How to Rid a House of Musty Smells

Updated February 21, 2017

A musty smell within the home is more than just a nuisance, but an indication of a bigger problem at hand. Mold and mildew are the cause behind this unpleasant smell and require immediate action to prevent potential health hazards for those exposed to it. Mold and mildew belong to the fungi group and thrive in areas that are dark and damp. Eliminating the source will ultimately help to get this foul smell out of your home.

Search your home to locate mould and mildew. Look in areas that may have moisture or follow your nose to where the smell is strongest. Look under sinks, behind the washing machine and in the bathrooms to start your search.

Eliminate the mould or mildew from hard surfaces such as walls with a weak bleach solution. Add 1 cup of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle and saturate the area allowing it to soak for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing the mould and mildew away with a soft bristle brush or clean cloth.

Brush mould and mildew off softer surfaces such as fabric outside so as to leave it outside rather than in the air in your home. Treat the area with warm water and white vinegar in equal parts to protect colours from bleaching out. Launder the fabric per the manufacturers' instructions and allow it to air-dry in the sunshine to help kill any lingering odours.

Fix the problem area immediately to keep the mould and mildew from coming back. Call a plumber to fix perpetually leaky pipes or a professional roofing specialist to fix a leaky roof. You need to stop the moisture wherever it is coming from to prevent the further accumulation of mould and mildew as well as the smell.

Place a dehumidifier in the room to help dry out the air. This can help to kill any little mould and mildew spores you may have missed in addition to promoting an inhospitable environment for new ones.

Open up doors and windows to air out your home. It's also helpful to place a fan in front of an open door or window to help force musty smelling air out.


After you have addressed the mould or mildew problem, scented candles, incense and air fresheners are helpful in creating a pleasant smell in your home.


Be sure to protect yourself from mould and mildew by wearing a mask, gloves and protective glasses. If the area of mould or mildew is quite large, hire a mould specialist professional to take care of it.

Things You'll Need

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Spray bottle
  • Clean cloth
  • Soft bristle brush
  • White vinegar
  • Dehumidifier
  • Fan
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