How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell

Most of us have experienced the damp, stale smell of mildew in our homes, on our towels, and even on our clothes. Besides its unpleasant smell, the presence of mildew and other kinds of mold can be harmful to your health.

The great news is that you can resolve this problem using some of the methods we’ll discuss below. In this article, we’ll get into more detail on what mildew is, how it is created, how it affects your health, where to find it in your home, and how to get rid of mildew smell.

What Is Mildew and What Causes It?

Mildew is a kind of mold or fungus that needs moisture, oxygen, warmth, and darkness to grow. As mold grows, it starts releasing gases known as microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs), so it’s important to note that what we recognize as the moldy odor is an outcome of the chemical compounds emitted throughout different stages of mold flourishing.

Those gases also carry mildew spores, which then land on and attach themselves to other moist in dark locations surfaces. Spreading of those gases not only increases the mildew concentrations in the air but also the mildew odor.

We should also underline that there’s a lot of overlap between mildew and other sorts of mold, so many people can’t tell the difference between the two. Keep reading to learn how to tell them apart.

What Is the Difference Between Mildew And Mold?

The first key difference between mildew and mold can be observed visually. Mildew grows in a flat and usually powdery structure, which only inhabits only the surface of the area. On the other side, mold normally forms a greasy structure that expands outwards, and it can be found beneath the surface it inhabits.

The other thing you should keep an eye on is the color of the mold. If it’s light in color, usually yellow, grey, or white, then we’re talking about mildew. Other types of mold generally develop darker colors such as green or black.

Now that we know how to distinguish mildew from other types of mold, we can move on to our next section in which we’ll focus on what mildew smells like.

What Does Mildew Smell Like?

Mildew has a stagnant, dank smell. Knowing that mildew grows in dark, warm, moist places with poor ventilation, we could say that the mildew smell, similar to the rotting wood, fits its surroundings perfectly. We should underline that mildew doesn’t release odors as strong as mold does, so in case of a more intense smell, you’ve probably got an issue with mold. Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can talk about how mildew presence affects your personal health as well as the health of your home.

How Mildew Affects Your Health

Mildew isn’t as hazardous as mold, but it can induce various respiratory symptoms if untreated. Those symptoms include sore throat, coughing, sneezing, nausea, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. It can also have consequences for people that suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases or allergies. Those with sensitive skin should also be careful when around mildew, since skin contact with mildew can cause itches and allergic reactions. Keep in mind that longer exposures to mildew can result in poor health.

Your home can also suffer from mildew contamination, if untreated, since, similar to other types of mold, it slowly consumes the surface where it grows. With time, this can create major issues when it comes to the structure of your ceilings, walls, furniture, and other places it inhabits.

Now that we’re aware of the health risk related to mildew, we should get to the next step of our guide and talk about the places where you can find mildew at home.

Where to Find Mildew at Home

As stated before, mildew prefers dark, warm, and moist places with poor ventilation. That implies that the spots you should check for mildew are:

The Kitchen

The kitchen is a perfect hiding spot for mildew and other types of mold so it’s very important to inspect it from top to bottom. Make sure you check inside, under, and all-around your sink, refrigerator, stove, and microwave. Keep in mind that mildew simply loves dustbins, so that’s another place you want to double-check.

The Bathroom

The bathroom is another mildew oasis. Moisture and warmth are always present there, so you want to check them thoroughly. Our suggestion is to inspect the largest surfaces first, so start with the tiles in the shower, but don’t forget to make sure there’s no mildew around the toilet, under the sink, and in the walls. It happens pretty often that water leaks aren’t easily visible, so keep in mind how important it is to run a thorough check of your bathroom every few weeks.

The Living Room

The living room is another great place for the growth of mildew. Make sure you check your windows, walls, carpet, and furniture for mildew.

The Bedroom

The bedroom isn’t the first place that comes to mind when speaking of mildew, but you still want to inspect your windows, windows sills, and mattress. Also, check your pot plants if you have them.

The Garage, Attic, and Basement

Rooms with less traffic, such as the basement, garage, and attic are also very suitable for mildew. Given that those places are usually warm, moist, and dark, you’ll want to inspect them carefully. Here’s a list of spots in these rooms where it’s most likely to find mildew:

  • Around any vents connected to bathroom, kitchen or laundry room
  • Near the water heater
  • In the insulation
  • Storage spots where you rarely go
  • Around windows
  • Air conditioners, heaters, washing and drying machines

How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell?

Now that you’ve located where the mildew smell comes from, it’s time to learn how to get rid of it. The mildew area needs to be thoroughly cleaned. During this process, you’ll be able to get a better look at what causes the mildew growth there. The first step would be to remove all items including fabrics from the affected surface. Keep in mind that unless you resolve potential water leaks and moisture issues, cleaning won’t help much because the mildew will return. In the following sections, we’ll introduce you to the ways of eliminating mildew smell in your home.

