How To Get Rid Of Old House Smell

5 Ways To Get Rid of That Old House Smell

How To Get Rid Of Old House Smell

Dealing with an old house smell can be a common yet challenging issue for many homeowners. This musty odor often stems from various sources, including poor ventilation, mold growth, and lingering dampness.

It’s not just about the unpleasant scent; it affects your home’s air quality and comfort. Whether it’s a bedroom musty smell, a general house smell, or specific odors from older homes, understanding how to get rid of old house smells is crucial.

This guide explores five effective methods to remove old house smells, ensuring your living space is fresh and inviting.

Getting Rid of That Old House Smell

Knowing how to get rid of old house odors requires a thoughtful approach before diving into solutions. By taking a few steps, homeowners can better understand the complexities of eliminating old house smells and prepare for effective remediation. 

Here are key factors and preparatory advice to remove musty odor: 

  • Identify the Source: Understanding the root cause is crucial. It could be mold growth, dampness, or poor ventilation, leading to a musty odor. Look for signs of moisture, visible mold, or areas with limited airflow.
  • Assess the Home’s Ventilation: Older homes often struggle with proper ventilation. Examine your HVAC system, air ducts, and exhaust fans to ensure they function correctly and promote good air circulation.
  • Check for Dampness: Areas like basements, crawl spaces, and bathrooms are prone to dampness. Identifying and addressing these issues can prevent the smell from arising or worsening.
  • Consider the Home’s Age: Older homes have unique challenges, including outdated building materials and hidden mold in walls or under floors. Recognizing these factors is essential for a targeted approach.
  • Evaluate Cleaning and Maintenance Routine: Regular deep cleaning and maintenance can significantly impact indoor air quality. Reevaluate your cleaning practices to ensure they suit your home’s needs.

How to Get Rid of Old House Smell

Knowing how to eliminate old house smells goes beyond traditional cleaning methods. Adopting some strategies can effectively eliminate old house odors, creating a fresher, healthier living environment. 

Here are five innovative approaches on how to remove old house smell:

  • Utilize Activated Charcoal: This powerful natural deodorizer absorbs musty odors without using harsh chemicals. Place activated charcoal in porous bags around your home, focusing on high-odor areas such as basements and closets.
  • Employ Air Purifiers: Air cleaners equipped with HEPA filters can significantly improve indoor air quality by capturing airborne particles, including mold spores and dust, contributing to old house smell.
  • Enhance Airflow with HVAC Maintenance: Ensuring your HVAC system and air ducts are clean and functioning efficiently promotes better air circulation, reducing stagnant, musty air in your home.
  • Leverage Essential Oils: Essential oils provide a pleasant scent and possess natural antimicrobial properties. Using diffusers or spray bottles filled with water and essential oils can help neutralize odors.
  • Address Humidity Levels: High humidity fosters mold growth and amplifies musty odors. Use dehumidifiers in damp areas to maintain optimal humidity levels, preventing mold and mildew development.

Causes of Old House Smell

Understanding the causes of old house smell is essential in tackling it effectively. This musty odor, often found in older homes, can be due to various factors. These factors range from structural issues to daily living habits. Identifying these causes is the first step towards creating a fresher living environment. 

  • Mold and Mildew Growth: Moisture accumulation, especially in areas like basements, bathrooms, and kitchens, can lead to mold and mildew. These fungi release musty odors, contributing significantly to the old house smell.
  • Poor Ventilation: Older homes may need adequate ventilation systems. This lack of airflow traps odors and moisture, allowing old house smells to persist.
  • Dampness: High humidity levels inside a home can cause damp conditions. Dampness supports mold growth and leads to a general musty odor.
  • Pet Odors: Pets can leave behind smells from urine, feces, and body odor. These odors can seep into carpets, upholstery, and even wood floors, adding to the old house odor.
  • Crawl Space Issues: Moisture and decay in crawl spaces can emit odors that rise into the living areas of a home. This is often due to poor drainage or ventilation in the crawl space.
  • Old Carpets and Upholstery: Fabrics can absorb various odors over time, from cooking smells to smoke. Old carpets and upholstery can harbor these smells, releasing them into the air.
  • Tobacco Smoke: The smell from cigarettes can cling to walls, ceilings, and fabrics long after the smoking has stopped, contributing to the stale, old house smell. That’s why removing the smoke smell quickly is essential.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Emitted from paints, solvents, and cleaners, VOCs can accumulate in older homes, producing a chemical-like odor.
  • Dust and Dirt Buildup: Accumulated dust and dirt in air ducts, surfaces, and hidden corners can add to the musty, old smell.
  • Decaying Wood and Building Materials: In older homes, decaying wood or other building materials can contribute to the musty odor, especially if there’s been water damage.

