Simple Solutions

How to Remove Musty Odors from Your Home

By: Joe Truini
Applying scented extract to return air filter to help reduce musty odors.

Applying scented extract to return air filter to help reduce musty odors.

When replacing the return air filter on the heating and cooling system (HVAC) in your home, put a few drops of vanilla, lemon, almond or orange extract on the filter. When the HVAC system cuts on, it will draw air through the filter and distribute the scent to every room in your house.

This is an inexpensive and easy way to eliminate odors—such as those caused by pets—while giving your house a fresh, clean scent. Watch this video to find out more.

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13 Comments on “How to Remove Musty Odors from Your Home”

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  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    July 16th, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Hi, Tina,
    All kinds of things happen in HVAC ducts (and result in bad smells!) It’s why we prepared this report, with a guide on what to do about them:
    Give it a read, and let us know how it goes. 🙂

  • Tina Says:
    July 10th, 2019 at 8:36 pm

    Hi I Live in In a ranch style home with no basement I have a window unit whenever we run it in a summertime we get a real bad smell from the Heating ductsin the bathroom and the floor drain in the laundry room help

  • Lebora Cooper Says:
    May 24th, 2019 at 11:05 am

    I have a filter that I change once a month for my heating and air conditioning unit. But I also have an intake vent at the bottom of the door. Do I need to install a filter there as well? It looks like the one that you showed were you were putting the vanilla.

  • Pat Truesdell Says:
    September 22nd, 2018 at 5:26 pm

    I have a garage under my bedrooms. It has insulation and I think the mice love in there. My garage stinks so bad in summer.
    My question is does dead mice leave a smell and also does the dodo do the same? What can I do? I need to remove all insulation but if I do they will start all over again. Who do I call. I can’t live with smell?? thank you

  • Official Comment:

    Thomas Boni Says:
    December 8th, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Hi, Linda Louise,
    Danny says, “The AC / heating system should not be pulling any air from underneath and though it may be hard, a layer of plastic does need to be positioned on the ground under the house. Thanks for your question!”

  • Linda Louise Scott Says:
    September 7th, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    Our cabin has just a 12″ crawlspace under the floor boards. We can’t crawl under there plus it’s in such close proximity to our 6″ floor boards that they’re starting to cup due to the moisture under there. The smell is horrendous all summer, and it’s now invading the curtains, clothes and mattresses. We need ventilation probably, but how? The winter months aren’t too bad…but we don’t use it in the winter. Also, does my new furnace pull air from there? Our new furnace installer asked about access to under the house, but we had a small trap door so he used that. Should have asked him about if the air conditioning was putting the moisture under there and then in turn drawing air from there. May be another reason the smell is so terribly bad during the summer?

  • Kristina Says:
    February 26th, 2017 at 10:21 am

    I’m super excited to try this thank you.

  • Kathy Says:
    September 20th, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    We do not have a filter like that in our home. The only filter we have is in the furnace, is that the same thing? Can I put that on it with it being that close to the furnace?

  • Jill Says:
    September 8th, 2015 at 11:00 pm

    How often will I need to add more fragrance to the filter?

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 30th, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Hi Maria,
    To remove the musty smell in your basement, you need to start by attacking the cause by lowering the humidity and stopping any moisture from getting in. To accomplish this, make sure the ground around the basement slopes away from the house, and direct any rainwater from roofs or downspouts away from the basement walls. If you still are having moisture problems in the basement, seal the basement walls. To reduce humidity levels in the basement, install a dehumidifier. Finally, kills any mold or mildew that might be in the basement. Good luck with your project!

  • maria carpenter Says:
    June 22nd, 2011 at 9:07 am

    how can I remove the dusty not quite damp,musty smell from my basement. I consider mopping the basement floor with amonia but that last only temp and the smell of amonia was all thru the house. thanks

  • Official Comment:

    Joe T. Says:
    January 26th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Debra, good question. Some scented oils are alcohol-based, and might indeed be flammable. But they’d only be flammable while wet. Once the alcohol evaporates, the remaining oils are pretty inert. However, with that said, you might be best to avoid any alcohol-based products, just in case. Thanks for writing and good luck!–Joe T.

  • Debra Huddleston Says:
    January 26th, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    I’m wondering if I could use scented oils instead of extracts, or would it be a fire hazard?

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How to Remove Musty Odors from Your Home