Why Does My House Smell Musty: Ph.D. Reveals The Answer

Having a musty smell in your house is never an enjoyable experience since the odor can cause serious discomfort. You might be wondering why your house has an unattractive, musty smell.

Why Does My House Smell Musty? Your house has a musty smell because of the presence of mold spores in the air. Not only do mold spores smell bad, but they can also be dangerous to your health and need to be eliminated.

In a paper on Mold Prevention Strategies by Mary Brandt, Ph.D., the musty smell in your house is caused by mold spores that grow only when there is sufficient moisture.

How To Get Rid of a Musty Smell in My House?

You can get rid of a musty smell in your house by cleaning your house regularly and maintaining proper ventilation. Getting a dehumidifier or a fan can also help your house’s smell.

The most notable reason why your house might have a musty smell is due to a lack of proper ventilation.

There are several things to put in place in your home to ensure that it is properly ventilated:

  • Keep the windows open to allow fresh air and enhance cross ventilation.
  • Grow plants to increase oxygen production and clean the air naturally.
  • Use fans to blow out the bad air.
  • Set up a dehumidifier to keep excess moisture out of the air. I recommend the Pro Breeze Dehumidifier. Click here for pricing on Amazon.
  • Avoid leaving water on rugs and carpets as it enables the development of a musty smell.

In the fight against musty odors, increasing ventilation, strengthening natural light (which can destroy germs and bacteria), and decreasing humidity are your best friends. Depending on how bothersome and persistent the odor is in your dwelling, thorough cleaning of your home may be in order.

A weekly “sweep, mop, vacuum” routine will go a long way in keeping smells out of your home. In the case of a musty smell, do not limit your cleaning to the carpets. Intensive scouring and washing of bathrooms will do the home some good.

Be sure to dry all surfaces properly after cleaning to avoid the after-effects of moisture on porous house equipment and furniture. Using baking soda to clean your carpet helps to deodorize it. Baking soda also works well on furniture and fabric materials as it absorbs odor.

Another way to get your room to smell better is by investing in an essential oil diffuser, scented candles, or fresh flowers to replace that musty odor with something more pleasant. Also, all removable furniture covers should be washed in the washing machine, and any stubborn stains should be scrubbed with extra baking soda.

If your furniture does not have removable covers, you can dust them with a soft-bristled brush before wiping them down with a moist towel. In addition, you can wipe furniture made from leather with a vinegar-water solution but be careful not to oversaturate the fabric.

Why Does My House Smell Musty After Being Away?

Your house smells musty after being away because of poor ventilation and the development of mold. If you shut your windows when traveling for a while, the lack of air circulation and the presence of moisture can cause musty-smelling mold to grow.

Moist environments with limited airflow are the ideal environments for mold to grow. One notable feature of mold is that it gives off volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chemicals are like those found in substances like paint, refrigerants, preservatives, or cleaning goods.

One characteristic of these volatile organic compounds is their strong smell, and this is why it is easy to identify the musty scent in your house after you go away for a while. Not only is this smell noticeable, but it can be quite harmful to the health.

If you smell mold or mildew, attempt to figure out where it is coming from. As mentioned earlier, mold and mildew thrive in situations where there is moisture and lack of ventilation. Dampness in your home can be caused if there is a leak in a pipe, particularly one that is around the roof.

Apart from the presence of mold, rotting wood can also have a strong, musty odor. The beams that support your home may be damaged if you have a termite problem or water damage. This damage can leave a lasting odor in your home that doesn’t seem to go away no matter how frequently you clean.

However, the problem may not always be this severe. If your house smells stale after you’ve been gone for a while, keep in mind that your home has been sealed shut for the duration of your absence, which means there’s no ventilation from open doors and windows.

Another reason your house might smell musty is if you adjusted your thermostat so that your air conditioner runs less frequently while you’re gone. While this adjustment saves money, it also means that the air inside your house isn’t moving as much, and less dehumidification is taking place.

When you return to your home, all you must do is open some windows and crank on some fans to revive air circulation.

Here is a table that was derived from various online household forums that highlights the areas that others have suggested could be the origin of a musty smell. You should verify these areas as a first step to getting rid of a musty odor.

Origin of Musty SmellPercentage of Responses Examined
attic 29%
around windows13%
sink drains (click for pricing on Amazon)43%
carpeting in basement 15%

How To Get Rid of the Musty Smell That Is Under a House?

You can get rid of the musty smell that is under a house by first identifying the source of the smell, which is usually moldy growth. Then, you should clean up the affected area and ensure that it is well ventilated afterward.

After cleaning the interior of your house, it is easy to keep the doors and windows open to allow air into the house. However, if you have a musty smell in the basement of the house, it may be a lot tougher to work on, because the basement is an enclosed space. In the case of basements, you can utilize fans to help with ventilation in place of windows and doors.

