Why Does My Shirt Smell Like Mildew: 4 Best Prevention Tips

A musty smell in clothes can be annoying. Have you always asked yourself “why does my shirt smell like mildew?”

Well, the quickest answer is, it probably has mildew growing on it. In household terms, mildew often generically refers to mold growth. 

why does my shirt smell like mildew

Aside from being aesthetically displeasing, mildew can also cause a variety of health issues to humans. That is why they must be eradicated from your homes immediately.

Read on this article to know more about the mildew smell in shirts and how to get rid of it.


What Causes Shirts To Smell Like Mildew?

Mildew is a type of fungus that appears white, yellow, or gray. This fungus produces spores that travel through the air and contaminate surfaces such as fabrics, wood, paper, walls, window sills, and other areas with high moisture levels.

Mildew growth gives that distinct musty odor in shirts and fabrics in general. Clothes stored in damp areas with poor ventilation are prone to mildew growth. 

This is because mildew spores thrive and germinate in places with high relative humidity (above 70%) and moderately warm temperatures (above 65⁰F).

A mildew smell in shirts can also be a sign that your washing machine or dryer is infested by mildew. Here is a useful guide on how to get mildew smell out of dryer.

You should also check your closest and drawers for signs of mildew infestation.


Is It Okay To Wear Shirts That Smell Like Mildew?

It is not safe to wear shirts that smell like mildew. Even if you don’t see mildew stains on it, chances are, mildew spores are already growing on it.

Wearing clothes with mildew can cause skin problems such as mild to severe irritation, rashes, and even toxicity. If inhaled, mildew spores can also cause allergic reactions and other respiratory issues such as wheezing, coughing, nasal and throat irritation, and sinus congestion.

Aside from the musty smell, mildews can also discolor your shirt or worse, damage the fabric causing it to rot.


How Do You Get Mildew Smell Out Of Shirts?

To get rid of mildew smell out of shirts, you must first get rid of the root cause, the fungal growth. 

If you see mildew stains on your shirt, you don’t have to throw them away, you can still salvage them. Below are ways to get rid of mildews on shirts.


Wash shirts with fungicides

Washing shirts with household fungicides such as vinegar, bleach, or borax kills mildew spores.

Vinegar is generally safe for use in fabrics. Just mix vinegar with water (1 part vinegar: 1 part water) to make a solution and apply it directly to the mildew stain.

Alternatively, you can also use bleach to kill mildew spores. It is a very effective fungicide, but it can also damage the fabric of your shirt.

Borax is also an effective mildew killer and deodorizer. Just mix it with water according to the instructions in its packaging label and use it to remove mildew stains on shirts.


Dry clothes in the sun

Mildews are killed by high temperatures of about 140-160°F (60-71°C). Aside from providing heat, sunlight is also the cheapest source of UV radiation which can effectively kill mildew spores.

 Let clothes hang outdoors under the sun to dry and kill mildew spores.


How To Prevent Growth Of Mildews In Clothes

After removing mildew from your clothes, you must prevent their growth to avoid a recurring problem. Here are helpful ways on how to prevent the growth of mildews in clothes.


1. Check areas in your house with mildew infestation

To prevent mildew growth in clothes, you must determine the source of the contamination. Check your washing machine, dryer, closet, and drawers for signs of mildew growth and clean them with fungicide treatments mentioned earlier.


2. Keep storage clean

Clothes must always be stored in clean areas. Dirt from the atmosphere may carry mildew spores that can proliferate on your clothes.


3. Avoid dampness

High humidity favors the growth of mildews. Mildew spores from the atmosphere can easily germinate on damp surfaces.

Using dehumidifiers in your room or desiccants such as silica gels in your closet can keep the air dry.


4. Keep good air circulation

Make sure there is good air circulation in areas where you stack your clothes. Poorly ventilated storage areas get damp and musty easily. 

Avoid overcrowding your closet or drawers with clothes. This way, dry air can enter the storage place.



Mildew growth gives a musty smell to your shirt. As soon as you note this distinct smell or see mildew stains in your shirt or any areas of your home, you must eradicate them quickly.

Follow the steps provided to get rid of the mildew smell in shirts and prevent the growth of this fungus in clothes. Now that we have provided you the answer to your question “why does my shirt smell like mildew”, you now know your next course of action.

Check out our article on how to get mildew smell out of towels to learn more about mildew removal.

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