How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in House

We humans are simply remarkable creatures. 

Our incredible array of senses have been put in place to guide us and keep us safe from harm, many of them operating unconsciously as we go about our daily lives. It’s instinctual to squint when the light is too bright, to jerk our hands away from something that’s too hot, or to avoid unpleasant smells that may be poisonous.

In most cases, our senses are accurately informing us that there is something wrong. So, when our noses tell us to find and get rid of musty smell in house, we should pay attention.

Let’s understand what causes those musty smells, and how to get rid of musty smell in house.

What Causes Musty Smell in Your House?

Musty is the adjective that describes an unclean, stale, and likely moldy smell. A musty odor takes time to develop: it is most often caused by dampness, mold or mildew, and signals some degree of decay. That specific odor can also be caused by dust, poor ventilation, and the presence of bacteria. 

You must agree, none of these descriptions sound particularly pleasant, do they? All of these point to the fact that there is a potential health hazard present in our homes that we need to attend to. 

Does a musty smell in the house mean mold? More often than not, the answer is yes.

What are Mold and Mildew?

Mold and mildew are both types of microscopic fungi. The terms mold and mildew are often used interchangeably, but there are some key differences between them. Knowing what you’re up against will make the treatment process more effective. Here are some defining features to help you.

  • Mold looks slimy or fluffy, whereas mildew is more powdery.

  • Mildew is often gray or white, whereas mold can be green, red, blue, or black.

  • Mildew grows in a flat, spreading pattern, but mold is most often raised.

  • Mold will usually smell stronger than mildew.

Both mold and mildew grow easily on organic matter such as wood, leather, paper, and clothing. Mildew prefers a wetter environment which is why you’re more likely to find it in the shower and alongside the bath seal.

Mildew tends to spread in a flattened, shallow path. Whereas mold has deeper roots and can cause major damage to a home once it has taken root. 

The Effects of Mold on Your Health

Mold spores are an ever-present part of our environment and usually pose no real threat. However, once they find a warm, damp spot to grow in they can quickly become a health problem in the home. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tells us that exposure to molds can cause a host of issues, including:

  • Sneezing

  • Runny nose

  • Red, itchy eyes

  • Skin rashes

  • Headaches

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

  • Memory loss


It’s been shown that individuals who suffer from asthma are particularly vulnerable to the effects of mold and mildew. And in some cases, children exposed to mold as infants have a higher chance of developing asthma before the age of seven.

Mold also degrades what it grows on which gets steadily more problematic as it spreads. Therefore, to avoid health issues as well as damage to your home and its contents, it’s worth eliminating mold and mildew as soon as you detect them.

4 Steps to Getting Rid of Mold

The spores of mold require a substrate, warmth, darkness, oxygen, and moisture to grow. Moisture is the real catalyst however and can stem from a leaking tap or simply a high level of humidity.

Some may find that their house smells musty in summer as humidity levels rise. The trick is to reverse these ideal conditions to combat the growth of mold in your home. 

Find the Source

It’s usually true that we can follow the smell to identify mold and mildew growth in the home, but that’s not always the case. It’s wise to start in the most likely areas such as the bathroom and kitchen, and of course attics and basement areas. While you’re on the scent of that musty odor, it’s worth checking the bedrooms and living rooms too, just in case. 


In the bathroom, check for evidence of mold growth in the shower, along the seals of the bath, behind the toilet, and beneath the basin. Don’t forget to check inside cupboards in proximity to these warm, damp areas. 


Similarly, scout around the wet areas of your kitchen such as the sink, and behind the fridge, washing machine, and dishwasher. Check inside cupboards, especially those that may sit adjacent to any plumbing. 

Living Room and Bedrooms

While less likely, mold can still make a comfy home behind furniture, on mattresses, and in stored clothing or blankets. Check your window area, especially if you use central heating, as the condensation from the windows can lead to a moisture build-up on the sills.

Attic and Basement

These unused and undisturbed places are the perfect place for mold to grow. Take a look around the water heater, vents, windows, and in and around any stored items where mold could take root. If your home has a crawl space, then take some time to examine it carefully for signs of mold.

Eliminate Moisture

Moisture is the most important component of the ideal growing conditions for mold. Therefore, in your quest to remove that musty smell from your home, be sure to start with eliminating the sources of moisture.

Leaking taps or pipes are the biggest culprit here, so check each outlet and the area around it for signs of damp. If your home has ever suffered from flooding or water leaks then you may find that carpeting, drywall, and wooden flooring have retained moisture and can cause continued mold growth. Showers, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and window sills will always be moist, but with regular cleaning, mold won’t have a chance to take hold. 

You may find that moisture coming up from the crawl space beneath your house is causing problems. If this is the case, it’s well worth calling in professional contractors to determine the extent of the problem and recommend a long-term solution. This is often the source of a musty smell in an old house.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

A healthy dose of fresh air and sunshine is the best thing in the world for people and pets but it can sound the death knell for mold and mildew. An hour or two of exposure to UV-C rays from direct sunlight can efficiently wipe out 99.9 percent of mold and spores, according to

Incidentally, UV rays are also highly efficient combatants of bacteria, fungus, and certain viruses; all excellent reasons to spend some more time outdoors.

Our indoor air quality will be vastly improved if we ensure that it is well ventilated. So, fling open those doors and windows whenever you can.

Cleaning Mold and Mildew

Once you’ve located moldy areas in your home and eliminated their moisture source, you’ll need to clean the area thoroughly. Household bleach is one of the most efficient ways to clean and kill mold and mildew – just be sure to wear adequate protective clothing and work in a well-ventilated space. 

If you prefer a more natural route, then white vinegar will prove to be your best friend. Spray down the area with a strong vinegar solution and let it sit for a while, after which you can give it a scrub with a little baking soda. This cleaning duo is safe and effective for pretty much every room in the house and helps to eliminate lingering odors.

If the moldy area is more than 10 square feet, however, you may want to consider calling in a team of mold cleanup specialists. This is also true if your HVAC system is infected, or if the mold has taken hold in hard-to-reach areas such as ceilings.

Get Rid of Musty Smell in House for Good

Even after following all of these steps, your home may still smell a little dank. If this is the case, then try using some activated charcoal or baking soda in various areas of the home. These are well-known for their ability to neutralize unpleasant smells and will go a long way to helping you get rid of musty smell in house.

If you suspect that your crawl space may be the root of the sudden musty smell in the house, then we invite you to call in our team. We specialize in moisture remediation, humidity control, and water damage in your area, so give us a call and let us assess your situation.


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