Why Do My Floorboards Smell Musty? Answers Here

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why do my floorboards smell musty

For people with relatively old houses, it is common to hear them say that their floorboards smell musty. but why do my floorboards smell musty?

A musty smell on your floorboard happens due to the presence of mold. The moldy odor coming from floorboards is what many people call musty. Mold presence on your floor thrives due to the presence of water moisture. Pet urine or at times due to flooding and pipe leakages,.

Of course, once you notice this, all you want to do is get rid of the smell. There are many ways of dealing with a musty smell such as; using an air purifier and cleaning the floorboard. To help you out with everything that relates to dealing with musty floorboards, here is a complete guide.

Why Do My Floorboards Smell Musty? what causes a musty smell on a house floor?

What Causes a Musty Smell In A House?

A musty smell, also known as mildew smell, is caused by several factors such as;


Mold is a type of fungus that is known to grow in areas with a lot of moisture and improper ventilation. This is why the area under floorboards is a prime spot for their growth and development. When molds break down, they release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). It is these compounds that cause moldy odor.


Vermin is a collective name for small pests and animals that are known to destruction in homes, farms and many other areas. Some examples of such pests include; like rats and mice. Vermin can contribute to the moldy odor coming from floorboards when their droppings accumulate over time.


Dust is a composition of microscopic pieces of skin residue, dust mites, body oil, dirt, and many other small contaminants.  It is usually impossible to prevent, but an old house may have a relatively high amount of dust under the floorboards. The accumulation of dust under these boards is what makes the old house smell musty.


Sometimes a home may smell musty after rain (floods). When this happens, there are high chances that the ground beneath the dwelling has been saturated because of the water table rising.

Pet Urine

If you are a pet lover, dog urine soaked on your hardwood floor can cause a musty smell on your floor.

How Do You Get the Smell Out of Floorboards?

Get rid of musty smell in the house in the following ways;

When the Musty Smell is coming from the Floorboards’ Surface

  1. Cleaning Using Vinegar

Here is how to clean using vinegar;

  1. Fill a bucket with 1 cup of vinegar and 1 gallon of water.
  2. Damp a mop into the solution, wring it out and clean the floor.
  3. Let the floor dry.
  4. Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda over the surface and let it sit overnight.
  5. Sweep the baking soda up and mop using the water and vinegar solution.

When the Smell is Coming From Under the Floorboard

  1. Clearing Away Mold

Here is a step by step guide on how to remove mold from under your floorboard;

  1. Remove the floorboards. If you find that the mold has spread to some of the floorboards, discard them and buy new ones.
  2. Find the source of the mold. In most cases, you will find that there is a hole that allows cool, damp air from outside into the house. Once you have located the source, patch it with a plaster.
  3. Clean the floorboards with warm soapy water.
  4. While the floorboards are up, wash them and then let them dry in a warm and dry area.
  5. Wipe the floorboards with vinegar. Doing so helps with eliminating any mold that may have remained.
  6. Return the floorboards.
  • Install a Dehumidifier

When a house smells moldy humid, it is best if you install a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier is a device that lowers the relative humidity of an area/home. When the humidity of an area is lowered, molds cannot survive.

  • Clearing Away Dust from Under the Floorboards.

A great way of dealing with a musty smell coming from under your floorboards is by clearing out the dust. Here is how to do it;

  1. Pick up your toolbox, broom and dustpan.
  2. Carefully lift the floorboard as you watch the nails so that they do not harm you.
  3. Clear out the dust with a broom and dustpan.
  4. Once you are done, restore the floorboards.

NOTE: Using an air purifier also helps with eradicating musty smell from floorboards as it filters dust from the air. This then prevents the foul smell from occurring.

  • Call in the Experts

If your floorboards have a musty smell after floods, then you need to call in the experts. Contact a restoration company that deals with such cases and they will help you out.

  • Contact the Local Authority

If vermin are the cause of the musty smell in your home, then you should call the local authority as quickly as possible. The officials from the local authority are in a better position to advise you on what to do/how to deal with the rodents.

Does Musty Smell Mean Mold?

Not necessarily. Basically, just because you have a musty smell coming from your floorboards does not necessarily mean that there is mold. Even though mold is one of the leading causes of this phenomenon, it is not the only cause.

There are several reasons why your floorboards may be producing such a foul smell just like we have explained above. Some of these causes include; vermin, dust, among others.

Is Musty Smell Dangerous?

In most cases, a musty smell is dangerous, especially when it is caused by mold. One of the most common dangers of moldy floorboards is that they cause significant damage to the house. This is hazardous as it can easily result in accidents for the residents.

Moldy odors are also detrimental to the health of the residents of the home. This is because they are known to cause issues like asthma and allergies, nasal stuffiness, and eye irritation.

What Does a Musty Smell Mean?

By definition, musty means having a stale, moldy and damp smell. Basically, a musty smell is a clear sign that an area/floorboard is unclean. It is also an indicator that the area is damp and has been lacking proper aeration for a long time.

In most cases, the dampness and lack of air are what gives rise to mold. That is why most musty smells are linked to mold, the harmful fungus.

Sources and References

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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