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How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell

How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell

Nobody wants their home to smell unpleasant, and mildew definitely falls into that category. Unfortunately, mildew is so much more than merely a bad smell. It can lead to adverse health effects, specifically damaging your respiratory system as you breathe in harmful spores. 

Luckily, it’s relatively easy to deal with, provided you know what you’re doing. In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about mildew and how to get rid of it, including tips on preventing it from returning. First, let’s start with the basics. 

What is Mildew?

Mildew is a type of mold that grows in a sheet-like pattern and, unlike other types of mold, exclusively stays thin and flat. It is most commonly found in kitchens, bathrooms, and smaller crawl spaces. It relies on excess moisture and a particular temperature to thrive. Think warm, damp, and dark, and you have the perfect combination for mildew.

Knowing the difference between mildew and other kinds of mold isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are two key indicators to look out for:

  • The Surface: Mold is generally slimy or fuzzy, whereas mildew is characteristically powdery and flat. Mold also grows beneath the surface, whereas mildew stays exclusively on top.
  • Check the Color: Mildew is often bright and pale in coloration, usually appearing yellow, white, or gray. Conversely, mold is often much darker, with shades of green or black being the most prominent.

Inspecting mold isn’t anyone’s favorite activity, but it’s the only way to know what you’re working with and, by extension, how to get rid of it. 

What Does Mildew Smell Like?

Unpleasant, in a word. Beyond that, we’d describe the smell as musty. It’s a very earthy and damp smell, which makes sense given the environments it tends to thrive in. It could also smell like rotting wood. However, it could be worse! Mold is significantly stronger smelling than mildew. If the smell is overwhelming, you’re probably dealing with mold rather than mildew. Knowing how to deal with the problem is vital, so let’s get into it. 

How Do You Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Your House?

If you’ve discovered mildew in your home, you probably want to get rid of it ASAP, even if the smell is mild. This is understandable, so listed below are everything you’ll need and five steps you can take to vanquish mildew for good. Let’s walk you through it.

What You’ll Need

  • Spray Bottle
  • Distilled White Vinegar or Bleach (Never Both)
  • Baking Soda
  • Small Scrub Brush or Abraisive Sponge
  • Clean Rag
  • Small Bucket of Hot Water

Pink And Blue Spray Bottle 1. Locate the Source of the Smell

The first thing you need to do is locate the mildew itself. You may have already found it, in which case: congrats! You can skip this step, and you’re already ahead of the game. If not, stick around. Follow your nose (as unpleasant as it may be) to where the smell seems most robust. This will most likely be wherever gets the dampest or warmest, so check corners and crevices that are often out of sight.

Remember, mildew doesn’t smell as strongly as mold, so while it may be unpleasant, it might not be as overwhelming as expected. This can make locating it a little tricky, but be persistent! You may have become nose-blind about how bad the smell is, but trust us, your guests will notice. 

2. Take Out Everything in the Affected Area

Once you’ve found the source, you must remove everything from the affected area to prevent further spreading. Mildew easily moves from surface to surface thanks to its thin and flat design, so check everything you remove for contamination. 

Shower curtains, drapes, fabrics, and furniture are likely culprits of mildew spread, so check them thoroughly. If there are signs of contamination, do not move them anywhere. Otherwise, you will spread the mildew further throughout your home. 

Before starting the cleaning process, and after you’ve removed all clean items from the space, take a final look at where the mildew has spread. Can you see all of it? Make sure to check harder-to-reach areas such as grout, between tiles, beneath cabinets, the underside of pipes, and anywhere you might have missed. Now, it’s time to get started!

3. Apply Your Vinegar or Bleach Concoction

With all the affected areas in front of you, it’s time to apply your cleaning product. A spray bottle filled with distilled white vinegar is what we’d recommend, but if you don’t have any with you, diluted bleach is a perfectly good alternative. 

Just make sure you never mix these two ingredients together. It’s distilled vinegar or diluted bleach for a reason. Mixing the two can produce chlorine gas, which in high volumes can prove deadly, and then mildew will be the least of your worries. One or the other, never both!

Once you’ve sprayed your chosen cleaning over the affected areas, leave it to soak for 2-3 hours. This will significantly disrupt the mildew and make it far easier to scrub away in the next step.

4. Scrub, Scrub, Scrub

After the time has passed, it’s time for you to put in some elbow grease! Mix baking soda with hot water and scrub with your scrub brush or abrasive sponge. Try to put some effort in here, as the more you scrub, the more likely it will be that you’ll destroy any trace of mildew left over. 

The baking soda is essential to this process as it removes the unpleasant vinegar or bleach scent you’ve laid down before. In circular motions, go over the entire area you sprayed before until you’re satisfied that you’ve reached every crevice. 

5. Leave the Area to Dry

Finally, it’s time to dry out the area. Remember, mildew loves nothing more than a damp space to thrive in, so leaving your freshly-cleaned space wet is not an option. Using a clean rag, mop up the excess liquid until completely dry. Then, to further aid this process, leave all windows and doors open for maximum air circulation.

Pro Tip: If possible, use a fan to improve air circulation further. This should guarantee that your mildew problem is gone for good. 

How to Prevent Future Mildew Odor

Now that you’ve completed the removal process, you want to ensure the mildew doesn’t return. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of mildew building up in your home again. Let’s go through some of them. 

  • Use Your Extractor Fan When Showering: As we already mentioned, damp and warm spaces are perfect for mildew to thrive, so your shower is often their favorite spot. Your extractor fan is there for a reason, and while it’s easy to forget to switch it on now and again, try to get in the habit of always using it. It’ll make a big difference!
  • Pay Attention to How Humid Your Home Gets: It isn’t just your bathroom that will get humid quickly. Your kitchen is also a hotspot for this, and depending on the climate where you live, your entire house could be at risk of high humidity. If you have a household dehumidifier, use it often to keep your humidity levels down.
  • Keep Windows Open: Airflow is crucial for preventing mildew. Provided you have the appropriate weather, keep windows open as much as possible, especially in spaces where mildew is more likely to grow.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Mildew Smell Eventually Go Away?

Not by itself, no. Unless you deal with the problem directly, the odor will persist and likely worsen as the mildew continues to develop across your surfaces. 

Can You Use Vinegar for Mildew Odor?

Yes. The acidity of the vinegar is ideal for killing mildew and, therefore, dealing with the unpleasant odor. However, vinegar also carries a strong scent, so remember to use baking soda during clean-up to nullify this smell. 

Is Mildew Dangerous?

Although not immediately dangerous, if mildew isn’t dealt with, it can lead to adverse health effects, especially relating to the respiratory and sinus system. 

Final Thoughts

Mildew and mold are frustrating to deal with, but they are manageable. At All Dry USA, we pride ourselves on providing excellent mildew and mold removal services that stop the problem in its tracks. If you suspect your home has a mildew problem, contact us today for expert advice!


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