4 Reasons Your Home Smells Musty – And How to Fix Them


You work hard to keep your home looking its best. However, if there’s a strange smell wafting around, it can throw off that welcoming, cozy feeling you deserve. And in some cases, the odor can be a sign of a health risk. Once you eliminate obvious explanations such as expired food in the kitchen or dirty laundry piling up, then it’s time to turn your attention to your plumbing, HVAC system, and other areas.

4 Reasons Your Home Smells Musty – And How to Fix Them

If your home has a stale, musty scent, there could be a handful of explanations, including a plumbing leak, high humidity, poor airflow, dirty HVAC equipment, or soiled carpet.

Causes of musty smells in homes

  1. Excess moisture – The presence of water where it shouldn’t be is a leading cause of musty smells in homes. This water can come from a leaky pipe hidden in a wall, a humid basement, or even wet towels piled up in the bathroom. Moisture and humidity can lead to the growth of mildew and mold, which create an unpleasant smell and, in the case of mold, can cause health risks. 
    Tips for preventing mildew and mold include fixing plumbing problems right away, running a dehumidifier, and making sure wet items are cleaned up.
  2. Inadequate airflow – When air is stagnant inside your home, contaminants get trapped indoors, too, resulting in that “old house” smell. Improving air circulation in your home can be as easy as opening windows and running ceiling fans. If you have the windows closed, such as in the winter or even the summer with the air conditioning running, then promoting airflow gets a little trickier – but even more critical. 
    If you have a newer, high-efficiency home, you may want to consider installing an air exchanger that expels stale air from inside and brings in fresh air from the outdoors.
  3. Dirt and debris stuck in the heating or cooling system – It’s not uncommon for HVAC equipment and ductwork to accumulate dirt, dust, and other small particles over time. Even worse, moisture can get trapped in the equipment, leading to mildew or mold. When the heating or cooling system turns on, the musty smell is distributed throughout the home.
    That’s why it’s important to have your furnace, air conditioning, or heat pump maintained and cleaned by a professional. Also, be sure to replace the system’s air filter regularly. 
  4. Soiled carpets – If a drink spills or a pet urinates on a carpet, the liquids can easily get absorbed by the soft surface, pad, and subfloor. If not cleaned up quickly, these liquids can spread smells or lead to bacteria or fungus growth. For stubborn messes with lingering odors, have your carpets professionally cleaned, or try renting a carpet cleaner.

Plumbing and HVAC professionals in the Los Banos, Turlock, Merced, and Patterson areas

Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary – and that shouldn’t get ruined by an unpleasant scent. If you have a stale odor in your abode that you can’t put your finger on, call the team at All American Plumbing, Heating & Air. With both plumbing and HVAC experts under one roof, we can check and fix many of the common causes of musty smells in homes. To schedule an appointment, call (209) 710-5629 .