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Why Does My Bathroom Smell Musty?


By Carrie Dixon, Blog Editor

Musty smelling bathroomAs humans, we associate bad smells with warnings – and for good reason. Bad-smelling food is often expired and can harm you if you eat it. Bad-smelling chemicals are often toxic. But a bad-smelling bathroom is something that we all have to put up with from time to time.

But what if your bathroom has started to smell a bit different than usual? If you’ve noticed a very intense musty smell, which almost reminds you of wet earth or a wet dog, coming from the bathroom, chances are you’ve got either mold or mildew growing.

What Are Mold and Mildew?

Mold and mildew are both a type of fungus that grow in damp areas. If a room is moist, not very well ventilated, and lacking in natural sunlight, there is a good chance it can develop mold or mildew. Both have a unique musty scent that is easy to identify, and both look like dark-colored stains where you find them. However, it’s important to note that you may not be able to see either. Mold and mildew can start to smell before they become visible, and they can also grow inside the walls or pipes, where you won’t find them. Common areas in bathrooms for mildew to thrive include behind picture frames, on the ceiling, inside the shower, behind decorative hanging towels, and under the sink or behind the toilet.

The Problem with Mold and Mildew

Just like other bad smells are warnings that food or chemicals are bad, the musty odor of mold and mildew is a warning. Both of these fungal growths are bad for your health if you breathe in the airborne spores. They can cause reactions like headaches, trouble breathing, nosebleeds, and nausea. Young children are particularly prone to breathing problems in homes where there is a lot of mold, and people with asthma can have severe reactions to mold and mildew.

In addition, mildew and mold can damage your house. Mildew stains grout and paint, and mold can eat into drywall and even damage the structural stability of the house frame if left alone long enough. It can be hard work to get rid of a serious mold infestation – some homes, when left with mold for years, can only be condemned due to the overwhelming growth.

How to Prevent Mold or Mildew

The best way to stop this problem is to prevent mold or mildew from growing in the first place. If your bathroom doesn’t have a ventilation fan or a window, then consider putting a small fan or dehumidifier in the room to reduce some of the moisture. Always wipe down the walls and shower curtain after a shower to prevent mold from growing inside this damp area. Hang wet towels, rather than putting them in a hamper, and routinely move anything that hangs permanently to wipe the wall behind.

How to Get Rid of Mold or Mildew

One of the best mold and mildew fighters is bleach. Clean tile or fiberglass with a solution of 1:1 water and bleach. If the mold or mildew is one wood or painted surfaces, try a 4:1 solution of water and bleach. Once you’ve washed the area, dry it as much as you can.

However, if the mold or mildew is covering a very large area, or you suspect it is also inside the walls, you’ll need to contact a professional. They may have to do more intense cleaning and repair to get the growth out of your home for good.

Be sure you wash any linens that were affected by the mold or mildew very well. You may need to replace your shower curtain if you can’t get the mildew stains off with the bleach solution.

Other Causes of Musty Smells

What if you still have a musty smell in your bathroom, and you can’t find any mold or mildew? You may need to hunt for other culprits. While this is the most likely, check for the areas of your bathroom that don’t see a lot of action, like the toilet tank. There can be mildew inside the tank, or it could be that lime deposits have left the inside of the tank less than pristine. Check for other areas like this around your bathroom, such as the under-sink plumbing fixtures, or behind a decorative covering on your tub.

Odor-absorbing items, like charcoal briquettes or a small pouch of kitty litter, can help keep the bathroom smelling fresher. You can also sprinkle some baking soda into the toilet tank and under the bathroom cabinet. Replace these deodorizers about once a month and you may be able to keep that mystery must away for good. Also consider installing a ceiling fan or a ventilation fan if you don’t have one, to help reduce bad smells in the bathroom in general.