How to Get Rid of Musty Smell

Does your space smell musty? Don’t get too upset, since lots of people experience unpleasant odors in their households on a daily basis. Once it’s there, it tends to catch on to anything – curtains, carpets, towels, clothes, even ventilation fans.

Keep in mind that the annoying smell isn’t the worst aspect of this problem either, since the odor usually indicates that mildew and mold are present. This can lead to health issues as well as structural damage to your home.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to get rid of the musty smell. In this post, we’ll talk about the possible sources of a musty smell, how to locate them, and what are the best solutions.

What Are the Sources of Musty Smell?

The annoying, damp, musty smell is caused by excessive humidity. Moist air, combined with warmth and poor ventilation makes conditions for mildew and mold growth, which then emit the gases that we recognise as a musty smell. There’s a several things that could be causing high levels of humidity in your home:

  • Water leaks in walls, roof, or air-conditioner
  • Poor ventilation
  • Holes in foundation
  • Untreated damage caused by floods
  • Wet towels, blankets, or clothes

How to Tell Mildew from Mold?

The main difference between mold and mildew can be seen with bare eyes. Mold usually grows into a greasy structure that stretches outwards. It can also be found under the surface it inhabits. On the other hand, mildew normally forms a flat, powdery structure and it only lives on the surface of the area.

Another difference you can notice just by observing is the color. Mildew grows in light colors such as grey, yellow or white. Darker colors, usually green or black, imply that we’re dealing with mold.

Although both mold and mildew produce a similar unpleasant earthy smell, it’s important to note that mold causes a stronger odor than mildew does.

How Mold Affects Your Health?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that living in a moldy environment can lead to a wide range of health issues. Some people are more sensitive to molds than others, so while some may experience no symptoms at all, others can suffer from sneezing, red, itchy eyes, wheezing, sore throat, or stuffy nose. People who suffer from allergies or respiratory problems such as asthma or bronchitis tend to have more drastic reactions. The same goes for workers who spend long periods of time in moldy, damp environments. They can experience shortness of breath and even fever.

How Mildew Affects Your Health?

Although mildew isn’t as harmful as mold, it can still result in negative effects on your health. Those symptoms include coughing, sneezing, dizziness, nausea, sore throat, fatigue, and headaches. For those with allergies, asthma, or other respiratory diseases, the issues might get more severe. Mildew can also lead to itches and other skin-related allergic reactions, so if you have sensitive skin you should be extra careful around mildew. Long-term exposures to mildew can weaken your health in general.

Where to Look for Mildew and Mold in Your Home?

As we said earlier, both mildew and mold prefer dark, moist, and warm places without proper ventilation. The spots where you should check for mildew and mold are:

The Bathroom

Bathrooms are perfect places for spreading mildew and mold since they’re humid and warm most of the time. You should first inspect the large surfaces such as shower tiles, but also make sure to check around the toilet, on the walls, and under the sink. As mentioned before, water leaks are a severe problem, which often can’t be easily noticed. That’s why it’s important to do a thorough inspection of your bathroom every few weeks.

The Kitchen

Another place that offers great conditions for mold and mildew to thrive in your kitchen, so make sure you check every spot there. Start with the sink, fridge, microwave, and stove, and make sure to check all around those places. Remember to check your trash can too since mildew and mold simply love hanging there.

The Basement, Attic, and Garage

The places you don’t use so frequently, such as a garage, basement, or attic are often very attractive to mold and mildew. Since those spaces are normally dark, humid, and warm, you should make sure to check them thoroughly. We know that it might be hard to choose where to start, so here’s a list of the spots that are most likely to host mildew or mold:

  • Around the water heater
  • Near any ventilations connected to the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room
  • Within the insulation
  • Around windows
  • Spots with low traffic

The Living Room

Living rooms are usually among the most comfortable places, where we spend a lot of time. Mildew and mold also like it there, so remember to inspect the walls, windows, furniture, carpets, and other fabrics.

The Bedroom

Although the bedroom is the least likely to be the place of mildew and mold growth, we suggest you also check it  every few weeks. Make sure your mattress, windows, and windows sills are mold-free and mildew-free, and remember to also check your plants since mold and mildew can often be found there.

How to Treat Mold and Mildew?

There are two ways to remove mold or mildew. Using bleach is the more aggressive one, but luckily it’s not necessary in most cases. Normally, you should be able to eliminate mildew and mold using a combination of vinegar, baking soda, and water.

