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How to Rid Your House of That Damp Smell


Your dream house may be pristine inside and out, but if it smells damp or musty, you have a serious problem to deal with. The smell is disgusting and can hamper your lifestyle and mood to a great extent. Moreover, if the smell is caused by mildew spores, it will cause sickness and jeopardize your living standards. Getting rid of the odor is of prime importance because according to a study conducted more than 90 percent of the Americans stay indoors and a damp smell will only interfere with your enjoyment within the home. And, today with the advancement in technology, it is possible to refresh the house without using sprays that just covers the damp smell. A plethora of things in your home can cause the damp smell. Before you surrender your home to the smell, knowing the exact source is extremely important.

Sources and Solutions for that Damp Smell

The damp smell can linger inside your wardrobe and as time passes your clothes will also start smelling the same. Look out for the following sources and prevent the damp smell from disturbing your comfort.



A house closed for a prolonged period of time tends to develop a damp and musty smell. This is due to the absence of humidity controller.

Air conditioning the living space is the best available option as it will dehumidify the air. However, make sure the humidity level in the room is maintained between 35-50%, otherwise the air conditioning will not work properly. You can also paint the surfaces, walls or change the carpets to get rid of the obnoxious smell.

Improper or poor ventilation causes mildew stench. When the ventilation is not adequate, the moisture is trapped inside the house, and as time passes it builds up on the wall, or other surfaces, giving it a musty damp odor.

Purify, scour and purge the air by installing proper ventilation such as a window or a fan. Once the house is properly ventilated, the damp smell will leave within a few days.

Another tactic, which will enable you to get rid of the mildew is using bleach mixed in water and applying it on the affected area. The growth of the mildew stops and with that the odor is fixed.

Excessive moisture seeping into the house is another common reason for the smell to occur. Improper ventilation, leaks in the pipe, leaks in the roof or basement are common reasons of excessive moisture penetrating into the house.

If the ventilation is not the issue, check for leaks in pipes, roofs and basements. Fix them on a priority basis because any delay will only increase the growth of the mildew. One of the above-mentioned areas will be the culprit for excessive moisture seeping into the house.

Old papers and cardboards act as hosts on which the mildew spores can live without you knowing about it.  The mildew spores live on the old papers, furniture and cardboards filling the air with the unwanted damp smell.

You will rarely dispose an old furniture gifted by someone special. But, if the furniture is the cause of a musty smell troubling the family, then you might consider getting rid of it. A number of times old and cranky furniture cause a damp and musty odor.

Throw out the old papers, cardboards and furniture as soon as you can. Clean the infected area with a strong solution of bleach and water. Leave the area for 1 hour and let it dry completely. For faster effect, leave a window open so that the room is well ventilated.

Dispose of any of the papers or items that may be harboring a damp smell, but if the small lingers, it may have soaked into the furniture that was storing it. An innovative way to get rid of the odor is by stuffing fresh newspaper into the drawers or cabinets of the furniture. Newspapers absorb the moisture to a great extent and reduces the musty smell in the room. And, the stuffed newspapers work better than many of the products available on the market.

Clothes and shoes touching the outside wall bring damp smell in your wardrobe. The mold grows on the clothes and shoes because of moisture and it causes a nasty odor in the wardrobe.

Ensure the clothes are not touching the outside wall and use a small dehumidifier for your wardrobe. The dehumidifier will assist augmenting the problem mentioned above and according to your need, keep the air inside the wardrobe dry thereby preventing further growth of the mold. As the moisture inside the wardrobe lessens even the most notorious mold will find it difficult to reenter the clothing section of the house.

Windows with blinds are a potential source of mildew growth, especially if the blinds are used rarely. The moisture sticks to the blinds and does not evaporate easily. A broken window can also be the cause of a damp smell. The window would have allowed rain to seep in causing the mildew to grow inside the wall.

It's time to use an authentic cleaning agent. Mix half part boric acid, 1 part hydrogen peroxide, 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water. 

Scrub the wall with the cleaning agent. However, ensure not to over scrub the area as moisture in the cleaning agent can seep into the walls and can cause problems with drywall or stucco. You can also use baking soda to fight the damp smell. Leave an open box of baking soda near the permeated area. Keep the box in the room opened until the smell dies. Replace the baking soda every month for effective results.

A musty and damp odor is drawn in if the duct in your HVAC has a leak.  A majority of people overlook this source and they end up doing everything except searching for the leak in the duct.

