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How Can I Get Rid of Mildew Odor?

Use a bleach and water solution to remove mildew and its odor.
Opening windows after cleaning affected areas also helps remove odors.
Mildew odor is long lasting.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2014
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Mildew odor can linger in the air for a surprisingly long time. Thorough cleaning can help get rid of the unpleasant smell, and ventilating the affected rooms may help as well. You may also find products that absorb moisture and odors helpful. Additionally, you may use dehumidifiers and follow-up cleanings to make sure mildew smells stay away.

To get rid of mildew odor in your home, clean surfaces in the affected area with a solution of bleach and water, and then allow them to air dry. You may also need to dispose of paper or cardboard that may be contributing to the smell and clean or dispose of any fabric in the affected area. Fabric items to which you are not overly attached can be thrown away, but those you want to keep can be laundered. If you have old pieces of upholstered furniture in a room that smells like mildew, your best option may be to get rid of them as well.

Once you've done a thorough cleaning job in the affected area, you may then use ventilation to help you get rid of lingering smells. Open any windows in the affected area and leave them open for as long as possible. If you have screen doors and the weather is reasonably warm, you may also want to leave the doors open for a time. This will not get rid of the odor by itself, but in combination with cleaning, it may help.

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There also are many products you can buy to help absorb unpleasant smells, including ones from mildew. For example, you may find products that consist of granules that absorb odors as well as excess moisture in the air. You may also find sprays that are advertised for the same purpose, though some of them may not work as well. Some people also make their own odor-absorbing solution by placing charcoal briquettes in coffee containers or similar receptacles; baking soda may serve the same purpose.

Once you have managed to get rid of mildew odor, you will likely want to make sure that it stays away. Repeat the cleaning of the affected area periodically to ensure the mildew doesn’t come back. A dehumidifier can also help keep mildew-causing moisture out of the air.

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bagley79
Post 12

I understand what it is like to have mildew odor as we have had water in our basement several times.

Once we get the water out we always turn on the ceiling fans as high as they will go for a few days. We also like to run a dehumidifier in the basement to help keep the moisture out of the air.

One thing I have found that really works on getting rid of the odor is a natural germicide cleaner I bought from a health company.

This works better than bleach and is a lot safer. It also has a pleasant odor and I don't have to worry about breathing it in when I am spraying it all around the room.

It also comes in a concentrate form, so just by mixing a little bit in a spray bottle of water goes a long ways.

Perdido
Post 11

I experienced what mildew can do firsthand. I noticed that my allergies were worse than usual, and I seemed to keep a constant sinus infection. I did not know what was wrong until I found the mildew on the baseboards of my house.

I had been keeping the interior of the house pretty humid because of my sinuses. I had a humidifier in every room so that I could breathe better, but it didn’t seem to be helping. What I had done was provide good conditions for the mildew to grow.

I was afraid that dealing with the mildew myself would aggravate my sinuses further, so I hired someone to come in and treat the wood. The man told me that it would help to only have one humidifier in my bedroom to help me sleep and to only turn it on at night, and he said that I should keep it cooler in the house to discourage further growth.

I’m not sure what he used, but it got rid of the odor as well as the mildew. I will probably always leave this to the professionals, since my nose is so sensitive.

Oceana
Post 10

@cloudel - The house I rent had a room full of mildew, too. Instead of on the walls, it was in the carpet.

I removed the carpet and bleached the floor beneath. The odor lingered, though. I knew I couldn’t put down new carpet on top of that, so I came up with a way to make it smell better.

I covered the floor of the entire room with cedar chips. Their smell was so pleasant and intense that it seemed to soak up all of the bad smell.

I left them in there with the door shut for a week. After that, I swept them up. That was four months ago, and that room still smells like cedar! I will probably be putting down new carpet soon, since it seems the mildew odor is gone for good.

cloudel
Post 9

When my husband and I moved into a rental home, we found that one room’s wallpaper was covered in mildew. Since I hate wallpaper anyway, we ripped it down and sprayed a solution of bleach and water onto the bare walls underneath.

He told me that the reason for the mildew was that whoever put up the wallpaper got it too wet before sticking it on. That water couldn’t dry while trapped under there, so mildew formed.

After the bleach had soaked in for a few minutes, I scrubbed the mildew with a brush. It came off so easily.

Since it was warm and dry outside at the time, we opened the windows in that room and turned on the ceiling fan. I think that helped a lot.

