Why does my bedroom smell musty? Cleaning experts offer insight and solutions to creating a fresh space

Find the problem and learn how to treat it with help from our pros

A closeup of a boho bedroom, particularly the bed, woven hanging light, a textile wall art piece, and a wooden clothing rack
(Image credit: Getty Images/Anastasiia Krivenok)

If you're wondering, "Why does my bedroom smell musty," cleaning experts suggest getting to the root of the problem as quickly as possible. 

Of course, you want your sleep space to look and smell fresh. But if there's a stale stench emanating from your nighttime quarters, it's not only unpleasant, it's bad for your health. 

Things people with nice-smelling homes always do is nip problems in the bud as soon as they arise, so we'll help you get everything back to normal.

Why does my bedroom smell musty?

As much as we love home fragrances, don't just cover up the musty stench without treating it. 

"It can have serious respiratory consequences that will impact your health and your sleep," says professional organizer Jean Prominski, founder of Seattle Sparkle. "It’s important to remediate any sources that are causing the musty smell right away. Better yet, prevent them before they happen."

Here are some common culprits — and how to remedy the situation. 

1. Water damage

A white wall with water damage

(Image credit: Getty Images/Etienne Jeanneret)

More often than not, musty-smelling bedrooms are a result of water damage, which might require you to seek experts to assist with water damage repairs

"Water is a necessity for mold growth, and mold and fungi are the only sources of mildew odors," says Bethany Uribe, division manager and estimator at ASAP Restoration LLC. "So, if this smell is occurring in a bedroom, there is almost certainly a mold infestation close by."

DampRid Fragrance Free Hanging Moisture Absorber from Amazon works well, as Bethany notes that it extracts water that is causing the mildew smell from the air. However, should the damage be extensive, ask your landlord if professionals can assess the area in question. 

2. Insufficient ventilation

White window that's closed with an orange curtain in front of it

(Image credit: Getty Images/Cavan Images)

We can help you make any small bedroom ideas work stylistically, but to ensure everything smells fresh, you need to take the proper maintenance steps, too. 

"When windows and doors are closed for extended periods of times, smells from mold, sweaty clothes, bed sheets and even carpet can fill a room," says Delah Gomasi, founder and CEO of MaidForYou. "The best way to remove these smells is to make sure your room is properly ventilated."

Jean notes the way to help keep air circulating is to adjust the humidity level inside between 40-55%, keep key bedroom pieces spaced out, and use a bed frame.  

"Otherwise, the mattress will absorb too much moisture and can mold," she says. "It sounds gross, but it’s happened to me when I was younger, before I knew better!"

Consider one of the best air purifiers on shelves to keep your home healthy.

3. Pets

A white French bulldog sleeping in a dog bed on a wooden floor with sun coming into the room

(Image credit: Getty Images/gollykim)

As much as we love Fido and friends, we have to admit, our four-legged companions can get a little stinky. Use pet-safe cleaning products regularly and suck up any debris with one of the best vacuums for pets

"Fur, dirt, and any food they might drag in will certainly contribute to a musty smell, especially if they are prone to licking themselves or their bed," Jean says. "And if you’ve got a fish tank or other cage or tank for another type of pet, make sure not to overlook these areas either."

4. Insufficient cleaning schedule

A yellow bucket filled with cleaning supplies

(Image credit: Getty Images/Oleksandr Sytnyk)

Things that sit for a long time will get dusty, but Jean notes that the musty smell in bedrooms comes in when those items start to absorb moisture. Spruce up on your cleaning hacks and stick to a regular schedule. 

5. Plants

A closeup of a bed and a small nightstand with plants

(Image credit: Getty Images/Kseniya Ovchinnikova)

Your collection of indoor plants can't go unattended, even if they're considered low maintenance, lest you'd like an odor or gnats. 

"Your green indoor leafy friends can also smell odd if you overwater them because of excess moisture in the air and soil," says Elizabeth Shields, operations manager at Super Cleaning Service Louisville. "Check if there’s proper drainage in pots to prevent water from accumulating at the bottom. And, use a saucer or tray to avoid leaks and catch excess."

Meet our experts

Jean Prominski
Jean Prominski

An artist, productivity coach, and professional organizer, Jean Prominski is the founder of Seattle Sparkle, LLC, a company that helps its clients reorganize their homes into "clean, organized, manageable, relaxing, and inspiring" spaces. She is the author of Color to Declutter: A Thoughtful Collection of Unique Designs That Will Help Bring Your Inner and Outer Worlds into Alignment.

Bethany Uribe
Bethany Uribe

Bethany is the division manager and estimator at ASAP Restoration LLC. Today, she is an AHERA-certified building inspector working towards a decade of experience in the construction and water damage mitigation industries.

Delah Gomasi
Delah Gomasi

Delah Gomasi, CEO and director of MaidForYou, bootstrapped this business from scratch and became a professional cleaner in the process. Delah loves all things business and finding out the latest and greatest in cleaning trends, cleaning equipment, tools, and technology.

Elizabeth Shields

Elizabeth Shields is the Operations Manager at Super Cleaning Service Louisville, a professional cleaning company based in Louisville, Kentucky. With her leadership, the company thrives in delivering top-tier cleaning solutions to its clients. Beyond her managerial prowess, Elizabeth showcases her diverse expertise as an author of online articles. Her writing prowess spans across a wide array of subjects, from insightful parenting advice to enlightening pieces on home improvement, wellness, and the topic of sustainability.


How do you get rid of a musty smell in a room?

When trying to get rid of a musty smell in your bedroom, identify the culprit and then work from there, as tending to water damage will be different than cleaning up after a pet. 

Overall, there are good practices to ensure that you don't get any musty smells, mold, and so on: clean regularly, get air circulating properly, keep moisture levels low, use an air purifier, clean up after pets and plants, and don't let any water damage go untreated.

What kills musty smells?

Open your window for fresh air to kill musty smells, or snag a box of ARM & HAMMER Pure Baking Soda from Target to clean or deodorize. 

Does musty smell always mean mold?

While mold is at the root of plenty of musty-smelling rooms, it's not the only cause. Other culprits include improper ventilation, a lack of cleaning, dirty pets, oversaturated houseplants, and excess moisture. However, considering must and mold go hand and hand, always check for water damage ASAP.

Want to fill your home with fresh-smelling fragrances? We've rounded up the 24 best air fresheners, and considering some picks smell like Baccarat Rouge 540, we know you'll love 'em. Our editor also had great success dealing with the smell in her bathrooms with the Febreze Small Spaces air freshener.

Danielle Valente
Content Editor

Pleasure to meet you! I'm Danielle, a content editor at Real Homes who loves scoping out interior trends. I've specialized in lifestyle writing and editing for 10 years with a focus on events, food, and books, among other areas. When I'm not working, I'm usually cooking, reading, or searching for a new project for my apartment.