The Ultimate Guide on How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell

January 12, 2017 | How to get rid of mildew smellremove mildew smell

  mildewIf you have ever owned or rented a living space, chances are relatively high that you have encountered mildew smells. If you’ve ever had a basement before, these chances increase tenfold. Basements are perfect breeding grounds for mildew and mold—though all these fungi really need to thrive are dampness and darkness. Once mildew occurs, the resulting smell is often quite pungent. The musty, dense odor given off by mildew is well-known for its ability to seep into fabrics, upholstery, carpets, and more. Getting mildew odors out of these is often much more difficult than eliminating the spores themselves. In fact, many choose to simply replace the affected areas rather than continue their attempts at cleaning and masking the odor. Thankfully, when it comes to getting rid of mildew smells, there are effective and safe options. This guide will take you through the basics of mildew, the health risks, home remedies, common mildew infestations, and the best products to eliminate each type of mildew smell.

What is Mildew?

Mold and mildew are often used interchangeably, though they are two different household ailments. While they both are types of fungi that can appear inside the home, mildew has a few specific characteristics: • Grows in a flat pattern • Powdery or downy in appearance • May appear white or yellow and turn darker with time Like mold, mildew thrives in damp, moist conditions. It can appear on any damp organic matter, which may include wood, wallpaper, drywall, fabric, and upholstery. During damp winter months, as snow and ice melts and reforms, homeowners stay comfortable by keeping heating units running. With warmth running through the house and closed windows, damp surfaces can easily provide everything that mildew needs to survive. As soon as the summer arrives, humidity returns and mildew can continue to flourish.The most common areas of the home for mildew to grow are typically areas that see routine moisture. Thus, bathrooms, kitchens, and basements are prone to mildew and mold infestations. Left unchecked, mildew can damage anything it touches, typically upholstery, linens, or wallpaper. Mildew spores thrive by consuming the organic materials in these items, meaning that the structure is eventually broken down. For homeowners, mildew can cause some serious issues, and not just for structural reasons.The presence of mildew can even cause health issues, including various sicknesses and respiratory troubles. For those who have allergies and asthma, mildew spores and gasses can be particularly damaging, irritating and inflaming symptoms.

What Causes Mildew Smell?What Causes Mildew Smell?

It’s often not difficult to identify a mildew problem inside the home. This comes not only from the visual aspect but also from its distinctive scent. Mildew is associated with a pungent, lingering musty odor. The cause of mildew smell comes from a natural process of fungi growing and releasing gasses into the air. These gasses are what make eliminating mildew smells so tricky—the gasses easily permeate into linens, fabrics, and damp organic matter around the home. Once a mildew smell is noticed, the chances are that the mildew has already been growing for quite some time. As the mildew releases gasses, spores travel throughout the home, floating through the air and settling on other damp, dark surfaces. Not only does this increase the mildew contamination, but traveling spores increase mildew smell, decreasing indoor air quality and making an unhealthy living environment.

Causes of Mildew Sickness

The presence of mold and mildew inside your home poses a significant health risk. Mildew sickness can be caused by direct contact with mildew spores on the skin, or through inhaling them as they travel throughout the air. For those with skin sensitivities, touching mildew is likely to trigger an allergic reaction. For those with existing respiratory issues, like allergies or asthma, inhaling mildew spores can create serious side effects. Once mildew has been present for a long period of time, the gasses released by the mildew can become toxins, increasing the likelihood of poor health.

Symptoms of Mildew Sickness

Although mold and mildew are structurally different, when it comes to exposure symptoms, they share many of the same maladies. People who have been exposed to mildew spores are likely to experience the following side effects: • Skin rashes • Irritation of the eyes, nose, or throat • Sneezing • Sinus infections • Coughing • Wheezing • Allergic reactions • Asthmatic reactions • Upper respiratory infections • Nausea • Fatigue • Headaches • Difficulty breathing Symptoms of Mildew SicknessSide effects can vary, as each person carries a different sensitivity to mildew. Additionally, anyone with a pre-existing condition—like asthma, allergies, or respiratory impairment—will likely have much more severe reactions than someone without a pre-existing condition. In extreme cases, mildew and mold may produce substances called mycotoxins. While incredibly useful outside, working to break down decomposing matter, mycotoxins can pose serious health risks when left to spread indoors. Studies have suggested that mycotoxins may be responsible for some forms of cancer, liver damage, immune system suppression, and even damage to the nervous system. No matter what the symptoms are, getting sick from mildew is certainly less than ideal. Even more importantly, mildew sickness is entirely preventable by eliminating the source as quickly as possible.  

