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Eliminate Musty Odours Naturally: 7 Effective Home Solutions

effective home solutions for musty odours

The aroma of a home plays a pivotal role in creating a welcoming environment that positively impacts mental well-being. A constant or lingering musty smell in your house can be unpleasant and negatively affect your home's atmosphere, leaving you feeling uncomfortable in your own space. 

Why Does Your Home Smell Musty?

The best place to start when combatting a musty odour in your home is to identify the source of the smell. 

A general unpleasant odour indoors can be caused by a variety of different things, such as:

  • Pets

  • Dirty furniture or linens

  • Bins

  • Clogged drains

But a musty odour is specifically deep and earthy, and its most common cause is dampness, mould and mildew. These spores emit gases as they grow, causing an undesirable aroma in your home. Damp and mould are not only unpleasant for your nose. They can also harm your health, especially for those allergic to or sensitive to mould. 

Before trying the natural musty odour solutions we have laid out below, be sure to identify if there are any areas in your home where mould or dampness is growing.

Common causes and culprits for dampness, mould and mildew:

  • Inadequately ventilated areas: When a room is not sufficiently ventilated it can create a humid environment. Excess moisture in the air can't escape, therefore it collects on surfaces (often walls and ceilings). This provides an ideal environment for mould spores to grow and spread.

  • Shower curtains: If your shower curtain is unable to dry fully mildew can begin to grow on it, which contributes to musty odours in your bathroom. 

  • Around windows: Mould tends to grow around windows due to condensation buildup. When warm indoor air meets cold window surfaces, moisture accumulates, creating an ideal environment for mould spores to thrive, especially in poorly ventilated or damp areas.

  • Hidden water damage: Hidden water damage, like leaks behind walls or under floors, fosters moisture accumulation. This unseen dampness becomes a breeding ground for mould, leading to its growth. If you can't find any other obvious reason for the musty smell in your home, a call to your plumber might be in order.

How to Prevent Musty Smells Caused by Damp

The key to preventing dampness is moisture control. During the cold months and in poorly ventilated rooms, it can be more difficult to keep dampness at bay, therefore, it is important to have strategies in place which prevent mould:

  • Reduce humidity: Mould formation is common in humid environments. To reduce the humidity levels in your home, open windows and vents regularly or use a dehumidifier to collect excess moisture. It's also a good idea to manage humidity levels at certain times, such as opening the window when you're cooking or after a shower to let out excess moisture. 

  • Keep your home warm: Maintaining warmth in your home prevents condensation by raising the temperature of surfaces, reducing moisture in the air, thereby preventing dampness and mould formation.

How to Eliminate Musty Odours Naturally

Once you've gotten to the root cause of the musty odour in your home, it's time to freshen up your space to eliminate any lingering smells that may be left behind. 

If you're concerned about the harmful chemicals that are commonly found in generic air fresheners, you'll be glad to know that the solutions we've provided in this article are all-natural. By using these alternatives, you can rest assured that your home is safe and free from toxins.

So let's dive into the best ways to eliminate musty odours and keep your home smelling fresh!

1: DIY Air Fresheners/Deodorisers

DIY air freshener

If you want your home to stay smelling as fresh as a daisy, trying to just cover unpleasant smells with pleasant ones may not work. 

If you have a stubborn musty smell in your home, you might consider trying a DIY air freshener. These use ingredients that absorb or neutralise unpleasant odours, rather than just masking them, such as:

  • Bicarbonate of soda (baking soda): Baking soda has absorption properties that allow it to trap odorous molecules in porous spaces like carpets, upholstery, and closets. It can also eliminate musty smells by absorbing moisture. You can sprinkle baking soda on carpets, rugs, or upholstery to absorb smells (vacuum any remaining powder afterwards if necessary).

  • White Vinegar: White vinegar has deodorizing and disinfecting properties due and eliminate odour-causing bacteria, and neutralise unpleasant smells. You can simply place a bowl of vinegar out overnight and it will absorb lingering odours in the air. 

  • Lemon: Lemons have citric acid that acts as a powerful deodoriser and masks unpleasant odours. They also have antibacterial properties that eliminate odours and leave a refreshing scent. Simmer some lemon slices in a pot of water on the stove for a few hours to help combat nasty smells in your home. 

