Musty Smell in House: What to Do (& How to Get Rid of It)

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: March 26, 2024

It usually gets better after a good cleaning spree, but it never quite goes away. You really notice it when you’ve been gone for little while. That musty smell in the house shouldn’t be the first thing that greets you when you walk through your home’s front door.

You don’t have to accept musty odors in the house. This is a problem with a solution.

In our experience as Chicago’s leading mold removal service, we find that many homeowners don’t realize that there are hidden sources for unpleasant odors throughout a house. Once you identify a smell’s ground zero, you can address the cause and enjoy a fresh home again. We can help.

Why It Makes Your Nose Twitch

You know the difference between dusty smells and musty odors. Dust particles hanging in the air can irritate allergies, but mold offends your nose, compromises indoor air quality and threatens your health with microbial volatile organic compounds. These microscopic spore components freely travel from multiple hidden sources of origin around your home, and they drift inside through open windows and doors.

The bacteria that grows in drains produces its own peculiar aroma, and your home’s furnishings act like sponges absorbing odors that circulate around the house. It all makes its way into the HVAC system where musty smells migrate through ductwork and into every room of the house.

You Can’t Always See It

As hard as you work keeping everything clean, it’s easy to overlook areas that breed mold and contribute to foul smells in the house. If you’re unsure about the cause of musty odors in your home, consider these common problems that are often out of sight:

  • In the Kitchen – Dirty refrigerator drip pan, slow-draining disposal, food trapped in sink drains
  • In the Bath – Hair and soap in drains, drips behind toilet, plumbing leaks behind walls
  • In the Laundry Room – Leaks in supply lines, cracked washer door gaskets, faulty drain lines
  • Around the House – Moldy air ducts, dirty carpets, pet smells in upholstery
  • Find and Fight Musty Odors

mold in house window

Once you’ve identified the sources of unpleasant smells around the house, you’re ready to choose the best course of action. Not all musty odors are created equally, so you have to fight each smelly problem with a specific solution.

• Stagnant Drains

Clean and clear slow drains with a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. This inexpensive treatment helps prevent serious clogs, and it clears out the bacteria that causes drain odors.

• Smelly Toilets

If regular cleaning doesn’t eliminate smells around the toilet, you may be missing surfaces on its underside and behind the fixture. Attack these hard-to-reach areas with a long-handled brush and a bleach solution.

Power Tip: Foul sewer odors can result from a leak in the line or a problem with the stack vent on your roof. These kinds of plumbing issues need professional attention.

• Stale Carpets and Upholstery

Baking soda is your best friend when it’s time to refresh stale upholstery and carpets. A simple sprinkle-and-vacuum technique works safely on most fabrics.

Power Tip: Always check care tags on furnishings for specific cleaning instructions.

• Dank Washing Machines

Discourage smelly mold around front-loading door gaskets with a regular application of vinegar and water. The mix also stops fungal growth that can crack seals and cause leaks.

• Musty Mold Growth

A bleach and water mix is only effective for removing mold from non-porous surfaces. For porous materials like sheetrock and wood, always use an antimicrobial product.

Power Tip: Be very careful when you tackle DIY mold removal. Without proper precautions, mold cleanup can pose a serious threat to your health.

Know When You Need Help

If you’ve eliminated all of the possibilities and your home still has a musty smell, it’s a good idea to call in a professional mold remediation service. Certified technicians use specialized techniques and equipment to identify and eliminate the source of mold and foul odors. The results are a fresher smelling home and a healthier indoor environment. Consider hiring a mold removal contractor for these projects:

  • Mold problems that are large or cover porous surfaces
  • Toxic black mold cleanup
  • Deep carpet and upholstery cleaning
  • Air duct cleaning and sanitizing
  • Water removal after flooding from storms or burst pipes

When You Want the Best

mold remediation services

It’s a good feeling to know that you can breathe easier in your home. We enjoy knowing that our posts can help you solve hidden problems around the house. You’re always invited to share your ideas with our online community here, and we welcome your input through our Comments Section.

Be careful when you tackle any kind of mold removal at home. If the DIY job doesn’t fit your comfort or safety zone, give us a call. ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba is certified to handle all types of mold removal in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. When you want expert mold remediation services from the very best in the business, contact our teams.