A musty smell is often associated with the presence of molds. And since molds thrive in moisture-filled areas, the question is this: will a dehumidifier get rid of musty smell?
At first glance, dehumidifiers can help in removing the musty odor in your home. However, there are a few factors to consider here.
It’s important to note that a musty odor isn’t just due to molds. Other scents in your home can mimic the musty smell. This includes off-gassing from new items, poor airflow, trapped odors, or a combination of these.
Below, we discussed more about this topic and how you can get rid of musty smell in the house efficiently.
Where do musty odors in your house come from?
As mentioned earlier, molds and mildew aren’t the only cause of musty smells in your house. There are other potential culprits that you need to look into. The following are some of them:
- Front-load washers. Front-load washers tend to retain water, which will allow bacteria and bad odor to form. Molds can also be present, though the bacteria alone is enough to cause a musty scent.
- Dirty laundry. Do you have a basketful of dirty laundry sitting in a corner for weeks? If so, the bacteria on it is likely releasing the musty odor in the room.
- Housepets. Dogs are susceptible to the overgrowth of yeast, which causes a musty smell. Stinky paws, ears, coat, and breath can also be the culprits behind the nasty smell in your home that doesn’t go away.
- Garbage disposal. Your garbage disposal can emit a myriad of foul odors if not cleaned, including a musty scent. It’s due to food particles that are left clinging to its surfaces.
- Fridge. Spoiled and expired food items in your fridge can cause not just a musty odor but also a pungent smell all over your house. It’s important to go through your stash and see what needs to be tossed into the garbage bin.
- Wet towels. Wet towels left inside the bathroom can emit a musty odor due to bacterial growth. Over time, it will start to smell like dirty socks. It’s important to dry your wet towels in a well-ventilated area with sunlight if possible.
Will a dehumidifier get rid of musty smell?
To some extent, a dehumidifier can actually help remove the musty smell inside your home.
This is possible as dehumidifiers extract excess moisture from the air. Such moisture is often the catalyst for mold growth all over your house.
So as molds get deprived of moisture, their growth will slow down or even stop. When that happens, there will be fewer musty chemical compounds will be released into the air.
However, the efficiency of a dehumidifier in combat musty smells depends on a few factors:
🔎The amount of moisture present in your home.
First, it’s important to assess how much moisture is present in your home. It’s because dehumidifiers can’t dry up standing water that’s inches deep.
In case you have this flooding in your basement, the water will just fuel the spread of molds and the musty odor. Even if you run a dehumidifier full-time, it’s not enough to remove the pools of water.
What you need is to drain the flooding and run a dehumidifier afterward. The dehumidifier will handle the moisture left from the flooding, but not the flooding itself.
🔎The capacity of the dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers are available in varying sizes and capacities. Each unit has a maximum moisture removal capacity that dictates how powerful the dehumidifier is.
If your home has a musty smell related to water damage, it’s best to get a high-capacity dehumidifier. It’s ideal to use a dehumidifier with 50-pint or more capacity. This size can remove a lot of moisture that will help get rid of the musty smell inside your home.
🔎The air filters in the dehumidifier.
Although dehumidifiers aren’t designed to purify the air, it’s still equipped with air filters. These filters help catch large particulates like dust, mold spores, pollens, and more.
Aside from basic, washable filters, you can also find dehumidifiers that use activated carbon filters. This one is used to neutralize malodors. So if you’re dealing with a musty smell, consider using a carbon filter on your dehumidifier if possible.
🔎The consistency of using a dehumidifier.
If you want to dry up mold-causing moisture in your home, you should run the dehumidifier religiously. If not, the musty smell will just go back after a few days.
On average, you should run a dehumidifier 12 hours a day to remove moisture. You should do this for a few days to weeks until all the moisture is gone.
You can also cycle multiple units, so you can remove moisture from your home all day long. This will help a lot in removing musty smells faster than using one dehumidifier alone.
🔎Other steps taken to remove the source of the smell.
Lastly, you should remember that dehumidifiers aren’t the sole solution to musty smells. If mold is the culprit behind the foul odor, you have to perform steps to remove the root of the problem.
Aside from removing the moisture that helps spread molds, it’s important to eliminate its spores, too. This is best done by a professional as improper mold removal can spread the spores even more.
How to get rid of musty smell inside your house
While the musty smell itself won’t hurt you, it can be annoying to sniff all the time. Also, it will leave a negative impression on your guests.
Beyond that, mold-induced musty odors can cause respiratory problems due to airborne spores. People who have heightened sensitivity to molds may experience itchy skin, runny noses, watery eyes, and sneezing all the time.
To prevent this from happening, it’s important that you know how to remove molds and the musty odor it brings. Below are some of the steps you can take to make your home smell fresh again. Take note that the goal here is to remove the scent and not just mask it with perfumes.
✔️Improve your home’s ventilation
To remove the musty smell inside your home, you should open your windows to let the air in. Boosting the ventilation in your home can help dissipate the foul odor and dry up moisture causing molds. Letting the sunlight in is also helpful.
