Why Does My House Smell Musty?

Woman plugging her nose because of a musty smell in her house

Indoor air quality counts for a lot. When there’s no fresh air circulating, musty smells become inevitable. This isn’t an issue reserved for older homes – even brand-new ones can smell musty if there’s an abundance of pet odors, mold, mildew, or cigarette smoke. If you have a musty smell in your house, there are a few ways to combat it.

What Does Musty Smell Like?

If you’ve ever been in an old attic that hasn’t been cleaned or aired out in a while, you’ve experienced a musty scent. Some people describe it as smelling like old socks. Others describe it as a sour or earthy odor. It’s a very distinctive scent that most people immediately recognize. Even if you’re unsure exactly what a musty smell in your house is like, you’ve probably experienced the smell at some point in your life.

 In some cases, musty smells stem from mold growth. Such an odor can be a red flag that something is wrong and needs to be addressed. If you’re unsure if your home has mold, a musty odor is a good indicator that it may indeed be an issue.

Infographic of the five reasons for musty odors in the home: moisture, poor ventilation, dirty air filters, carpeting, and old furniture.

Musty Smell Sources

Why does my house smell musty, you may ask? There may be several contributing factors. For starters, homes with a lot of humidity may begin to smell bad. A damp odor may stem from mold and mildew buildup in a bathroom, attic, basement, or laundry room. These are typically places without a lot of ventilation and where moisture buildup is more common. As water droplets seep into the floors, walls, and ceilings, mold and mildew begin to grow. They release foul-smelling gas, which can permeate carpeting, drapes, and other upholstery.

Sources of excessive humidity that cause mildew and mold may include a leaky roof, leaky air conditioner, damp fabrics, poor ventilation, water leaks behind walls, cracked foundations, and water damage. While the mold smell in the house won’t immediately cause harm, long-term mold exposure can lead to headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, itchy skin or eyes, and nasal congestion.

How to Get Rid of Musty House Smells

If you’re hoping to eliminate mildew smells in the house, open some windows and circulate fresh air through the space. A dehumidifier can help remove excess moisture from specific areas. Keep a fan circulating, too. Dust, mop, and vacuum the floors regularly, then deep clean the bathroom, washing machine, and dishwasher occasionally. You can also invest in houseplants to help naturally clean the air.

 Sometimes, a deep cleaning isn’t enough to completely eliminate mold and mildew smells. If foul odors persist, you may want to have a professional perform an indoor air quality test. A professional will also know what to look for and can identify signs of a more serious mold issue. Mold can lurk in surprising spots, so it’s important to have a potential problem checked out by an expert.

Test Your Home’s Air Quality

The best way to measure the effectiveness of your musty smell remediation efforts is to test the air quality in your home. Tests can identify contaminants like radon and formaldehyde, particulates like dust and pollen, and even VOCs (volatile organic compounds). All these can be harmful to your health, so if you suspect you have air quality issues, it’s important to act fast. 

Although air quality testing strips can reveal a lot about what is floating invisibly through your air, a test conducted by a professional will give you a more accurate and comprehensive reading of your indoor air quality. Aire Serv professionals can perform this testing, change air filters and clean your air ducts to ensure the quality of your air remains good. You don’t have to live in a house that smells musty when you have professionals who can help remedy the problem!

Get Your HVAC Thoroughly Cleaned, Inspected, and Replaced

A musty smell in your house can be annoying and downright dangerous for you and your family. The good news is that you don’t have to just accept the foul odors. A call to your local Aire Serv team will help you understand what’s causing the musty odor and how to eliminate it. There’s no one size fits all approach to addressing musty smells, which is why calling for help is so important. If your initial efforts to remove the odor haven't worked, schedule an appointment online with Aire Serv today.