How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in House? (Combat the Root Cause)

Last Updated on December 21, 2023 by Justin Williams

It comes silently and slowly. Once it comes you won’t mistake its odor with anything else. It’s that pesky musty smell that comes to your home from time to time. Unfortunately, it comes with no know visible cause.

The good news is that it is treatable and to find out how to get rid of mold & mildew smell in house, just continue to read our article.

It gives you the information you need to fight these nasty smells that only serve to embarrass you.

How To Get Rid Of Musty Smell

What You Need to Know about the Musty Smell in Your House

1. What Does It Smell Like?

This is actually hard to pin down. The musty odor that you smell, can and does smell differently to different people. Some people compare the smell to a bunch of sweaters that have been locked up for months and in deep need of airing out.

When your house smells musty, others think it smells like rotten cheese or rotting wood. There are more labels one can use to describe this odor that comes from mildew or mold. Once you smell it, though, you will always recognize it.

The odor is a moist-like smell indicating that mildew and mold are growing somewhere in your home.

2. What Environment Supports the Growth of Mold & Mildew?

Basements, bathrooms, attics and crawlspaces are common areas that support mold growth, they are not usually the cause of the bacteria. The one thing these rooms have in common is that they all have moist damp environments.

Each room is also subject to high humidity levels which also provides not only the moisture mold needs to grow but the warm temperatures it needs to grow in. Besides the ones listed above, you can add your laundry room where you place your washing machine, especially if it is not vented properly.

3. Signs

When you see some black mold growing on a basement wall, a baseboard or under the sink, it may not be the total amount of mold that is growing in your home. A lot of the bacteria can be hidden behind walls causing health problems long after you clean up what you can see.

Other signs include triggered allergies, that familiar musty odor, signs of water damage, flooding or leaking, and condensation. The final sign would be if anyone in your home is experiencing headaches, have trouble concentrating, their attention spans have been shorter, memory loss and dizziness.

4. The Differences Between Mold and Mildew

The biggest difference between both mold and mildew is in their looks. Mildew has a white or gray powdery texture and can turn yellow, brown or black if given enough time. It usually stays on the surface of a wall, baseboard and other objects.

Mold, on the other hand, can express itself using the colors black, red and green. Mold looks fuzzy and unlike mildew, it can grow just about anywhere. One of the other differences is that mildew can cause damage to plants and crops.

Both will cause respiratory illnesses

5. When to Get a Mold Inspection

One of the best times to get a mold inspection is when you are planning on buying a house. You do not want to move into a place and then spend thousands more replacing walls, etc. Because there was a mold problem.

If you already own your own home, then you should get an inspection when you first smell that musty odor or see some mold growing in those damp, humid and moist rooms. Or if someone in your family is having their allergies triggered for no apparent reason.

The final reason would be if you have had flooding or leak issues in the past. Water stains are a good indicator that you may have potential mold growth in your home. The places you should look are not the ones that are easily seen.

6. Health Risks of Mold Growth

One of the reasons you need to get rid of your mold problem is because the bacteria is dangerous to your health. Here are some of the health risks you may get if you let the mold in your home continue to grow unabated.

Minor health issues including:

  • Triggered allergies
  • Nasal congestion
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Eye irritation
  • Skin irritation
  • Runny nose

and Major Health Issues:

  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Asthma attacks
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Migraine headaches
  • Hives
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Chronic sore throats

The people most vulnerable to mold would be infants and small children; the senior citizen in your or their own home, people with compromised immune systems and people with lung disease.

The compromised immune system can be due to HIV, liver disease, cancer, and chemotherapy

What You Need to Do for Preventing Mold from Growing in Your House

They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is a good sentiment to go by when dealing with mold and mildew. It is better to take steps to prevent mold from growing, and it is cheaper to do so, than wait till there is a problem.

The good news is the prevention techniques used against mold also help to remove mildew.

