Every now and then, most of us face some minor problem or other with respect to our homes and our living spaces in general – and believe it or not, one of the most common problems people tend to be faced with is that of a musty smell emanating from somewhere in the house, usually with no apparent or visible cause. This can spread from one part of the house to another, and affect everything from your clothes to your books to your furniture. If you’re facing a similar problem, don’t worry; we’re here to tell you exactly why your room or basement, your books or even your clothes have that odd musty smell on them – and we’ll tell you exactly how to get rid of it. Every now and then, most of us face some minor problem or other with respect to our homes and our living spaces in general – and believe it or not, one of the most common problems people tend to be faced with is that of a musty smell emanating from somewhere in the house, usually with no apparent or visible cause. This can spread from one part of the house to another, and affect everything from your clothes to your books to your furniture. If you’re facing a similar problem, don’t worry; we’re here to tell you exactly why your room or basement, your books or even your clothes have that odd musty smell on them – and we’ll tell you exactly how to get rid of it.
Possible causes for this musty smell
First and foremost, it is important to try and understand where this smell is coming from, and why. Once possible causes for this musty smell are identified, you can begin to address the problem. Mold and mildew are usually the most common causes for musty smells in and around the house. This smell is caused by mold and mildew building up and releasing foul-smelling gases, and is often difficult to get rid of. This build-up is generally caused by a combination of moisture, stagnant air, and darkness, and as a result occurs most commonly in basements and old houses. Basements are enclosed and dark spaces, and old houses are bound to develop cracks in their roofs or in the foundation, thereby allowing rainwater and the like to seep in. This allows the water to settle and create damp spots around the house, which then become infested with bacteria or fungi, resulting in moldy and musty smells.
Identifying the source of the problem
The first step to getting rid of any musty smell in and around the house is to identify the source of the problem i.e., the source of the moisture and odor. This could range from leaky taps in bathrooms and kitchen sinks, to cracks in the foundation, or even a leaky roof. These are all problems that require professional help. Once a professional has handled the main problem and fixed the tap or filled in the cracks, you can get to the part where you remove the mildew smell from your books, clothes, and basically any other object or area in your house. There are several ways to do this, so don’t fret. Here we provide you with ten ways to get rid of musty smells in and around the house.
1. White vinegar
Clothes often tend to develop musty smells, either because they are being washed or stored inappropriately, or as a result of being stored in damp, mildewy areas. In the event that your clothes start smelling damp and musty, whip out that container of white vinegar from your kitchen. White vinegar is perfect for removing musty smells from any kind of fabric. If your clothes smell moldy, this solution is perfect for you. Add one cup of white vinegar to a normal load while washing your clothes in the washing machine, and let it soak for 30 minutes. Wash as you would usually, only making sure to add a few drops of scented fabric softener during the rinsing process. It is also recommended that you add a scented fabric softener sheet in the dryer. Repeat this step if necessary. This should work wonders for your clothes!
2. Baking soda
Baking soda is yet another perfect solution, and in fact one of the most common ways to get rid of musty smells from clothes. Just like with the vinegar, add a cup of baking soda to your normal load in the washing machine, and run it on the longest and hottest cycle on the settings. Dry your clothes in the sun, and once they have dried completely, you will notice that the smell has disappeared. For best results, you could create a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, and use this while washing your clothes, cleaning them as you would normally.
3. Disinfectant concentrate
Again, perfect for fabrics – although, be careful, disinfectant concentrate is not for your more delicate fabrics; it is, however, perfect for towels, and clothes made of heavier materials and such. This is a slightly more extreme measure than baking soda or vinegar. Fill the washing machine with water, adding three quarters of a cup of disinfectant concentrate to it. Put your clothes in there, and let them soak for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, for best results. After this, run the machine for five minutes, and then add your regular detergent and wash your clothes, towels etc as usual. The disinfectant will kill the bacteria that are causing the musty smell, and once your clothes have dried, they should smell fresh and good as new.
4. Ventilation control in the basement
Basements are dark, damp spaces, and therefore it is important to be doubly cautious of dampness, moisture and musty smells developing in these parts of the house. Musty, mildewy smells are more than common in basements of houses, especially old houses, and one of the best ways to get rid of such smells is to control the ventilation in these areas. Nothing beats proper ventilation, so ensure that there are ways for sunlight to reach your basement – plenty of windows should do the trick. Sunlight will keep the area dry and prevent bacteria and fungi from taking over the area. If your basement has no windows and installing new ones is not an option, you can rely on oscillating fans or exhaust fans. Turning on the exhaust fan at regular intervals will remove any bad smell that may be lingering in your basement. Alternatively, use an oscillating fan. It will move the air around in the basement and not let it settle, thereby ensuring that there is no stale or stagnant air in the area.
