Mildew smell in kitchen cabinets

Updated February 21, 2017

Mildew can grow on or inside almost any household surface, as long as it has moisture and nutrients. If you open your kitchen cabinets and find yourself overwhelmed by a musty mildew odour, you can know with certainty that you have mould spores growing inside. You can solve the problem quickly by diagnosing the cause of the mildew and disinfecting the cabinets before the situation gets out of hand.

Empty Your Cabinets

Before doing anything else, empty your cabinets. The odour may emerge from rotting bread or produce. You should notice the mildew by its discolouration and velvet-like consistency. If any foods or items have mildew, dispose of them outdoors to prevent the fungal spores from spreading, which can lead to even greater problems.

Determine the Cause

If mildew has begun to grow on the actual cabinet surfaces, you most likely have a liquid spill or leak of some kind. Examine all liquid bottles and containers, and then examine the interior of the cabinet itself. If water settles on a wood surface, mildew can begin to grow as wood naturally contains the necessary nutrient (cellulose) for mould spores. If the water appears to come from behind the cabinet, such as within the wall, call a plumber or mould expert immediately. You may have a plumbing leak or an insulation problem that requires immediate attention. Failing to resolve the problem may result in the growth of mould colonies.

No Visible Mildew

If you can smell the mildew but cannot see it, put on a rubber or latex glove and feel the entire interior for areas of soft wood. Wood has a high level of porosity and can trap liquid beneath the surface. To kill mildew spores on a porous surface, try drying the wood with a portable heating device, such as a hair dryer.

Disinfecting Mildew

Drying mildew will neutralise the spores, but if you want to fully remove the odour and ensure the complete elimination of mildew, you must disinfect. First, dry the inside of your cabinet. For powerful disinfection, scrub the entire interior with bleach or ammonia diluted with water before drying again. If odour remains, dip a cloth in lemon juice and scrub the entire interior. Lemon juice contains citric acid, making it effective mildew killer and deodoriser. Place only dry and sealed objects back into the cabinet.

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