How to Get Rid of Musty Smells in Your Apartment


If you’ve ever lived in an older building or house, you probably recognize that telltale “old house smell”. The smell can really hit you in the face, especially when you move in or come home after a day away from your apartment. While you can get used to the smell, there’s a good chance your guests will notice it.

If you’ve noticed wrinkled noses when people walk into your apartment, don’t despair. Follow these steps to get rid of that musty smell in your apartment.

Where do musty smells come from?

First of all: why does my apartment smell musty? The bad and the good news is that the musty smell in the apartment is annoying but luckily not a threat to your health.

Mold that blooms in dark places with high humidity and little ventilation tends to be the source of that well-known old house smell. But the smell actually comes from volatile organic compounds or chemicals that evaporate from the mold. Unfortunately, they have a strong odor.

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to get rid of the musty smell in your apartment, and there are a few natural ways to get rid of mold.

Air It Out

This step may seem obvious, but it is also important. As we’ve already established, the mold that causes musty odors tends to thrive in poorly ventilated spaces. When you first move into a place – and periodically thereafter – ventilate your apartment to help get rid of the source of the foul-smelling aroma.

Make sure those smelly spaces in your apartment are ventilated as much as possible. It can be difficult to keep your windows open for long periods of time during the winter months, but you can run a fan regularly or buy a dehumidifier for problem areas like basements or poorly ventilated bathrooms.

Take a classic approach to spring cleaning by opening as many doors and windows as possible and leaving them open for at least a few hours, if not all day. While you’re at it, you can also throw away open kitchen cabinets, space under sinks, interior doors, and anything that might prevent air from flowing freely. Encourage air to move through the space by also turning on hanging fans or using stand-alone fans. You can also operate a dehumidifier or your air conditioning system.

While you are at this point, you will also want to check your faucets for any signs of leaks. Leaks can create the damp conditions that mold enjoys, so as long as you have extra moisture you will likely have a problem with musty odors as well.

Do a deep clean

Thoroughly cleaning your apartment, including furniture, rugs, hard floors, and countertops, will help remove musty odors and their source. Purchase the necessary cleaning supplies and wipe down all surfaces in your home with disinfectant, including hard-to-reach places like on top of the refrigerator or the drip pan under the washing machine.

If you notice any particular places where mold is growing, use a diluted bleach solution of one part bleach and four parts water to give it a good dose. You can also scrub walls and floors with this concoction.

Vacuum floors and clean linoleum and similar surfaces. For carpets, you can spray undiluted white vinegar in a spray bottle on the floor or use a mixture of white vinegar and water to attack problem areas. If carpets are the root of the problem, you may need to hire a carpet cleaner to properly steam the carpet. When cleaning, remember to use lukewarm water and a cleaning solution designed for your type of flooring. When you’re done, allow the floor to air dry so that no wet spots remain.

Upholstered furniture like sofas can unfortunately also contain musty odors. If you determine that the furniture is the source of the odor, you may need to have that room professionally cleaned – or ditch it altogether.

Finally, check that the smell isn’t coming from something that you can easily throw in the laundry, like clothes, towels, or sheets – and if so, throw them in the laundry!

Use odor absorbers

For a musty smell that isn’t too intense, or for an odor confined to a small space like a closet or laundry room, an odor absorber may be the solution. Create one for yourself using homemade ingredients by simply placing a small dish of baking soda in the space to soak up excess moisture and odors. For less intense odors, air fresheners and odor-eliminating cleaning products may be the solution.

If you don’t like the smell of cleaning products, get a scent diffuser or candle in your favorite scent to cover the smell of the cleaning product when you’re done. It can be fun to stock up on seasonal scented candles or essential oils to mark the change of seasons. Lavender scents are often used as calming and sleeping pills, so place a lavender scent in your bedroom. Peppermint or citrus scents, on the other hand, work well in kitchens.

Talk to your landlord

If the musty odor problem is serious and cannot be addressed with your own cleaning efforts, you may need to speak to your landlord. If you determine that the smell is coming from part of the house, such as the carpet – say the last tenant smoked cigarettes or had pets and the smell is seriously embedded in the carpet – your landlord may need to – be called in by professionals to clean or replace the appropriate rugs for you.

Take these steps to get rid of musty odors in your apartment and it will smell fresh and clean in no time.

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