5. Temperature and humidity control
Since warm temperatures and humidity add to mold and mildew in places like the basement, keeping close watch over the two and controlling them properly is bound to go a long way in preventing your basement from smelling foul and musty. The temperature can be kept in check as long as the place is nice and dry – if you maintain this, your basement should be safe from the fungi and bacteria that cause these foul odors. As for controlling the humidity, the best solution would be to install a dehumidifier. Alternatively, you could use an air conditioner for the same purpose.
6. Baking soda and vinegar bowls for your basement
Surprise, surprise: baking soda and vinegar are as good for getting rid of those pesky smells emanating from your basement as they are for getting rid of the same from your clothes! Fill some bowls or containers with baking soda and place them in the smelly areas of your basement. Leave these for up to three months to remove that horrid moldy smell completely. Alternatively, you could also use white vinegar or any other strong vinegar available, for this purpose. Fill some containers with vinegar and place them in the most smell-prone areas of your basement. Leave this for a few days, and we promise, the smell will disappear like magic!
7. Baking soda for your appliances
Yes – baking soda is the ultimate solution to removing foul odor from anywhere around the house…including your electronic appliances! Create a solution by diluting one tablespoon of baking soda with a quart of warm water. Spread this solution on the affected areas, fill them with crumpled newspaper, and let it sit for about 24 hours. Then, remove the newspaper and wash off the interior surfaces of your refrigerator, microwave, and other such appliances, using water and paper towels. They will be left smelling and looking good as new!
8. Use newspapers to save your books
Mold from cupboards can often spread to the pages of your precious books and ruin them. Save these precious possessions from mildew and mold using just newspaper! To remove this musty smell, place sheets of newspaper between the pages of the affected books, and cover the outside of the book with more newspaper. Then place the book in a plastic wrap or container, and replace the newspaper every three days, until the smell has dissipated completely. This should happen in just a few days’ time. To ensure that the ink does not transfer onto the pages of your books, only use sheets from new newspapers. And to ensure that the acidity from the sheets does not cause damage to your books, check on them at least once every day, if not every few hours.
9. Fabric softener sheet
Fabric softener sheets are perfect for removing smells from books just like they do from clothes. They absorb the odor, and leave your books smelling fresh and lovely. Cut the sheets according to the size of your books, and place one every 15 or 20 pages, and then place the books inside separate zip lock bags or plastic wraps. Take them out in a few days, and the foul odour should be gone.
10. Wipe and clean your wood furniture
There is no method more tried and tested for removing musty smells from all kinds of places and surfaces – not least your beautiful wood furniture. Bacteria are prone to permeating the porous surface of the wood, and creating all kinds of foul, musty smells. The best way to get rid of such smells from wooden furniture is by giving the furniture a thorough cleaning. Dampen a sponge with vinegar, oil soap that is made exclusively for cleaning just such surfaces (like the famous Murphy’s Oil Wood Soap), or any kind of anti-fungal or anti-bacterial detergent, and rigorously clean every surface of your furniture, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies, including drawers and the like. Once you’re done, place the piece or pieces of furniture in a well-ventilated area, and let them dry. The smell should be gone in no time.
Prevention is Better than Cure – Remember?
If the problem of a musty smell recurs around your home from time to time, and you don’t have enough time, patience or energy to deal with it thoroughly on every single instance, there are several prevention methods you could employ. These should serve you well for several months at a time, without forcing you to go through a rigorous cleaning regimen every time the problem arises.
• Place sachets or canisters of silica gel (or desiccant) inside safes, between clothes, and inside cupboards and other similar spaces to keep moisture, and therefore foul odors, at bay
• Place a bowl of fresh coffee grounds in cupboards and other places where musty smells are likely to arise. Coffee grounds are excellent at absorbing such smells. Remove and replace as required
• If books, papers and the like begin to show signs of mildew, place them in direct sunlight for a few hours, until completely dry. Make sure to remove them in time, so as to prevent the print from fading
• If possible, set up small fans or heaters in areas of the house that are prone to developing mold or mildew, and switch them on from time to time, to air out these damp spaces
• If you have a dehumidifier in the basement or anywhere else in the house, make sure to keep it running – this will reduce chances of stagnant air allowing bacteria to thrive, and is much more convenient and time-efficient than if you keep turning it on and off at regular intervals
Whether it is a leaky roof or a crack in the foundation of the house, moldy and musty smells can be caused by a number of reasons. Whatever the cause, it is not good for anyone’s health and may cause a host of different problems, and you should get rid of it as quickly as possible. These methods should help.