How To Identify (And Eliminate) Musty Smells In Your Home

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How To Identify (And Eliminate) Musty Smells In Your Home

PBandU/David Wolfe

Have you ever walked through the door after getting home from work and thought "huh...that doesn't smell right?"

For us, it's often food in the counter-top compost bin that has taken a turn for the worse, and it can easily be fixed by throwing it in the outdoor compost collector. However, there can be smells in the house that linger for days, maybe even weeks.

These smells are hard to mask, and are even harder to identify. This is why many people choose to hire a Houston cleaning service, or a cleaning service wherever they're based, to ensure their house is always clean and tidy. This way, there should be no room for dirt and smells!

There are some tips that can help you identify these unpleasant smells, and there are also some easy ways to eliminate them!


More often than not, your house will smell musty as opposed to moldy. Mildew, which makes that musty smell, is a type of fungi that grows in damp conditions. Unlike mold, mildew cannot cause structural damage and is generally a little less invasive.

A big question people have is WHY their home starts to smell like that, and there are actually a few reasons.

Did it rain?


Mildew loves damp conditions, and there's no better environment for this than after a rainfall. Odds are, if your house smells extra musty after it's rained, then the water is getting places it really shouldn't be.


Make sure to check places like your attic and roof, which are the most likely causes of leaks. Rain can also find its way into your basement and crawlspaces, so always ensure you keep up with regular maintenance and keep those spaces sealed!

Is it humid?

Fayette Heating and Air

Humidity also promotes the growth of both mildew and mold. The warm temperatures and damp air make it heaven for the smelly little fungi. Basements are usually the victim of a musty smell when it's humid, because the humid air will stick to the cooler surfaces and produce mildew.

Is it your pipes?

We already know that leaks in the roof or leading into the basement can be the cause of musty smells, but there are also internal factors. Leaky pipes, either from sinks or appliances like your air conditioner, can trap and hold water, which leads to an icky smell.

Is it your laundry?

Lee Suckling

Front-loading washing machines often hold a small amount of water at the base of the unit, and can cause musty odors not only in your house, but also on your clothing.

Is it your windows?

If you love blasting the A/C in the summer, it could actually lead to a problem! When hot air hits a cold window, it causes condensation, which leads to the growth of mildew. If the window isn't properly installed, water can get through it and actually end up inside the walls of the house.

Is it your plants?

Yes, it's true! Certain plants can actually be a source of musty odors. Though they're meant to improve air quality, plants that are over-watered or not properly trimmed can start to make your home smell.

Is it your trash?


The smell of trash is pretty distinct, but it's the garbage can that you have to watch for. Even if you've emptied the trash, you might be smelling something a little funky. The garbage can itself is a moist, damp area that is perfect for mold and mildew to accumulate.


Now that you know the possible causes of your musty smells, you probably want to know how to get rid of them, too. It's important to keep in mind that getting rid of the smell is one thing, but addressing the issue is something else all together.

If you do find that your home has leaks or problem areas, you should be contacting a professional to get those fixed.

But to get the smell out, you'll just need a few household items and some creativity!


Trusted Reviews

Musty smells can seem worse when there's no airflow in the space. Setting up fans to clear out any bad smells is a great way to fix the problem.

Open Windows

If you're able to, opening your windows to get rid of unpleasant smells is your best option. Natural remedies are always the best, plus nothing smells better than fresh air on a summer day! Avoid doing this on humid days, of course, as it could make the problem worse.

Baking Soda

Bartletts Farm

In rooms that have persistently bad smells, try putting out a plate of baking soda. The powder helps to absorb moisture and bad smells, and doesn't require a lot of effort! Leave the plate out for 24 hours and you should notice a big difference.

Vanilla Extract

Italian Food Forvever

Dab a small amount of vanilla onto a light bulb. As it heats up, your home will be smelling sweet in no time! If you don't want to apply it directly to the light, you can also cook two teaspoons of vanilla extract in the oven for 20 minutes for long-lasting scent!

Lemon, Vinegar and Baking Soda


If your odor issues are in the bathroom, there's an easy fix!

Mix together lemon juice and baking soda until it forms a paste. Scrub the mixture on the toilet seat, the bowl, and the tank if need be. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then add 1/2 a cup of vinegar to the toilet and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Use a sponge to clean up the solution.

Boil Cinnamon

David Wolfe

Boiling cinnamon sticks will give your home a warm and cozy scent, and eliminate any other odors that might be lingering. You can also use ground cinnamon if that's all you have in the house, it will do the same thing!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like:

10 Hacks To Keep Your House Smelling Fresh And Clean

8 Places Dangerous Mold Is Hiding In Your House

9 Ways To Deep Clean Your Home This Spring

Meagan has an intense love for Netflix, napping, and carbs.