How to clean a small closet — 7 expert-approved tips

All the steps you need to keep your closet clean and tidy

A small wooden closet
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When it comes to cleaning a small closet, you might assume that it’s simply a case of pulling all of your clothes out and giving your cupboard a wipe-down. But, actually, there’s a lot more to properly cleaning your closet than that. 

The truth is that knowing how to effectively clean and reorganize so that it’s a functional and easy-to-use space, isn’t always as simple as you might think. But the good news is that there is a selection of steps cleaning and organization experts always suggest taking when cleaning out a closet. 

To make the process as quick and easy as possible, we’ve rounded up all the best ways to approach cleaning your closet, as well as the steps to organize a closet to ensure that it remains clean and tidy. 

How organization experts clean a small closet

Admittedly, there are plenty of freestanding closet and walk-in closet ideas that you can utilize for keeping your small closet organized. But what about the steps that it takes to ensure that, as well as being well laid out, the space is also clean? This is what the experts have to say. 

1. Start by emptying out your entire closet

Empty closet

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The first step to cleaning out your closet is to empty out everything that's in there. 

This should include clothes, laundry baskets, and any other items that you store in your closet. As well as removing trash that has built up inside your closet (think: discarded clothing tags, broken hangers, and dried-up clothes fresheners). 

To make the process a little easier, aim to group different items into piles, with each piling being categorized. For best results, you want one pile for clothes, one for any garbage that you find, and one for all the other items. 

Alternatively, opt to use storage crates (like these handy storage containers from Amazon) to toss items into. 

Lina DaSilva, Founder of Toronto Shine Cleaning, says: "Empty and wipe down the closet. Donate clothes you no longer wear. Organize your remaining items for easy access."

Lina DaSilva
Lina DaSilva

Lina DaSilva is a cleaning expert and is the Founder of Toronto Shine Cleaning. 

2. Spend some time decluttering

Woman throwing clothes in boxes

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The next step is to spend some time decluttering the items from inside your closet. But admittedly, the process of decluttering a small space, like a compact closet, isn't always as simple as you might think.

A great starting point when it comes to decluttering is to categorize items into keep, donate, and throw piles. This helps to make the process feel a little less overwhelming. 

A handy tip for deciding whether to keep an item or not is to ask yourself when you last used it, when you plan on using it again, and whether you actually need it. If the answer is no, opt to donate or chuck the item out.

“I like to declutter my closet every season when I pull out clothes I’ve had in storage for winter or summer. Try to think about it objectively and be harsh. If you haven’t worn it in the last six months, you probably don’t need to hang onto it," shares Emily Lambe, deputy editor of Real Homes. 

Emily Lambe
Emily Lambe

Emily Lambe is the deputy digital editor at Real Homes. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Rochester Institute of Technology and has been writing ever since. Emily writes about all things decor, fragrance, organization, and other home essentials. 

3. Organize your clothes

Clothes folded into baskets

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once you've decided what you want to keep and what you would like to throw away, the next step is to spend a little time organizing your clothes. 

If you have too many clothes in your closet, then you might want to consider categorizing them into summer and winter piles, keeping the relevant season in your wardrobe, and opting to store the other garments. 

For organizing your clothes within your wardrobe, it's important to ensure that you have adequate organizers in place. I personally opt to use hanging closet organizers (like these easy-to-fit hanging organizers from Amazon), and put drawer organizers (like these space-saving, pop-up drawer organizers from Amazon) in my closet drawers. 

4. Vacuum inside your closet

Vacuuming white carpet

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Before you can put your clothes back inside your closet, giving the floor, shelves, and drawers a good vacuum is important for removing dust, dirt, and debris. 

For this, ideally, you need to use a vacuum that features adjustable suction speeds and has a long suction hose (the Miele Boost vacuum from Amazon would be ideal for this). Make sure that you get into every nook and cranny, removing all visible dirt and debris. 

4. Wipe your closet from top to bottom

Wiping table with pink cloth

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Once all the dust and debris has been vacuumed up from inside your closet, it's worth taking a little bit of time to give the shelves and floor of your closet a wipe-over. 

