How to deal with damp smell problems

Struggling with a strong musty smell in the home? Help is on hand. Bloggers Lucy Heath and Kate Fever solve your biggest home odour-related issues.

“My house has a damp, musty smell in the winter. How can I get rid of this?”

I’ve lived in both new and old houses, and in every one I’ve had a battle with damp. Be it from a leaking new-build shower or from 30 year-old carpets that hid a multitude of sins below, I have lived through a lifetime of damp problems in just a decade.

For a sweeter smelling home, the trick is to keep a flow of clean, dry air moving through the house. In winter, even when it’s freezing outside, it’s important to remember to give your house a little fresh air every day.

Set a reminder on your phone to open the bathroom windows and a few windows downstairs. Not enough that you feel a shoulder-shuddering draught, but enough to breathe some new air into your home.

Of course, don’t leave any windows open whilst you’re out, so set the reminder for times that you will be in.

Patches of damp on brickwork can leave stains on the edges of carpets and rugs. And while they can be dried out, a musty smell often remains.

Where you can, pull up the old carpets and instead have painted floorboards or hard flooring. As a temporary fix to carpets with a lingering odour, I find the fragranced powders you sprinkle on the floor before you vacuum are brilliant.

If your kitchen cabinets carry a stale smell, give them a thorough clean inside and out with warm soapy water or a cloth soaked in water and vinegar.

You could leave bowls of purely vinegar in the cupboards overnight to help neutralise the smell as well. If you still feel there’s a noticeable scent after that, try leaving a bowl of coffee beans or baking soda in each cupboard for a couple of weeks – this should hopefully make a difference.

The thing to remember about damp and mustiness is that it’s all a result of moisture. If all of the above tricks don’t help with the bad smell, do invest in a dehumidifier and take it room by room.

Keeping on top of small leaks that can lead to mouldy patches, as well as wiping down areas of condensation before they soak into a wooden window ledge or panel can both make a big difference. Give your home a once over every month for patches of mildew or mould to stay one step ahead of the damp.

You can read more by Lucy Heath at

“My house has a damp and musty smell even after using air fresheners. Does this mean I have damp?”

All houses can suffer from damp and musty smells, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the house itself is damp.

Many of us will turn to air fresheners in the first instance, as they are often our first line of defence against household smells. If there is no damp problem, they may well solve the problem for you, but if a damp and musty smell persists then you may need to look a bit deeper.

The first thing you need to do is to try and find the source of the musty smell. Is it only affecting one room, or is it a few rooms, or maybe it’s those that are connected by a corridor or hallway? If it’s in several rooms, the issue could be something structural, such as a leak or mould. If this is obviously the cause, then seek professional advice.

If it seems to be a more localised smell, you can often ‘sniff it out’. Find the particular area which is affected by the smell – it could be something as innocent as a damp towel or item of clothing which has fallen behind a radiator or under a bed. If this is the case, you can clear up the problem yourself, quickly and easily.

If you’re concerned it’s something under the floorboards, it’s best to seek advice on this before you go removing them.

Occasionally, a musty, damp smell can simply be a lack of ventilation. One of the best things you can do is open doors and windows to ventilate the house.

Also open cupboards and internal doors to really allow fresh air to circulate. If you have ventilation fans, get those turned on too, as this will help to remove smells.

For an easy, effective and natural air freshener, boil some lemon peels in a pan of water, and then place the pan near the source of any smells.

You can also try sprinkling bicarbonate of soda on soft furnishings and carpets and leaving it for a while before vacuuming to freshen them up.

If these simple steps don’t help, or you cannot locate the source of the damp, musty smell, then it’s definitely worth asking a professional to come and take a look.

You can read more by Kate Fever at

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