As someone who has dealt with persistent musty odors in homes, I’m intimately familiar with the frustration of trying to eliminate them. You do everything you can to get rid of them, only for them to return time and time again.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered several effective ways to get rid of these damp odors and ensure they don’t come back. Imagine walking into a home with a fresh, clean scent every time. With the following tips, you can do just that.
How to Locate the Source of the Musty Smell
When you have a musty house smell, it’s crucial to locate and eliminate the source of the odor. I have a trained nose so I can make like a bloodhound and sniff around to locate the source of the smell. Then I determine whether the odor is isolated to one room or present throughout the house.
If your sniffer isn’t up to par, look for visible signs of mold or mildew, like discoloration or moisture spots on walls, ceilings, or floors. Pay careful attention to rooms with no ventilation, like your laundry room.
Water damage or leaks often lead to the growth of mold or mildew, so look for signs of water damage. Inspect your pipes, faucets, and water fixtures for any signs of leaks, and check your attic and basement for any water damage.
I use a moisture meter to measure the humidity levels in my home. High humidity levels create the perfect environment for mold or mildew growth. Reducing humidity levels with a dehumidifier can keep musty odors from forming in the first place.
Musty smells can also be caused by poor ventilation, so ensure your home is properly ventilated so they can’t form. Open windows and doors, use ventilation fans, or install a ventilation system if necessary.
What Causes a Musty Smell in Your House?
Excessive humidity in areas of your home without proper ventilation (like a crawl space or attic) typically causes musty odors. Humidity creates mold and mildew that releases gases that leave behind a challenging musty smell.
Hidden water leaks, foundation cracks, roof leaks, air conditioning and water heater issues, and condensation buildup all contribute to the growth of mold and mildew. Poor home ventilation and flood or water damage can also increase humidity levels.
Damp fabrics like clothes and blankets can emit an unpleasant, persistent musty smell if stored in confined spaces for a long time. It’s not only fabrics – stored items like leather goods and sports equipment can also generate an unpleasant odor if not correctly aired out.
6 Ways to Get Rid of Musty Odor
1. Let Some Fresh Air In
The first thing I always tell people to do when they have a musty odor is open their doors and windows. Letting in fresh air can help eliminate the musty odor caused by poor ventilation and dust buildup. You should also vent your crawl space to circulate fresh air and push out the stale air causing the musty smell.
Sunlight and its ultraviolet radiation can also help to remove the musty odor. UV rays kill mold spores and other fungi that cause musty odors in your home. Sunlight can also help dry out damp areas, reduce humidity, and create an unfavorable environment for mold and mildew growth.
2. Refresh Carpet and Rugs
Your floor coverings are also prone to dampness and mold growth. Carpeting and rugs are especially notorious for developing a musty odor. Fortunately, you can harness the power of sunlight again to eliminate the damp odor from your rugs.
On a sunny and dry day, vacuum the musty-smelling rug and hang it on a clothesline in a sunny spot for the day. Sunbeams’ UV rays act as strong antibacterial agents, killing mold, mildew spores, and odor-causing microbes in just a few minutes.
Flip the carpet over to expose the backside to the sun so your rugs won’t fade. While this can help eliminate a musty odor, it might be worth replacing pieces with mold and mildew growing on them.
3. Tackle Furniture Odors With Baking Soda
Upholstered furniture could be to blame for a persistent musty smell in your home. Upholstery can absorb moisture, leading to mold growth and that basement-like smell you’re trying to get rid of.
Drying out the furniture doesn’t always fix the problem because prolonged exposure to moisture can cause the frame to rot. If that happens, it’s time to replace your furniture.
However, if your furniture is only slightly affected, you can try using baking soda to get rid of the musty smell. Baking soda is a natural odor absorber that can soak up excess moisture, neutralize musty smells, and leave your furniture feeling fresher and more revived.
Here’s what to do:
- Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda over the entire piece of furniture.
- Use a damp sponge to work the baking soda into the upholstery fibers.
- Let the baking soda sit and absorb moisture and odor for several hours before drying it completely.
- Finally, vacuum everything thoroughly with a brush attachment to remove the baking soda and any remaining musty odors.
4. Dust-Off the Entire House
Dust can create an unpleasant musty smell and be hazardous to your health. Dust can deteriorate indoor air quality and cause respiratory diseases, allergies, and skin rashes.
Grab your favorite duster and clean often-neglected areas like your furniture (over, under, inside, and behind), door frames, baseboards, corners, light fixtures, ceiling fans, vents, and areas under floor coverings. Anything that can’t be dusted can be tossed in the washing machine.
Regular dusting is a must to keep musty smells away. However, if you struggle to keep up with the ongoing cleaning routine, you can schedule a professional deep cleaning session to get expert help with the tedious chores.
5. Craft Natural Odor Neutralizers
Boil Lemons or Lemon Peels
To use lemon as a natural neutralizer, boil lemon slices in water and leave the pot open to release the fragrance. Once cooled, transfer the solution to a spray bottle and spritz it where you notice the smell.
Absorb Damp Smell with Charcoal
Charcoal briquettes have absorbent properties that can remove musty odors in your home. Simply fill a jar with briquettes and place it near the source of the odor or hang old socks filled with charcoal out of sight. Replace the briquettes every two weeks for maximum effectiveness.
Overpower Musty Odors with Coffee Grounds
Reuse coffee grounds to make an effective odor remover. Spread the grounds on parchment paper and bake at 250 degrees. Put the dried grounds in empty jars and put them wherever you notice musty smells. Let them work for a week and you can say goodbye to the damp odor.
6. Opt for Air Purifier
Investing in an air purifier can be a great solution if you’re dealing with a persistent damp smell in your home. Look for an air purifier with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter, which can trap tiny particles as small as 0.3 microns, including mold spores. Some air purifiers even come with specialized filters that specifically target mold spores.
An air purifier that also has an activated carbon filter will help remove the musty odor from the air by absorbing and neutralizing the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) responsible for the smell.
While an air purifier can effectively remove damp smells and mold spores from the air, it’s important to remember that it’s not a substitute for a thorough cleaning routine and regular mold and mildew checkups. However, combining these strategies can create a clean and healthy living environment in your home.
How to prevent musty smells from coming back
I also recommend a few things to keep musty smells from coming back once you’ve used the steps above to eliminate them. First, ventilate your home as much as possible. Keeping windows and doors open allows fresh air to circulate and helps keep musty smells at bay.
If you can’t keep your windows open all the time, try ventilation fans. You can also open your blinds and curtains to let natural light in, which helps reduce mustiness and improve your overall indoor air quality. Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule is also essential to preventing musty smells from coming back.
These steps are also excellent preventative measures even when your home doesn’t smell musty. It’s always better to be proactive in preventing problems rather than waiting for them to occur.
If you’ve tried all these measures and still can’t get rid of musty smells, it may be time to call in a professional. Mold remediation specialists or plumbers can help identify and address underlying issues that may be causing the mustiness in your home. Address the problem quickly, though, as prolonged exposure to mold and other contaminants can harm your health.
I know how frustrating it can be to deal with persistent musty odors in your home. Fortunately, the tips I discussed above can eliminate and prevent them from returning. Following them will allow you to enjoy a fresh and clean scent whenever you walk into your home.
So say goodbye to musty smells and hello to a healthier, happier living environment. Now you can check my recommended Home Air Quality Test Kits and learn how to keep your place safe from air pollutants.