What to do about musty smells in your house

Dealing with a musty smell in your house can not only be unpleasant, but it can also be rather concerning. If you’re noticing a musty or mildew smell in the house, it could be a warning sign of bigger issues like a possible mold infestation. If you’re planning to sell your property, you don’t want to schedule a home inspection until you locate and eradicate the source. As a seller, you should try to address any musty smells ahead of time. Not only will this help your home smell better, but it gives you the best chance of passing the inspection while also impressing potential buyers. Read on to learn more about what can cause a musty smell in your house and what you can do about it. 

What makes a musty smell in homes?

There are several reasons you may notice a musty smell in your house, but the most common cause is the presence of mold and moisture accumulation. When mold forms in your home, it releases something called Microbial Volatile Organic Compounds, or MVOCs. These MVOCs have a very pungent odor that will instantly draw attention. A moldy or wet smell in the house is likely because you have too much moisture somewhere in the home caused by a leak or standing water. This excess moisture can be found underneath your floorboards, HVAC ductwork, or even behind walls and under wallpaper. Mold thrives in damp, dark environments and can live anywhere in temperatures between 40 and 120 degrees. As the mold spores release into the air, they can cause areas of your home to have a wet, musty smell.

If you notice a wet smell in your house, it’s most likely due to mold growth. In many cases, this mold isn’t clearly visible, so you’ll need to do some closer inspection. Start by looking in areas like the basement or rooms with higher moisture levels, such as the bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room. You may need to remove a section of floor molding or look underneath your floors to determine whether or not mold is actually present. So, where does mold come from? You can track mold spores inside from your shoes, or your pets may bring them inside once they attach to their fur. Mold spores also float in the air and can get inside when you leave a door or window open. It’s also found on old bread and rotting food, but most mold in homes thrives on wood and paper materials, such as wallpaper. 

What does mold smell like?

So, what does mold smell like in a house, and how can you tell if it’s in your home? Many people describe mold’s smell as stale, musty, or earthy. Think of it as the smell of decaying, rotting, or wet wood or even like a pair of wet socks. Another excellent example of how mold smells is when an attic gets stuffy after being closed for several months. Pungent is another good word to describe the smell of mold, unlike other common household smells that you may notice, such as cooking food or dusty areas that smell more stale than pungent. 

Are mold and mildew dangerous?

Small amounts of mold in your home are fairly safe but can cause various health issues if it covers a large area or has been in your home for a long time. Mold and mildew may affect people with respiratory issues such as asthma, COPD, and those with allergies much more than those without these pre-existing conditions. The elderly and young children may also notice more profound physical effects from mold exposure. Some of the most common symptoms of mold exposure include constant coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath, a stuffy nose, or red and itchy eyes. Some people may also notice irritated, itchy skin. This is particularly true for people who have a mold allergy. In some cases, you may experience more severe symptoms like fever, an asthma attack, or pneumonia.

Mold exposure can also cause severe headaches for many people. However, these headaches could be due to the sniffling and congestion associated with the mold and mildew exposure. Many people feel something similar to a sinus headache since the irritation can create pressure in the sinus cavities. Black mold, also known as toxic mold, can cause a condition called mycotoxicosis, also known as mold poisoning. Mold can release a toxic substance called mycotoxins, leading to many serious health problems. The symptoms of mold and mildew positioning include body aches and pains, mood swings, and severe headaches, and may also cause nosebleeds or memory loss. If you’re concerned about mold exposure or want to know whether you have a mold allergy, talk to your doctor. They can administer a test to determine whether you have a mold allergy and whether you’ve been dealing with mold exposure or poisoning. 

How do I get rid of the musty smell in my house?

Whether you’re ready to sell your home or not, no one wants to deal with a musty-smelling home. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to get rid of musty smells.

  • Spray moldy surfaces with white distilled vinegar and let it sit for several hours, then scrub the area with a sponge and some baking soda.
  • Once you remove mold and mildew from your home, keep it as ventilated as possible by turning on the ceiling fans and opening doors and windows when possible.
  • Use an odor absorber such as activated charcoal to remove any leftover unpleasant smells from the air.
  • An air purifier with a HEPA filter can remove any remaining particles and make the air in your home smell better.
  • Scented candles and essential oil diffusers can mask or cover up smells effectively but won’t actually remove them for good.
  • Treat your carpets with baking soda or an odor-absorbing powder before vacuuming.
  • Mop hard surface flooring with a quality cleaner that contains lemon or bleach.

Mold removal

Removing or disturbing mold can be dangerous, so it’s best to consult with a mold removal expert who can address the problem safely and effectively. The EPA has some great facts and helpful information about how you can remove mold safely. Ensure you wear protective gear such as goggles, a mask, and gloves. When you scrub surfaces with visible signs of mold and mildew, always ensure they dry thoroughly to prevent the mold from returning. Remember these tips, and you can enjoy a fresh-smelling home that buyers will appreciate.