Do Home Remedies Work on Mildew Smells?

There is a whole host of home remedies to remove mildew smells. While it may be tempting to follow a home recipe, the truth about home remedies is that they rarely—if ever—are efficient at removing mildew smells.Rather than eliminating mildew smells at its source, home remedies tend to focus on masking the odor with additional fragrances. Unfortunately, masking an odor never ensures that it will stay away forever. Eventually, the added perfume or fragrance will return, creating a never-ending cycle of inefficient masking. To illustrate the point, take a look at the following common household remedies for clothing and carpets: • Spray tea tree oil & water over the affected area • Mix grapefruit seed extract and water to create a scented solution • Spray vodka on affected area and let sit for 15 minutes • Put clothes in washing machine & wash with vinegar • Use heavy detergents in the washing machine to clean clothes • Wash towels with ammonia & let air dry When it comes to eliminating mildew smells from household fixtures, home remedies still aren’t well-equipped to handle the job. Consider the following home remedies for basements that have been affected by mildew: • Ventilate the basement with fans & open windows • Add a dehumidifier to decrease moisture • Pour baking soda, vinegar, or kitty litter into bowls & set them on the floor • Mix bleach and water together & spray around the floor and walls Home remedies may sound like great solutions, with many promising to get rid of mildew smells. Unfortunately, mildew smells can easily and deeply permeate into clothing, carpet, towels, and upholstery. Thus, getting rid of mildew smells takes much more than scents or fragrances.

What Causes Clothes to Get Mildew?What Causes Clothes to Get Mildew?

When it comes to mildew and clothing, there is a multitude of reasons mildew may appear. The chances are that everyone has experienced the frustration of wet, musty-smelling clothing that hasn’t been thoroughly dried, particularly if you’ve ever been a college student. One of the most common reasons that clothes attract mildew is from leaving freshly washed clothing in the washer for too long. In a similar vein, another common reason comes from taking laundry out of the dryer too early, leaving clothes to sit in a damp heap with just enough moisture to welcome mildew spores. It is possible that clothes sitting in storage for long periods of time may also attract mildew. Putting clothes in storage without sunlight and damp conditions provide ample opportunities for mildew to grow. Additionally, stagnant water inside the washing machine can often provide a great environment for mildew to grow unchecked, infiltrating all subsequent laundry loads. Ultimately, the factors that combine to create mildew on clothes are moisture and lack of sunlight. If these two factors are present, clothing is perfectly situated to host a growth of mildew.

How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Clothes

Getting mildew smell out of clothing can be a tricky process. Spores and gasses released from mildew are prone to be absorbed into fabrics and can permeate the entire article of clothing in no time. Effectively removing the mildew smell from clothes takes an advanced technology. To remove mildew odors from clothing, the best detergent is one which breaks down the compound structure of odors, like the OdorKlenz Laundry which utilizes an earth mineral technology which is not only safe but effective at removing odors.Rather than simply masking odors, the OdorKlenz Laundry line neutralizes them completely, eliminating unpleasant smells for good. Not only can the OdorKlenz Laundry additives remove mildew smells from clothing, but they can also remove: • Gasoline odors • Perfumes & fragrances • Sweat & body odor • Pet & urine odors • Musty or wet smells • Smoke & tobacco Rather than add more scents to mask the unpleasant smell, OdorKlenz Laundry works by neutralizing, breaking down, and eliminating odors at the source, without the use of toxic chemicals or perfumes. For those who have chemical or fragrance sensitivities, using the liquid, powder, or deodorizer from OdorKlenz offers a safe and effective solution to permanently removing mildew smells from clothing.

What Causes Mildew Smell in Towels?

Often, thinking about mildew smells will automatically conjure up an image of towels. Out of all types of linen, towels are perhaps most likely to become a breeding ground for mildew. There are plenty of scenarios for damp towels to attract mildew, including: • Damp towels left out at the pool • Laundry removed from the dryer too soon • Improper drying • Towels left on the bathroom floor • Leaving damp towels to sit in a laundry basket • Letting towels sit in the washer overnight • Stagnant water in your washing machine Another big cause of mildew smell in towels comes from the failed attempts at eliminating the mildew smell in the first place. Once mildew sets in, normal laundry detergent is largely ineffective at eliminating the musty, pungent scent. The best that laundry detergent can do is cover up the scent, though this typically means putting towels in the wash repeatedly without results.