Fix the leak in the duct and fix the crawl space to prevent the odor from entering into your room or house.

A swimming pool just outside your home can cause damp smell because of excessive moisture penetration.

The only way to overcome this issue is by using a swimming pool dehumidifier. Most of the swimming pool dehumidifiers easily connect with a boiler to heat the air and lessen the moisture inflow in the house.

Molds and fungi cause black marks on wooden items. It is because the wood is in continuous touch with moisture or water. This mostly happens when wooden items are left in a shed and rain water seeps in. When the furniture is brought inside the house, the damp smell spreads with it.

If your wood item has black marks on it, a dry vapor steam cleaner is the best way to kill this breeding ground of bacteria. However, for this method to be successful, ensure that the leaks in the shed are fixed otherwise the steam cleaning will have no effect on the robust molds and fungi.

Interesting Ways to Keep the Odor Away

coffee grounds

Ground Coffee

Ground coffee can easily and quickly remove the musty smell which has seeped into your house. The coffee aroma may trouble your nose for a few hours as coffee has a strong smell of its own. Grind the coffee, place it in an open jar and keep it open for a few hours. Behold! Can you use this ground coffee again? You probably don't want to use it to make your morning coffee, but the ground coffee can be cooked for a few minutes, then used as fertilizer for plants.

Zeolite--The Eco-Friendly Way

Zeolite is the new breakthrough in this field as it naturally absorbs the odor. A number of people confuse zeolite with a perfume, but it is not so. It is an interesting way to fight the odor as it is non-toxic and its shelf life is more than 6 months. Additionally, zeolites are reusable and all you need to do is recharge the minerals to use it again. To recharge, all you need to do is keep the zeolite under direct sunlight for a few hours. Zeolites absorb the damp and musty smell the minute they come in contact with the odor.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is widely used as an odor eliminator in various industries. And, activated charcoal is a main ingredient in a number of odor removers. An added advantage of using charcoal is the easy availability and the cheap price. However, unlike zeolite, activated charcoal cannot be reused again. The ingredient takes approximately 10 days to show effective results.


Borax is a savior when the mold and fungi are formed beneath the carpet of your home. Borax is a strong odor removing agent and it prevents the fungi and molds from reappearing. Spread the borax on the carpet and leave it untouched for a minimum of 45 minutes. Vacuum the carpet thoroughly after the smell has disappeared. Do not let pets or children play on the carpet until the borax has been vacuumed.

Proper Lighting

Bright lights are the biggest enemies of mold and fungi as they breed in low light conditions. Therefore, increase and maintain proper lighting in the house to effectively kill the molds and their smell. Keep the lights open for some time to reduce their growth speed.

What Do I Do if Cleaning Doesn't Help?

If you've been vigorously cleaning the infected area with bleach, vinegar, and charcoal, but you see zero results, then the leading option for you is to use a quality dehumidifier.

Prevention is the First Step

Currently your house may be odor free, but you never know when the odor will knock on your door. Therefore, it is advisable to prevent the odor rather than fighting with it.

  • Scrub and wipe all the kitchen appliances with baking soda to avoid any moisture retention.
  • Keep an opened box of baking soda in your refrigerator when it is in use. Any smell that has started to percolate will get absorbed.
  • For spaces such as the basement and the area near the bathroom, buy packs of volcanic rocks and keep them as instructed on the package.
  • Vacuum your wardrobe and the shoe rack once a month to avoid building up of a damp smell.
  • Wrap the unused kitchen appliances in newspaper and sprinkle baking powder inside it and keep it. This will eliminate all the possibility of a damp smell occurring in your unused appliances.
  • Travel bags and suitcases might smell, so keep them in direct sunlight once in a while to prevent the odor from entering into your living space.

ad-250-lifestyle-damp-smellFactors to Consider Before Purchasing a Dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers work brilliantly where the above mentioned methods have limitations. In fact, all the sources of damp smell can be treated effectively with the use of a dehumidifier.

Another important thing which should affect your purchase decision is the look, size and weight of the dehumidifier. If you've begun looking for a dehumidifier, ensure that the product can accomplish the task at hand. If you are looking to place one in a closet or small area, then look for something with a tank that can be easily emptied. If you are planning to use it continually for an area that is consistently damp (such as a bathroom), then consider one with a continuous drain option so that you don't have to empty any tanks or buckets. Many dehumidifiers on the market today also have air purification options, which could be an added bonus for living room and bedroom use.


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