Getting Rid of Musty Smell

Some vintage items come complete with a not so great vintage smell. Linens, clothes and books sometimes have a musty or mildew smell, but they are too amazing to leave behind. If it is something that you can put the laundry, I would first recommend trying to wash the item first; however, some vintage pieces are dry clean only. Unless you have a serious dry clean hook-up, it’s expensive to get something dry cleaned, and will cut into your profit margin, so here is what I recommend to get the smell out of a variety of items.

If the item is clothing or linens and the smell did not go away after washing (not dry-clean only), soak the item in water, wring out the excess, fold and place in a freezer bag. I recommend these 60ct gallon Ziplock bags as they will fit most items, save large linens. For larger linens I’d recommend the 2.5 gallon bags here. If you have a big blanket or quilt you may have to tight camp roll the blanket and tape two of the larger 2.5 gallon bags together. The reason for the freezer bag is to help minimize freezer burn and to protect your item from your freezer’s food stuffs. After you have your damp musty item in the freezer bag, put it in the freezer. Leave it in the freezer for two weeks.

After two weeks are up put the item, still in the bag in your sink to thaw to room temperature. The reason for the thawing to room temperature is that vintage items can be delicate, and may become brittle if there is a quick temperature difference, say for example 31F in your freezer to 100F in the hot humid Virginia sunshine. Leaving it in your sink to thaw will help it slowly adjust, and also depending on the temperature of your house, won’t make a big mess on your counters in case condensation forms on the outside of the bag. Once the items has thawed enough you can unfold it, take it outside and let it hang to dry. While it is recommended to put the item in the sun to dry for the best effect, if the item is too delicate to handle direct sun, or if the outside temperature is too hot, hang it in a shady area outside.

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If you have a dry clean only item of clothing, linens, blanket, or something that should never get wet like a book, do the same thing as above except wet the item before putting it in the freezer bag. Place your dry items into a freezer bag for the same amount of time, and then place in sink after two weeks to thaw. It will take less time to thaw, since the item was not wet prior to freezing, but you should still air it out outside. Never put books in direct sunlight. Not only will it age and yellow the paper, but the heat of the sun can break down the book binding. Make a little teepee like this in a dry elevated shady spot, and let it sit outside for a couple of hours.

Depending on how old the item is and how strong the smell is you may have to do this more than once, but most of the time the mustiness is gone after the first time. This advice will not work if the item has an active visible mold or mildew problem (green or black spots in places where it shouldn’t be). This also works really great if you every put a load of laundry in the wash, forget it and go on a weekend trip, and then comeback to some icky smelling clothes. I hope this was helpful, and thank you for reading!