Our recipe for Lemon and Rosemary Homemade Hanging Air Freshener is a completely natural and easy-to-make solution which can neutralise bad smells. All you need is bicarbonate of soda, essential oils, cloth and string.

The bicarbonate of soda acts as a natural odour absorber, while the lemon and rosemary essential oils infuse the air with a delightful scent.

2: Essential Oil Diffusion

essential oils to make your home smell great

Essential oils are a great way to improve the aroma of your home. With so many different types of essential oils available, there's sure to be an option that suits your individual preferences and requirements.

As well as smelling beautiful, some essential oils are also said to have health benefits such as anxiety relief and sleep improvement.

Below is a list of our favourite essential oils for diffusing at home to eliminate nasty odours:

  • Bergamot

  • Citrus, e.g. lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit

  • Lemongrass

  • Rosemary

  • Tea tree

  • Jasmine

  • Eucalyptus

  • Ylang-Ylang

You can choose one scent or blend your favourite oils.

There are a few different ways to use essential oils for home fragrance:

  • Room spray: You can create a simple DIY room spray by mixing a few drops of the oils with water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spritz each room with a few sprays.

  • Aromatherapy diffuser: One of the most effective ways to diffuse essential oils is to use an aromatherapy diffuser. These electrical devices use just water and a few drops of essential oil to produce a scented vapour that makes your space smell incredible!

  • Oil burners: Oil burners use a candle to heat the essential oils so they emit their scent. You can simply place a small amount of water and a few drops of your chosen essential oils into the oil burner bowl and light a candle in the designated space underneath.

Ensure you choose natural essential oils which are safe to inhale; and if you have pets, make sure you choose oils that are non-toxic to them!

3: Let Fresh Air into Your Home

fresh air in your home

Letting fresh air into your living space regularly is one of the best ways to banish musty or unpleasant smells lingering in your home. 

Enclosed spaces tend to trap stagnant air, which can become a breeding ground for odours and excess moisture, leading to that unpleasant mustiness. Introducing a breath of fresh air promotes better circulation, sweeping away stale odours and dispelling accumulated moisture, effectively preventing the onset of mould and mildew. 

Airing out your home by opening windows or doors for at least 5-10 minutes daily can help to dispel musty odours. 

4: Aromatic Simmering Pots

aromatic simmering pot

A subtle way to make your home smell great naturally is to create an aromatic simmering pot. 

Simple and cost-effective, you can make your own aromatic pot by simmering water with natural ingredients such as citrus slices, herbs, or spices.

The ingredients seep into the water, and the steam carries a pleasant aroma through the air.

You can use a variety of ingredients, some of which you may already have in your kitchen!

Here are some ideas:

  • Lemon slices 

  • Rosemary sprigs

  • Lavender sprigs

  • Orange slices 

  • Cinnamon sticks

  • Fresh mint leaves

  • Ground coffee beans

  • Dried flowers 

  • Herbal teas

Get creative with your choices. You can opt for a simple simmering pot and choose 1-2 ingredients or create a medley. This is a great way to use up scraps like orange peel or those bitter herbal teas that smell better than they taste!

Try this method:

  1. Fill a pot with water, leaving some space at the top.

  2. Add your choice of herbs, citrus fruits and spices.

  3. Place the pot on the stove and bring the water to a gentle simmer.

  4. Once it starts simmering, reduce the heat to low to maintain a slow simmer.

  5. Keep an eye on the pot, adding more water as needed to prevent it from drying out.

  6. Enjoy the delightful aroma that wafts through your home as the pot simmers. Adjust the ingredients and quantities based on your preference and experiment with different combinations.

5: Combat Dampness with Natural Dehumidifiers

natural dehumidifier

While electric dehumidifiers are one of the most effective ways to remove excess moisture from the air, they are costly to buy and run. 

Therefore, it might be worth trying out a natural absorber which attracts and traps the moisture in your home, leaving the air smelling fresher!

Natural absorbers include:

  • Charcoal

  • Baking soda

  • Rock salt

  • Silica gel

Placing containers with one of these ingredients in humid areas of your home, such as in the bathroom or on windowsills, can help absorb excess moisture, reducing the overall humidity in the air. 

