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Why Does My House Smell Musty?

The musty or mouldy smell is a sign that something is not right in your home. Mouldy and musty smells are similar in nature and both are caused by the presence of mould or mildew. Mould and mildew are both fungi and grow in the presence of moisture, or water.

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What is That Musty Smell?

A musty smell can have several different causes, but it can make your home feel less welcoming and even a bit unpleasant. The more you can get the air moving in your home, the better. Ventilation will help remove the musty smell from your house and make your home less attractive to mould and mildew.

Moisture in the air is one of the key causes of mould, and so it’s key to keep it to a minimum. Clean spillages immediately and thoroughly, and make sure your home is well ventilated by using an extractor fan when showering, taking a hot bath or cooking. Also try not to dry your clothes on radiators. For problems that pose a threat to your home, such as burst pipes and cracked ceilings, be sure to seek professional help.

Essentially, all mould needs to grow is the presence of mould spores, a surface to grow on, warmth, darkness, oxygen, and moisture. The last ingredient — moisture — is the biggest problem. When all of the other environmental elements combine with condensation, moisture from humidity, or leaking water, mould begins to grow. Incorporating fresh air into your home will help alleviate the musty odours but it won't eliminate the issue, you must find the source and stop the mould growth.

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What's The Difference Between Mould and Mildew?

Mould and mildew — and the chemicals produced by them — are not great for your personal health or the air quality in your home. Though often used interchangeably, there are differences. 

The term mildew describes certain types of mould or fungus, and generically refers to mould that grows flat and remains on a material’s surface. Mildew likes to grow where moisture levels are high, like shower walls and windowsills.

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Tips to Get Rid of the Damp Smell in Your Home

1) Empty your wardrobe and ensure each item has been throughly washed before being put back in. Also hoover and wipe down your wardrobe, removing dust. 

2) Take your bed linen to a dry cleaners; pillows, mattress, mattress topper or invest in some mattress cleaning products. 

3) Have any soft furnishings and carpets professionally cleaned or hire a machine and do it yourself. 

4) Rinse cycle your washing machine and dishwasher - you may also want to check nothing is clogging either.  

5) Deep clean your bathroom and leave the door and window open for as long as possible so as much natural air can be ventilated in. 

6) Boil lemon peels, the acidic power of lemon acts as a natural air freshener. 

7) Spray mould and mildew with pure white vinegar. Let the vinegar sit on the surface for 10 minutes before you wipe it clean with a cloth. Apply a light mist of vinegar to the surface once again, and let it air-dry. Vinegar will naturally kill fungus and remove any lingering odours.

Most importantly locate the source, if mould is growing in your home no number of lemon peels or carpet cleaners will eliminate it.  

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Mould fungal colonies can produce gases, also known as ‘volites’, which may be causing the musty smells you want to get rid of. 

As mould forms, grows, and spreads, it emits gasses known as microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). So that musty odour you are smelling is not “just” mould but is a result of the chemical compounds released at different stages of the mould’s growth.

While volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are categorised as man-made or industrial chemicals, MVOCs are naturally occurring. They have a very low odour threshold, which means you may smell them easily and, when you do, the odour is strong.

With prolonged condensation dampness, mould spores can thrive and permeate into walls, carpets, furniture and other soft furnishings. In some cases, the actual mould growth and source of the musty smell may be hidden from view perhaps behind a wardrobe or in a cupboard.

On discovery of a mould colony being the culprit of a nasty house smell a lot of people turn to natural air fresheners or DIY air purifiers. These are often a combination of things like lemon peel and baking soda, whilst it has been proven these items can help to eliminate musty smells they are only temporary. The only way to truly banish mould growth is by attacking the source and stopping the mould from growing at all. 

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How Mould Affects Your Health

Moulds produce allergens (substances that can cause an allergic reaction), irritants and, sometimes, toxic substances. Inhaling or touching mould spores may cause an allergic reaction, such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rash. Moulds can also cause asthma attacks. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a considerable proportion of the world’s 300 million cases of childhood asthma is attributable to exposure to indoor dampness and mould. People who live in damp and mouldy homes are also at increased risk of depression which, in turn, may increase the risk of respiratory symptoms and asthma.

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Mould causes asthma

Is There A Permanent Solution?

Mould thrives in damp conditions where there is plenty of moisture to evaporate into the air and raise the humidity levels. If you want to eradicate those musty odours you must ensure your property is properly ventilated. Electric fans extract excess moisture and remove it from your home so mould cannot grow.

A whole house ventilation system will reduce and control the humidity levels within the home. Ventilation fans will diminish damp and condensation and prevent mould problems, leaving the air inside your home clean and fresh, free from musty smells.

So if you are noticing a musty smell in your home it's time to act - get in touch with a member of our team and we can arrange a free home survey.

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Need help with condensation, mould or damp problems?

Arrange a FREE Home Survey now

One of our local experts will contact you to learn more about your problems, offer free expert advice and make recommendations for a permanent solution.

During the free survey we will:

  • Assess any condensation, damp or mould problems in your property
  • Take readings of the relative humidity levels
  • Identify any underlying problems and make recommendations for a permanent solution