House Smells Musty but No Mold – What to Do

air conditioner or heater odor

The damp, earthy smell that greets you when you step into your house is not only unpleasant but can be embarrassing, especially if you have a guest.

What could be the cause if your house smells musty but no mold is present? This article explores the possible reasons for the stale odor in your home and shares some effective ways to eliminate the bad smell.

Identifying the Source of the Smell

Masking odd smells without knowing the cause is a common mistake among homeowners. Air fresheners may mask unwanted odors, but that’s only a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

Besides, fewer than 10% of the ingredients in air fresheners are made public, meaning you could be breathing in potentially harmful chemicals. In fact, research suggests that more than 20% of the US population report health problems from using air fresheners.

To realistically deal with musty smells in your home, you must first identify what’s causing the odors.

If you’ve eliminated the possibility of mold, the next thing is to check for excessive humidity and moisture sources. Focus more on areas of the home with higher chances of stagnant air and water, such as the laundry room, bathroom, and basement.

You’ll have to rely on your sense of smell and, in some cases, go on all fours to figure out where the damp, musty smell is coming from.

Here are some common reasons your house smells musty:

  • Water damage in hidden spots: Spills on carpets, rugs, wooden floors and other out-of-sight areas in the home may go unnoticed. This can lead to damages that result in musty odors, especially with repeated spills. Keep an eye out for signs of watermarks or damp stains around baseboards, behind wallpapers, under furniture, and on the ceiling.
  • Water leaks: Leaks from air conditioning units and plumbing issues are common causes of damp odors in indoor environments. You want to look for signs of moisture around pipes, P-traps and drains in rooms or areas with musty smells.
  • Washing machine drain issues: Another common reason your house smells musty but no mold growth is in sight is a problem with your washing machine drain. While it is not unusual to have a little water in your washing machine, excessive standing water is usually a sign something is wrong with the drain system and can cause moldy odors.
  • Pet accidents: Pet urine typically has a sharp ammonia smell but can absorb moisture from the air and breed mold spores if left unattended. Check for signs of accidents in spots with a history of pet accidents.

How to Eliminate Musty Smells From Your House

Identifying the source of the odor is an important first step toward improving your indoor air quality; you must take further action to get rid of what is causing the smell or musty odors. If left unaddressed, musty odors caused by excess moisture or high humidity will eventually lead to mold growth.

Here’s what to do if your house smells musty but no mold is present.

Clean and Dry Wet Surfaces Properly

Make sure to clean and dry your home regularly, focusing on moisture-prone areas like the bathroom and laundry room.

Address spills and pet accidents as quickly as possible, especially on absorbent surfaces like carpeting and floorboards. Get rid of rug and carpet smells with non-toxic, fragrance-free odor-fighting products.

However, if there is extensive damage or an unpleasant odor to carpets, rugs, or portions of wooden floors, you may have to replace them.

Get Rid of Stale Air

Open windows in rooms with earthy, stale smell whenever the weather permits and when it is safe to do so. The musty smell will eventually dissipate when you let in fresh air and increase air flow throughout the home.

Remember to dust and vacuum your home thoroughly and regularly.

Increase Air Circulation

Run fans and air conditioners to keep the air circulating in your home. If you use a box or standing fan for air flow, place it near an opened window to move the air outside. This will help get rid of odor-causing particles in your home.

Use an Air Purifier

Your home may be free of visible mold, but that doesn’t mean it is 100% mold-spore-free. All indoor environments have some mold spores floating in the air. Besides dealing with musty, earthy smells, there is a high chance you’ll develop respiratory health issues if you are not proactive about getting rid of these tiny fungus cells.

The best way to remove moldy smells is to significantly cut down the number of mold spores wafting through your home.

Install an air purification system, such as the EnviroKlenz Air System Plus, to capture and destroy mold spores and other airborne contaminants in your home.

EnvironKlenz air purifiers stand out because they combine HEPA filtration with germicidal UVC and advanced chemistry technology to neutralize harmful particulates, viruses, bacteria, and allergens.

In other words, you are not just removing musty smells with this air filtration system but also cleaning the air in your home for better indoor air quality (IAQ).

Reduce Moisture Levels in Your Home

A high moisture level in the air encourages mold growth, especially in areas of the home with little ventilation.

Running a dehumidifier can reduce excess moisture in the air, decreasing the chances of bad smells. Remember to use exhaust fans in the bathroom and other moisture-prone areas in the home.

Always keep your bathroom dry and mop the laundry room, making sure there is no standing water anywhere in those locations.


You might be dealing with plumbing leaks, water damage in hidden spots, or washing machine drain issues if your house smells musty but no mold is visibly present.

The first thing to do is identify the source of the smell before attempting to eliminate the unwanted odor. If the smell persists after following the suggestions above, you might need to hire a professional service.

By the way, many homeowners mistake mold for dust. How can you tell if the particles on your surfaces are signs of mold or dust? Read this article to find out.

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EnviroKlenz® Medical Disclaimer:

“Any information that is provided on this website is not for the use by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog author. The material and statements illustrated within this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or medical conditions. Nor does the author in any way guarantee or validate the validity, totality, or efficacy of any claims and will therefore not be held responsible for the content of any claims. Always consult your medical physician for any specific medical advice or recommendations.”

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