Once you notice that strange smells have invaded your home, the first instinct is to reach for an air freshener. Unfortunately, when it comes to mold smells, a good air freshener is never enough.

It might be effective at neutralizing the smell for a while, but the smell will definitely come back. There is also the fact that for as long as the mold isn’t killed off, the risks of extreme allergies, respiratory complications, and property damage will always hang over your head.

Therefore, as soon as you notice the familiar musty smell of mold, here is what you should do.

The first step is to find out where the mold is coming from. To this end, there are two techniques that you can use.

FAQ’s bad smell

Smell tracing

You can locate the source of the smell by simply noting where it is strongest. If you enter a room in which the smell is stronger than the other places, then that is likely the source. You can thereafter narrow down to the exact place by checking for the visual signs of mold.

However, sometimes, the smell may be all over the house. In such a case, this will be an indication of extensive mold growth in areas such as walls. It may also be a matter of mold growing in your air conditioning system, which then spreads the smell throughout the home.

In the case of the air conditioning system, you should first start by turning it off and then noting whether the smell disappears. Turning it off and then going next to the registers to see whether it is coming from them, will help you to know whether your air conditioning system is to blame.

Visual observation

Another reliable way of tracing the source of mold is to simply watch out for visual signs of mold presence. The most common one is the presence of black, green, or white spots. This is so especially in areas that are prone to moisture leaks, high humidity, and poor air circulation.

Therefore, if you see any type of discoloration or staining, especially if it is accompanied by a mold-like musty smell, chances are that the area has mold growth.

Prepare the area for mold removal

After locating the moldy area, the next step is to prepare the area for mold removal. Start by opening windows to improve air circulation. If you have a fan, place it near the window and then run it. Doing both of these things will reduce the chances of most of the mold settling on fixtures or spreading throughout your home.

If there are items that you can remove such as carpets, rugs, and clothes, remove them. For any other items or fixtures, simply cover them with polythene sheeting and then use masking tape to secure them. Also, don’t forget to shield the rest of the home from mold. Do this by taping plastic sheeting on doors and on entries to your A/C’s air ducts.

Kill and remove the mold

Killing mold is the first step towards ridding your home of mold smell. Without doing so, the smell will keep on coming back.

As far as killing mold is concerned, you have two main options. You can do it yourself, or you can let a contractor help you.

DIY mold and smell removal

Prepare the mold-killing solution

As a homeowner, you will have a number of options for killing mold. You can use vinegar, bleach, baking soda, borax powder, or hydrogen peroxide. There are also commercial cleaners that are extremely effective at killing mold and which you can use. You can even decide to mix vinegar and baking soda to get a more-potent mold-killing solution.

Wear protective gear

The solutions that you are going to use to clean are potentially corrosive. Therefore, before you start the mold removal process, you need to wear rubber gloves. Putting on a respirator or a face mask is also necessary to protect your lungs from the harmful effects of mold spores. And goggles will be necessary to shield your eyes from the discomfort of eye irritation.

Scrape any visible mold

Whatever the surface, the mold removal process always starts with scraping off any visible mold. This is true whether it is mold on a book, on wood, on a carpet, or on your walls and floors. A soft brush is usually used for sensitive surfaces. In some cases, a soft cloth can be used. But in most cases, a scraper or a hard brush is usually the tool of choice.


After scraping the mold off the surface, you should use a vacuum to get rid of any remaining spores or dust. And as far as mold remediation is concerned, using a vacuum with HEPA filters is recommended.

Apply the mold-killing solution

With the area cleaned up, it is now time to kill any remaining mold. To do so, simply place the solution prepared above in a spray bottle and then use the solution to spritz the area with the solution. If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can dip a rag or apply some of the solutions on a brush, and then use it to scrub.

For carpets, in addition to brushes and cleaning cloths, you also have the option of steam cleaning. In such a case, to ensure that you also kill the mold, it is advisable that you pour two cups of distilled vinegar into the water compartment. Doing so will ensure that the vinegar helps in destroying any existing mold.

Let it dry out

After you are done, simply let the area dry out. If you were removing mold from an item that you can take outside, like a carpet or a wooden stool, then you should take it out and let it dry out under the sun. For items that you can’t take out, you can speed up the drying process by opening your doors and windows. Investing in a dehumidifier and a good roof fan will also help. You also have the option of simply running your air conditioning system.

Professional mold removal

It is inadvisable to remove mold on your own if the area that you are working on is more than 10 square feet. Also, if the mold keeps coming back, there is no point in keeping on trying to do the same thing if your way isn’t working.

Contacting a contractor is an option that you should explore if you don’t have the time or the skills to do it yourself. It is also an ideal option if the mold is located in hard-to-reach areas like the air conditioning system. And it is also perfect in cases where there is extensive mold growth over large areas.

To get a good mold remediation contractor, you can start the process by digging through search engine results. You may also have to wade through a number of review websites. You can even go through the trouble of asking friends, family, and neighbors for recommendations on which remediation contractor to use.

However, it is way simpler to use a tool that has been specifically designed to make it easier for homeowners to find contractors near them.

Use this free tool

HomeGardenGuides.com is a free service that quickly matches you with the top-voted local mold remediation contractors.
Using the website, you can get 3 estimates fast by real certified experts in your area in just 2 minutes. Here is how it works.

  1. You scroll to the top of the page and enter your Zip code.
  2. Answer questions about your mold remediation needs
  3. Your details will be forwarded to three local experts.
  4. You will then receive a price estimate for the job and some friendly advice.

IMPORTANT: There is no obligation to hire. This is a free tool and service to be used at your pleasure.

Who does dethatching

Use odor absorbers

After killing and removing mold, if the smell still persists, then you need to use odor absorbers. Some of the most effective odor absorbers are baking soda, vinegar, and activated charcoal.

To use vinegar, fill several bowls with vinegar and then place them in the room. You can also create a mixture of distilled white vinegar and an essential oil like mint, sage, or rosemary. Place the mixture in a spray bottle and then use it to mist the area. As for baking soda, place it in a few boxes, place them in the room and then let them work their magic.


Mold has a musty smell that smells like rotting wood or damp cloths. The smell can be earthy or downright unpleasant.

A musty smell is a stale smell that resembles the smell of damp clothes that have been placed in a confined space for some time. This smell is commonly associated with areas that have mold growths.

No, the smell of mold is not harmful. However, since this smell is usually accompanied by the presence of mold spores, it is usually a sign that you and your loved ones are being exposed to the negative effects of mold. This includes skin irritation, eye irritation, chronic respiratory complications, and the worsening of respiratory conditions like asthma.

A musty smell doesn’t always mean mold. However, it is a common sign of mold growth.

Mildew has a damp, earthy, and tangy smell. This smell most resembles the smell that rotting wood and dirty socks give off.

Yes, like other types of mold, black mold has a musty smell.

Following these steps will allow you to effectively get rid of the mold smell from your home. However, this will only work if you get rid of the reason why the mold growth occurred in the first place. If it was due to high humidity, then improving airflow and investing in a good humidifier is necessary. And if it was as a result of a roof leak or faulty plumbing, then fixing such leaks first, before starting this process, is recommended.

Timothy Munene
Author: Timothy Munene - Timothy is a freelance writer and an online entrepreneur.