Why Rooms in a House Smell Musty

Updated February 21, 2017

Musty odours can permeate your home. They often develop in basements or in utility closets. While you can use an air freshener to cover up the smells, they will still be present in your home and will eventually return once the fragrances wear off. Instead, remove the source of the odour to ensure the smell will eventually dissipate. Prevent these odours from developing in the first place.


Mold is a common cause of musty smells in a home, which is especially true if your basement, bathroom or laundry room smells like mould. Mold tends to grow in areas that are damp, dark and cool, which makes crawlspaces, basements and bathrooms prime places for mould growth. This musty smell develops when the mould begins to decay organic matter in your home and when it creates volatile organic compounds.


Dust can cause musty smells in your home. If you don't dust for a long time, a thick layer of dust will cover surfaces in your home. The smell can be stronger if the dust settles on furnaces or heaters. When this happens, the heat will dissipate the dust smell into the air and make your home smell musty.

Preventing Musty Mold Smells

You can prevent some musty smells by preventing mould spores in your home. Because mould is attracted to moisture, controlling moisture in your home is key to controlling mould growth in the home. Install a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture. Fix leaks as soon as they occur to prevent a high relative humidity in your home.

Preventing Musty Dust Smells

You can prevent musty dust smells by cleaning your home every few weeks to prevent the dust from building up. Once the dust builds up, the smell can easily permeate your home. Dust cabinets, bookcases, furnaces and heaters with microfiber cloths. Use a dusting spray, or dampen the cloth to help you pick up the dust, which will ensure that you do a more thorough job.

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About the Author

Kaye Wagner has been working in the fields of journalism and public relations since 2006 and is a recipient of a National Hearst Award. She is particularly interested in home-and-garden projects, as well as beauty and fashion writing. An avid traveler, she also writes travel reviews and guides. Wagner earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Brigham Young University.