To clean up your basement, mix equal amounts of bleach and water in a bucket. In circular motions, clean the entirety of the basement including the floor, walls, and ceiling using the mixture and a sponge. To get rid of any leftover odor, let the cleaning solution dry completely.

Depending on the size of the space, drying might take between 12 and 24 hours. If your basement is a large space, it might require a lot more time to get dried up completely. To ensure that the basement has been dried properly, you can use fans to make things thorough.

The walls must be thoroughly cleaned since their porosity can cause them to retain smell. Also, block the cracks in the house’s foundation with a silicone sealer and cover dirt floors with plastic sheeting. In addition, check the drainage system on the outside of your home to ensure that the gutters are in good working order and that water is being channeled away from the structure.

If your gutters have any issues, they must be repaired to prevent water from pooling at the foundation. This will keep moisture from seeping into the basement or crawlspace in the future, and the stench will be less likely to return. You can also use a dehumidifier in your basement regularly.

Why Does My House Smell Musty When the AC Is On?

Your house smells musty when your AC is on because there is a buildup of mold in your AC’s system. The commonly affected AC parts are the drip pan, the drain, and the evaporator coil.

Often, the drainpipe of your HVAC system might get obstructed, resulting in a damp, musty odor. Also, if water gathers in your drip pan, this is a warning indicator since mold loves stagnant water. Clear out your drain lines of all blockages, and you might notice a difference in the way your house smells when you turn on the AC.

During some seasons, your AC unit may be used to chill the house during the day and then to heat it in the evening. Due to the mix of moisture, dust, and temperature changes, mold growth can be triggered easily during these seasons.

If mold is growing inside your AC unit, it should be removed as soon as possible. You can clear out mold by disassembling the unit in a well-ventilated area and cleaning the mold with bleach, as well as removing any dust particles or blockages from the filter. If possible, replacing the filter is also an excellent idea.

A blocked air duct in your AC can also cause your room to smell musty when the AC is on. Sometimes, alongside this smell, you might notice that your AC is on for long but not cooling.

If you’re unsure about how to clean your AC’s interior, you can always seek professional help. Also, if none of the above difficulties appear to be the issue, consulting a professional should be your next move.

My House Smells Musty but There Is No Mold Present

Your house smelling musty when there is no mold present might be a result of a leak or a spilled substance. Also, the musty smell could be because your house is getting old.

As explained earlier, the cliche musty smell that is associated with the presence of mold is due to the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that mold contains. These compounds are not found in mold alone, but a lot of other substances such as paints and cleaning agents. If any of these substances are spilled, they might give off a smell like that of mold.

Indoor water leaks can result from plumbing leaks, air conditioning systems, or other drainage hoses and pipes located throughout the property, and they may accumulate moisture and begin to slowly leak into the surroundings.

The musty odor inside your home can also be caused by a variety of environmental conditions including humidity, temperature, and ventilation. Also, the fact that you cannot find mold in your house does not mean that it is absent, but instead, might lurk in hidden areas.

Washing machines are a prime location for musty aromas to develop over time since they use water. Front-load washers are notorious for their capacity to trap water in various nooks and crannies within the machine, such as the rubber gasket seal, which can lead to mold and bacteria growth, resulting in a musty odor.

Bathrooms, basements, and kitchens are also areas where mold might be lurking unnoticed. The potential for mold growth is because of the constant running and spilling of water that occurs in those areas.

In many cases where there is no mold or mildew visible, the issue is minor. Musty smells can originate from unhygienic practices like:

  • Piling dirty clothes for too long without getting them washed, since some of them get damp.
  • Not properly washing and drying clothes causes them to smell.
  • Leaving water on rugs and beneath carpets.
  • Sinks that contain stagnant water often emit foul smells, especially in the bathroom and kitchen.

Why Does My House Smell Musty During the Summer?

Your house smells musty during the summer because of the high amount of humidity that is common in the summer. High humidity levels are perfect for mold and mildew to thrive, leading to a musty smell.

Usually, heat and moisture breed smells. Warm, humid air condenses on cool basement surfaces, feeding the growth of mildew. You may notice a musty odor in the basement in warm weather.

Scientifically, the amount of energy available to molecules that cause odor increases as the temperature rises. As the temperature rises, more of these odor-causing molecules are released into the air, leading to a greater chance of nauseating odor.

Dr. Laura Haupert suggests that as the temperature increases, bacteria grow a lot faster which causes an increase in the activity of enzymes, a researcher at OMI Industries. As the summer months approach, it is more critical than ever to have a solid odor management strategy in place.

Though musty odors might sometimes be unavoidable, taking proactive actions to keep your house and clothes fresh is your best bet. There are a lot of procedures that can help manage the intensity of the musty smell that you experience during the summer.

Maintaining regular hygiene procedures, using a dehumidifier, clearing out your washing machine, and wiping down moist surfaces are some of the vital odor-reducing procedures. Performing these measures ahead of time saves a lot of effort compared to trying to get rid of musty odors after they have come up already.

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Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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