Room Smells Musty? Here’s How to Fix It

If a room smells musty, your first instinct might be to light a bunch of candles and hope for the best. However, fixing a musty room runs much deeper than covering up a bad smell. You need to get right to the source. Follow this six-step plan to make the room smell good again and get rid of musty smells:

Determine the source.

The first step to fixing a musty room is determining the source of the smell. Keep in mind that it might be due to a combination of factors, and that lack of ventilation can exacerbate the issue. Common culprits to watch out for include mold and mildew, dust, dirty laundry, stains and spills, pet accidents and leftover food. Once you determine the source of the smell, dispose of it and clean the area as needed. For example, you can purchase cleaners specifically designed to treat pet urine stains if that is the source of your problem.

woman mopping living room floor

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Clean the room.

Once you’ve removed the source of the smell, you should clean the whole room top to bottom to get rid of any lingering funkiness. Dust all the furniture and then vacuum and mop the room. If necessary, deep clean the carpets. Vacuum any upholstery and consider taking off the covers and running them through the washing machine if that is an option. Any fabric such as bedding and curtains should also be washed. If the room is really grimy, you might need to clean the walls or wipe down the baseboards and windows before vacuuming and mopping.

Ventilate the area.

Once you’ve gotten rid of all the smells and dust, it’s time to get the air flowing. As long as the air outside is clean and the weather is good, open up your windows and get that good external air. You can also turn on your air conditioning or heat or circulate the air mechanically–or plug in a fan to get it flowing in a smaller area. Make sure to remove any dust from the fan or vents before blasting the air, as this can cause gross-smelling particles to circulate. After you’ve gone to all that hard work to clean, you want to make sure that you’re not putting nasty smells back in the air.

portable hepa air purifier

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Purify the air.

If the air quality in your room is not so good, you might need to improve it a bit before you put your fans on blast. Consider getting an air purifier with a HEPA filter to remove over 99 percent of particles in the air, including mold spores and tiny dust particles. Some filters that are designed to remove specific particles are also an option. If your air tends to be humid, which promotes the growth of mold and mildew, consider getting a dehumidifier to help take some of that moisture out of the air and prevent it from growing again.

Use baking soda and vinegar.

These common pantry ingredients help naturally fight odors. Vinegar is an excellent, safe cleaning agent that is effective against mold and mildew in its pure form. Use it as you would other cleaning sprays. Baking soda is an odor absorber, which is why you’re supposed to put an open carton in your fridge. Baking soda can be used to clean things that can’t be washed. Simply sprinkle the powder on the item, give it time to absorb all the smells and then vacuum it up.

spa setting lavender salts and candle

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Make the room smell good.

Once you have returned the room’s “resting smell” to neutral, you can work on making it smell good again. Light some scented candles, set up a reed diffuser or plug in an aroma diffuser. Whatever your preferred method of aromatherapy, make sure to follow best practices and place the candle or diffuser in a safe location so it can’t be knocked over. For more tips about how to make your house smell good, check out the guide we put together that explains how to do just that.

Don’t despair if you have a room that smells musty. It’s totally possible to make it smell good once again. Follow this six-step plan to get your room smelling good in no time.