How to Defeat Musty Smell in House
Proven solutions for stinky situations
Don’t be ashamed—bad smells develop in even the cleanest homes. But with a little knowledge, you can overcome odors. Here are solutions for some of the most common stinky situations.
Moldy washing machine
Eliminating the moldy smell in your front-loading clothes washer is easy. Just run the empty washer through a cycle once a month with a mold cleaner designed for front loaders.
Affresh is one brand. If you don’t want to use the tablets, you can substitute a cup of bleach. To prevent mold in the future, keep the door open between washings so the interior can dry out. The ultra-tight seal on front-loader doors doesn’t let the interior dry, and mold can grow inside between washings.
Smelly floor drains
Under every drain in your house, there’s a trap that holds water and prevents sewer gas from flowing out. But if you have a rarely used shower or floor drain, the water in the trap can eventually evaporate. That lets in stinky sewer gases. The solution is a few ounces of cooking or mineral oil. Dump a bucket of water down the drain to refill the trap. Then add the oil. The floating oil forms a seal over the water and prevents evaporation.
Run cold water and drop in a few slices of orange or lemon peels. Run the disposer for five seconds, then turn off the water and the disposer. Give the acidic peels about 15 minutes to work. Turn on the water and the disposer and drop in a few ice cubes to “sandblast” the disposer clean. Plug the drain and fill the sink half-full. Then pull the plug and let the accumulated water flush the disposer and pipes clean. Gunk buildup around the disposer’s splash guard can stink too. A careful cleaning will remove that stink source.
Deep-clean the disposer
Citric acid from orange or lemon peels will soften the gunk inside so you can rinse it out by running the water.
Clean the splash guard
Lift the flaps and scrub them with a toothbrush and grease-cutting cleaner.
- When your power goes out and the food in your fridge and freezer goes bad, you’ve got a really stinky mess on your hands. Here’s what to do:
- Remove the food and wipe everything down with a disinfecting cleaning spray.
- Clean all the nooks and crannies inside the freezer, especially the shelf supports.
- Smash about 12 charcoal briquettes and spread the chunks on two trays. One goes in the fridge, the other in the freezer.
- Crunch up newspaper and fill the shelves with it.
- Close the doors and walk away, giving the charcoal and newspaper time to absorb odors.
- Replace the old newspaper and charcoal with fresh stuff every day for about a week or until the smell is gone.
If your dishwasher stinks, don’t reach for the bleach. Bleach is corrosive to metal parts and doesn’t solve the root problem. The smell comes from bacteria that feed on trapped food and grease in the screen at the bottom of the machine, in the jets in the sprayer arms and along the bottom edge of the door. Clean these areas, then pour in some dishwasher cleaner (Dishwasher Magic is one brand).
Clean the filter
Remove the bottom rack and sprayer arm. Clean and rinse out the filter screen at the bottom of the tub.
Clean the whole compartment
Wash out any food lodged in the jets of the sprayer arm and scrub the area below the door.