenty of fresh air coming in. As someone has mentioned, clothes kept wet too long will generate the smell.
by kms899 rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/2 14:40
One of the guys at work had that issue. Seriously, he reeked and didnt know it, I thought it was body odour. Anyway after a few weeks I couldnt hold back so I told him he stunk, and it was from the moment he came in in the morning. It ended up that he had wet clothes he'd left in a closed room to dry that developed a smell, then that "infected" his other clothes that were washed with them, in the end he had to throw them all out because he couldnt get rid of the smell.
by Lazy Pious (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/2 19:00
If you have a washer-dryer combo machine. It doesn't use air to heat your clothes. It uses steam as the heat source. Hence why the clothes always come out slight damp.

And then they need to be aired out enough to dry fully. Since you close up the house so much. I doubt you air out your clothes enough. So you probably have a musk or slight mould issue.

You will need to wash all you clothes and you washing machine using either vinegar or sodium percarbonate, also known as oxibleach, oxybleach precarbonate soda etc.

The machine will need a few empty washes to give it a good clean out.
by hakata14 rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/6 05:17

What do you mean by "wet season"? Did you mean rainy season during summer?

@Lazy Pious,

That sounds terrible for that guy since he didn't know. Still, I think it's not necessary to throw out one's entire wardrobe. Airing everything out would be a good first start.


I'm going to try and start air drying my clothes on the balcony more from now on, or opening the window if I hang them inside rather than letting them dry with the windows closed. I'll also try opening up my drawers more often for fresh air circulation, and if necessary, air the clothes themselves out periodically as well.

What I'm not sure of though, is how my clothes are going to dry properly if I leave them out on the balcony during summer as opposed to leaving them drying inside with the AC on.
Also, in the end, those small mold/moist absorbing contraptions I placed in each of the drawers had no effect. Same for the other moist absorbing contraptions. This is what still leaves me puzzled.

As for the machine itself, yeah I know what you mean. I have a couple of those anti-kabi liquids I use a few times a year to clean and sanitize the machine. I might need to do it more often since my machine still periodically seems to produce that musky smell after a washing session.
by Teos (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/8 22:57
Just for the record, the type of disposable dehumidifiers i've been using are these:
by Teos (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/9 14:26
Just one more suggestion, similar to hakata14’s; when you wash your clothes, add セスキ炭酸ソーダ(sodium sesquicarbonate) or 重曹(soda but not for cooking, for cleaning) probably 1/3 of your total use of detergent.
If you keep using, it will also clean your wash machine.
I’m a mother of two teenage boys who play basketball and I use セスキ every day.
You can buy them at home centers, drug stores or 100yen shops.
by ... (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/9 21:36
First of all, if the only things that smell are your clothes that have been washed in your washing machine, then it's most likely your washing machine which can be improved by properly washing the machine itself.

If clothes that you had never washed also smell moldy, it can be your closet, drawer or even your suitcase. These, of course, can be improved by replacing the closet, drawer, suitcase etc.

However, if your other belongings also smell, such as the outer surface of your suitcase or anything else such as your books or souvenirs you had kept in your apartment for a while, then I'm afraid I have to say that your whole apartment room is moldy. In that case, it will be very difficult to get rid of the moldy smell that has soaked into your whole room.

In any case, try to get a lot of sun in your room even during summer. And if you ever decide to move to a different place in Japan, try to look for a room that gets a decent amount of sun from the south side. As long as the west side is shady, the room will not become extraordinary hot. Locals always seek rooms that are faced to the south and the east. It makes a big difference, not only for smells but also for your own health.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/10 11:22
I agree with UCO.
the OP is doing wrong ways.
do not leave used clothes unwashed, especially when used clothes are wet.
for white color clothes, add ハイター, hypochlorite, when washing.
for non-white color clothes, add ワイドハイター.
do not hang up your clothes in your room when drying.
if not improved by the above ways, your room itself is too humid. move to another room.

alternatively, you can use "coin laundry". because their dryers are stronger than ordinary ones for family use, they will kill mold and bacteria by heat.
by ken (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/26 12:08
Hi again guys, and sorry for the super late reply!


Thanks for the tip.


Thanks for the tip about where the apartment faces. Didn't know that. As for how moldy my room was/is, I'm afraid I have to admit it didn't just seem to be the clothes I washed or my suitcase, but even clothes that are in my closet which I bought recently. I've tried airing all my closets out since coming back, as well as hanging my clothes outside to air them out. And when I do my laundry now, I try to hang them outside to dry. I also leave the windows open more frequently than before.

You mentioned I should also get a lot of sun/open windows during summer though. I think the reason I stopped doing this in the past is because I used to leave the windows open before (in an attempt to save electricity bills), but what I started noticing is that all the humidity got to my clothes anyway, so I stopped opening the windows as often, and relied on the dehumidifier function of my AC instead.

As for the washing machine, the other week I cleaned it with one of those cleaning agents I had from the supermarket. It helped to get the smell out for a few days, but it started smelling again soon after. When I leave the lid open, it's not so bad, but if I close it for a day and open it again, the smell is pretty pungent.


Thanks for the tips. I think the fact that I've been hanging my clothes inside has been one contributing factor, but also the lack of circulation of the clothes themselves.
by Teos (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/26 16:20
Hi again.

but what I started noticing is that all the humidity got to my clothes anyway, so I stopped opening the windows as often, and relied on the dehumidifier function of my AC instead.

We have a summer house in an extremely humid place, and people have told us that this is what we should do, and it works pretty well:

We should open windows during sunny daytime when the air is dry, for a few hours. Once the room is dried, we should close the windows but keep our curtains open so that humidity won't come in but the sun will. It's pretty much the same idea as drying futon, which should be out in the sun during maybe 10am-2pm, or near a closed window on cold sunny days. We use a dehumidifier on the wall when we're not at the house, but still keep a lot of the curtains open.

Frankly though, it sounds to me that you need to move away and maybe change your laundry machine too if you really want to get rid of that smell you describe. We can't get rid of the smell we once got at our summer house. We can only prevent it from getting worse. But still, it's home sweet home.
by Uco rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/1/27 01:00
Thanks for following up, Uco.

Sure thing, I will definitely try out what you've described.

Sounds very scary tbh that you can't get rid of the smell once it's there. Yikes. I've been living in my current place for the past three years almost but only this year I got the comment in my original post for the first time.
by Teos (guest) rate this post as useful

Re: My clothes smell of mold 2018/8/29 04:58
This is a huge issue in Japan! I think often because of these combo dryers. I promise
you that the issue is not in your apartment. Two things I know of cause this: clothes staying wet after washing, and using too much detergent. too much detergent leaves a residue that either keeps the clothes from drying or provided an environment for the mildew to grow.

you need to start washing all loads with less soap (probably), and you need to add vinegar to the loads (definitely). a half cup (4oz) will do. this will totally help! if I were you, I would stop using the combo washer dryer all together. unfortunately it is a flawed product! this smell is one my least favorite things in life, basically my mission to help people fix it. white vinegar is the key. I’m up late in a hostel in kyushu right now, miserable because all of the sheets and pillows are horribly mildewed...
by mildew_mission (guest) rate this post as useful

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