How to get rid of a musty smell in the home

A musty smell can make your home feel less welcoming and even unpleasant. Check out our guide to best dealing with a musty smell in your house.

Updated 25 June 2019

a blue room fan to blow away musty smells in the home with sunflowers in the background

Key steps:

  • Determine if anything in particular is causing the smell, such as an area of mould
  • Ventilate your home by opening windows
  • Try a natural air freshener like lemons or baking soda

A musty smell can have several different causes, but it can make your home feel less welcoming and even a bit unpleasant. This article will describe ways to deal with a musty smell in the bedroom or in other parts of your home.

How to Get of Rid of Musty Smell Problems at Home

If you’re noticing a musty smell in your house, here are some steps you can take to get rid of the smell.

Sniff around your house to determine how many rooms are affected – Is the smell only in one bedroom, or is it in a series of rooms and hallways near each other? If it’s in several rooms, the cause may be something structural like a leak or an on-set of black damp in the walls, in which case seek professional advice. If it’s only in one room, the source of the smell will be much more localised and easier to treat.

Locate the source of the musty smell – If it’s a more localised smell, you should be able to find the source of it with enough sniffing around. Sometimes it’s as simple as a damp cloth which has fallen behind the bed and developed mould or it could be something under the floorboards. Remove the source of the smell if you can, and if it’s something more complex like black damp or a leak, ask a specialist for help.

Open up all windows and doors to let the fresh air in – Provided it’s not too cold out and it’s safe to do, this is the first and easiest step you can take to air out your house. Sometimes a musty smell can just be caused by dust and lack of ventilation. So let the fresh air pour in, and open up all curtains and blinds, too, to let in the daylight! Don’t forget to open up shut-in spaces like cupboards, cabinets, and closets.


Turn on all ventilation fans or bring in electric fans, if necessary – Modern bathrooms and kitchens often have ventilation fans which you can turn on to air out smells. If a room has no windows or gets little circulation (like an attic or basement), you can always bring in a portable electric fan and run it for a while to get the air moving.


Use lemons as a natural air freshener – For an easy and natural air freshener, boil lemon peels in a pan of water. Once the lemony fragrance is released, remove the pan from the kitchen (remember to turn the stove off) and set it down in the area of your home which you want to air out, being careful to place the pan on a suitable surface. A fan can circulate the fragrance around the room, and you can also fill a spray bottle with the warm lemony water (once it’s cooled a bit) and spritz it around the room. Alternatively, use a commercial air freshener of your choice.

A plate of baking soda helps to absorb smells – For smaller enclosed areas (closets, cupboards, etc.), setting out a small plate of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) for up to 24 hours can help absorb moisture and damp smells.


Sweep up all dust and clean the room thoroughly – If you want to give the room a thorough cleaning, use a feather-duster, damp cloth, dustpan and brush, and/or vacuum to go over all surfaces and rid them of dust. Hard floors should be mopped as well, with a floor cleaner like Cif Floor Expert Living Room.


Make sure all areas are damp-free and well-ventilated in the future – Examine the room thoroughly to make sure there are no places where damp items (hand towels, condensation from refrigerators, etc.) can touch other fabrics or surfaces. This is especially important for areas under the sink or behind the toilet, as a leaky pipe can cause musty smells in the future!

With these tips, you’ll be able to track down and eliminate musty smells from your home, keeping your household smelling fresh and clean year-round!

Find Out More!

5 Ways to Make Your Carpets Cleaner Than They’ve Ever Been

The One Product That’ll Banish Odours for Good

5 Ways Your House Might Be Filthier Than You Thought

How to Win in a Fight Against Mould

Originally published 19 July 2018