What Is That Musty Smell + How Do I Get Rid Of It?

Identify + remove musty smells with this must-have checklist.

The musty smell is a stale, moldy, and damp one. Sometimes you can’t quite place your finger on it, but something — or some combination of things — is causing your house to smell unsavory.

Tracking down the scent proves to be a chore in itself. You’re starting to feel like a crazy person, sniffing every corner and appliance and drain. It could be anything! Is it coming from the basement? Is it a pet-related odor? You’re on its tail now and must get to the bottom of it.

While we can’t tell exactly you where your musty smell is coming from, we’ve got some tips and tricks for how to get rid of it.

As a general rule of thumb, increasing ventilation, enhancing natural light and decreasing humidity can help with musty smells. Depending on how irritating the smell is, a full-on, deep cleaning could be on the horizon for your house. Go through our following checklist thoroughly and you’ll likely come out on the other side with an odor-free home. It’s full of smell neutralizing tips and suggestions to clean items you may have overlooked that could be causing unwanted odors.

  • Sweep, mop, vacuum, repeat. You should be doing this routine regularly. Like, probably more often than you think you should be. And don’t stop at the carpet — vacuum everything! The rugs, curtains, furniture (under the cushions and under the furniture), and floors. Be sure you’re cleaning and changing your vacuum filter often, as well. Then vacuum some more.
  • Set up a dehumidifier, which will dry out your home and discourage bacteria and germs from breeding in an otherwise humid environment.
  • Clean your washer. This is often the culprit of musty smells. In addition to making sure you don’t let your clothes sit long after a wash (you know what we’re talking about), make sure to clean your washer once a month to help prevent mildew growth. Wipe the washer drum with a household cleaner, toss in a couple of tablespoons of baking soda, and run on a hot wash cycle (run it empty – no clothes in there). This will help take care of any mildew spores (yep, that’s a thing) or bacteria.
  • Simmer vinegar or some lemon peels in water on your stove for twenty minutes or so to neutralize the surrounding air, sort of like a natural potpourri.
  • Spray musty smelling rooms with Febreze Air for a quick burst of freshness and to eliminate lingering odors.
  • Deep clean upholstered furniture by washing all removable covers in the laundry, scrubbing any curious mystery stains with baking soda. Baking soda is odorless but absorbs other odors — making it the perfect deodorizer. If your furniture doesn’t have removable covers, you can use a soft-bristled brush to dust hair and dander off before wiping it with a damp cloth. Leather furniture can be wiped with a mixture of vinegar and water, but be careful not to oversaturate the fabric.
  • If you don’t feel like scrubbing all that upholstered stuff, you can simply sprinkle baking soda on your carpet or furniture and let it sit for an hour before vacuuming it up to neutralize odors embedded in fabric.
  • Lightly mist any hard-to-wash fabric items with your favorite scent of Febreze Fabric Spray to eliminate unsavory odors.
  • Check under all sinks for leaks or water build-up that may spark mold or mildew growth and scrub areas with mild bleach or vinegar solutions.
  • Wash the walls, clean the garbage disposal, scrub your dishwasher filter. Anything that could be producing a funky smell, sniff check, and clean accordingly.
  • Steam clean your carpets or hire a service to do so.
  • Mop finished floors with Swiffer WetJet Mops, which will save you the trouble of having to haul out buckets of water and detergent. The wet mopping cloths are also disposable, so just toss them when you’re done.
  • Deodorize further by whipping up a little cocktail of vinegar and baking soda to spray on fabrics such as curtains, carpets, or even the dog’s bed. Don’t be afraid to add a pinch of apple cider vinegar to your laundry detergent when washing bedding, linens, duvets, slipcovers, or towels.
  • Air out your house by opening all of the windows and doors and let the sunshine in, which can help kill germs and bacteria.
  • Try changing the air filters in your home’s heating and cooling systems to maximize the airflow and circulation. Stagnant air can be stinky air.
  • Invest in an air purifier, which may help to reduce odor issues by killing the bacteria and fungi in the air.
  • Purchase an essential oil diffuser, some scented candles, or fresh flowers to combat the musty smell, or at least offset it with a more pleasant flavor.
  • It could be your pet. Got a furry friend? Chances are, their fur, dander and general pet tendencies may be leaving a musk inside your home. Swiffer Heavy Duty Pet products are a total lifesaver. Not only can the Swiffer Pet Heavy Duty Duster extend to reach those awkward places where hair might be hiding (think: ceiling fans), but its special fibers trap and lock in dust and pet hair. Swiffer Heavy Duty Pet Dry Sweeping Cloths are great for quickly sweeping your floors without having to mess with a dustbin. Pet hair sticks directly to the disposable cloths, which you can then remove and toss straight in the trash when you’re done.
  • Wash your pet’s beds. They are the epicenter of dirt, saliva, urine, dander, and hair situation that could be adding to that musty smell. If your pet’s bed isn’t washable and you suspect it stinks, time for a new one.
  • Go full Scooby-Doo on the situation and bust out the blacklight to identify isolated problem areas. Former urine stains from pets will often glow yellow or green. Use a neutralizing agent directly on those spots (vinegar, baking soda, etc.). If a baseboard or lower wall urine stain is really persistent, you can try painting over it with odor sealing paint.
  • For additional freshness, hit those spots with some Febreze Fabric Pet Odor Eliminator or spray some Febreze Air Heavy Duty Pet Odor Eliminator in your pet’s corner of the room or around the litter box (but not directly onto the pet!).

Even if you never find the source of that musty smell, these tricks can surely help to get rid of it. As infuriating as that may be, hopefully, now you can relax and enjoy your odor-free home. (Who are we kidding, we know the origin of that mystery stink will keep you up at night for years to come!) Goodluck and smell ya later!

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