StarJo
Post 8

@rugbygirl - The sun is the cheapest and best way to eliminate mildew funk. Before I hang garments out to dry on the clothesline, I like to spray them with an scented odor absorbing spray that takes the odor with it as it dries up.

It leaves behind the fresh scent of newly washed towels. Sometimes, garments dried in fresh air can take on an earthy smell if you don’t use something on them.

Since I have a ton of white towels that need airing out every few months, I don’t mind if the sun bleaches them. Generally, the smelly garments are old ones that we use to exercise in, so we don’t care too much if their appearance is a bit faded.

ddljohn
Post 7

Mold and mildew remediation (cleaning up mold) is not an easy task. It can take a long time to rid a house of mold and mildew entirely and even longer to get rid of the odor. It definitely requires patience.

I know about it because my brother used to run a cleaning service and I used to help him there from time to time. The hardest thing to work with was mold because it can be so stubborn. We often finished up a job thinking the mold was gone, only to be called back the next week to clean it again.

The best way to get rid of mold, mildew and their odor, in my opinion, is borax. Borax is a natural mineral (also called sodium borate) that is really great for absorbing odor. We used to sprinkle this all over furniture and carpet that has mildew odor, let it sink in and stay for about a day, and then vacuum it. It works really well, I recommend it to folks out there who are having trouble with mildew odor.

And it's affordable too, you can get it in the detergent/cleaning product isle of most large grocery stores.

bear78
Post 6

@letshearit-- A steam cleaner might be a short-term solution, but if the problem repeats, it will be too expensive to do this all the time.

Baking soda and vinegar is a good and cheap way to clean out the mildew odor from carpets and people have already mentioned them.

I think if you want a long-term solution, you should first thoroughly clean the carpet from any mildew that's growing inside. Then, you need to avoid humidity and heat that's causing mildew to grow in the first place.

I think continuously using products that absorb humidity- like a dehumidifier, or leaving out cat litter open in a box near the carpet to absorb moisture is a good idea. You should also vacuum often to make sure there is no re-growth in there.

burcidi
Post 5

@manykitties2-- That is a great tip! I don't know why I did not think of that before!

I don't like using bleach or any house cleaners with chemicals in them. I have a mischievous and very active toddler in the house so I want to stick to natural products. I actually use a mixture of vinegar, water and baking soda to clean the mildew from my bathroom walls and bathtub. It works great and the baking soda is wonderful for the mildew odor.

I'm sure it would work great for clothes too, I have to give it a try sometime! Thanks for the tip!

letshearit
Post 4

There is a really bad musty smell in my house and I am not sure where it is coming from. I suspect the musty smell may be coming from the carpet in the front hall as it got damp awhile ago from an unexpected down pour.

We've already spent some time cleaning mold up from around our home in hopes that it would help kill the musty smell but it hasn't done much.

What is the easiest way to remove a musty smell from carpets? Do you think we should rent a commercial steam cleaner, or is there something simpler and cheaper we can do?

manykitties2
Post 3

@drtroubles - There is no reason for you to throw out the stinky towels as mildew odor removal can actually be really easy. All you need to do to refresh your towels is to load them into your washing machine and add a couple of cups of white vinegar to the wash.

The white vinegar should be used without any products being put in, and you should use the hottest water possible. Once your towels have been washed through once with the vinegar, wash the towels again as you normally would. Finally, put the towels in the dryer on the highest setting possible and they should smell as good as new when they come out.

drtroubles
Post 2

My family and I really like going to the beach but we find our beach towels always end up stinky, so we really need help with removing the mildew odor from our stuff. Does anyone know an easy and natural way to eliminate mildew odor from your towels?

We have already tried washing our towels with just detergent and drying them but the odor is still there. It is actually quite gross. My wife is suggesting we throw the towels out and get new ones, but I feel like this is a huge waste if we can find a simple odor eliminator.

rugbygirl
Post 1

Washing machines these days do not use as much water as they used to, and as a result they do not always get out odors as well. I have a front-loading washer and I've discovered that my husband's exercise clothes, for instance, stay stinky after washing. And if I get busy and let my towels get a little "funky" between cleanings (hello, mildew), that doesn't come out, either.

Laundry boosters may be necessary. For white items, bleach is your friend! other items may benefit from Oxy-Clean; it does a good job of odor removal.

What really works the best for odors caused by body odor and by mildew (these are both caused by living organisms - bacteria and fungus), though, is the sun! It might lighten bright colors, but not as badly as bleach. Simply put the stinky item in full sun for an hour or two, and the smell will be gone.

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