How to Get Mildew Smell Out of TowelsHow to Get Mildew Smell Out of Towels

With so many opportunities for mildew to grow on towels, it’s important to know exactly how to remove that musty smell. Since regular detergents are not equipped to eliminate mildew smells thoroughly, many homeowners end up throwing away their musty towels in frustration. Thankfully, the OdorKlenz Laundry additive offers a thorough and effective solution for getting mildew smells out of towels once and for all. OdorKlenz Laundry additive is designed to work alongside your regular detergent as an additive to eliminate pungent, lingering odors. For musty mildew smells, the additive is specially designed to address the spores and gasses that have absorbed into fabrics and also works to remove towels that have taken on a wet and damp smell as well. Rather than add more scents to mask the unpleasant smell, OdorKlenz Laundry additive works by neutralizing, breaking down, and eliminating odors at the source, without the use of toxic chemicals or perfumes. For those who have chemical or fragrance sensitivities, using the OdorKlenz Laundry additive provides a safe and effective solution to permanently removing mildew smells from towels.Without harsh chemicals, masking agents, or fragrances, the OdorKlenz Laundry additive is a wholly efficient and safe way to permanently eliminate mildew odors, rather than temporarily hide them.

What Causes Carpet to Smell Like Mildew?

remove mildew smell from carpetCarpet is particularly prone to absorbing noxious odors and fumes, especially when it comes to mildew smells. The gasses and spores from mildew can attach themselves to carpet fibers, allowing spores to multiply and grow. Another reason why carpet is susceptible to mildew smells comes from its ability to retain moisture. Once water seeps into the carpet, it can be difficult to dry out. Not only does carpet retain moisture well, but it tends to cover a wide area, giving mildew ample space to grow. There are plenty of causes for carpeting to smell like mildew. Some of the most common causes are: • Burst pipes underneath the floor • Leaks and drips from air conditioning units • Carpet cleaning that doesn’t dry properly • Spilled drinks that are neglected • Melted snow and ice from winter boots • Damp padding below the carpet • High humidity & condensation • Flooding (typically regarding basement carpets) Ultimately, mildew only needs moisture, darkness, and oxygen in order to thrive. When it comes to carpets, any moisture that is not resolved within 24-48 hours severely increases the risk of mildew. In fact, mildew can still begin growing even if moisture is dried and cleaned away within that time frame.Wet padding is perhaps one of the most severe causes of mildew smells in a carpet. Once the padding beneath the carpet is affected, options for salvaging the carpet severely decrease. If mold travels from the padding to the surface of the carpet itself, often the only option is to replace the entirety of the carpet.Getting mildew smells out of your home can certainly be challenging, and perhaps one of the most difficult smells to eliminate comes from mildew. After the presence of mildew has been eliminated, odors can linger within the fabric of the carpet, creating a less than desirable—and potentially dangerous—living situation.

How to Get Mildew Smell Out of Carpet

Removing mildew smells out of carpeting is a careful and calculated process. Many home remedies recommend vacuuming and washing,your carpeting with a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to remove the musty smells and although these methods may work to slightly reduce the odors, they are not thorough enough to eliminate musty odors for good. There are plenty of scented sprays and treatments that focus on adding pleasant smells to the carpet, but these are only temporary solutions to a permanent problem. Once mildew smells have permeated the carpet, masking the odor will not solve the issue

OdorKlenz Source Odor Treatment

There are many products on the market which claim to be able to remove musty and mildew smells from carpets but the majority of those products rely on masking agents and fragrances to cover the odor rather than physically address them.For eliminating musty & mildew smells from carpets and upholstery. The OdorKlenz Source Odor Treatment is one of the best available natural deodorizers on the market as it works to attack the chemistry behind the odors without the use of masking agents or toxic chemicals. The product can be applied on any water safe surfaces and can be also be applied to any fabrics, upholstery, or other surfaces that are water extractable.Rather than relying on fragrances or masking agents to temporarily cover offensive smells, it offers a permanent and thorough solution through patented odor-neutralizing technology. For a comprehensive, safe, and effective treatment of mildew odors from indoor and outdoor carpeting, the OdorKlenz Source Odor Treatment is a perfect solution.


Tackling the challenge of removing musty, mildew smells requires taking an in-depth approach. Using household cleaners or home remedies to eliminate mildew odors will only mask the smell, rather than removing it for good. Luckily, using OdorKlenz products allows for musty, mildew smells to be thoroughly and permanently eliminated from clothing, towels, and carpeting. Not only does this allow for these items to be saved, but it also restores indoor air quality, improving health and overall wellbeing inside the home

Our Recommended Solution...

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