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Identifying Mold Odors and Removing them from Your Home

Musty smell is typically caused by mold in your home.

Musty smell in your home is often the first sign of hidden mold growth.

If you enter a room where the windows haven’t been opened in a while, you’ll probably find the air stuffy and stagnant. As soon as you let some fresh air inside, though, the stale smell will disappear and the pleasant atmosphere in the room will be quickly restored. However, if you detect musty odor again in a couple of hours after the windows have been closed and the foul smell persists despite your efforts to get rid of it with the help of air fresheners, potpourri or other sweet aromas, this may be the first sign of mold growing in your home. Even if you don’t see any mold yet, it may have developed in hidden places – inside walls or under baseboards, in crawlspaces or inside heating and ventilation ducts, etc. Mold spores produce microbial volatile organic compounds that have the distinct musty odor you can detect long before any visible mold patches appear in your home. So, in order to remove the unpleasant smell from your home, you need to remove the mold first.

What to Do if You Detect Musty Smell in your Home

To get rid of mold odor and prevent it in the future, you need to identify what is causing it. Have in mind that if you can detect a musty smell, you are probably inhaling mold-produced compounds and even mold spores. They are often toxic and can trigger asthma or allergies, or cause respiratory infections, nose or throat congestion, migraines or digestive problems, etc. So, even though the unpleasant mold smell may bother you, it is the potential health problems that you should be concerned about. The sooner you take appropriate measures to remove the mold, the easier it will be to get rid of the smell and the healthier your living environment will be. If you ignore the risk and wait for the situation to aggravate, hiring mold remediation services will be your only viable option for restoring the good living conditions in your property.

  • Test your home for mold – your first step should be to check if there is indeed mold growth in your property. Mold test kits are available in home improvement stores and can also be ordered online. They are easy to use and will help you identify the affected areas in your home. Have in mind that mold spreads quickly and easily and thrives in dark humid places where it can develop undisturbed (such as under carpeting and floorboards, above ceiling tiles, inside walls and ducts). Professional mold testing may be your better option if you suspect mold growth in areas that are difficult to reach and to treat. The specialists will not only know how to properly perform the tests, but will also interpret the results and tell you if the mold levels in your property are potentially harmful to your health;

    You need to find the source of the problem and fix it as soon as possible in order to get rid of mold odor in your home and ensure a healthy living environment.

    You need to find the source of the problem and fix it as soon as possible in order to get rid of mold odors in your home and to ensure a healthy living environment.

  • Identify the cause of mold growth and take appropriate measures – mold can easily appear under the right conditions, especially in the presence of excessive moisture. So, you need to find and eliminate the source of the moisture first in order to be able to successfully remove mold from your property. Whether it is a plumbing problem, a leaking appliance, a high level of air humidity or any other reason that may cause moisture to accumulate, take proper measures to fix the problem as soon as possible to prevent structural damage and serious health issues;
  • Kill the mold spores and deep clean your property – if the affected areas are small and easy to treat, use EPA approved sprays to remove mold and disinfect your household items and structural materials. However, if the harmful spores have already spread and/or you experience some mold symptoms, it is recommendable to ask for professional assistance. Mold remediation specialists will find and eliminate all the mold spores in your home and will restore the affected materials to their original good conditions. What’s more, they will give you useful advice on how to prevent future mold growth and musty smells from reappearing.

To completely get rid of any unpleasant odors in your home, however, you need to thoroughly clean the premises and to keep the humidity levels in your property low.

How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in House

Intensive cleaning is the best method for getting rid of musty smells in your house. Have in mind that the mold volatile organic compounds which produce the musty smell you can detect are quite difficult to remove from your home as they permeate various household items, such as carpets, clothing, curtains, and upholstered furniture. So, have the carpets and upholstery in the affected area professionally cleaned (if necessary), wipe all the surfaces, wash all the fabrics, and throw away any old papers and cardboard pieces as they hold mold spores and retain the smell. Clean the entire area with a disinfecting solution and let it dry (leave the windows open to allow as much fresh air inside as possible). The mold odor should be completely gone.

