How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Home

Get rid of unpleasant musty odors with these essential steps:

We’ve all experienced it – you’re at home, working on your computer, when suddenly you notice a lingering musty smell. Identifying and removing this kind of odor can be challenging, as it’s often a mix of stale, moldy, and damp scents. Regardless of the exact cause, these smells are unmistakable, and something in your home is contributing to this undesirable aroma.

What’s causing the musty smell?

Determining the exact cause can be tricky. Is it due to damp laundry, lack of ventilation, or some other factor? No matter the source, we’re here to guide you in restoring a pleasant fragrance to your home.

Are musty smells harmful?

Musty odors are frequently associated with mold or mildew, which may raise concerns. While the source is often manageable, addressing it is crucial. Opening windows, deep cleaning, or giving laundry extra time in the dryer can often solve the issue.

However, ignoring persistent musty smells can lead to health issues, especially if the cause is mold or mildew allergens. These allergens may cause irritation, including congestion, fatigue, coughing, headaches, or itchy eyes. In rare cases, dangerous molds like black mold may be present, requiring professional intervention.

How to locate the source of musty smells

Finding the origin of musty smells can be straightforward or challenging. To effectively eliminate the odor, you must identify and address the root cause.

Start by checking the following:

  1. Inspect under sinks for leaks or water buildup, and clean these areas with mild bleach or vinegar solutions.
  2. Examine showers for mold or mildew; if found, consider professional help for safe removal.
  3. Clean your garbage disposal and scrub your dishwasher filter – yes, even dishwashers need regular cleaning.
  4. Address damp laundry or sweaty gym clothes that may be contributing to the problem.
  5. Look for signs of water damage, such as buckled flooring or wet spots, indicating potential plumbing issues.

While investigating, don’t forget to check your pet’s bed. Pets spend a significant amount of time in their beds, and if the bed isn’t washable, it might be time for a replacement.

Fixing Leaks and Controlling Excess Moisture

To tackle musty smells effectively, start by repairing any leaks you find in your home. This is the most crucial step in regaining control over the odor.

In areas prone to excessive moisture, consider installing ventilation fans, placing moisture barriers over damp soil, or redirecting water flow away from the home’s exterior.

Boosting Air Circulation

Whether or not you spot visible signs of mildew, a musty smell indicates the need for improved air circulation in your home. Open windows and doors, turn on ceiling and attic fans, or add fans to individual rooms.

Running your HVAC system can also help eliminate odors and capture mold spores in the filters. Ensure that your system has clean filters, replacing them regularly to effectively remove musty smells.

If the issue persists or if someone in your household has allergies and is sensitive to mold, investing in an air purifier could make a significant difference in reducing both the smell and the spread of spores.

Installing a Dehumidifier

Since mold and mildew thrive in moist environments, reducing the humidity level in your home can help control mildew growth. Aim to keep the interior humidity below 50%. Use a hygrometer or humidity sensor to monitor moisture levels. Some HVAC systems come with built-in dehumidifiers, or you can opt for a standalone dehumidifier.

Dehumidifier should be kept clean and empty water-collection bin regularly.

Cleaning Mildew

When dealing with mildew, it’s crucial to eliminate it either before or after addressing the underlying problem. For minor mold spots, a mixture of warm water and a few squirts of dish detergent can suffice. For moderate mold areas, use a diluted solution of 1 cup of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water.

Alternatively, a natural approach involves spraying distilled white vinegar, letting it sit for an hour, and then scrubbing away the mildew with a sponge or microfiber cloth dipped in baking soda.

Warning: When using bleach, avoid mixing it with ammonia-containing cleaning solutions, as this can produce toxic fumes.

Removing Mold

If you have more than 10 square feet of mold, it’s advisable not to attempt remediation on your own. For smaller quantities, you’ll need protective gear, a window fan to exhaust air, a wet/dry vacuum to remove airborne spores, sealed A/C and heating vents, and trash bags for disposing of mold-covered materials.

Fix plumbing leaks promptly, identify the source of the mold, and, if it’s within a wall, consider cutting out and replacing the affected section along with insulation. Use detergent and water to scrub mold off hard surfaces. Seal wood surfaces with pigmented shellac or an oil-based primer after confirming mold elimination. Repaint cleaned wall surfaces with latex paint containing a mildewcide to prevent future mold growth.

Dispose of moldy absorbent materials like ceiling tiles and carpet, as complete removal from such materials may be challenging. If the source of the mold is elusive or if you’re concerned about releasing spores during removal, it’s advisable to seek professional help.

Eliminating Musty Odors

  1. Deep Clean Carpets and Upholstered Furniture: Whether you tackle it yourself or hire a professional, giving your carpets and upholstered furniture a thorough cleaning can eliminate mildew spores and refresh your home. Choose a dry, breezy day to clean, allowing fabrics to dry quickly.
  2. Clean and Declutter Every Space: Musty odors can result from moisture trapped in stacks of papers and books. Clean and dust every surface, and minimize clutter in every room. This step helps prevent the buildup of musty smells.
  3. Add Odor Absorbers: Utilize commercial odor absorbers containing activated charcoal, which can be hung in closets or spaces with poor air circulation. Alternatively, place bowls of dry baking soda, coffee grounds, or kitty litter to absorb odors, remembering to change these products regularly.
  4. Add Pleasing Scents: Once the mildew is eliminated, introduce more pleasant scents to your home. Consider simmering spices or citrus peels, lighting candles, using diffuser sticks, essential oil diffusers, or commercial air fresheners.

Preventing Mold and Mildew

  1. Address Trouble Spots: If you’re aware of specific mold or mildew trouble spots, take proactive measures. In areas like the bathroom or kitchen, clean with mold-killing products. When repainting these spaces, use mold-inhibiting paints to deter spores.
  2. Be Diligent for a Mold-Free Home: Maintaining a mold- and mildew-free home requires diligence. This can be especially challenging in climates with high humidity or poor ventilation. However, by regularly removing spores, ensuring surfaces stay dry, and promoting good air circulation, you can prevent their return. Consistent efforts are key to a mold-free living environment.

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