Help for a musty room?
September 15, 2008 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Help for a chronically musty room? Though I keep my bedroom clean, organized and vacuumed it's always got an "old closet" smell. It's not terrible, but it's definitely noticeable upon entering. Any tricks for getting rid of it? The catch: I don't want to cover things up with another scent - I just don't want it to smell at all.

I think part of the problem has to do with airflow. Even if I open every window in the apartment, my room doesn't get much air. It's like a little dead zone. An air filter I inherited helps a bit, but not much.

Can I leave a box of baking soda around? Would a better air filter (this one looks quite cool) work? Are there products that pets or smokers use that would help?
posted by aladfar to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
A dehumidifier might help more than an air filter. The smell is probably from dampness in the carpet/walls. Remove the dampness and you'll remove the smell. Baking soda can't hurt.
posted by Brodiggitty at 3:00 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do you have fresh filters in the air filter? That may help a bit. At least replace the pre-filter, if the air filter machine has one. You can usually order replacement filters from Amazon.

I have a HEPA filter, and it has made a tremendous difference.
posted by spinifex23 at 3:01 PM on September 15, 2008

Is it carpeted? You might have mold under the carpet. If so, nothing you do will stop the odor until you get rid of the mold.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:03 PM on September 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice! To clarify - the room has hardwood floors, no carpeting.
posted by aladfar at 3:07 PM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: The container store sells those mesh bags of volcanic rocks that are supposed to absorb scent. I haven't heard whether they work well or not. I 2nd the dehumidifier too.
posted by Barbecue at 3:07 PM on September 15, 2008

Response by poster: That's exactly the sort of suggestion I was looking for Barbecue, thanks! I'd like to keep the air filter and dehumidifier options as a last resort - I don't have all that much room and don't particularly want machines humming away in the corner.
posted by aladfar at 3:20 PM on September 15, 2008

A dehumidifier doesn't run constantly - only when the air reaches a certain threshold of moistness.

We had a musty-smelling basement and putting a dehumidifier down there solved the problem almost immediately.
posted by Ostara at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2008

I really liked the effect burning soy candles had in my musty old apartment. They seemed to suck the funk out of the air.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:27 PM on September 15, 2008

Baking Soda intervention! I think putting baking soda all over the carpet for 36-48 hours and then doing your usually vacuuming up might help tremendously.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 3:47 PM on September 15, 2008

I say attack the problem at the source. I had a chronically musty room for years and it bugged the heck out of me. It wasn't until I moved that I realized that a sleeping bag I had tucked away in the closet was the culprit (wet down == PU!). Washing, drying and sealing it in an airtight plastic bag completely got rid of the stinky stank.

So, my suggestion would be in addition to all those listed above: make sure there's not a specific culprit: sneakers, laundry bag, old blanket, whatever. Good luck!
posted by funkiwan at 3:48 PM on September 15, 2008

A dehumidifier doesn't run constantly - only when the air reaches a certain threshold of moistness.

The one I've got runs constantly - until I switch it off because I want to go to sleep, and don't like being in the room with either the noise or the little red light. And it's definitely made my room smell a lot better, which I think is nearly as much to do with the increased air circulation as with the dehumidifying - maybe if you have a fan, or a fan heater that can be set to 'cool', you could try running that for a while to see if it helps.
posted by Lebannen at 4:12 PM on September 15, 2008

I'd get an in-window fan to get that air flowing and bring fresh air in, for one thing.

Also, I've found that if my bedclothes aren't washed often enough there can be a funk involved. Change your sheets often (once or twice weekly) and air out your comforters, mattress pad and blankets outside every 1-2 months (or however often you can), preferably in the sun and wind.
posted by Stewriffic at 4:14 PM on September 15, 2008

Sometimes all it takes is a coat of paint.
posted by stubby phillips at 4:24 PM on September 15, 2008

Ozone generator.
posted by Bruce H. at 4:31 PM on September 15, 2008

I have had good luck by pouring about a half cup of regular old ammonia into a glass, and leaving it in an inconspicuous corner. After a few minutes the ammonia smell will disappear. The musty smell should go after a few days. You'll need to empty and refill the glass of ammonia from time to time.

If your room is large, you might consider leaving out more than one glass of ammonia.
I don't know why, but just leaving the cup of ammonia out does the trick.
posted by chocolate_butch at 4:40 PM on September 15, 2008

What stubby said. Paint the walls.
posted by amro at 5:19 PM on September 15, 2008

"Old closet" sounds to me like "mothballs". Got some? Get rid of 'em.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:20 PM on September 15, 2008

I've had a lot of luck with a product called DampRid.

It's basically a cup of crystals that suck moisture out of the air. Works better than you'd think.
posted by meta_eli at 5:34 PM on September 15, 2008

I really like the volcanic rocks. I've had two small bags (from Lee Valley) for a long time. Every six months they "recharge" in the sun and they're good for another dirty-laundry-smell-absorbing cycle.
posted by sambiamb at 5:36 PM on September 15, 2008

I love my Lampe Berger.
posted by angiep at 5:59 PM on September 15, 2008

Careful with the DampRid. In my moist old apartment, it actually filled with liquid, which itself molded. I had that little bucket in my bottom dresser drawer. Slosh, slosh, EW.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:03 PM on September 15, 2008

The funky smell in my room all but disappeared when I moved my shoes to a closet outside of my room.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 7:07 PM on September 15, 2008

Perhaps a large, flowering houseplant?
posted by Violet Hour at 12:18 AM on September 16, 2008

I used the lava rocks in the garage of my split-level, which wasn't finished out, and the 'musty dirt' smell from crawlspace under the other half always hung around in it. I bought a decent sized bag (about the size of a bag of cat food) from Lowes or Home Depot one, seemed to help 'suck up' the funk a decent amount.
posted by pupdog at 3:45 AM on September 16, 2008

I should have added, you'll find the rocks in the home center/hardware store along with the DampRid - I had the same problem with DampRid, it worked too well, and was always needing to be emptied quickly before it smelled funky itself.
posted by pupdog at 3:46 AM on September 16, 2008

My house likes the the Lee Valley volcanic rocks too. We have them in the basement and it made a big difference in the amount of moisture in the air as well as the smell.

We also have a little one for the fridge to keep down any weird fridge-y odors.
posted by machine at 6:27 AM on September 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks again for all of the advice! I stopped by the Container Store and bought to sacks of volcanic rock (it's hard not to feel like a rube when you drop $10 on a little sack of gravel). Given the good reviews they've received, I've high hopes. I hung on in my closet, and stashed another in a corner behind my desk. I'll report back later tonight with the results!
posted by aladfar at 10:13 AM on September 16, 2008

Response by poster: Follow up: The volcanic rocks work, to a degree, but it isn't dramatic. But, when combined with a window left open during the day and an air filter (that's really acting as a glorified fan) things are a bit better.
posted by aladfar at 11:24 AM on October 3, 2008

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