How I Rid My Old House of Musty Odors

If you have an older home like I do, I’m sure you’ve battled musty odors at one point or another.  Big Creek is over 100 years old, and has virtually no crawl-space underneath, so some of the conventional methods for eliminating old, musty odors just don’t work for us.  I can’t open my foundation vents in summer, because I don’t have them!  My floors are sagging and need replacing, and I’m sure some of the damp, funky smells come from just walking around on them. Even the dust in this house is old, just recirculating around in here and settling on my furniture time and time again.  I’ve managed to get the smell under control in the year we’ve lived here, and it’s so much nicer to breath the air in this house now. Today I’m going to share with you how I rid my old house of musty odors!

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you purchase using the links I provided. All opinions are my own. 

Get Rid of Musty Odors For Good

catWhen we moved in, the house was almost completely carpeted.  We ripped out every last scrap of carpet except for the master bedroom, because Madre had just had the whole bedroom floor replaced less than a year before we moved in.  She had brand new carpet installed, and it was still clean and new.  The rest had to go!  I know that’s an extreme measure, but it had to be done.  Madre and Papa let their pets in and out at will over the 35 years they lived here, and there’s no telling what went on before that, so the carpet was a huge odor culprit. Considering the amount of dirt, grime, and pet hair we cleaned up once the carpet was removed, it was no huge surprise that the house was less-than-pleasant smelling.

Not only that, but the sunroom leaked for years, so there was a lot of moisture in the carpet in that room alone.  Overhauling the sunroom took care of a lot of the funky smells!  Moisture is a huge contributor to musty odors, so eliminating any moisture in your home is the first place to start if you have an odor problem.  We also had some mold issues to deal with  in that room, naturally, and nothing smells mustier than mold!

Once all of that stuff was done, the house smelled 150 times fresher, but every now and then I would still catch a whiff of something that I didn’t want to live with.  I’ve compiled a little list of things that work for me to keep my home smelling fresh instead of funky!

Kill the Dust!

I’m no cleaning-superwoman by any means, but I do take the time each week to vacuum the floors and dust the furniture.  Using a lemon scented furniture polish regularly has really helped my home smell cleaner and much more pleasant.

musty odors

My fave.

Cobwebs form quickly here, so I stay on top of those, too.  As I mentioned, even the dust is old around here, so keeping the house as dust-free as possible is a must.  I’m not a huge fan of dusting, but using the furniture polish really helps keep it from returning as quickly, and since I’ve gotten it under control, I can usually get by with just wiping around the big chunks with a microfiber mitt every other week.

About once a month, I dust all of my baseboards with the lemon furniture polish, as well.  Not only does it make my house smell good, but the lemon scent also repels lots of different types of insects, like spiders!  I’ll do anything to keep those nasty critters away!

Break Out the Vinegar!

I bought an amazing mop a couple of years ago that I absolutely LOVE…the Libman Freedom Spray mop. It’s sort of like that kind that you have to buy the pads and bottles of solution for, but it has machine-washable pads and you pour whatever kind of cleaner you like into it.  It also does not take batteries, but has a spray-bottle-type mechanism that squirts your own solution out onto the floors without saturating them.  I mop my floors with a mixture of white vinegar and warm water,


and that solution has absolutely freshened the smell in my home!  We have old, creaky hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms (which need replacing), and the vinegar/water mixture almost makes them shine again (yes, I said, they need replacing)!  I use this same cleaning wonder on every mop-able floor in this house, from linoleum to hardwood to vinyl, and this really gets my floors clean and fresh.  Vinegar can actually be used to clean just about anything. It has some wonderful abilities, like killing bacteria and disinfecting, which naturally and thoroughly eliminate odors!  It’s also completely safe to use, and I never have eczema flare-ups after cleaning with vinegar like I do with chemical cleaners.  I even use vinegar to clean my mirrors and windows since I recently learned from a new friend how well it works for that (since she shared with me, I shared with her my tip of using coffee filters for lint-free glass cleaning…no streaks either).

