A Step by Step Guide for Eliminating Musty Smells in Your Home

Musty smells are common in damp basements, showers, and laundry that’s been sitting for too long. These smells can sometimes signify a bigger problem, like mold growth.

If your home smells like must or mold, the sooner you deal with it, the better. Getting rid of a musty smell can be as easy as washing your laundry. Other times, you’ll need to deep clean, eliminate mold, and air out the room.

Here’s how to identify and get rid of musty smells in your home.

How to Identify Musty Smells in Your Home

Musty SmellsView in gallery

Musty smells are the result of excess moisture. The smell can arise from small (or large) amounts of mold or mildew growth. 

You can often identify the source of the must by following your nose. For example, if the smell grows stronger in one room, look for leaks, mold, or mildew.

Some of the most common places for must to develop are:

  • Showers or bathrooms
  • Laundry hampers
  • Basements
  • Anywhere there’s a leak
  • Around window sills and doors
  • On a moldy mattress

How to Stop a Musty Smell: Step by Step

Must has a distinct and unpleasant smell. You can stop the source of the odor and make your room smell better by following these tips.

Step 1: Fix Leaks and Broken Plumbing

Without excess moisture, a musty smell won’t be able to develop. So if you have a broken pipe or leak in the roof or basement, address the issue.

Step 2: Run a Dehumidifier

A dehumidifier pulls excess moisture from the air. It’s important to run a dehumidifier in humid basements or areas that have experienced a leak.

If your basement always has a bad smell, you can keep a dehumidifier running – just set the humidity level, and your dehumidifier will kick on any time the room’s humidity is higher than the level you set.

Step 3: Clean Up Mold and Mildew

According to the EPA, it’s safe to do your own mold clean-up as long the mold covers less than a 10-square-foot area.

To clean mold and mildew on drywall, sealed wood, a shower, or a bathtub, start by putting on protective gear. Wear a respirator mask, safety glasses, rubber gloves, and long sleeves. 

Then take the following steps:

  • Fill a spray bottle with three parts white distilled vinegar and 1 part water
  • Spray the mold with the solution
  • Scrub with a brush and wipe the area clean
  • Respray the moldy area and allow the vinegar to sit for ten minutes
  • Wipe the wall clean

Vinegar will kill the mold spores and prevent them from regrowing.

To remove mold from laundry: Put the affected items in the washing machine and wash them with one cup of white distilled vinegar. Afterward, rewash with regular detergent and then dry the items.

To remove mold on mattresses, furniture, and upholstered items: Mold is challenging to remove from upholstered items since its spores can spread through multiple layers. A product like Concrobium Mold Control Spray is your best defense. It will penetrate through the mattress or piece of furniture, kill mold spores and prevent them from returning.

If your mattress or couch has extreme amounts of mold, consider replacing it.

Step 4: Air-Out the Room

When dealing with any stubborn smell, fresh air and sunshine are the best methods for odor removal. If the weather permits, open your windows and turn on fans to ventilate the room.

Step 5: Clean the Room with Vinegar

White distilled vinegar is an odor-neutralizer, thanks to its acetic acid content. It can tackle musty smells that have settled in the room.

To deodorize your room, start by dusting your ceilings and walls. Then, fill a spray bottle with half white-distilled vinegar and half water. Use the mixture to wipe your ceilings, walls, tables, dressers, and other hard surfaces. You can also use it to mop hard flooring surfaces.

(Don’t use vinegar to clean natural stone or unsealed wood.)

Step 6: Launder Curtains, Blankets, and Other Fabrics

Launder all fabric items. Wash them according to their care instructions to remove the musty smell. 

Step 7: Get a Musty Smell Out of Carpet

Bad odors cling to absorbent surfaces like carpets and rugs. If your carpet smells musty, make sure it’s dry before you clean it. If left damp, it can develop hard-to-remove mold.

To dry your carpet, bring dehumidifiers into the room, open up all windows, and run fans to circulate the air. You can also turn the heat on to speed up dry time. 

With your carpet dry, take these steps to get rid of the musty smell:

  • Spritz your carpet with a mixture of half vinegar and half water 
  • Sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda over the carpet and let it sit for 24 hours
  • After 24 hours, vacuum the baking soda

If the smell remains, repeat the process or hire a cleaning company to shampoo your carpet.

Step 8: Absorb Lingering Odors

Once you’ve corrected the excess moisture, cleaned the mold, and washed the room, the musty smell will start to go away. You can speed up the process by using odor absorbers.

To absorb foul odors, place small bowls of vinegar in the room, hang charcoal bags, set out baking soda boxes, or try an odor-absorbing gel.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

How can I remove a musty smell from my towels?

If your towels smell musty, add them to the washing machine with one cup of white distilled vinegar. After you’ve washed the towels in vinegar, wash them in regular detergent and dry them. If it’s sunny out, line-drying your towels will aid in removing the musty smell.

Why does my kitchen smell musty?

If your kitchen smells musty, there may be a leak causing mold or mildew growth. Another possible cause is kitchen rags or towels that have sat wet for too long.

What’s the reason for the musty smell in my room?

If your room smells musty and you have damp clothes in a hamper or on the floor, they might be the cause. Other causes are mold and mildew growth from a possible plumbing leak or excess humidity in the house.

Why does my coffee maker smell musty?

Coffee makers are dark and damp –  a prime spot for mold and mildew growth. You can kill mold in your coffee maker by cleaning it with vinegar.

Final Thoughts

If you have a musty smell in your home, it’s due to dampness and possible mold or mildew growth. The scent could result from something as small as laundry that’s sat for too long or a bigger problem, like a plumbing leak.

Before you try to get rid of the smell, identify what’s causing it. After you fix the cause, run a dehumidifier, clean up mold, and air out your space. If that doesn’t help, clean the room with vinegar and set out odor absorbers to speed up the process.