These are more wallet-friendly solutions and can contribute to a damp-free home!

The Spruce's guide on crafting DIY Humidifiers gives you simple ways to create the best homemade absorbers using these materials.

6. Keep Your Home Clean

sponge - keeping your home clean to avoid musty odours

While mould and dampness are the main culprits for musty odours, dirt and dust can also be contributing factors.

Old furniture, pet bedding, rugs, towels, bed sheets, mattresses, upholstery and even clothes can cause unpleasant smells if not sufficiently cared for.

Here are a few possible culprits for musty odours and how you can keep them smelling fresh:

Bed Sheets and Mattresses:

A build-up of dust, skin cells and sweat on your bed sheets can leave them smelling more than undesirable. 

Experts recommend changing bed sheets weekly to keep them clean and smelling fresh.

If changing the sheets doesn't cut it, you might need to assess your mattress. Mattresses benefit from a regular deep clean every 6 months or so. Have you had your mattress for more than 6 years? It might be time for a new one!

Additionally, ensure you are using a mattress cover under your regular sheets. This extra protection for your mattress keeps it cleaner for longer. 

Pet Beds and Pet Items

Our pets might love us, but they're probably not bothered about the mess (and smells) they leave behind them.

Pet beds can become quite smelly, especially if your pet lies in them when wet or muddy. It's sensible to wash them regularly and ensure they are dry before use.

Furthermore, litter trays for cats, rabbits, etc, must be deep-cleaned regularly to prevent bacteria from growing in them. 

Scoop your pet's litter tray daily and ensure you empty and deep clean the tray once a week (or once a month, depending on the type of litter you use). This also applies to small pet enclosures such as gerbil or guinea pig cages. 

Rugs and Carpets

Rugs and carpets have to go through a lot! Even if you're a shoes-off-indoors household, dirt and dust will still seep into the fibres of your carpets or rugs. 

If there's a lingering musty smell in your home, it might be time to have your carpets and rugs professionally cleaned. 

Or if you have a carpet cleaner, use this to deep clean the fibres, ensuring you get under furniture where dust can get trapped. 

Closets and Cupboards

It's frustrating when persistent odours stick around inside your linen closets and wardrobes, as your clothes and sheets can pick up the scent.

Enclosed storage areas require enough airflow to release musty odours. If your closets are crammed with stuff, it can be difficult for lingering aromas to shift. 

To address the smell, dust the inside of your closets, then clean surfaces with warm water and white vinegar to help diminish unpleasant smells. Leave your closet door open to allow airflow and prevent moisture from getting trapped inside. 

Bath Towels and Mats

When towels and bath mats don't dry sufficiently, they can also become victims of mildew, leaving them smelling musty and unpleasant. This is particularly true if your bathroom has high humidity levels.

Consider hanging your towels and bath mats on a radiator or clothes airer in another room after a shower so they can dry efficiently.

Additionally, ensure you clean towels after three uses and bath mats every week or so to keep them smelling fresh and clean. 

Furniture and Upholstery

Often overlooked as dirty, furniture and upholstery can be the source of nasty odours in the home. 

Consisting of dead skin cells, dander, pet hair, insect particles, pollen, clothing fibres and more, dust alone can cause a musty smell.

Therefore, I like to remember the mantra: "If it's dusty, it will soon smell musty."

Regular dusting can help to keep unwanted aromas at bay.

When it comes to upholstery and soft furnishings, it can be more challenging to keep them clean, but they still absorb dust and dirt over time, making them more likely to leave behind unpleasant smells.

Ensure you regularly clean removable couch covers and throw pillows and blankets. 

You could also use a spot cleaner on upholstery, as long as it doesn't damage the upholstery. 

If it's in your budget, you could acquire the services of a professional upholstery cleaner.

Dealing with the source of a musty odour in your home can be a daunting task, but once you have successfully eliminated the cause, it's possible to take care of any lingering smells without resorting to artificial fragrances. 

Fortunately, several effective solutions can help freshen up your living space and make it a more comfortable and inviting place to be. By implementing these solutions, you can enjoy a cleaner and fresher home, improving your overall home happiness.

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