What Causes A Musty Smell In The House?

Have you ever experienced walking down to the basement and smelling a characteristic smell that reminds you of damp and moldy clothes? Well, that is exactly what a “musty” odor smells like.

It is often the mold and mildew that causes this type of moldy smell and these fungi grow when there is moisture in the house. The smell becomes more prominent during the rainy season.

It not only irritates the inhabitants but also makes them embarrassed when some guests visit the house. The presence of mold and mildew in your house is a sign that something is not right and you must take immediate steps to rectify it.

If these fungi go untreated, they penetrate deeper into the material they are growing on causing more damage. Nothing in your house would remain safe from these culprits including your books, clothes, flooring and anything else that comes in direct contact with them.

A moldy smell is stronger than a musty smell but the cause is usually the same. They both start when there is uncontrolled dampness or high humidity in the house especially in the dark areas.

Houses with basement units are more likely to catch this kind of smell because the air from the basement moves upwards making the upper portions smelly as well.

The first step in getting rid of this odor and cleaning the indoor air is to find the source of moisture buildup in the home.

How to Get Rid of the Musty Smell in Your Home

To check areas that might have hidden mold, you can get professional help or use test kits that measure surface dust, volatile organic compounds, and toxic formaldehyde. These tests measure the level of these substances in your house so that you can choose a solution accordingly.

Not only can you measure the level of formaldehyde in your new home but also tobacco smoke when moving to a home that has previously been lived in. These are also known as indoor air quality test kits and you can easily get professional help to use them.

They are performed to look for hiding sources of mold, such as behind walls, under carpets or inside cupboards.

In addition to checking hidden mold, you must look for very apparent sources of moisture buildup. These include:

Water leakage in the plumbing pipes, faucets, walls or roof

If any of these areas has a problem, get help or fix them yourself to stop moisture buildup or get rid of dampness.

Better ventilation usually helps to get rid of any kind of smell in the house. The basement in any house usually has that stale odor. The reason for this is not having enough sunlight and proper air flow.

If you have carpets in your basement, get rid of them as soon as possible and install tile. Not only does carpet attract dust and soil but also becomes the first hiding point for mold and mildew.

While looking for possible areas where mold and mildew might have grown, check all the dark, damp and warm places.

If you see mildew anywhere in your house, you can clean it easily with the help of white vinegar mixed with hot water and baking soda. Dehumidifiers can be used to remove moisture along with proper ventilation to make sure mold and mildew do not grow back.

Take Steps to Freshen the Air Naturally

Air fresheners are easily available on the market and they are also easy to use. But it is recommended to freshen the air naturally so that you can remain safe from harmful chemicals at the same time.

These sprays are known to contain formaldehyde, which may cause allergic reactions, headaches and heart palpitations – among other complications. The natural way to freshen the air is to open the windows and turn on all the fans in the house.

Activated charcoal and backing soda both are natural odor absorbers and can be used to get rid of any kind of foul smell in your home.

Mold and mildew not only cause bad smell, they can also cause a structural damage to your home. Moldy environments raise many health concerns including allergies and many other complications.

It is therefore important to take immediate action when you smell that characteristic “musty” odor in your house. After checking for moisture buildups, you need to wipe off the mold from surfaces where it is visible and check for hidden sources. It is important to keep doing this step periodically especially after the rainy season to make sure the smell doesn’t come back.


There is nothing more irritating and embarrassing than unpleasant and usually unknown odors in your home. But before using any kind of solution, the first step is to find out the cause of this smell.

The presence of moisture or dampness in any part of the house is usually the cause of such an annoying smell. When this moisture is not controlled effectively, it becomes a source of mold and mildew growth, which not only cause bad smell but also decay and damage to your belongings over time.

Mold emits gases known as microbial volatile organic compounds over time, which can be dangerous for your health.

Old houses need a thorough testing for the presence of hidden mold while new homes must be tested for levels of formaldehyde to get rid of the smell completely. These are professional tests that can help in getting rid of the musty smell for good.

The basement is the first area to inspect for possible growth of these culprits. But if you don’t have a basement, you need to check for water leakages. Some other steps must be taken in order to make sure there are no sources of hidden moisture buildup in your house.

And finally, keeping the air fresh through proper ventilation can ensure a clean and odor-free home.