In August 2012, we moved into a home that we bought super cheap. With this house came a lot of projects on the to-do list.This home had been foreclosed on twice and sat abandoned for almost 2 years.
It was in horrible shape, to say the least.
But the price was right, and we saw the potential. We spent the first month making it habitable so we could actually move in.
Then we spent the next 5 years remodeling it debt free.
But one problem I came across was the guest bathroom in the home smelled like mildew. It had water leaks at one point, I’m sure, but I struggled to rid the home of this smell.
So I’d like to share with you how to rid your home of the mildew smell. It could be for smaller items like towels, or something as large as a whole bathroom.
How to beat mildew smell:
1. Wash It
If you have a smaller item that smells like mildew, the easiest place to start is to wash the item. One item that often smells like mildew is towels.
Often towels are left wet and lying around.
So you have to deal with the musky mildew smell that just seems to not go away. And who wants to get out of a nice clean shower to have to dry with a musky smelling towel?
Can you tell I’ve had that experience a few times?
Anyway, you begin cleansing items of the musky mildew smell by throwing the item in the wash. If it is an item like a towel, then place a small amount of bleach in the wash with the towels or items.
However, if it is an item that could potentially be damaged by the bleach, then skip this step. Instead, just go ahead and wash the item as you normally would.
Then once that cycle is complete you’ll want to wash the item in hot water, vinegar, and baking soda. This should rid it of the mildew scent.
Finally, you’ll wash the item again. Just be sure that you add small amounts of laundry detergent because too much laundry detergent can actually cause your clothing and other items to have a bad odor to it.
2. Air It Out
Once you’ve completed the wash cycle of this process, you’ll want to give this item lots of room to dry.
So instead of placing the items in the dryer for a faster drying time, it is better to place the items outside on the clothes line and let them dry naturally.
Not to mention, the sun will help to brighten whites and deodorize too.
So once the items have fully dried, you could still place them in the dryer with dryer sheets to give them a little extra fluff and a softer feel.
But that is a personal preference.
3. Wash Bigger Items
This step is meant for a larger mildew problem. This would apply to a situation like what I had in my bathroom.
So I began deodorizing that room by washing everything. I used bleach water to wipe down larger items like the bathroom cabinet.
In our situation, this was a huge source of the mildew smell that was incorporated in this particular room.
So if you have a larger problem (like a room) be sure that you go through and wash all of the larger items in the room. This could definitely include washing things like curtains over a window, shower curtains, towels, rugs, and any other larger items that could be incorporated in any room.
3. Fix the Water Problem
A lot of times mildew smell is brought on with water being left. This happens when you leave clothes unattended in a washer.
Plus, it could happen if you leave towels lying around.
Or this could even be an issue in rooms if water has been able to get into an area by flood or leak. If you have clothing that is being left lying around wet, then be sure to fix this issue by taking them directly to your washing machine in the future.
Otherwise, the mildew smell will continue because the problem still exists.
If you have wet towels lying around on the floor, do yourself a favor and install hooks or a towel bar so that they can be hung up and given a distinct area to dry.
Finally, in the case with my bathroom, the previous owners had allowed the sink to leak for who knows how long. It has actually begun to rot the area of the bathroom cabinet under the sink.
So we had to obviously fix the water leak to stop the smell from worsening. You will definitely want to fix whatever is causing the musky issue so you don’t have to keep treating it again and again.
4. Wash the Walls
When trying to rid my bathroom of a musky odor, I washed the walls. This is a great idea if you have any kind of odor in your home because you’d be surprised just how much those walls hang on to.
For example, we rented a home for a year prior to purchasing our last home. We had just moved to a new area and wanted to make sure we really liked it before purchasing a home.
But as much as I loved this little country home, the house had an odor. It was stale nicotine where someone had smoked the home for years and never cleaned the walls.
So I pulled out a sponge mop and a bucket to wash the walls. It literally transformed the home because the walls were no longer holding those odors.
Plus, I did the same with our new home we just purchased. It had a weird smell to it so naturally, I go to the walls. I used a sponge mop and a bucket with mild floor cleaner. Our house was smelling great in no time flat.
So if you’ve tried riding your room of a mildew odor by washing everything in the area, fixing any water issues, and allowing the room to air out, but you still have an odor issue, then you should consider washing the walls of that area and see if they are what is holding onto the smell.
5. Pull Out the Dehumidifier
Next, you’ll want to pull out the dehumidifier to any area that smells like mildew. This will be another step to do what I’ve been saying all along which is you want to pull moisture from the situation.
So a dehumidifier will definitely do that. Just be advised, if you have a lot of moisture in your home, you’ll have to empty your dehumidifier regularly.
Actually, my parents use a dehumidifier in their home to help with their breathing, and you would be amazed at how much moisture that machine collects.
But it does help make their home less stuffy which in turn, helps rid any scent of mildew, which can also impact your breathing.
6. Odor Eaters
There are lots of odor eaters on the market which could help you rid small or larger areas or items of the smell of mildew.
Or you could try things like placing dryer sheets over your air vent covers. That way every time the air conditioner kicks on in your home, a fresh scent will blow from your vents.
Plus, if you have a lot of dirt in your air vents that you can’t seem to get out, this would be a good way to keep that hidden as well.
Finally, placing little cheesecloths strategically around your home or the area that smells of mildew that is filled with Downey Unstoppables will definitely kill odors and add a fresh scent to the area.
Also, they are wonderful to add to your wash, if you have smelly items. It will certainly boost your detergent and make your clothes smell fresh. That has always been my experience when using them.
If you are battling a mildew smell in a room, and you’ve washed your walls, but there is still a lingering smell, then it may be time to paint.
So you may be thinking, “Paint? I don’t need a new look. I need a new smell!”
Well, I get it, but when you paint it not only provides a new look. It actually seals your walls. Which means any odor that is within those walls will be locked under the paint.
However, nicotine is the exception as it can actually rise up above the fresh paint.
But mildew has always been able to be defeated (in my experience) with a fresh coat of paint. We actually did this in our bathroom.
As I mentioned, our home was a fixer upper when we purchased it. We knew we were going to end up remodeling every room.
But we weren’t planning on remodeling a bathroom right away so we battled the odor until we just couldn’t take it anymore.
See, everything I tried on this list would work at decreasing the odor, but it was just so strong where the house had been left abandoned for so long that the smell would still remain to some degree.
So finally we decided to just remodel the bathroom. With this, came a fresh coat of paint and fresh flooring. This helped tremendously!
The final step I made to ridding my bathroom of the mildew smell was to replace that old, rotten cabinet. It was an inexpensive cabinet, made of less expensive wood so it was very porous.
Which unfortunately for me, meant that it was just sitting there sucking up all of these odors that I was trying to get rid of.
So I pulled out the cabinet during the remodel and replaced it with a great pedestal sink that I got on sale. It worked really well.
And with that final touch, our bathroom was officially free of the mildew odor that had plagued us since we moved in.
But if you are interested in learning more about how I was able to remodel this bathroom on a budget, check out my post about it.
I hope these tips will help you turn your home back into the fresh and beautiful place that you need and want it to be.
But I’d love to hear from you. How do you battle a musty or mildew odor in your home?
Share your thoughts with us in the space provided below.