Here are some ways to prevent mold from taking place:

1. Proper Ventilation

This is one of the key methods to preventing mold or mildew from getting a foothold in your home. If you do not have any special devices like air conditioners, dehumidifiers and so on, you should make sure your windows are open as much as they can be to maintain air circulation.

Keeping your home clean and dry is a good start. Fans help with ventilation as well. In your kitchen, bathroom and laundry rooms, window fans do a great job in removing humid, moist air

You may want to consider having a ventilation fan in your attic and crawl space as well. These are prime areas for mold to grow and would benefit from having their area kept dry by moving air.

2. Use a Dehumidifier

use a dehumidifier to prevent mold from growing

If you want a good tool to help you fight humidity and mold growth but can’t afford the cost and expense of an air conditioner, then a good dehumidifier will do a great job for you.

No matter which room you place them in, they get rid of the excess moisture and humidity levels that work hard to help mold and mildew grow. Dehumidifiers come in all shapes and sizes and they can handle different rooms from small to large.

There are whole house models and some designed to work with crawl spaces and attics. Your home is covered when you turn to a dehumidifier to help prevent mold and mildew.

3. Keep Your Home Clean

This is an important aspect of mold prevention. For example in the bathroom, after you install a good ventilating fan, you should spread wet towels out so they dry thoroughly, wipe down the shower immediately after use, use quick dry and easy to clean shower curtains.

One of the best mold and mildew killers is chlorine bleach. Yet that tool is not always good for certain fabrics so you need to find a fabric safe cleaner that does away with both mold and mildew.

4. Stop Leaks from Taking Place

If you have pipes that leak then you need to get them fixed right away. Dripping faucets, pipe connections, plugged drains all contribute to the growth of mold. Fix these and mold has one less place to find food to grow.

Next, check your roof and exterior walls. If there are holes, loose gaps between shingles and siding or other construction integrity issues, then rain can get in and help mold to grow where you do not see it right away.

5. Use Mold Control Fogger

You can stop mold from growing in your home by using one of the best mold foggers available on the market. Although mold fogger may not help eliminate mold spores if they're already there, but it is one of the most essential parts of mold remediation.

Our Recommended Home Remedies for Removing Mold and Mildew

Removing mold and mildew does not have to be expensive and you do not have to hire a professional if you do not want to. Mold removal can be done by just about anyone, and their only qualification would be is for them to be thorough.

These home remedies are going to require some household tools to help you. You will need mops, rags, brushes, buckets, rubber gloves, bleach, vacuum, furniture polish and other items to get the task done right.

Not all the tools listed will be used at the same location in your home.

On Walls, Floor, Ceilings, Attics...

In these situations, you will need to mix 1 part bleach to 16 parts water and then use a rag or brush to wipe the mixture on the walls, ceilings, joists and other solid parts in those rooms.

If the mold is a bit stubborn, you should add more bleach and less water.


The first step would be to take what furniture is easy to lift and carry outdoors. You do not want to spread the spores inside your home. Vacuum the furniture or brush the loose spores into a bag with a brush.

Then mix 1 cup bleach with 1 cup of warm water and wipe your furniture with a clean rag dipped into the solution. Then when the stain is gone, rinse with a damp cloth dipped in cold water.

Then dry thoroughly with a fan.


clean carpet to remove mold and mildew

When you have mold or mildew in your carpet, simply vacuum your carpet thoroughly first. After you do this you should empty and clean the bag or toss it away. When you clean the bag, do it outside in a well-ventilated area.

Next, take a tablespoon of laundry soap and mix it with 2 cups of cool water. You want to mix it very thoroughly as it is the suds that you want to place on your carpet. Use a damp cloth and apply the mixture to your carpet until the mold or mildew is gone.

Then dry the carpet thoroughly. A quicker way would be to rent a carpet cleaner and let it handle the task. This works well when you have a large carpet to clean and get free of mildew or mold.

You can always substitute the soap for a good mold and mildew cleaner.

RVs, Cars and Trucks

remove mold and mildew in rvs

RVs are just like a house. If you see mold or mildew grab your bleach and start cleaning. But the problem may not all be visible, just like your house, and you may have to go under counters, sinks or pull walls to get the whole mess.

