Someone open a window – it smells awful in here.

Life gets dirty sometimes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that the U.S. released 76 million tons of pollution into the atmosphere in 2018 alone. The agency estimates over 260 million people still live in areas where the air quality doesn’t meet U.S. National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). What’s even worse is when you can’t hide from that musty smell, even in your own home.

Why does Air Matter? Well, air quality directly impacts your health. The National Weather Service estimates poor air quality causes 60,000 deaths and $150 billion worth of healthcare costs each year. This includes asthma, eye, nose, and throat irritation, and respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

Pollutants like ground-level ozone (O3), particulate matter (PM), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are all linked to illness. They’re especially dangerous indoors, where compounds build up in the air and reach much higher concentrations. Proximity to a lot of other children, for example, is what makes children more likely to get sick during the school year.

While you can’t control the outside world, you can control your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) which is done by exchanging air from indoors and outdoors. The EPA and ASHRAE (formerly known as the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) set minimum air exchange levels in ASHRAE Standard 62.2.

The minimum ventilation rate in a residential building is no less than 0.35 air changes per hour and 15 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm) per person. Bathrooms and kitchens are particularly dirty areas that also should have intermittent exhaust capabilities. Some appliances can also add a need for faster air turnovers per minute.

Smokers (and vapers) need even more air turnovers per minute to keep smells from lingering in the house.

All these factors play a part in why and how to get rid of a musty smell in your house.

How to Get Musty Smell Out of Your House

The worst smells are the forgotten ones. Realtor reports that low ventilation, high humidity, and darkness are common factors in the musty smell of old houses. The actual smell itself is typically associated with mold and mildew, although it’s not the organism itself that you smell.

Musty smell is often associated with the presence of mold volatile organic compounds (MVOC), which are chemicals emitted during the flowering stage of a mold’s life cycle. Breathing in black mold, which is commonly found in homes, can kill you.

The good news is that you can smell it, and that means that you can locate and eliminate the source. Here are the five steps on how to get the musty smell out of your house.

1. Find the Source

The first step to removing the smells is locating the source. Musty smells can be caused by a wide array of issues around your house. Wet laundry, discarded food, and leaky pipes are common culprits.

Examine each room of your home to locate the source of the smell. Look for wet furniture, carpets, or piles of wet clothes, papers, or boxes. These can easily turn into petri dishes of MVOCs. Also, check around pipes for mildew or mold spores – this is a sign that you have faulty plumbing. If your pipes are leaking into the walls, it can create an avalanche of problems.

Check for visible signs of mold and feel surfaces to check for moisture, especially in darker areas like a basement or the laundry room.

If you’re unable to locate the source, you may need to call a professional.

2. Clean Your House

Once you’ve located the smell, it’s time to clean your house. Dry out anything wet that’s not being discarded. In the event of a leak, get the pipes fixed and remove any wood that has dry rot. Sometimes this becomes a full renovation, and it’s necessary to have pieces of the floor or wall replaced. Know that just scrubbing visible mold off the walls won’t get rid of it.

Wash and dry dirty clothes and clean your bathroom thoroughly. These are two very common areas where moisture, darkness, and lack of air ventilation create a perfect storm. Bathroom tile, showers/tubs, toilets, and sinks should all be regularly cleaned with a specially formulated mold and mildew killer like Tilex. This stops spores from reproducing at any growth stage.

Scrub your kitchen from top to bottom as well. The refrigerator, garbage can, sinks, and oven can all create smells. Those mystery leftovers have probably been in your fridge for too long. Pouring it down the garbage disposal just moves the smell to a different area, so be sure to take out all the trash and wipe everything down.

3. Circulate the Air

As mentioned earlier, air circulation is a key component for how to get rid of the musty smell in your house. There are several ways to achieve this. First, open a window – in fact, open them all.

Open windows allow for easy air exchange with the outside air. Natural wind patterns will blow fresh air into your home while removing the polluted air. Don’t just count on nature, though. There’s plenty you can do to speed up the air turnovers per minute, and that’s how to really get must smells out of the house.

Turning on room fans and your home’s built-in HVAC system is great in an emergency. However, HVAC is costly and room fans can be loud and blow things around the house. While these will help in a pinch, adding a solution like Ray-Air ensures round-the-clock protection. Not only does it increase air turnovers per minute, but it helps regulate floor to ceiling temperatures to optimize HVAC use.

4. Use Air-Filtering Plants

Plants don’t just convert carbon dioxide into oxygen – many of them act as air filters too. In fact, plants are such a vital part of cleaner air that NASA conducted a clean air study to determine the best indoor plants to keep. These plants include:

  • Dwarf date palm
  • Boston fern
  • Kimberley queen fern
  • Spider plant
  • Chinese evergreen
  • Bamboo palm
  • Weeping fig
  • Cornstalk dracaena
  • English ivy
  • Varigated snake plant
  • Peace Lily
  • Chrysanthemum

These plants have been found to be the most effective indoor plants for filtering the air of harmful toxins. They remove formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, xylene, and trichloroethylene from the air. These common pollutants are found in printer ink, paint, paper bags/paper towels, plastic, detergents, floor waxes, and synthetic fabrics.

NASA recommends having at least one of these plants per 100 square feet of home space. Some (like the snake plant, also known as Mother in Law’s Tongue) are hardy and very difficult to kill. This makes them ideal for those who lack a green thumb.

5. Employ Air Fresheners

The icing on the cake of how to get the musty smell out of your house is to use air fresheners. Air fresheners have been used for centuries and come in a variety of forms. Some use burning air fresheners, like scented candles and incense cones/sticks. Others use plug-ins, reed diffusers, wax melts, and sprays.

While air fresheners are great for covering up musty smells, be aware that Poison Control also considers many air fresheners to be pollutants. Burning candles and aerosol spray cans release VOCs in the air, and many of the essential oils and chemicals used in air fresheners can be toxic.

Get Rid of Musty Homes for Good

Now that you know how to get rid of musty smells in the house, stop waiting for a problem to occur. Ray-Air’s advanced air movement technology increases air circulation while saving up to 40% on electricity bills. When air turnovers per minute are increased, your home gets healthier.

Buy Ray-Air today to discover for yourself the breath of fresh air we provide to homes and businesses around the world.