How to Get Rid of an Old Musty Wood Smell

An old musty wood smell, whether indoors or outside, is typically due to mold and mildew formation on the wood. These fungi form on wood surfaces when the wood is exposed to wet and warm conditions over a long period of time. In order to remove the old musty smell you must first remove the mold and mildew from the wood. Once fungus is removed, freshening the air is simple.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum

  • Bucket

  • Dish washing detergent

  • Cleaning cloths

  • Rubber gloves

  • 3/8 cup washing soda

  • Scrub brush

  • Bowls

  • Baking soda

Step 1

Vacuum surfaces where the old musty wood smell seems to originate. Vacuuming helps to remove mold and mildew spores from the surface. Throw away the vacuum bag when you're finished.

Step 2

Fill a bucket with hot water then add a few drops of dish washing detergent. Wash the wood surfaces and any other nearby hard surfaces with the soapy waters, using rubber gloves to protect your hands from contact with mold and mildew. Rinse with a clean, damp cloth and pat dry.

Step 3

Bring any items outside that can be moved and dry them in the sun. Open windows and run fans to help speed up the drying process of the wood indoors.

Step 4

Mix 3/8 cup of washing soda with 1 gallon hot water in your bucket. With gloved hands, scrub the mildew and mold stained surfaces to remove remaining fungus stains. Rinse with a clean cloth and plain water before towel drying.

Step 5

Place a few bowls of baking soda in the room to deodorize the air while the wood and other surfaces dry. Keep windows open, if possible, to circulate fresh air.


Prevent musty smells by running a dehumidifier in humid areas, such as the basement.

Wash musty-smelling wood with straight vinegar to kill mold and mildew and to freshen it.

Heat lemon juice on the stove top to add a fresh scent to the air.


Severe musty wood smell may come from mold inside your walls. Consult a mold expert if you cannot find the source of the smell or get rid of it yourself.

References & Resources