Soiled, dirty clothing in the closet, such as in a clothes hamper, is one source of unpleasant closet odors. Scan through the items on hangers and hooks to find out if an outfit or outerwear may be responsible -- cigarette smoke, gym funk or odors left behind from working in a restaurant may stay on clothing for some time, making the entire closet less than fresh. Remove all the shoes and boots, checking them inside and out for potential problem odors. A pet mistaking the closet for the litter box or a patch of grass may also be responsible for creating a foul odor on the floor. If the closet remains closed in a humid environment for long periods of time, it may smell musty, indicating potential mold or mildew.
Clean That Closet
Remove everything from the closet, unless you are certain you've found the source of the unpleasant odor and have removed it separately; either way, pick up all the items off the floor so you can clean more easily. Vacuum a carpeted closet use a static dust mop to pick up dust and debris. If the carpet smells stale, sprinkle baking soda on it and allow it to sit overnight before vacuuming. Baking soda also removes odor from smelly shoes. If pet urine on the floor -- carpet or otherwise -- caused the smell, spritz the spot with equal parts vinegar and water; then blot with a soft white cloth after several minutes. If the floor is laminate, apply the vinegar solution to a cloth instead of directly on the floor; then wipe the floor down. If the space smells musty, dry it out with a dehumidifier or by turning on an air conditioner while leaving the closet door open. Turn on a ceiling fan or portable fan to help dry out the space. Wipe down the walls with the vinegar solution as well if the closet smells musty. Keep the cloth damp but not soaking wet.
Absorb Lingering Odors
If the closet still smells less than fresh after removing soiled, stinky items and cleaning the floor, place bowls of vinegar in the closet overnight and close the door. Vinegar absorbs odors. If you do not care for the smell of vinegar, bowls of ground coffee work in much the same manner. Keep pets and young children away from the closet while using the odor-absorbing bowls, or place the substances in lidded containers, poking holes in the lid. Place several opened boxes of baking soda around the closet to deodorize the space, much as you may the refrigerator.
Add a fresh fragrance to that formerly foul closet by adding sprigs of dried lavender to sachet bags, hanging them from hooks or setting them on shallow trays throughout the closet. Make your own clothing and room refresher using your favorite essential oil scents such as lavender, orange or peppermint and distilled water in a spray bottle. Add eight to 10 drops of oil per cup of water, shaking the mixture; add more oil if you desire a stronger scent. Spritz the air or a scrap piece of cloth to leave in the closet rather than spraying directly on clothing to prevent stains.