How to Treat Mildew?

Mildew can be eliminated either using bleach or using a mixture of vinegar, baking soda, and water. In most cases, the bleach won’t be needed, but if mildew contamination grows large, the “bleach” method might become necessary.

Use Bleach to Remove Mildew

For the first option, you’ll simply mix one cup of bleach with one cup of hot water and use it to scrub the mildew off of the affected area. Keep in mind that proper ventilation alongside protective equipment, such as face masks and rubber gloves, is a must in such situations.

Use Vinegar and Soda to Remove Mildew

In case you decide to go with the second, greener option, you should follow the steps listed below:

  • Spray the distilled white vinegar all over the area affected by mildew, and let it sit for several hours.
  • Prepare a sponge/brush and two containers one filled with hot water and the other filled with baking soda
  • Soak your sponge or brush first in hot water and then in baking soda
  • Rub the area using circular motion, and remember to reapply water and baking soda each time your sponge/brush becomes dry
  • It might be necessary to push a little more effort into rubbing in order to make sure to eliminate mildew completely

Fully Dry the Surface And Ventilate Often

Whichever option was your pick, you’ll want to dry the area properly after you’re done with the cleaning. Use a clean cloth to dry the surface while also keeping the space ventilated. Keeping your home ventilated will help remove the mildew smell and make your living spaces less suitable for mildew growth.

Use an Odor Absorber

The best way to eliminate the remaining moldy smell is to use activated charcoal, baking soda, or other natural odor absorbers. Since smell absorption is their job, odor absorbers should be removed and replaced in 2-week cycles.

How to Eliminate Mildew Smell from Clothes?

Mildew emits gases and spores that tend to settle on clothing and quickly spread through the entire wardrobe. Removing mildew smell out of your clothes can be done by following the steps listed below:

Check Your Laundry Machine for Mildew

Check the laundry machine for mildew, which occurs often, particularly with front-load washing machines. Cleaning your washer with a mixture of white vinegar and baking soda is a good idea even if there’s no mildew or mold visible. When you finish, make sure you wipe the treated surface with a towel and leave the door open so the smell can vent out.

With mildew present or not, remember to always remove your laundry from the machine shortly after it’s washed, since leaving it sitting will make the laundry smell musty. In such situations, another wash should remove the unpleasant odor from your clothes.

Remove Mildew Smell from Your Clothes

No reason to worry if your clothes have a mildew smell to them, since there are a few rather simple ways to resolve this problem:

  • Add a cup of vinegar to the machine when washing clothes with a musty odor.
  • Set your washer to the highest temperature available and add a cup of baking soda to your clothes.
  • Let your clothes dry outside whenever possible.

Other Useful Tips on Getting Rid of Mildew Smell

  • Remove your clothes from the machine immediately after the wash is done.
  • Put your sweaty laundry in a separate load so the smell doesn’t transfer to all of your clothes
  • Always wait until your clothes dry completely before you pack them in your wardrobe.
  • Check your laundry machine for mildew and clean it every few months.

Prevent Mildew Smell

Last but not least, we should take a look at tips that will help you prevent the growth of mildew and its smell. Taking these measures will help you not only remove annoying odors but also improve the air quality at your home.

Ventilate Often

This is the basics, you want the air at your home to be as fresh as possible. Fresh air from outdoors can help avoid mildew growth. Venting on a regular basis will cut down the condensation and improve air quality.

Fix Water Leaks and Holes in Insulation

Maintaining your home is also crucial. Avoid situations caused by water leaks simply by running regular maintenance. Make sure your roof doesn’t have any holes in it and make sure your plumbing installations are leak-free.

Check for Mildew Regularly

As explained before, mildew grows pretty much everywhere. The sooner you find it, the easier it will be to eliminate.

Make sure All Surfaces are Dry

Wipe all condensation from your windows with a dry rug, vent your drying machine regularly, and pick up the water spilled while cooking or taking a shower.

Use a Dehumidifier

Having your indoor humidity levels at the optimal value can significantly help prevent mildew and its annoying odor!

Final Words

This concludes our pretty comprehensive post on how to get rid of mildew smell. We should underline that preventing mildew from forming takes less time and energy than eliminating the mildew and its smell out of your home. Make sure you go through all of the listed steps, since venting the space, running regular maintenance, using a dehumidifier, drying the moist surfaces, and wiping the washing machine can be really helpful when removing mildew smell.

We hope you like the article and find it helpful. In case you have any questions that need to be cleared out, leave a comment and we’ll be more than happy to respond.