My House Smells Musty But No Mold – What Should I Do?

house smells musty but no mold

You know what it’s like… You step into your home and suddenly you are hit by a musty smell. It makes you think that there must be a mold or mildew problem somewhere in your home. As it turns out, there are several places where a musty smell can originate inside your living space.

In this article, we will define what musty is, how it is caused, where it comes from, and how to get rid of it regardless of the source.

What Is The Stale Smell In The House?

When a room smells musty or there is a mildew smell in the house, it is quite easy to conclude that there is a mold problem present. However, the reason why a house smells musty after rain often has nothing to do with mold. Often, there is no mold to be found although there is a musty smell. But there is a simple explanation for this odor. It has to do with the conditions within the home.

When a room, basement, or home is vacant, there is no practical reason for utility services to be maintained in these areas. This means that heating, air conditioning, and ventilation will not be used as these areas do not need to be comfortable for humans to occupy. These conditions will result in the development of stale air and this is what ends up smelling musty to anyone entering such a space. The same applies to an unused room in an occupied home.

So, What Exactly Does A Musty House Smell Like?

Dampness and moisture are the main causes of a musty smell. The smell itself is best described as a stale, moldy, or sometimes damp odor. Many of us live in such conditions and can’t even tell there is a damp smell unless we go outdoors and inhale fresh air for a period then step back into the home. This is when it is very easy to tell the difference between what fresh air smells like compared to stale air.

My House Smells Musty But No Mold Is Present – Why?

We have explained that a musty smell results from too much dampness or moisture in the air. Many sources around your home may be responsible for creating these conditions. They include the following:

Water Leaks

If you have a musty smell in the basement, it may be caused by a water leak in that part of the home. Any water leak related to plumbing issues inside or outside of your home may result in the production of a musty odor.

Hidden Water Damage

This is an extension of the point above. Water leaks that are not visible, as in, they are hidden behind walls or under floors, can cause a great deal of damage until they are discovered. This includes producing a musty smell.

Front-Load Washing Machines

There are places within the framing of the front-load washing machine door where water can collect. If you have one of these types of machines, it may be possible that the conditions are right whereby the water continuously sits there and produces a musty scent.


Condensation building up on windows in your home can be a source of musty smells. This is because condensation is the result of high moisture content. Without proper ventilation, this excess water contributes to the dampness of the area.

Are There Dangers Associated With Musty Smells?

Assuming that the musty smell you have in your home is not related to mold or mildew, there are a few dangers to be aware of. Excess moisture in the home that contributes to a musty smell is not good for your health. Too much moisture can cause trouble sleeping, breathing difficulties, and a general uncomfortable feeling. It can also damage the structure of your home.

If the musty smell is coming from mold or mildew, there are additional health issues to be concerned about. The spores that are released into the air can irritate eyes, produce cold and flu symptoms, cause skin irritations, and trigger allergic reactions in individuals with those types of sensitivities. If you have a musty smell in your home, do not ignore it. Instead, find the problem and remove it.

How To Remove Musty Smells From The House

Whether you are attempting to remove a musty smell from the basement to just trying to get rid of musty smells in the house, the method of removal is the same. Here is a step-by-step guide to removing musty smells from your home.

Ventilate Your Home

Open windows and doors to let fresh air move into your home. By doing this, you push the stale air out.

Dehumidify Your Home

When humidity levels are too high, a dehumidifier can be your best friend. You can use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. There are many ways you can control humidity. For tips on reducing humidity in your home, click here.

Clean All Surfaces

Cleaning all surfaces in your home regularly will help remove the conditions that may produce mold or mildew. This means sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping everything from the carpets to the ceiling.

Spot Treat Problem Areas

Baking soda used to spot treat carpets is extremely effective in absorbing odors. Just sprinkle on a wet spot on the carpet, let it sit for an hour then vacuum clean.

Steam Clean

When the time comes to give your carpets a thorough cleaning, opt for a steam cleaner. These machines conduct a deep clean that removes things from your carpets you won’t be able to with any other tool in your closet.

Deep Clean

Speaking of the deep cleaning power of a steam cleaner, give every piece of your upholstered furniture a serious once-over by tossing removable covers into the laundry and using baking soda on any staining you find.

Eliminate Odors With A Fresh Scent

For fabric items that are difficult to remove and wash, mist them with a fresh scent. There are many types to choose from and each is designed to eliminate odors.

Wash All Surfaces

Clean all walls, and the garbage disposal, and give your dishwashing machine filter a scrubbing. All of these areas can produce a musty smell if the conditions are right.

Change Filters

The filters in your home heating and cooling systems should be changed regularly. If one has a funky smell, it will send that scent throughout your home.

Use An Air Purifier

An air purifier is a smart investment. It is designed to reduce odor problems by capturing and killing any airborne bacteria and fungi.

Neutralize Odors

Put some vinegar or lemon peels in water and simmer on your stovetop for 20-minutes. This will neutralize the air in the surrounding area.

In Conclusion

A musty smell in your home does not always mean mold or mildew is creating the problem. However, you can bet that the scent is present because of excess moisture.

If your house smells musty but no mold is present, there are many reasons why you would want to locate the source in an effort to remove the musty smell. The stale smell in your house is not pleasant and may be a sign of a moisture problem, so it is best to find the source as soon as possible to keep you, your family, and your home safe.

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