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How to Get Rid of a
Musty Smell in Your House

June 3, 2022

You’re walking down the hallway and out of nowhere, you catch a whiff of a musty aroma. You backtrack, then go to the other end of the hallway, but you can’t quite pin down the source. A musty smell in a house can come from various sources, so it’s not unusual to have to do some investigating. Understanding where they come from is essential if you want to know how to get rid of musty smells in the house.

What Causes a Musty Smell in a House?

Damp laundry, stagnant air, and leaky pipes can all cause mildew smell in a house. Find the source if you want your home smelling fresh again. Here are some of the usual suspects you’ll want to investigate:

  • Go room by room and check for dirty socks, damp gym clothes, and other odor sources hiding out of sight.
  • Give your empty laundry baskets and hamper the sniff test to see if musty smells are lingering.
  • Give your bathroom a thorough walk-through for evidence of moisture, mold, or mildew.
  • Check underneath your sinks and around your dishwasher and washing machine for leaks or water stains.
  • Get a flashlight and look down inside the garbage disposal to check for mold and mildew.
  • Look at the dishwasher filter and other parts that are prone to buildup.

If you are a dog or cat owner and want to know how to get a musty smell out of your house, start with your loving pet. Shedding, pet accidents, and other pet-related behaviors can lead to stale, unpleasant odors. Ensure litter boxes are cleaned regularly and dog beds are laundered using pet-safe cleaning products.

Regardless of where those foul aromas originate, learning how to get rid of a musty odor in your house is a must for a healthy home. Aside from the unpleasant odor, mold and mildew can cause allergy and asthma symptoms to increase. At their best, musty smells can cause congestion, coughing, headaches, and irritated eyes. When your house smells musty, it’s important to understand the implications and what you can do about them.

How to Get Rid of Musty Smells

Regardless of where the musty smell in your house originates, ventilation is key to clearing the air. Open windows and turn on the ceiling and exhaust fans to get rid of odors and give you some fresh air while you clean. To keep your home smelling fresh and the air your family breathes healthy, use these field-tested tips:

Get a Dehumidifier

Moisture invites mold, mildew, and bacteria to move into your home. If your home interior has high humidity, consider investing in a dehumidifier.

Install an Air Purifier

Bacteria and fungi can also lead to unpleasant odors. An air purifier could help reduce the smell.

Give Your Home a Deep Cleaning

Along with cleaning up mold and mildew you find, consider giving your entire house a thorough cleaning. Dust, dirt, dead skin cells, and other accumulation can cause odors, too. The more dirt and grime you remove, the better your home will smell. Clean floors, walls, and anywhere else these contaminants accumulate.

Remove Musty Odor in Fabric With Baking Soda

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The fabric in carpet, upholstery, and drapes can capture and retain pet, food, and smoke odors. To get rid of odors in fabrics, sprinkle baking soda on the fabric, let it sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum. For particularly dirty fabric, steam cleaning can remove much of the odor along with dirt and stains.

Practice Good Laundry Habits

Don’t leave wet towels on the bathroom floor or damp clothes sit in the hamper. Get in the habit of washing these items asap to prevent the growth of mold and mildew.

Keep Your Return Air Filter Clean

Even if you locate the source of that musty smell in your house, keep in mind that the odor has been circulated throughout your home. To keep the air in your house fresh and clean, clean or replace your filter at least monthly.

Attack Whole-House Odors With Natural Odor Fighters

Any time you need a boost of pleasant aromas, simmer cut lemons on the stovetop. You can also use your favorite essential oil in a diffuser or an organic potpourri scent.

Don’t Forget Your Pets

Brush your pets regularly to minimize the amount of odor-causing hair and dander in your home. Don’t forget to keep their feeding and water bowls and beds clean.

Use these tips to keep musty smells at bay in your home and enjoy the sweet aroma of clear air. No more foul odor or stuffy noses for your family! But what if you follow all these tips and still smell mold or mildew? If your home has a basement, the source of all those odors could be, literally, right under your nose!

How To Get Rid Of Musty Smells In Your Basement

Mold and mildew are also the likely cause of odors in your basement, and their presence could be more of a concern than an unpleasant odor. Mold and other moisture-related consequences can damage the structure of your home, if left untreated. It’s also important to note that odor-causing bacteria and mold in the basement can get into your HVAC ductwork and contaminate the rest of your home.

Follow these tips to cure basement mustiness at the source:

  • Keep your basement windows and exterior doors open whenever the weather permits.
  • Install a dehumidifier in the basement to balance the air quality and minimize moisture.
  • Clean up visible mold and mildew using these proven methods.
  • Wrap exposed water pipes with foam to reduce condensation in the basement.
  • Check exposed ductwork for dislocated connectors or tears and repair the damage to prevent moist air from getting into the basement.
  • Locate and repair any leaky pipes.

If you perform the steps above and the moldy smell keeps coming back, you still have options. Unfortunately, the only way to stop the seeping is to correct outside drainage issues.

A damp basement can be fixed by redirecting gutter downspouts, installing a foundation drain system, or putting in a sump pump. In worse-case scenarios, the soil against the exterior of the leaky wall is excavated, and the wall is waterproofed from the outside.

How To Prevent Musty Smells From Coming Back

Now that you know how to get rid of the musty smell in your house, you can breathe a fresh, healthy sigh of relief. But what do you do when you take all the right steps and the musty smell shows up again? If your home continues to smell mildewy despite your hard work, the recurring musty smell may be caused by infrequent cleaning combined with stagnant air.

Make House Cleaning a Regular Thing

Maintaining a thorough and frequent housekeeping routine is critical for minimizing bacteria, mold, mildew, and odors. If your housekeeping schedule is all over the place, check out this comprehensive house cleaning list to get organized. For areas of your home that are prone to mold and mildew, you can use safe and inexpensive cleaners to tackle the source and the musty smell.

Clear the Air

Ventilation is essential for clearing out odors and keeping the air you breathe as fresh as possible. To maintain a constant flow of cross-ventilation in your home, open windows, turn on ceiling fans and keep your HVAC filter clean. When you aren’t heating or cooling your home, consider letting the HVAC fan run to keep the air circulating.

It’s Not the Heat…

If your home is prone to high humidity, consider regularly running a dehumidifier with a timing feature. It’s unlikely you’ll need to run the unit 24/7, so having a timer allows you to customize your usage. Once you see results, you can adjust how often the dehumidifier runs to balance the humidity.

Let The Maids Deal With It

There is another way you can get rid of the musty smell in your house and keep them from returning—The Maids’ way. We have decades of experience taking on dirt, dust, mold, and mildew, making us uniquely qualified to handle those musty odors.

Whether you invest in The Maids’ one-time deep cleaning or other house cleaning services, we will make your home cleaner and healthier with every visit. Get a free online estimate today. We’ll send those musty smells packing and help your home stay fresher longer.

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