Freshen With Scents, Without Burning Candles!

I have a fear of candles.  There, I said it.  I absolutely love the way they smell, but having that open flame going just gives me the heebie-jeebies, especially since I have a propane cook stove.  I’m sure it’s completely safe, but why take chances?  I’ve found some wonderful alternatives to burning candles, and can even still enjoy the scent of my favorite candles with one of these alternatives. Meet my cute-as-a-button candle warmer (<—get yours by clicking that link!)


This was a gift from one of my favorite salon clients (Thanks again, Flossie!), and I’ve gotten so much use out of this thing it’s unreal!  It has a completely safe warming bulb in the top


and it actually diffuses the beautiful scents in my candles better than lighting the wick!  I love how it looks like an old-fashioned lantern, as well.  My big jar candles fit in it nicely, and much smaller candles work just as well with it.  I even use it with one of my favorite smell-well products out there: Pink Zebra!


If you’ve never used Pink Zebra’s little melting beads, you’re missing out.  I just pour some of the yummy-smelling beads into a little glass Pyrex dish and stick it in the warmer, and my house smells like Green Tea and Lemongrass in no time!


Pink Zebra has little warmers for sale, too, similar to this one:


No, I don’t sell Pink Zebra; I just like it. I have a friend who sells though, so feel free to check out her website!

essential oils

I also have a thing for essential oils, and I like to use 5 or 6 drops of peppermint oil or lavender oil in a big wooden bowl of hickory nut hulls.  Either of those scents seem to really help with the musty odors of an older home, but you may have a favorite scent that works just as well.


You could use pinecones, flower petals, or any natural, absorbent elements you like.  Right now I have peppermint oil in these nut hulls, and I just stick it up on top of my old grandfather clock to freshen up the whole living area. The oils are very therapeutic to breathe, as well, so it’s a win-win! The top brands are really reputable, but pretty pricey.  I’m a fan of these essential oils on Amazon, which are way more affordable and have great reviews.

Using my candle warmer and essential oils doesn’t just help with musty smells, but even fights cooking odors and combats the smell of our wood stove in winter.  We’ve been burning lots of wood this winter, and the smoky smell hasn’t been near as pungent with all my good-smelling tactics!

Dryer Sheets and the Air-Return Filter!

We absolutely must change our air filter once a month.  Ours get nasty really quickly, so it has to be done.  I think that’s par for the course with older homes, thanks to the extra dust.  Not only that, but at least one section of our house has been under construction or re-model at all times since we moved in…so there’s extra extra dust!  A good habit to help combat musty odors is to change your filter every time you get your electric bill. To make it even fresher, Coach usually puts a yummy-smelling dryer sheet on the filter, which pumps that clean laundry smell all over the house!  Sure, you can buy products made for freshening up your filter, but dryer sheets work just as well and are considerably cheaper.

dryer sheets

Dryer sheets are amazing for lots of things, actually.  I always leave the “used”one in the laundry hamper, which holds down on the dirty laundry smell.  They’re never really “used” after one trip through the dryer.  They also repel mosquitos if you just rub it on your skin and clothing, and I always attached a couple to Pooh’s stroller when she was too little for bug spray. Also?  I use them to dust the top of the dryer and collect all the fuzzies that float around after I empty the lint filter.  Sometimes I even use them on my Swiffer Sweeper to dust the floors and leave a fresh scent behind.  Dryer sheets are da bomb! Since we use them for so many things, I like to get the big bulk packs on Amazon to save some dough.


What do you do to keep your home smelling fresh?  I feel good about how much I’ve managed to improve the smell of my older home, but I’ll take any tips and tricks you have up your sleeve, too!  Having a nice-smelling home makes me more relaxed and happy, so it’s worth the extra effort it has taken to make it happen in this old house. Hopefully some of my tricks can help you create the same fresh-smelling zen in your home, as well, and keep the old musty odors at bay.

Happy sniffing!

X,O,X,O,   Martie

This post is linked up at Thursday Favorite Things!