Musty Smell in House: Causes & How To Get Rid of It (Permanently)

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Noticing a musty smell when you walk into your home is never pleasant. The smell itself – combination of dampness, mold, and stale air – naturally smells bad, but it can also leave you wondering if the air you are breathing in might be unhealthy.

One of the main challenges with a musty odor in your South Florida home is that it can be difficult to determine the source of the smell, and even harder to get rid of it. Sometimes musty odors can be the  result of an easy to fix issue like trash that has been inside for too long or a gym bag filled with clothes you forgot to wash. 

There are a number of causes of musty smells, and while some are simply annoying, others can indicate a dangerous problem. Knowing how to tell the difference – and how to get rid of it – is important to avoid unpleasant smells, and possibly property damage.

Removing a musty smell from a house

What Causes a Home To Smell Musty?

A musty odor is the result of growing mold. Mold spores are everywhere around you, but when mold or mildew starts growing rapidly on a surface, it can quickly cause an odor. Mold needs a few things to start growing, including natural materials to feed on, oxygen, darkness, and warm temperatures.

But the most important factor for mold growth is moisture. Mold requires a significant amount of water to survive and grow, which is part of what makes it so prevalent in Florida, since high ambient humidity leaves plenty of moisture in the air for mold to thrive on. 

Mold can start growing in the span of a day, and any surfaces around your home that are damp can be a breeding ground for mold and a musty odor. The following are some places you may want to look if you notice a musty smell:

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Signs of Mold

All mold has the potential to cause a musty odor, so its a good idea to check your entire house from top to bottom for any clear signs of mold, such as moldy drywall. If you notice any mold, anywhere, it is a good idea to call a mold removal company. 

But musty smells can also start early in the mold process, and may not be the result of excessive mold growth. They can be a sign of moisture that may harbor the conditions for mold. 

Wet Clothes

Wet clothes provide moisture for mold growth and natural fibers in the fabric. Clothes that are not dried after washing, or were left on the floor or in a bag after sweating in them can quickly cause a smell. Piling clothes on your bedroom or bathroom floor can also cause them to retain moisture if the room becomes humid.


Carpets are highly porous. Anytime there is a spill or any sort of water damage, it is difficult to effectively dry out a carpet. The water will often seep into the padding and subfloor, enabling mold to grow out of sight. Your carpet might be the source of a musty odor if the smell gets stronger near your carpet or you notice discoloration.


Mattresses and sheets absorb moisture just from people sleeping on them, but spills and leaks in your home can make things worse. It can be impossible to dry out a mattress without the proper tools, potentially leaving your mattress as a mildew magnet. 

Regularly washing sheets in hot water can help eliminate smells, but a mattress will often need more advanced drying and cleaning to prevent any musty odors.

Dish Sponge

A dish sponge is the perfect growing place for mold. It retains tiny particles of old food from scrubbing your dishes and almost always stays wet. In addition, our kitchens are generally warm, providing the right temperature for mold. There are a few methods to sanitize dish sponges, but many people also prefer to just replace them regularly.

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Tools Needed to Remove Musty Smells

Getting rid of a musty odor in your home is possible but it does require the right tools. It is important to remember that when working with mold, the spores can be hazardous, so it is best to take precautions and call an expert for more significant mold problems. Spores can also spread to other rooms, so always be careful handling moldy items.

Some of the most common tools to control mold include:


You will need a pair of heavy duty gloves for handling any molded items and scrubbing contaminated surfaces. You can purchase standard rubber gloves at your local hardware store or supermarket. You will generally want to throw out the gloves after use.

Trash bag

All contaminated items that you will be throwing out need to go into a plastic trash bag that can be sealed. This prevents mold spores from being dislodged from their host and floating away as you carry contaminated items from your house. Double bagging in two plastic bags can also be a good idea.


Bleach is an effective way to kill mold spores and is both easily and cheaply available. Dilute one cup of bleach in two parts water for a mold cleaning solution. You can spray the bleach onto a surface and let it sit for a 10 minutes to dissolve mold. Then wipe it away or scrub it to remove lingering spores.


Depending on the source of the musty odor, you may need a few other tools to effectively control the smell. A washer with hot water capabilities can kill mold on clothing and linens. A scrub brush may be necessary to loosen mold that has eaten away at hard surfaces. Natural cleaners like baking soda or vinegar can also be helpful for removing mold from surfaces.

How Long Does It Take To Remove The Smells?

Musty or moldy items need to be addressed to prevent additional mold growth. But the time it takes to get rid of a musty odor in your home depends on a number of factors.

  • How extensive mold growth was.
  • If mold spread to other areas in the home.
  • If odor causing spores are trapped in nearby carpets and walls.
  • Air circulation in the affected space.
  • Whether or not odor neutralizers were used.

In many cases, a musty smell will begin to dissipate as soon as the source is removed. If this is something as simple as a sponge, the issue could be fixed relatively quickly. But if there are multiple things causing a musty smell around your home or the source of your smell is something more permanent such as carpets or water damage on walls, the necessary work to remove a musty smell will also be more advanced.

In these cases, relying on a mold remediation company in South Florida like Rescue Clean 911, is often the fastest and safest way to stop musty odors in your home. They can quickly identify the cause, safely remove it, and clean the remaining area to remediate any lasting mold spores that might continue to cause an unpleasant odor.

How To Get Rid of Musty Smells in Your House Once and for All

If you are ready to get rid of musty smells in your home for good, these DIY steps for removing odors and making your home less habitable for mold can help you prevent similar smells from coming back later on.

1. Find the Source

Knowing that musty smells often develop in damp, dark, and warm environments, look for any sources of moisture. In some cases, you may see visible signs of mildew or water, but not always so be prepared to treat anything that is letting off a musty smell.

2. Deal With Moisture Issues ASAP

When you notice a moisture issue, correct this as soon as possible. This prevents mold from starting, or continuing to grow and causing an odor. Fix leaks when you notice them, clean up standing water, and manage humidity with a ventilation system or dehumidifier.

3. Open the Windows

Opening windows when the weather is nice improves ventilation and keeps humidity under control. This will help you dry out any rooms where moisture may be present, and is especially important if you have recently noticed a leak or standing water.

4. Utilize Warmer Days

You do not want to wait too long to take care of a musty odor problem, but if warm days are approaching, you can use the elevated temperatures to improve evaporation on any damp items. Setting belongings like mattresses or rugs out in warm sunlight can help kill off odor causing particles.

5. Keep Your Home As Dry as Possible

Going forward, it is important to keep your home as dry as possible to prevent that musty smell from coming back. Use dehumidifiers where necessary, avoid leaving wet items lying around, and deal with any sources of moisture quickly.

Contact an Expert at Mold and Mildew Remediation

A musty smell can indicate a health hazard in your home, or simply a damp item that has been left out too long. Regardless, any odors in your home still need to be taken care of as quickly as possible. While many smaller mold issues can be handled on your own, more extreme concerns should always be left to the professionals at Rescue Clean 911. For a more thorough clean to remove the musty smell in your house, call us today!

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