Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

Get to the Bottom of Musty Smells in Your House, and Get Rid of Them Today!

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Do you do everything you possibly can to keep your house clean and yet, still notice an unpleasant odour? Well, if your house, or certain areas of your home smell stale and damp, you just might have a mould problem. With that said, unless you're dealing with excess mould, you could avoid having to hire a professional service to get rid of it. The rule of thumb here is that, if you see more than 10 square feet of mould anywhere, avoid taking it upon yourself, and call in a professional instead. This is because it might be more than superficial, and you could have a bigger problem than you are aware of.

With that out of the way, note that there might be other causes of musty smells in your home but, on the flipside, there are also many ways to get rid of the unpleasant odours lingering in your house. Today, MaidForYou will be discussing these in detail to help you get rid of musty smells in your house once and for all!

Why Does My House Smell Musty?

close up of air vent working

In most cases, the origin of this stale, musty smell will be any place with bad ventilation and high humidity. These are places which could potentially house mould colonies due to the favourable environment for the fungus to grow and thrive. Mainly due to the fact that moisture, combined with heat, and a dark place, are the breeding grounds for all types of mould, you may see evidence of this regardless of how well kept your apartment or house is. 

Above all else, of course, the health effects of mould growing in one's home can be pretty serious. Causing anything from headaches and dizziness, to fatigue and respiratory issues, it's no laughing matter.

Other factors that contribute to musty smells in the home include upholstery and carpeting that have not been deep cleaned in a long time. These porous materials absorb odours and moisture, and are also prone to mould growth.

How to Locate the Source of the Smell

woman holding her nose in a newly renovated house

On that note, let's begin looking at how to get rid of mould and the musty smell it leaves behind. The first thing to do here is to check your house to find any traces of mould. You want to be thorough with your search since even a small area that's affected could cause a strong, musty smell.

Here are a few tips to locate mould in your home:

  • Look in the more obvious places first; garages, laundry rooms, basements, attics and any storage areas you may have in the house. Since there isn't much traffic in these places, they are more likely to develop mould.
  • Be on the lookout for moisture; check your bathrooms and kitchen including your plumbing (for leaks). 
  • Ensure to check bedrooms and the living room, too; specifically look behind and under furniture where mould may be concealed. 
  • Finally, since it can potentially grow anywhere, it's a good idea to look behind and under appliances, particularly your washing machine and dryer.

How to Get Rid of Mould and Its Musty Smell

close up of heavy wall mould in a modern living room

Once found, you can then assess the situation, and make a decision on how to clean the area. 

In the event that you are dealing with a leak that is causing the mould, you are better off hiring a professional to deal with the leak first. Nipping the source of the problem in the bud means you won't have to worry about mould developing again.

On the other hand, if you can clean the mould yourself, consider using the following approach:

  • In a spray bottle, make a solution of water with distilled white vinegar (equal parts), and soak the mould with this liquid for a few hours to break it down. If you are dealing with a more stubborn infestation, you may use a bleach solution instead by following dilution rates mentioned on the label. Under no circumstance, however, should you use both vinegar and bleach together as this can create chlorine gas which is extremely toxic.
  • Once the solution has been allowed to sit on the mould for a while, use a sponge with warm water and baking soda to scrub the mould out. Once completely scrubbed clean, dry the area quickly.
  • Finally, once clean and dry, make sure all rooms in your house are ventilated with fresh air. Turn on fans, open windows, and keep the air flowing more regularly throughout the house. This ensures that the air is pure and clean enough to discourage mould from developing again.
  • In places with low ventilation such as a basement, use an odour absorber and dehumidifier. You could try using activated charcoal or baking soda to absorb the smell, and keep your humidity levels between 40-50%. The key here is to replace the smell absorbers every few weeks to make sure that the smell not only vanishes, but does not return.

SAFETY PRECAUTION: When performing this mould removal method, ensure that you are using gloves and a respirator mask. Additionally, the area you are working in must be well ventilated to prevent fumes from stagnating.

How to Remove Musty Smells From Your Clothes

man holding gray clothes next to a white front load washing machine

As an added measure, it's a good idea to ensure that your laundry isn't adding to the musty odour in your home. Here are a few tips to deal with this potential problem:

  • The first thing here is to inspect your washing machine filter and detergent drawer. Cleaning the filter and detergent drawer is pretty easy since you can use the same solution of water and distilled white vinegar as recommended earlier. Baking soda can be used as an alternative or even along with the vinegar to assist in the cleaning method. Once this is done, run an empty wash on the hottest setting with vinegar added to the water to help flush out any residual dirt or mould. When the wash is done, wipe down the inside of the machine with a dry cloth, and allow it to air out for a while before using the machine again.
  • After the washing machine itself is cleaned, run your washes with a little bit of white vinegar in them to clean the smell off of your laundry as well.
  • Note that leaving damp clothing to sit for a while before drying out defeats the process of washing musty or mouldy clothes. Always dry your clothes out as quickly as possible from when the wash completes.
  • If you can, hang dry your clothes outside during the day as sunlight prevents any microbes from thriving in your fabrics. Avoid hanging coloured fabrics in direct sunlight as this may cause fading. 
  • Make sure your clothes are completely dry before putting them away as any residual moisture can cause mould to develop on your clothing.

Now that you are aware of how to get rid of musty smells from your home, the important thing to practice after removal is prevention: 

  • Clean all air filters in your HVAC system
  • Clean the inside of your washing machine 
  • Check for leaks in your plumbing
  • Ensure clothing is dried well and does not have a chance to stagnate
  • Use a dehumidifier to discourage mould development
  • Inspect for mould in your house routinely

All of these practices need to be carried out regularly to make sure that you never have to deal with this problem again! Of course, if you don’t have the time for it and would like to keep musty smells at bay, MaidForYou can effectively and professionally take care of this issue for you!

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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