How to Get Rid of a Personal Mold or Mildew Smell


Willy asked: My sister smells like mold and mildew. I do not, and I wash all our clothes. We live in the same house, and the laundry is never left sitting in the washer. It is completely dried before returning it to her closet. I don’t know where it is coming from. Please help me. Could this be a medical issue or medication? This house is only nine years old and extremely clean.

If you’ve noticed an odd odor resembling mold or mildew that seems to be with you no matter how much you wash, there are a handful of likely causes. The following list will help you narrow down potential causes and hopefully lead to a cure. With any luck, you’ll smell fresh and clean in no time!

Possible Odor Causes

  • Laundry. Leaving wet clothes in the washing machine can cause a smell that is difficult to eradicate. Rewash clothing with a cup of white vinegar to help get rid of any lingering smells.
  • The washing machine. Some machines, front loading styles in particular, can develop mold or mildew in the machine and the smell will transfer to clothing. Clean the washing machine with white vinegar, paying close attention to any seals, rubber fittings, or dark areas that can hide mold. You can run the machine with just water and white vinegar, but you’ll still need to peel back any seals to wipe away mold if it’s there.
  • The dryer. Make sure the vent is clean and that there’s no lint stuck inside the machine. Dryers can pick up odors that transfer to clothing in the drying process.
  • The closet. If you have mold in the closet or drawers where your clothing is stored, they will easily take on the odor. Check wooden areas, unfinished ones in particular, for discoloration which can indicate mold. Thoroughly check closet floors for damp spots, especially if they’re carpeted. Look for discoloration on painted walls or fuzzy growth of any color on the walls or fixtures. If you can’t find signs of mold or mildew but the smell is there, try steam cleaning the carpet. Alternatively, you can use a mold odor eradicator to help with the scent. A dehumidifier will also work wonders in a room with a mold or mildew odor, but the only true cure is to get rid of the source of the smell so it may be time to call in a pro.
  • A medical condition. If the smell doesn’t seem to be in the clothing or the environment, it may be time to head to the doctor for a checkup. Even a mild infection can cause an odd body odor, and getting one can be as easy as walking around barefoot or using someone else’s shower.
  • Habits. Where are you spending time? Perhaps the smell is getting picked up from an activity or place you frequent?


  1. Eileen says:

    Two other things to consider: bedding and your mattress/box spring. Old bedding ,including and especially pillows, can develop a mildew smell to it, even when laundered regularly, at which point it’s simply time to replace the items with new ones. Some people will eat or drink in their bed while watching TV, etc., and spill. Even after clean-up, moisture can remain and cause mold or mildew inside the mattress. Some people get used to the smell as it grows over time; they sleep in it every night and don’t realize it’s there.

  2. Autonomy says:

    Believe it or not, diet plays a large role in what a person smells like. I have found that people from certain cultures seem to emit different body scents, which could be associated to their unique diet. My brother doesn’t eat any fruit or vegetables, he survives on a high meat diet and their are times where he smells like a cow!

  3. Moth says:

    Also, psychological stress can cause the body to do some weird things… I had a dear friend who for about three months exuded a pungent odor that smelled exactly like cat urine that necessitated the winding down of car windows, etc. (she didn’t have a cat and this wasn’t BO or coming from clothing; I was plenty familiar with the smell of her regular BO), but once she got out of the bad emotional spot she was in, she went back to her normal scent with the occasional natural hippie BO moment. Maybe your sister’s strange smell is a sign she might need some emotional support at the moment? Maybe a probiotic too?

  4. Spinsgood says:

    I’ve heard that there is a fungus that can grow on your scalp and in your hair that smells musty and like mold. Maybe it’s her hair. I think you have to get an Rx to fix that or tea tree oil.

  5. Clean says:

    Maybe she washes her hair and doesn’t dry it? Wet hair can sometimes smell strange – like wet wool. Pillows might smell moldy if sleeping on them with wet hair.

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