How to Store Blankets Without Inviting Mildew

Dear Home Ec 101,

I have a serious problem with the old lady, musty laundry smell. I keep my sleeping bag, electric blanket and my baby blanket in a chest at the foot of my bed. Since these are all seasonal items, they quickly get musty in my chest (which isn’t cedar). I’ve tried potpourri, but it’s really too little. I’ve also found that a quick run thru the dryer will freshen them, but that’s irritating because my stuff is dry and clean.
Is there a secret to keeping this stuff smelling fresh? Some kind of super potpourri, perhaps?

Signed,

I Want My Blankie

Heather says:

Sleeping bags are notoriously difficult to dry completely. Folding or rolling it up and placing it in a virtually air tight box is rolling out the welcome mat for mildew, the source of your musty smell.  Mold and mildew are both fungi that love damp environments. While mold can grow inside walls and ventilation systems, mildew is more often associated with fabrics. This is especially true if you live in a humid environment.

You can add a bag or two of chemical desiccant to the chest. Silica gel is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air.  If your chest is not packed tightly, this should suck up the moisture and reduce the growth of mildew, eliminating the source of smell. When adding items to your chest, be sure they are packed loosely, rather than crammed into every last nook and cranny. If air can’t circulate at all, mildew will have a field day.

One last thing, if the chest has picked up the scent of mildew find some activated charcoal, place this in the chest and lock it up tightly for a a few days. Activated charcoal adsorbs -yes, that is a word, it means attracts chemically, a slightly different mechanism than absorption- some odors. Once the chest itself is fresh smelling, it’s safe to store your dry, clean blankets with the chemical desiccant.

Without mildew in the odor competition any potpourri should be up to the task.

A final few tips:

Line wooden storage boxes and chests with acid free paper.

Roll linen rather than folding.

Cloves, rosemary, thyme, lavender, and dried orange peel all make excellent potpourri, just ensure they do not come in direct contact with any fabric to prevent staining during long term storage.

Good luck!

Send your household questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. I store my winter blankets in a closet and have found those large Ziplock bags work well. You are able to get the most of the air out and don't have to worry about them getting any unwanted things on them while being stored.

    • That is a good tip, but only if the blanket or sleeping bag is perfectly dry when it goes in. Air tight plastic bags can also be mildew farms. If the blankets are stored on a day with high humidity a fair amount of moisture will be stored, too. A desiccant could also be used in this situation, too. :)
      Great idea!

  2. My husband stores the sleeping bags and tents unfolded. He usually hangs them in the garage overhead so they don't take up much room.

    • I like this idea, my only concern and it may only be a regional one, is spiders, specifically brown recluse. Just make sure the bags are inspected thoroughly. Their bites are rare, but the love crawling up inside unused bedding.

  3. I store all of my blankets in breathable cloth under-bed storage boxes with zippers I got mine from Big Lots, but I have seen them at Target and Container $tore. I fold new dryer sheets in with the blankets to keep them fresh smelling. Never get mildew and blankets smell fresh when brought out again. The dryer sheets can then be used in the dryer. I have a very heavy quilt that is about equivalent to a sleeping bag that I use a fabric hanging garment bag to store, folded loosely and clothespinned to the internal hanging bar. For that one, I drop a section of air conditioner filter scent pad into the bottom of the bag.

    Those filter scent pads are extremely versatile. I cut them up and put pieces in every drawer and under every sink to keep mustiness at bay, and a piece in the filter section of the cat litter box. I also put half of one under the front seat of my car…but be prepared if you do that…a new one+a closed car on a hot day = scent overload, so you may want to open two doors and wait for fresh air to circulate before getting in to avoid fuming yourself. I tend to wait for the car to cool down anyway because I don't like to overheat my complexion, so it's no big deal. Always wrap the filter pieces with a piece of paper (newsprint is fine) or tuck into a plain envelope (which can be reused) to prevent them from into contact with plastics, fabrics or finished surfaces because some of them will leave a mark. Cinnamon scent seems to do the best job in places where odor is a serious issue…it seems to be chemically active and will drive out the stink.

  4. Thanks for answering my question! I will go get some silica soon.

  5. Thanks, Keter.
    You wrote:
    “I store all of my blankets in breathable cloth under-bed storage boxes with zippers I got mine from Big Lots, but I have seen them at Target and Container $tore”

    Do you know how much these typically cost at Big Lots?