✔️Vacuum your floor
Vacuuming your floor can help remove dust, dirt, and other allergens that could mix up with moisture and cause a musty smell. Even without the bad odor, vacuuming is a big part of keeping your indoor air quality clean.
✔️Steam clean your carpets
Steam cleaning is a very effective way of killing molds on your carpets, upholstery, and other fabrics. It will also neutralize malodors and get rid of the musty scent in your home. Overall, you only need to steam clean your carpet once a year to remove accumulated dirt and odor.
✔️Run a dehumidifier regularly
A dehumidifier can remove excess moisture in your home. Running it once humidity levels become high is a great way to prevent molds and the musty smell it comes with. It’s also ideal to use a hygrometer to ensure that you’re not drying your indoor air too much.
✔️Use an air purifier
Aside from a dehumidifier, an air purifier will also be a big help in removing malodors in your home. Air purifiers equipped with activated carbon filters can neutralize bad smells. A HEPA filter can also trap mold spores, so they won’t recirculate in your home.
✔️Deep-clean your bathroom
Deep-cleaning your bathroom once in a while will help remove a slew of bad odors in your home. Take note that your bathroom is one of the main hideouts of mold due to moisture and darkness. When cleaning, you shouldn’t forget about the drains and your bathtub.
✔️Clean your washing machine and dishwasher
Your washing machine and dishwasher can have retained water that allows molds to form. As molds proliferate, they will start to emit a musty smell all over your kitchen. This can be prevented by deep-cleaning your washers using baking soda. This can help kill mold spores and remove the bad smell in a food-safe manner.
✔️Fix any leaks
Pipe leaks are the most common cause of molds in most households. No matter how much you run a dehumidifier, leaks will just keep moisture coming. This is why you should get your lines inspected and have leaks fixed, no matter how small it appears.
✔️Don’t leave wet fabrics around
When drying your clothes manually, you should hang them outdoors under direct sunlight. Even without sunlight, the outdoor breeze will help prevent bad odors from forming. If it’s impossible to install a clothesline outdoors, you should at least dry your clothes in the most ventilated area of the house. This is to avoid mildew and bacteria from forming.
✔️Use diluted vinegar to clean surfaces
Lastly, you can use equal parts of water and white vinegar to clean surfaces all over your home. The acidity of vinegar helps kill mold and neutralize bad odors. Aside from that, it’s totally safe and non-toxic. However, you should be careful when using it on stained surfaces as well as colored fabrics and leather materials.
Also, you should always dilute the vinegar, unless you’re using it to clean drains, sinks, and garbage disposals. You should also practice caution when mixing baking soda and vinegar as it creates a fizzy reaction. Always wear eye protection before doing this.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Does a musty smell mean molds?
A: A musty smell can point to the presence of molds, but not every single time. In some cases, a musty smell might be a combination of different malodors in your home. If a professional inspection ruled out molds, you have to check for other possibilities. Something inside your house might be emitting an odor similar to that of molds. It can also be a combination of various scents, including cooking odors, smoke, bathroom smells, and more.
Q: Does a dehumidifier make a room smell?
A: A dehumidifier will not make your room smell bad. So if you’re running one and a bad odor wafts, it’s due to something else. The air movement due to the dehumidifier only causes an existing smell to spread all over your house. But to be fair, a dehumidifier with dirty filters can also release a foul smell, so this is something you need to check before turning the unit on.
Q: Can a dehumidifier stop mold?
A: Dehumidifiers can help eliminate mold by depriving it of its much-needed moisture. However, it’s important to note that a dehumidifier itself can’t kill mold spores. It just reduces excessive humidity to prevent its spread. With that, you still need to avail of mold remediation to get rid of the problem properly.
Q: Is it normal for a basement to smell musty?
A: A musty smell isn’t normal anywhere, so if your basement has this odor, you should check for molds. Take note that basements are notorious as the hideout of molds since it’s often undisturbed and covered in moisture. Pair that with darkness and it becomes the perfect breeding ground for mold spores.
Q: Why does my house smell musty during winter?
A: It’s quite common for homes to smell musty during winter due to poor air circulation. Also, there’s a higher risk for molds to grow in the basement of your home as well as your windows where condensation often accumulates. Also, most basements are unused during winter, so leaks are often left unnoticed, giving molds enough time to proliferate.
Will a dehumidifier get rid of musty smell? Yes, but it’s not the only solution to the problem. Aside from removing moisture through a dehumidifier, you should also perform other steps that will combat the root cause of the smell. When in doubt, you shouldn’t hesitate to tap the help of a professional.
Do you have other methods to remove musty odors? Share your ideas in the comment section!
Home Air Quality is founded by Bernard K to provide information on Indoor Air Quality in Homes and enlighten people about what they need to know about creating and maintaining a comfortable and healthy home environment.
We believe that “Quality air brings a healthy life.”