NYC Metro Area’s HVACR Blog

Commercial HVAC, Residential HVAC

How to Get Rid of the Musty Smell in Your House or Commercial Space


Get rid of musty smell

Plagued with a lingering musty smell in your house or business? Here’s why you really need to do something about it:

  1. Living with bad smells is not only unpleasant, but can actually give you physical symptoms like headaches.
  2. It’s embarrassing when you have visitors in your home or office.
  3. When you’re talking about a commercial space like a store or restaurant, it can hurt your profits by driving away customers and even employees.

Even worse, what you think of as a slight odor might be much more offensive to others. That’s because people become conditioned to odors over time. So you might stop noticing or being bothered much by the musty smell, but visitors notice the minute they walk in the door.

We’re betting you have already tried the obvious things like air fresheners for your office or home (which only mask odors anyway). You’ve probably tried cleaning the space and using a mildew odor eliminator. You may have even tried home or office air purifiers.

If the mildewy or musty smell persists, chances are it’s related to your HVAC system.

There are several ways your HVAC system could be contributing to the musty smell in the house:

  • Layers of built-up dust and grime in HVAC ducts can cause a musty smell that spreads through your space along with heated and cooled air
  • Excess moisture causes mold and mildew that bring nasty smells
  • Poor HVAC design can create airflow conditions that spread odors from one area to another

Clean your HVAC system to get rid of the musty smell

If you suspect your HVAC system may be playing a role in your musty smell problem, the first thing to do is schedule an inspection of your equipment and ductwork.

Your HVAC professional will look for the following:

  • Clogged air filters
  • Dirty ducts (you’d be amazed what we find in there… sometimes pest infestations cause foul and musty smells)
  • Clogged drains and other issues that lead to excess moisture… a common cause of mildew and musty smells
  • Inadequate ventilation and other HVAC design issues that can spread odors around

If you haven’t had your HVAC equipment serviced in a while, it’s likely that a relatively inexpensive maintenance visit (and/or duct cleaning) is all you need to get rid of the musty smell in your house or commercial space.

And, you’ll want to keep up with regular service to prevent the musty smell problem from happening again. (Not to mention preventing HVAC breakdowns, saving energy, and all the other benefits of regular maintenance). The most economical way to do this is by establishing an ongoing service contract with a trustworthy HVAC service expert.

Get our Guide to HVAC Service Agreements to learn more.

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However, it’s also possible that you have issues with the design of your HVAC system that are contributing to your odor problem.

Improve HVAC airflow to eliminate bad odors in your space

Your HVAC system is designed to regulate the flow of air through your home or commercial space. Properly controlled air flow is essential not only for comfort, but also for controlling odors.

Here’s just one example:

Certain areas tend to have odors that you don’t want to linger, such as bathrooms and kitchens. Your HVAC and ventilation equipment (including vent hoods and fans and ductwork) should be designed to get rid of those odors and avoid spreading them throughout your space.

To do that, the system must balance the amount of air mechanically removed by ventilation equipment with air being added by your heat and AC, and air drawn into the space from surrounding rooms or from outside.

If the balance is wrong, it’s easy for odors to travel where you don’t want them (like from the kitchen or restroom to a restaurant’s dining room).

The solution might be to re-route ductwork, change the location of vent fans or add a make up air unit (especially important for a commercial kitchen).

Learn more about the importance of air flow for controlling odors and for safety: