How to Get Rid of Musty Mildew Smell Odor

Musty, mildew odor tends to permeate everything in a room. To get rid of this odor, you’ll usually have to do some cleaning--it isn't a problem solved just by spraying deodorizer. How much cleaning you’ll have to do depends on how much mold or mildew there is. If you take the time to remove or clean the source of the odor, as well as the rest of the area, your reward will be a much fresher space.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • N95 mask
  • Detergent
  • Water
  • Anti-mildew spray
  • Dehumidifier or fans
  • Activated charcoal (or another odor neutralizer)

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Put on rubber gloves and an N95 mask to protect your skin and lungs from mold or mildew. Discard disposable items in the area that may contain mildew--examples include cardboard boxes and paper.

Provide as much ventilation as you can to the area. If indoors, open windows and doors to bring in fresh air, if the weather permits this.

Wash all washable surfaces--except upholstery--with detergent (dish or laundry) and water. This includes floors and walls, which can hold odor. Use an upholstery cleaner on upholstered furniture. Scrub away all visible mildew or mold. If the room contains curtains or other removable fabrics, machine-wash these (if the items’ labels indicate this is acceptable) in hot water and detergent.

Spray anti-mildew spray on any item or surface that cannot otherwise be cleaned--or place the item outdoors, in direct sunlight, until it does not smell musty.

Use a dehumidifier and/or fans to dry out the area. This helps prevent future mildew growth (which can happen quickly). In small spaces (such as drawers), use a packaged desiccant instead (such as the kind you’ll find in shoe boxes).

Use a deodorizer that neutralizes odors--not simply masks them. Good, natural deodorizers for this purpose include activated charcoal disks or sachets, and vinegar (sprayed in the air or placed in bowls around the room).

Tips & Warnings

  • You can also sprinkle baking soda around a room to help with a musty odor. However, this works better in small areas (such as a refrigerator or drawer) than entire rooms (unless it is used all over carpeting).


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