To prevent mold from growing check for water leaks and condensation and repair those problem areas. Don’t forget to check vents, windows, skylights and your exterior RV skin for holes, etc.

When you are using your RV it is a good idea to invest in a small dehumidifier for RV to help keep the air dry and cool. You can always keep the windows open as well but this is not a good idea when traveling in high humidity areas of the country.

For your car or truck, the solution is a lot easier. Vacuum your mats and seats, then clean everything with a damp cloth and a bleach and water solution. Make sure you let everything dry thoroughly before using your vehicle again.

The carpet in your car or truck can be cleaned following the home remedy already mentioned for carpets above. Or you can use one of the best mold and mildew removers to replace the bleach.

In all cases, bleach is the best solution to use, but if you are not comfortable with using it, then pick a good alternative cleaner. There is a myriad of them on your store’s shelves for you to try.

Final Words

Mold and mildew is not something you want to take lightly. When you spot it or have someone in your family starting to have allergy reactions or other health problems you should start your search for mold.

Thank goodness you have an early warning system, the musty smell, letting you know that there is a problem you should take care of before someone is hurt by the mold or mildew inside your home.

Use home remedies, invest in one of the best basement dehumidifiers or call in cleaning specialists to get the job done and protect your family from what mold can do.

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15 thoughts on “How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in House? (Combat the Root Cause)”

  1. We have a closed in shower which holds mold on the ceiling in the top of the walls. There is a light but no exhaust fan in the shower area. I thought about a duct free exhaust but thought a dehumidifier may be best. Do you have a dehumidifier that is compact and ceiling mounted?

    • Hi Chris,

      We see your problem. Dehumidifiers are really better than exhaust fans because of its capability to pure air. We have a lot of ceiling/wall mounted dehumidifier, but we recommend a compact size/portable dehumidifier due to 4 reasons:
      – Affordable price (cheaper than ceiling mounted dehumidifier)
      – Small enough to fit in a bathroom.
      – Quiet
      – Lowest energy consumption
      So, we suggest you the Eva-Dry Electric Petite Dehumidifier. It is suitable to your needs. However, remember it works perfectly for a small bathroom. If you have a larger bathroom, you can check our TOP 10 Dehumidifier on the homepage. A 30-pint or 50-pint dehumidifier that is portable with powerful features and long-term durability will worth your purchase..

      Hope our answer can help you.

      Thanks & Best Regards,


  2. Our mildew smell is strong in our basement. The basement is 1200 sq ft so it’s hard to tell from where it originates. We had a small leak from a toilet above, but we replaces the ceiling tiles and checked for moisture. We’ve had trays of baking soda out for weeks. I could probably get rid of the smell, but I am afraid of getting mold.

  3. a friends camode flooded her house and I lent her my dehumidifier. I got it back and it smells like very strong floral air freshener. I washed outside. But upon turning it on now my house is smelling like the floral scent. I not keen on floral how can I get the smell out of it.

  4. I have purchased 2 – 70 pint Soleus dehumidifiers in the last 5 years. Both no longer remove humidity in my basement. The motor runs great,they both look like new and the filters are clean. So how can I keep from filling up the landfills with these units? The 1st year was great but at the end of the summer of the 2nd year the units don’t remove humidity. I need help. I am very frustrated with this product. Even your reviews state longevity is a problem. Help Help Help!!
    1st model #HMT-D70EIP-A and my 2nd one is HMT-D70E-A. Also my church purchased the HMT-D70E-A in 2018 so I’m pretty sure it will not make it through the summer of 2019.

  5. I have a dehumidifier that shut off after basement flooded…now it will not turn on. I let it dry out for several days before starting it again…can it be fixed or is it trashed.

  6. My bedroom had humidity levels of about 70% daily and get my nose stuffed and that gives headaches.i want to dehumidify please suggest some not expansive dehumidifier thanks


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