How to Deep Clean Your Walk-In Closet for an Organized Look Year-Round

When many of us think about spring cleaning, it’s quickly followed a collective shudder and the thought, “I’ll just do it next week.” The truth is, deep cleaning the entire house in one fell swoop can seem unbelievably overwhelming. But, though I know it’s not everybody’s favorite pastime, there’s just something so satisfying about starting the season off with a fresh home—and a fresh closet.

With that drive in mind, we’ve put together a guide for how to get your custom walk-in closet under control throughout the year. From care tips for your cabinetry surfaces to dealing with odors and a plan for spreading your cleaning tasks over the full twelve months, you’ll be well equipped to meet spring with less stress (at least where your closet is concerned).

Caring for Your Custom Walk-In Closet

One of the best things about having a custom walk-in closet (especially when made from melamine) is that the surfaces are incredibly easy to care for.

The most you’ll need for your cabinet doors, shelves, and drawer boxes is a quick wipe down with a microfiber dusting cloth. We recommend spritzing the cloth with a bit of water, especially for use on your adjustable shoe shelves. Dirt, dust, grass, and other unmentionables can collect here underneath your resting soles, and that little bit of moisture will help everything cling to your cloth even better. Be sure to dry each surface thoroughly with a fresh cloth afterward.


For any stubborn dirt or spills, carefully use a mild household cleaner (such as Green Works) sprayed on your dusting cloth. If you need to remove fingerprints or smudges from glass doors or surfaces, feel free to use a small amount of Windex or other mild glass cleaner and a soft cloth, taking care not to scratch the surface. Your custom system doesn’t need abrasive household cleaners, solvents, bleach, or any other specialty products to stay clean—in fact, these products can actually damage finished surfaces and should be avoided.


To keep things squeaky clean throughout the year, consider wiping down your closet surfaces every month or so. This will take care of any dust that settles on your counter surfaces and shelves, and will also be a good opportunity for you to put away any clothing items that may have piled up there. (I’m looking at you, haphazard stack of businesswear from the past four Fridays). This simple cleaning task usually only takes about five minutes total but can make a huge difference in the way your closet looks and feels.


But what about how your closet smells?


Make Your Master Closet Smell Like Heaven

It’s no secret that closets have a unique atmospheric issue. The causes for the musty closet smell are obvious: clothing and shoes can easily bring odors into the small room. On top of that, the closet is often not connected via your household air conditioning system, probably has less than ideal air circulation, and might not have access to natural light (or an open window).

However, giving your closet a deep clean can help your clothing smell fresh and new, and this process is best done once a year. Here’s a step-by-step method for taking care of a musty closet once and for all.

Step 1: Clear your closet.

The first step in deodorizing a closet is simple: remove absolutely everything. This is your yearly excuse to wash all of your clothes and linens and line dry, if possible. If not, time to send everything to the cleaners for some R&R. During this time of year, I also like to have my winter coats cleaned (if I can spare them just yet) so they will store fresh until next year.


Step 2: Let the sunshine in.

No matter how you choose to clean your clothes, you can definitely use the power of the sun to your advantage. Line drying your clothes and linens automatically lends them a fresh scent. Airing out your drawers, storage boxes, and baskets doesn’t just get fresh air into these small spaces—the sun literally bakes odors away in a flash. Especially after the humid summers in Northern VA, it’s no surprise your closet could use a little airing out.


Step 3: Deodorize with vinegar.

Now that we’ve got a clean canvas to work with, we can start on the real deodorizing work. Fill a few small bowls with white vinegar and place them inside your closet, on shelves, and on the floor. Open all drawers and cabinets—even your velvet-lined jewelry drawers once everything has been removed. Close the door to your closet, and let the vinegar sit overnight to thoroughly deodorize the atmosphere of this small room. You’ll only smell the vinegar while it’s actually inside the closet—as soon as you remove the bowls, everything will smell fresh and clean.


Step 4: Use baking soda for carpets.