Ways to Get Rid of Old House Smell

Combatting the old house smell is crucial for homeowners seeking a fresh, inviting atmosphere. By employing the right strategies, eliminating these odors is achievable.

1. Giving Your House a Deep Clean

A thorough, deep clean is the first step in removing old house smells. Focus on areas prone to moisture and dirt accumulation, as these are hotspots for musty odors. Use a mixture of water and white vinegar for a natural, effective cleaning solution.

Target walls, floors, and hard surfaces, and pay attention to less visible areas like baseboards and corners. Pay special attention to bathrooms and kitchens, where mold and mildew are likely to grow, using bleach or baking soda to tackle tricky areas.

For upholstery and carpets, baking soda can absorb odors; sprinkle it on, let it sit, and then vacuum. Cleaning air ducts and changing HVAC filters also improve airflow and reduce odor buildup.

2. Repainting Your House

Old paint can harbor odors, especially if the walls have been exposed to smoke, pet odors, or cooking smells. Repainting your house can seal these odors and give your rooms a fresh start.

Choose paints with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to avoid introducing new odors or chemicals into your home. Applying a primer before painting can further block old odors and ensure a clean, neutral base for your new paint.

3. Re-carpeting Your House

Carpets are often a major source of old house smells, trapping years of dust, pet dander, and spills. Replacing old carpets can dramatically improve the smell of your home.

Consider choosing materials that resist moisture and odors, such as nylon or olefin. For a more sustainable option, look into carpets made from natural fibers like wool, which can deter mold and mildew growth. 

Ensure the subfloor is clean and dry before installation to prevent any underlying odors from seeping through.

4. Updating Furniture in Your House

Furniture can absorb and retain odors over time, contributing to the overall mustiness of an old house. Updating your furniture offers an opportunity to remove these odor sources.

When choosing new pieces, consider materials that are less likely to harbor smells, such as metal, glass, or leather. For a cost-effective approach, refurbish existing furniture by cleaning upholstery, polishing wood surfaces, and replacing fabric covers.

5. Airing Your House Out

Improving airflow is essential in eliminating old house smells. Open windows and doors to let fresh air circulate throughout your home, diluting and removing stagnant odors. Use fans to enhance airflow, especially in areas without windows.

Consider installing an air purifier with a HEPA filter to capture odor-causing particles. Regularly changing air filters in your HVAC system can also prevent odors from recirculating.

5 Ways To Get Rid of That Old House Smell

Do You Need Professional Cleaners to Get Rid of Old House Smell?

Deciding whether to hire professional cleaners to tackle an old house smell depends on the severity and source of the odor. Professionals can offer deep cleaning solutions beyond surface treatments for pervasive smells, such as those caused by mold growth, pet odors, or long-standing mildew.

They can access industrial-grade dehumidifiers, air purifiers, and specialized cleaning agents that eliminate musty odors. Furthermore, HVAC experts can inspect and clean air ducts, ensuring improved airflow and removal of dust buildup contributing to the smell.

Professional remediation ensures safety and thoroughness if the odor stems from hard-to-reach places like crawl spaces or if it involves hazardous materials like mold. For less severe cases, homeowners might manage with deep cleaning, using baking soda, white vinegar, and thorough ventilation.

Assessing the extent of the odor and considering the potential need for expert intervention is crucial in effectively removing old house smells.


Removing an old house smell is crucial for homeowners creating a fresh and inviting living space. Whether you tackle the issue with deep cleaning, ventilation, or professional help, addressing the underlying causes is key. 

A fresh-smelling home can significantly impact appeal and value if you want to sell your house in Fort Worth. Four 19 Properties, specializing in cash home buyers in Houston, highlights the importance of presenting a clean, odor-free home. 

By implementing effective strategies to get rid of old house odors, you can enhance indoor air quality and make your house more attractive to potential buyers.

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