While not as abstract as other animals, humans can distinguish many different smells, making it more keen sense than we might think. With the ability to identify numerous different scents, many of us can also be sensitive to smells in general or specific smells. Of course, some are more attractive than others, but certainly we can agree that the smell of garbage, sewage or mold isn’t too pleasant.
Especially since the pandemic, we’ve also been spending quite a bit of time at home. So it’s understandable that things can become a bit…dirty over time. Whether we forget to vacuum or put the dishes away, things will also start to smell, sometimes even musty.
Common Sources of Musty Smells and Odors
- Stagnant air. Similar to dust, mold spores that linger naturally in the air become stagnant and accumulate throughout your home if the air isn’t circulated properly. Simply opening the windows and turning on the fans will help to improve the air flow, keep things moving and prevent any musty odors.
- Pet accidents. We love our pets and even consider them part of the family, but even the most well-trained pets will have accidents on occasion. Whether it’s urine, feces or vomit, the mess will need to be cleaned up right away to prevent the smell from lingering. Also keep in mind that pet stains can seep deep within the fibers of carpeting, which can even contribute to mold and mildew growth.
- Dust. Did you know that most of the dust is made up of dead skin cells? The other parts include pet hair, insects, insect droppings, mold spores and pollen. But without regular dusting, these particles will accumulate on all surfaces within your home and make it look and feel dirty. These particles can also hold moisture, which will contribute to a musty smell over time.
- Mold and mildew. This is perhaps the most common source of musty smells in the home. When left to accumulate, such as in the case of water damage like leaks and floods, the natural mold spores in the air will flock to these are with moisture. In as little as 24 hours, you can have mold growth, which will contribute to musty smells.
Here’s how to identify and remove a musty odor in your home.
1. Identify the Odor Source
Similar to dust, mold spores that linger naturally in the air become stagnant and accumulate throughout your home if the air isn’t circulated properly. Simply opening the windows and turning on the fans will help to improve the air flow, keep things moving and prevent any musty odors.
It can be tempting to simply light a candle or plug in an air freshener, and while this is a good short-term solution, it won’t remove the source of the problem, which can also affect your personal health. Keep in mind that using commercial air fresheners can also release harmful chemicals into your home.
So it’s best to identify the source of the odor, finding where it has the strongest presence and remove the source. Common sources can be mold, mildew, water damage, pet stains, moisture or condensation. Common places where they thrive include the basement, bedrooms, kitchen, garage and bedrooms.
Musty Smells in the Attic, Garage and Basement
You may not notice them here at first, perhaps because you don’t spend much time here, but they are warm, dark and damp, making them great places for mold and mildew to hide out. Here are some specific areas you’ll want to check out for signs of mold:
- Around the water heater and furnace
- Around the windows where condensation can accumulate
- Behind and under storage areas
- Around the water heater and furnace
- Air conditioning and heating ducts
- Around your washer and dryer
- In the walls and ceilings of your home or building
2. Remove the Moisture Source
Cleaning is great for keeping the dirt out, but it won’t get rid of mold or water damage. If you find any leaks within your home or water stains from a leak, it’s important to have it fixed right away. A professional plumber can fix the leak and a water damage restoration professional can repair the affected building materials. But if you are renting, contacting your landlord right away is the best decision as you are not responsible for repairing damage to the property.
3. Clean the Mold and Mildew
If you find mold or mildew in your home or building, it’s highly advised to work with a mold remediation professional. They have professional products specifically designed for removing mold at the source. They will also prevent cross contamination by setting up a containment chamber. Any water damage will also be repaired to prevent the mold from returning in the future.
If you feel comfortable enough to tackle the issue yourself, use extreme caution and personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face mask, gloves and eyewear. Baking soda and vinegar may be able to remove small amounts of mold, although there is no guarantee it won’t come back.
4. Keep the air flowing
After fully removing the mold, keep your home as ventilated as possible, such as turning on the fans and opening the window. The ventilation will push out the remaining musty odors and detract mold spores from settling within your home or building.
5. Use an odor absorber
To remove the final traces of musty smell from your house, you can use baking soda or activated charcoal. You’ll just want to replace them about every two weeks.
By following these steps you shouldn’t have to worry about your home smelling old and/or musty. But just remember to keep the ventilation going and your home clean and you shouldn’t have a problem.
Here are some other ways to prevent musty odors in your home:
- Keep a dehumidifier running. When used in the spring and summer time, it will remove the moisture from the air and prevent the risk of mold growth. Keep in mind that the optimal level of humidity should be kept between 40 and 50%.
- Keep all surfaces dry. When cooking or taking a shower, the humidity will create condensation on the walls, windows, floors and countertops. Be sure to wipe away the condensation to prevent mold and mildew growth as well as to keep the door to your washing machine open to allow it to air out.
- Change your air filters regularly. As the filters will become filled with dirt and debris, moisture can lead to mold and affect your home’s indoor air quality.
- Stay updated with routine maintenance. Water leaks can happen at any time, but a contractor can perform routing maintenance, plumbing and HVAC inspections to make sure everything is running well.
- Keep your home ventilated. Simply keeping your home filled with fresh air will keep humidity levels low, prevent the air from becoming stagnant, reduce condensation and even improve your indoor air quality.
- Routinely expect for mold. Mold does happen. But the sooner you find it, the less of an issue it will be to remove it.
Professional Mold Remediation
As mold does happen on occasion, and it’s normal to find it during the spring and summer months as humidity levels are high. But it’s important to react right away when finding it in your home or building as it will spread to other areas and cause structural damage and even trigger allergies. The longer it is left alone, the bigger the problem it will be in the long run.
It’s always best to work with a professional mold remediation contractor to ensure it’s removed at the source. The right contractor will create a containment chamber to prevent the mold from spreading and use advanced products and methods to remove it at the source and ensure it won’t return in the future.
For those living in the south central and southeast Nebraska area, ServiceMaster is available to provide mold removal services for homes and buildings. In addition to the steps included above, we will also remove destroyed porous materials and apply anti-microbials to prevent the mold from returning. We will also provide water damage restoration and dry out the areas with excess moisture.
Schedule an Estimate
Give us a call at any of the numbers listed above to schedule an appointment for professional mold remediation services in your area.