Now we need to take care of any odors that may be lingering in your carpet. Dust a layer of baking soda on the floor and wait 15 minutes for it to work its magic. Baking soda is another natural deodorizer and helps take care of the humidity in your closet that may be causing the musty smell. Finally, get out your vacuum and sweep away the baking soda—leaving a clean floor behind. Be sure to get those corners and baseboards with the crevice tool.


Step 5: Ensure good smells year-round.

I like to use a DIY linen spray (just a few drops of my favorite essential oils mixed into a spray bottle filled with water) and spritz the clothing before putting each item back into the closet. If you’d like to add scent to the room itself, now’s the time. Spritz a couple of cotton balls lightly with your favorite perfume and place on the shelves in your shoe wall, or tuck sachets of lavender into each drawer. Pro tip: each time I place newly-folded laundry in the drawers, I give my sachets a little squeeze to re-energize the scent.


For a perpetual refresher, leave a bag of bamboo-activated charcoal in your closet. If shoes are a particularly odorous issue, place small shoe inserts inside each pair made from this same renewable resource. Refresh these bags once a month by placing them in the sunshine for an afternoon, and they’re as good as new—no replacement needed!

Creating fresh smells in your closet can make your entire wardrobe feel new and cared for. However, you are probably concerned with how you’re going to maintain this level of clean year-round. We’ve got your back with our next tip.


Your Yearly Closet Cleaning Schedule

It can be a drag to try and keep track of all the cleaning tasks to be done around the home—that’s why the more organized adults among us keep cleaning schedules or calendars that let them know when they’re next due to clean behind the stove. The same principle applies to your master closet.

Instead of diving headfirst into spring cleaning your closet only once per year, try using our handy Closet Cleaning Schedule to stay on track with your monthly chores so that your space remains clean and pristine.


Cleaning Task


Purchase or refresh your closet deodorizers. See Step 5 in the section above for chemical-free tips to keep your closet smelling fresh all year long.


Go through all of your accessories. Untangle necklaces, make sure each earring set is a full pair, straighten your ties, and organize your collection to look like a boutique once more. Now is the time to give away or donate any scarves or jewelry that have fallen out of fashion or that no longer fit your style.

End of winter

Now that winter is officially over, go through your winter clothes. Set aside items that you didn’t wear at least once during the cold season, and donate or store these items elsewhere. Move your winter clothing items onto wardrobe lifts to make room for your sundresses and tank tops.


Air out and deodorize your closet using Steps 1-4 outlined in the section above. Be sure to choose a sunny day for this task! This is the activity that you might consider most like “spring cleaning.”

End of summer

Depending on your location, your summer may last through October. In any case, this is the time to sort your summer clothing. The items that are damaged, that no longer fit, or that you constantly skipped over can be donated at this time.


Give your shoe collection a yearly tune-up. Take a good look at your sandals, boots, and heels, and polish or clean any pair that needs a bit of love. For those that no longer fit your style or that are sorely worn out, toss them in the donate pile. Now is the time to polish your work loafers until they shine. Hint: if you haven’t worn them in the past year, you’re more likely to buy a new pair than to pull them out in the future.


If you take care of these organizing and cleaning tasks throughout the year, you’ll notice that there’s suddenly a lot less to do on your big annual spring cleaning list. These tips will help to keep your master closet as stunning as the day you had it installed—and can easily be applied to any other closet space in your home.

Looking for a custom closet solution that will help your wardrobe stay clean and organized all year? If you’re located in the DC-Baltimore Metro Area, Closet America may be the local company you’ve been searching for.

At Closet America, we specialize in creating high-quality closet systems for both walk-in and reach-in spaces that are as durable as they are functional. Reach out to us today to learn how to give your closets new life with a custom organization system. With a custom closet and these handy cleaning tips, you’ll never dread spring cleaning your closet again.

  Image credits: Unsplash user Dương Trần Quốc and Unsplash user Bruno Nascimento