For this, I'd recommend opting to use a nice-smelling multi-purpose cleaning spray, like this Method Lime and Sea Salt all-purpose spray from Amazon, along with a microfiber cloth (these washable microfiber cloths from Amazon are a great option for this). However, if you'd prefer a more convenient cleaning option, multi-purpose cleaning wipes (like these Lysol cleaning wipes from Amazon) can work just as well. 

For reaching all those tight corners and small gaps, a gap cleaning tool (like this microfiber gap cleaner from Amazon) can also work well. 

5. Be creative with storage space

Clothes on clothes rack

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The reality is that in small spaces storage is at a premium, so getting creative when it comes to small-space storage ideas, whether it's for your home itself or for your closet, is essential. 

For making more of the storage space that you have in your closet, utilizing space-saving buys, like these vacuum sealable storage bags from Amazon that you can use to store clothes in or these space-saving hangers from Amazon, is important.

"Utilize storage solutions like under-bed containers or wall-mounted shelves to optimize space," says Angela Rubin, Cleaning Expert from Hellamaid. 

Angela Rubin, cleaning expert at HellaMaid
Angela Rubin

Angela Rubin works at Hellamaid, a top-rated cleaning company in Canada. Hellamaid are industry experts specializing in residential and commercial cleaning services. 

6. Put your clothes back into your closet

Clothes in closet

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Before you return your clothes to your closet, it's worthwhile taking the time to sort them into piles in relation to how you would like to store them. Create one pile for clothes that you'll hang on hangers and another pile for clothes that will be stored in your closet's drawers. 

For keeping closet drawers organized, using drawer organizers (like these drawer organizers from Amazon that I have at home) tends to work well. For keeping hanging clothes ordered and neat, closet dividers (like these Sukh Store dividers from Amazon) work wonderfully. 

7. Keep your closet smelling fresh

Reed differ on tray with greenery

(Image credit: Canva)

Once you've cleaned out and organized your closet, it's worth thinking about how you can ensure that the space remains fresh and clean. 

A great hack for this is to add scent sachets (like these lavender-scented sachets from Amazon) to your closet (and drawers). You could also opt to use a clothing freshener spray (like this Febreze fabric refresher spray from Amazon) to keep clothes smelling fresh. 

To make sure that condensation or dampness isn't an issue within your closet, adding a moisture absorber (like these gel moisture absorbers from Amazon) could be a good idea. 


How can you keep your closet clean?

To keep your closet clean, regular care and maintenance is vital. As well as making sure that you're regularly decluttering your closet to prevent unnecessary mess. 

To make this process easier, Lambe says: "My top tip is to keep everything where you can actually see it so you know where your clothes are and remember items you may have forgotten about."

What's the benefit of cleaning out my closet?

Lambe says: "Keeping your small closet clean is so helpful for day-to-day tasks and it makes my morning so much smoother."

Cleaning out your closet will make finding the things that you need easier and less stressful. It will also ensure that you have all of the room that you need in your closet to store all of your essentials, rather than running out of space. 

Knowing how to approach cleaning a small closet can be more challenging than you might think. 

For best results, start cleaning out your small closet by decluttering it first, and then taking the time to clean and wipe each area of your cupboard before placing your clothes back inside. 

Once you've cleaned your closet out and decluttered your clothes, it's important to keep on top of regular maintenance. 

Lambe says: "After you've finished cleaning your closet, ensure that you're keeping the shelves clean and dust-free so none of your clothes get damaged or dirty. It's also important to keep it dry so nothing starts to smell."

Beth Mahoney
Freelance journalist

Hi! I’m Beth Mahoney and I’m a former staff writer at Real Homes. I’ve been a journalist for the national press for the past six years, specializing in commerce and trends-related lifestyle articles, from product reviews and listicles to guides and features. With an eye for pretty things (think: quirky wall prints, scalloped edge furniture, and decadent-looking tableware) but a limited budget, I love nothing more than a bargain buy.