  • How to remove mold smell from furniture – to get musty smell out of your furniture, clean carefully inside cabinets and drawers and all over the surface (including the underside) with a sponge or a cloth saturated with vinegar, wood soap, or any other sanitizing solution. You may even use a brush dampened in mineral spirits. Then let your pieces dry in a well-ventilated area and leave the doors and drawers open for a few days. Natural sunlight is particularly efficient for removing unpleasant smells from wooden furniture as the ultraviolet rays of the sun actually purify the material by provoking the decomposition of various harmful compounds;

    Thorough cleaning will help you get rid of musty smell in house.

    Thorough cleaning is essential for removing mold and mold odors from your property.

  • How to remove mold smell from carpets and upholstery – carpets and upholstery can absorb the unpleasant odors from the surroundings, so you need to clean them very carefully in order to get rid of the musty smell. Spray the piece with an adequate product (like Lysol), rub it in and let it dry completely. You can also try sprinkling baking soda (a powerful odor eliminator) all over the affected area and vacuuming it after several hours. Steam cleaning will additionally help remove odors, but it may not be appropriate for some delicate materials. To achieve the best possible results, however, you are advised to hire professional cleaning services, especially for fine carpets and leather upholstery;
  • How to remove mold smell from clothes – add one cup of white vinegar (or baking soda) to the load when machine washing clothing, drapery, and linen that have absorbed musty smells (you can use chlorine bleach for white cotton or linen items but be very careful as it can weaken the fabric). Add a liquid scented fabric softener during the rinse and hang your clothes outside on a sunny day to dry. Fresh air and natural sunlight will help remove any trace of musty smell from your clothing.

It is also a good idea to wipe all your home appliances with a solution of white vinegar and water. You can also open a box of baking soda and leave it inside refrigerators, ovens, etc. for a couple of days to absorb any remaining mold odors.

Don’t forget to disinfect all the surfaces in the affected areas and to air the premises really well.

If you can still detect some unpleasant smell, you can use some odor absorbers and/or air fresheners. Place bowls of white vinegar, coffee, or active charcoal around the house to absorb odor and purify the air. It may be hard to believe but pineapple slice and cat litter can also help you get rid of musty smell as they are very efficient odor absorbers. As already mentioned, an open box of baking soda will take away all the mold odors from damp, stuffy spaces. Orange or lemon peels, scented candles, incense, dry herbs and various other pleasant aromas will also help refresh the air in your home, as long as you have removed the origin of the musty smell – mold growth. Otherwise, all air fresheners, disinfectant sprays, and common household cleaning products may only temporarily cover up the smell but can’t get rid of it.

How to Keep Mold Smell Away

Once you have removed the musty smell from your house, you need to keep it away for good:

Keep humidity undr control to prevent mold growth.

A charming penguin-dehumidifier in your room can mean the difference between fresh air and mold odors. It’s up to you to take appropriate measures and ensure the healthy and pleasant living conditions in your home.

  • Clean the area regularly to prevent bacteria growth – scrub hard surfaces (including walls, flooring, and furniture) with a solution of mild detergent and warm water and periodically wash all the fabrics;
  • Ventilate the premises well – keep the windows open whenever the weather conditions allow it, periodically air out closets and enclosed spaces and run the fans in your home to provide good air circulation;
  • Keep the humidity levels in your living environment as low as possible – use a dehumidifier to remove excessive moisture that can contribute to mold growth and make sure your clothing and other washed items are completely dry before storing them inside;
  • Hire mold removal professionals to take care of any moldy ceiling tiles, carpeting, linoleum, or drywall.

Getting rid of musty smells in your house is a laborious and time-consuming process. If you are not up to the challenge, you can take advantage of professional deodorization services. The specialists have extensive experience and advanced equipment, such as ozone generators, hydroxyl technology, air scrubbers, nano filters, etc. They will use the most efficient odor removal techniques and appropriate cleaning products for the types of materials in your home to ensure the best possible results.

It’s very important to research your options and come up with an efficient way to remove the musty smell from your surroundings as soon as you detect it. You will not only restore the pleasant atmosphere in your home, but will also ensure safe and healthy living conditions for your family and yourself.

About the author

Luke Armstrong

Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as commercial and residential cleaning services, including carpet, upholstery and furniture cleaning. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.

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