If you cannot find any sources of mold in your home then the source may be a little less sinister. 'Musty smells are often caused in the home by a build-up of dirt and grime, which can cause a lingering, unpleasant smell,' explains Amanda Lewis of Elbow Grease.
General dampness, repeated condensation, and high humidity can sometimes bring on a musty smell. Since dampness can also facilitate mold growth it's likely that mold is beginning to form once you start noticing a musty smell.
You might be dealing with plumbing leaks, water damage in hidden spots, or washing machine drain issues if your house smells musty but no mold is visibly present. The first thing to do is identify the source of the smell before attempting to eliminate the unwanted odor.
In general terms musty odours are probably not as over-powering as mouldy smells and possibly indicate that the problem is still in a relatively early or localised stage. Mould loves damp dark corners such as behind furniture or with wardrobes and this means you'll often smell the mould before you see it.
A weird smell in a house can come from numerous sources, including appliances, furniture, carpets, fabrics or issues like mold or mildew. Occasionally, odors may be caused by sewer gas, natural gas leaks or animals that have died between walls, in attics or under decks.
There's a musty smell in your home
When you walk into your home, you want it to smell clean and fresh. Moisture in the air tends to hold and trap odor, Bautista says. A dehumidifier will dry out the air and take away this moldy scent.
In the bedroom and living areas, look around window seals for leaks and under potted plants that can leak. Check closets for mildew caused by storing damp shoes or clothes. Don't forget to take a trip to the attic, basement, and garage to check for damp areas around windows, water heaters, and vents.
Can you have mold in your house and not see it? Yes, mold spores are tiny and invisible to the naked eye. They may be floating around your home without you knowing and grow on dark and damp surfaces where you're not expecting them to.
You can, however, pay attention to a few warning signs like a musty, earthy smell or seeing condensation on the wall or ceiling. Wallpaper can also harbor mold. If you see peeling or moist wallpaper, you may have growth under the surface. Be careful about peeling it off yourself as this could release a cloud of spores.
Molds reproduce by means of tiny spores; the spores are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air.
Common culprits to watch out for include mold and mildew, dust, dirty laundry, stains and spills, pet accidents and leftover food. Once you determine the source of the smell, dispose of it and clean the area as needed.
Consider investing in a dehumidifier and/or air purifier–particularly if the musty smells just keep coming back. Maintain–or start–a regular cleaning schedule. Cleaning regularly will ensure that dust, mold, and mildew don't build up and prevent musty smells from taking hold.
Mold has a strong, pungent odor that's enough to make you gag. Mildew has more of a musty smell that can make you wrinkle your nose, but it doesn't invade the senses as much. If the smell is reminiscent of wet, forgotten laundry or a damp basement, then you're likely smelling mildew rather than mold.
The best way to describe the scent is “musty” or “earthy.” Some individuals even compare it to the smell of sweaty socks.
A moldy odor suggests that mold is growing in the building and should be investigated. The health effects of inhaling mVOCs are largely unknown, although exposure to mVOCs has been linked to symptoms such as headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea.
Mildew and mold smells indicate a much larger problem -- mold removal can cost thousands of dollars, plus whatever's letting moisture in will need to be fixed. If you notice a strong smell but are interested in the house, hire an inspector who will pay special attention to unmasking the foul odor.
Mildew and mold are both fungi, but mildew is not as invasive or troublesome as other types of mold. Typically found in wet areas, mildew looks grayish-white and may turn brown. It's flat and powdery and it's an easier fungus to clean because it lives only on the surface of a material (such as bathroom tile).
In the same way that smoke detectors identify smoke, not fire, the Biomatrix Mold Monitor identifies unseen moisture that can lead to widespread mold growth.
If mold is growing in your home, you need to clean up the mold and fix the moisture problem. Mold can be removed from hard surfaces with household products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of household laundry bleach in 1 gallon of water.
To test for mold spores in the air you're breathing, you'll need to purchase a viable mold detection kit such as Seeml Labs' Mold Inspector in a Box; most quality mold tests cost between $10 and $40. The entire testing process will take a few days.
If left alone, the smells might fade over time, but likely won't completely go away on their own.
Mold stays “dormant” in the air or on surfaces even when there's no excess moisture to help it grow. If the humidity in a room increases, mold will start growing in patches on walls, clothes, and more. So, to answer your question, dehumidifiers do NOT kill mold, but they do prevent it by reducing humidity.
The Common Culprit of the Musty Smell
If you notice an ongoing mustiness in your home, it's probably due to excess moisture. When humidity is high, your cooling unit has to work at top efficiency to control the moisture level in your house.
Use undiluted white vinegar on hard surfaces in kitchens and baths. A bleach solution also works to kill mold. Mix one cup of bleach in a gallon of water, apply to the surface and don't rinse. Mix a 50/50 solution of ammonia and water.