Use Vinegar and Soda to Eliminate Mold and Mildew

This is a safer and more eco-friendly solution, which can be done following the steps listed below:

  • Spray the distilled vinegar on the surface where you found mold or mildew and leave it for a few hours.
  • Fill one container with hot water, and the other one with baking soda, and prepare a sponge or brush.
  • Soak it in the hot water and then in baking soda.
  • Use circular moves to rub the area, and make sure to reapply water and baking soda frequently.
  • Rub it thoroughly in order to be sure that mold and mildew are removed entirely.

Use Bleach to Eliminate Mold and Mildew

If you decide to go with the second solution, which we usually recommend in case of large mildew or mold contaminations, you’ll just need one cup of bleach and one cup of water. Mix those two, and make sure to push effort into rubbing the mildew or mold off the surface. Wearing protective gear, such as face masks and rubber gloves is always very important when dealing with chemicals. However, even if you protect your mouth and nose, ventilating the space properly is still a must.

Dry the Area Completely and Ventilate Often

Now that you removed mold and mildew from the affected area, make sure to dry all the surfaces properly using a clean cloth. Remember to keep your home ventilated since a proper airflow helps eliminate mold and mildew smell, and make your home less attractive to mildew and mold.

Use an Odor Absorber

Although you’ve cleaned and dried your home properly, there’s a chance that some of the musty smell still hangs around. The simplest way to remove it is to use activated charcoal, baking soda, or other natural odor absorbers. It’s important to remove and replace whichever absorber you choose every 2 weeks.

Get Rid of Musty Smell From Your Clothes

Mildew and mold release gases and spores that can catch on clothing and spread around the whole closet. Luckily, eliminating the musty smell from your clothes can be done easily if you follow these guidelines:

Check Your Laundry Machine for Mold and Mildew

Mildew and mold appear in washing machines often, especially in front-load models. You should clean your laundry machine using the mixture of vinegar and baking soda every once in a while, even if it seems like there are no signs of mold or mildew. After you’re done cleaning, remember to wipe the machine using a clean cloth or towel, and make sure not to close the door since you want the vinegar smell to vent out.

It’s very important to take your clothes out of the machine as soon as they’re washed. If you leave it to sit there for some time, the musty smell will catch on to your laundry. However, if this happens, just run those clothes through another round of washing, and the smell should go.

Remove Musty Smell From Your Clothes

Even if the previous step didn’t resolve the problem, there’s no reason to worry. Here are a few easy steps that will help you eliminate the musty smell:

  • Put a cup of vinegar into the laundry machine
  • Run the machine on the highest temperature available and add a cup of baking soda to your laundry
  • Dry your clothes outdoors whenever you can

Few More Handy Tips on Eliminating Musty Smell

  • Always take your clothes out of the washing machine as soon as washing is done.
  • Wash sweaty things separately so the smell wouldn’t pass on to the other clothes
  • Remember to leave your clothes to dry entirely before packing them in the closet.
  • Inspect your washing machine for mold and mildew every few months.

Prevent Musty Smell

As always, it’s much better and easier to prevent a problem from happening, so we’ll take a moment to mention some of the hints that will help you not only prevent musty smells but also improve the air quality in your home.

Ventilate as Often as Possible

We all want our homes to be as clean and fresh as possible. Getting the fresh air from outside may help eliminate mold and mildew spores. Ventilate your space every day to reduce humidity and enhance the air quality.

Fix Any Water Leaks

Home maintenance is another key factor, which can help you prevent mold and mildew growth caused by water leaks. Inspect your roof, insulation, and plumbing installations for holes regularly.

Always Make Sure All Surfaces Are Dry

Ventilate your laundry dryer regularly, use a dry cloth to pick up any condensation forming on your windows and tiles in your shower, and remember to wipe any water that you spill while cooking.

Inspect for Mold and Mildew Often

As we already said before, the sooner you find out about the problem, the easier you can handle it, so make sure to check for mildew and mold around your house regularly.

Use a Dehumidifier

Having a dehumidifier can be very helpful when regulating your indoor humidity levels. Keep in mind to follow the manufacturer’s instructions including cleaning your device regularly and replace filters when needed.

Final Words

This marks the end of our article about eliminating musty smells. Let us remind you once again how important it is to take all the above-mentioned measures to prevent mold and mildew from growing in your home. This will consume much less time and energy than waiting for them to form, and then removing them. Ventilate often, maintain your home regularly, always dry any wet or moist areas, and clean your washing machine every few months.

We hope you like our post and find it useful. As always, if you have any questions, or want more detail on a particular point, post a comment below and we’ll be happy to provide you with an explanation.