When you hear a creak in your home, you probably think, "It's just the house…
What Causes Musty Odors in a HomeThe musty, "old house smell" is usually a combination of high humidity and moisture and little ventilation - that's why it's worse when the house is closed up. Typically, what you're smelling is called a "mold volatile organic compound," or MVOC. It's mold growth at the point in its life cycle where the chemicals making up the spores are breaking down, releasing an odor. MVOCs are actually not dangerous in and of itself, but they can be a sign of active mold growth in your home that can trigger allergies and respiratory problems as well as an unpleasant smell.
Where Do Musty Odors Come From?Now that you know the odors are caused by a source of moisture, it's necessary to find the source of the problem. If it's only in a specific location in your home, like a laundry room, under a cabinet, or in a closet or bedroom, it's probably a local issue, such as:
- Leaking window or window condensation - A wet towel or fabric that's been forgotten - Roof leak - Standing water or poor draining water (common in front-loading washers) - Dripping pipe behind a wall - Moisture in upholstery or carpeting - Finding the source of the moisture is essential to not only stopping the odor but also preventing additional damage to your home.If your whole home smells musty, the issue may not be in your home, but rather, under it. When your home is closed up, over half of the air in your home is coming up through crevices and gaps in your flooring from a basement or crawl space. Now, think about that space - if it's a crawl space, there's moisture continually evaporating from wet soil under your home, creating a damp, stagnant environment which is seeping into your home. If it's a basement that has not been waterproofed, there's a similar problem of moisture seeping through the foundation or coming up through the concrete slab due to hydrostatic pressure. Moisture under the home leads to musty odors in your living spaces.
How to Stop Damp Smells in the HomeOnce you pinpoint where the moisture is coming from, you can stop the odor. For a quick odor removal:
- Open boxes of baking soda or set out bowls of white vinegar to absorb the odors; - Deep clean and disinfect upholstery and carpeting; - Have ductwork cleaned as mold and mildew can live in the ducts, especially if they are run under your home; - Wipe down your walls with a mixture of 4 ounces of borax dissolved in 32 ounces of hot water. - Run an air purifier;But most importantly, you have to stop the source of the moisture. Otherwise, you're going to be constantly fighting an uphill battle against damp, musty odors, and worse, possible health problems. If the odors are through your entire house you should consider crawl space waterproofing or basement waterproofing, depending on your home's foundation. These seal off the spaces under your home, stopping moisture from seeping through or evaporating upwards. When there is no moisture that can enter, there's no more risk of mold or MVOCs, so the air quality in your home will immediately improve, and you can finally eliminate the odors for good. Failing to take care of basement and crawl space moisture can not only mean you will be dealing with odors, the moisture can attract pests, ruin your belongings, and even cause structural damage.