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How to get rid of a musty smell in the house

If your home or your carpet smells musty, it can start to feel much less welcoming. Find out how to get rid of a musty smell in the house with our guide.

Updated Reading Time: 5 minutesBy Cleanipedia Team

A blue fan to help get rid of musty smells in the home with sunflowers in the background
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You've noticed that your house or carpet smells musty, but you might not immediately know the best way to deal with it. From an old house that smells musty after rain, or a more identified smell in a specific area, there are all kinds of causes for musty odours — and luckily, just as many solutions! Read to find out how to get rid of a musty smell in the house and restore freshness in no time. Surf disinfectant can also help!

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How to get of rid of musty smells in the house

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

  1. 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. If there's a specific area in your home or carpet that smells musty, it could be as simple as a wet cloth which has fallen behind the bed and developed mould, or something under the floorboards. If the smell is more general, for example if your home is an old house that smells musty after rain, it could be something more complex like black damp or a leak. In this case, ask a specialist for help identifying and solving the problem.

  2. Open up all windows and doors to let the fresh air in

    Once you've determined that your house smells musty but no mould or structural damp is causing the issue, try opening several doors and windows increase air flow (as long as it's safe to do so). This is the first and easiest step you can take to air a house that smells musty and humid. Sometimes this odour can just be caused by dust and lack of ventilation, especially when your house smells musty after a vacation. So let the fresh air pour in, and open up all curtains and blinds, to let in the daylight! Don’t forget to open up shut-in spaces like cupboards, cabinets, and closets.

    Step 2: An open window to let air into a house that smells musty or humid
  3. Give musty-smelling clothes a fresh, fragranced wash

    If your wardrobe smells musty, chances are this odour will have transferred to the clothes you have hanging up in it. So even after you've got rid of this musty smell, it could linger in your fabrics. But don't worry — this problem is easily cleared up in a quick washing machine cycle, with an extra-lovely fragrance boost from the Comfort Perfume Deluxe range.

  4. 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.

    Step 4: An air circulation fan to air out an old house that smells musty
  5. 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.

  6. Use a plate of baking soda to help 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.

  7. 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.

    Step 7: A hand using a feather duster on a surface to freshen up when a house smells musty after vacation
  8. 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!

    If you're looking for how to get rid of musty smells that are definitely caused by damp, you can also try out some of our useful tips targeted at this specific issue.

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Can musty smells effect my health?

Musty smells can potentially have health effects. They are often associated with mould, mildew, or other fungal growth, which can release spores and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Inhalation of these substances can irritate the respiratory system, leading to symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, and even exacerbating asthma or allergies. Prolonged exposure to musty odours and the underlying mould or fungal growth can also cause more severe respiratory issues and contribute to the development of respiratory infections or other health conditions. It is important to address the source of the musty smell and remove any mould or dampness to ensure a healthy indoor environment. With these tips, you’ll be able to track down and eliminate the musty smell in your house, keeping your home smelling fresh and clean year-round!

Originally published