How to get rid of musty odors

Updated March 23, 2017

Musty odours in the home are not only unpleasant, but they can also be a sign that there are harmful mould particles in the air. This is especially dangerous if occupants of the home have respiratory problems or allergies. Most of the time, these musty odours are coming from areas where moisture has seeped into the building material and mould has begun to grow. Follow these steps to clean out your home and get rid of the musty odour.

Clean the home (including the basement) thoroughly to remove any dirt or trash that may be causing the musty odour. Completely empty the basement, sweep and mop the floor, and wash the windows with glass cleaner. As you place items back into the basement, inspect them for signs of moisture or mould growth. Store your belongings in sealed plastic containers to keep air and moisture out. This is especially important for books, letters and other documents because mould can spread very rapidly through paper.

Search the home for any carpet or rugs that are wet or mouldy. If mould has not begun to grow, you may be able to salvage the rugs by placing them outside to dry. Replace any old closet doors or other wooden items that have become damp and mouldy.

Run a dehumidifier for a few days to get rid of any lingering moisture that may make the home and basement smell musty. Make sure you buy a dehumidifier that is large enough to cover the square footage of the room. You may need more than one if you have a large area to dry out.

Scrape down the walls with a paint scraper or stiff wire brush. This will strip off any mould that is growing on the surface. Use a diluted bleach mixture to clean off the walls. Mix one part bleach to four parts water. Be sure to keep the room well ventilated when working with bleach. Open all doors and windows and run a portable fan to improve the airflow. Wear rubber gloves and a mask to protect your skin and lungs. Allow the walls to dry completely before proceeding to the next step.

Sweep down the walls with a broom to remove any residue from the bleach. Paint the walls with a mildew-resistant paint or sealant. Let the paint or sealant dry for 24 to 48 hours.


To prevent moisture from building up and causing musty odours in the future, treat the subfloor or concrete basement floor with sealant or water-resistant paint.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic storage bins
  • Dehumidifier
  • Paint scraper or wire brush
  • Bleach
  • Bucket for mixing
  • Sponge or spray bottle
  • Rubber gloves
  • Face mask
  • Broom
  • Paint or waterproof sealant
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About the Author

Denise Sullivan has been writing professionally for more than five years after a long career in business. She has been published on Yahoo! Voices and other publications. Her areas of expertise are business, law, gaming, home renovations, gardening, sports and exercise.