Last update: 8 months ago
Are you worried by a musty, damp, and mildewy smell in your home? Follow this simple guide of know-how and tips to get rid of damp odours in your home for good. Mould stench can be disgusting but growing accustomed to the smell of mildew, especially if air conditioning is present, can, and does happen. AC units dry up the air and dilute the fusty scent to a point where you might neglect it. Many are okay with dank aromas but damp poses a risk to anybody inhabiting the property.
Unfortunately, to distinguish the smell of growing fungi isn’t always easy. That’s why you shouldn’t disregard musty odours, especially if you live in an old abode, such as a house.
But first, how to differ mould from mildew?
Both types of smell are easy to notice but hard to distinguish. Either way, the scent indicates the presence of fungi.
Here’s how mould differs from mildew:
- Mildew is a fine-grained layer of fungi growing on fruits, vegetables and plant life in general.
- Mould growth is slightly thicker and more solid. If left untreated, it could cause structural damage to the property. Mould penetrates matter deeper than mildew. It can infest almost any household item – plant life, natural or engineered wood, construction materials, drywall, plaster, books, clothing, drapery, furnishing and many more.
What is the difference between a mouldy and a musty smell?
The main way you can distinct both is by the strength of smell. While the mildew smell is weaker than that of mould, it can be quite repulsive.
If smell is present:
depositphotos / by HonzaHruby
- Inspect areas that you would normally neglect.
- Pinpoint the source of the damp smell.
- Check areas where condensation builds up such as walls of near-bathroom areas, AC vents, AC filters, behind large pieces of furnishing, look at your window sills, inspect the carpets, rugs, towels, and library. Check where light does not shed and air barely flows.
- Use your nose and count the number of rooms where fusty smells are present. If you sense dampness in all rooms, then that could be a symptom of structural damage yet to impact the property.
You don’t need much damp smell to feel disgusted but to grow accustomed is a real-life scenario. Mould favours environments rich on humidity and low on light but it can also thrive beyond conditions limited to dark, damp, and warm compartments.
How to get rid of a damp smell?
Take out anything that is wet or infested
Prepare yourself to throw old possessions into the dumpster. Exposed materials and fabrics can retain both spores and smell unless professionally treated. Newspapers, books, table runners, and many more could end up as good as rubbish if infested beyond intervention.
One leaky or condensing pipe and mildew can appear where months can pass before red flags arise.
Get to the source of moisture
depositphotos / by AndreyPopov
The sooner you get rid of the source, the faster you’ll leave damp odours behind. A few of the most common areas are leaky pipes, faucets, taps, poor insulation, and areas heavy on condensation. Also, clogged gutters can worsen the problem and cause a moisture smell, so make sure to inspect and clean them if needed. Check our post on how much does it cost to have your gutters cleaned by a professional if you are planing to clear up your guttering system.
A popular recipe is to mix boric acid, white vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and water in the following proportions: 1:2:2:4. But, you should not overdo its use for this DIY fungi remover can harm your fabrics.
Bear in mind:
- Drywall and sheetrock tend to swell when exposed to moisture, which ultimately leaves them at risk from mould damage.
- Building materials such as MDF, fiberboard, chipboard or any other type of engineered wood will also swell, bend and decay over time.
- Upholstered furnishing and soft fabrics such as carpeting, cushioning, linen, and drapery are susceptible to moisture and can easily grow dank on odours. Once your floor covering succumbs to mold, there is no way to clean nor reverse it back to its former condition.
That’s why it’s often best to get rid of all items infested and focus at the source of the smell and renovate once damp-free.
Tips to keep the damp smell away and withhold mildew from thriving in the long term:
- Make sure you always have fresh air circulating.
- Ventilate all rooms on a regular basis.
- Open compartments such as cupboards, drawers, cabinets and etc.
- Wipe damp-exposed surfaces with a mixture of water and bleach.
- Pay special attention to bathrooms and near sink areas.
- Use air purifiers and dehumidifiers to prevent condensation in your home.
Bear in mind that to keep your home mould-free you should clean it on a weekly basis. Regular cleaning and disinfecting prevent mould from growing and remove the musty smell.
How to tackle musty odours the DIY way?
- Leave charcoal in a jar. Fill up a regular jar and leave it near the source of the smell. Leave it to for a night to absorb bad odours. Charcoal does not affect the level of humidity in the air. You will have to repeat the procedure because one-time treatments can’t get rid of a damp smell in the long term.
- Brew or boil lemons or lemon peels. Once the scent of lemons builds up, turn your stove off and leave the freshly boiled mixture in your room of choice. Do not leave the bowl unattended for there is a risk of burns and fire. Once the mixture cools off, pour it in a sprayer bottle and sprinkle throughout your entire home.
- Try cat litter. It has the average span of use of about two weeks but it does a great job at absorbing fusty smells.
- Use ground coffee. It’s an amazing absorber and will help you tackle a mildewy smell. Ground coffee will work for a damp aroma but not a mouldy stench. Please bear in mind that this is a temporary solution. Once the DIY air freshener wears off you can only use it to cook with and the leftovers as a fertilizer.
Make sure you let breeze flowing through your home once every couple of days. Fresh air and mould rarely pare.
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Do air purifiers help with a musty smell?
According to the Home Air Quality Guides, the best air purifiers for mould also work great for allergies, asthma, dust mites, tiny pet hairs, musty smells, the odour of smoke, and you can add ionising or the HEPA* feature.
*H.E.P.A. stands for high-efficiency particulate arresting unit with ultraviolet filtration as an optional feature.
No heavy particles can withstand ultraviolet filtration. An air purifier is a trusted weapon in the battle of households, moulds, and fungi.
If air within the abode is stale and no fresh inflow is present, you should use fans for airflow.
How to tackle damp smell in your room?
You will first need to gather:
- A regular sprayer bottle, filled with a mixture of white vinegar and water in proportion 1:1.
- An average washing machine.
- Sodium bicarbonate.
- Your regular household detergent.
- A rag or two.
To get rid of a damp smell in a room, walk through the following guidelines:
- Open your wardrobes and sniff your clothing piece by piece. If you sense any damp, wash the smelly pieces by adding a bit of vinegar mixed with your laundry detergent.
- Apply the same solution to your bedding, drapery, curtains, pillows and etc.
- Inspect your walls and treat any infested areas with a mixture of water and baking soda.
- Scrub away any window sill mould using a brush, dipped in a solution of bleach and lukewarm water.
- Check all bathroom and kitchen sink grout for signs of mould and scrub while the top layer falls off.
- For cookers, standalone ovens, fridges, freezers, or other appliances, fill a cup with soda and let it sit in overnight.
- For dishwashers and washing machines, add a bit of soda and run it for a few cycles.