How to Get Rid of That Musty Smell

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Imagine this: You’re a kid, and your family’s been on the road all day. You and your siblings are jammed into the backseat of the car, arguing over whether the windows should be up or down and who gets to control the radio. Finally, after a bazillion miles and way too many hours, you pull up to your grandma’s house. You pile out of the car and race to the front porch. Grandma opens the screen door wide, and you rush past her into the kitchen. You take a deep breath, and it smells just like you remember: Old mixed with musty mixed with whatever’s going in the crockpot.

That musty odor can be a bit nostalgic at Grandma’s house—but not when our own house smells that way. Then the frantic search begins: Where is that smell coming from and how do I get rid of it?

A Dirty Columbia HVAC System is the Most Common Cause of Musty Odors

Admittedly, musty is a bit of a subjective description. It’s not quite “rotten,” and not exactly “mildew.” It’s more like, well… old. And it’s a bit tricky to track down. First, try these tips:

  • Vacuum your upholstered furniture. 
  • Clean everything else while you’re at it: your walls, under your sinks, every square inch of carpeting (including underneath the furniture you haven’t moved for 14 years), every blade of every ceiling fan… everything. 
  • Scope out the basement for leaks.
  • Check the dark corners of your pantry for a potato that’s past its prime. (Not kidding. Many a mystery smell can be traced to a rotten Russet.)
  • Clean underneath your teenager’s bed. You just never know what’s living under there.
  • Make sure there’s plenty of air circulation throughout your home.
  • Open your blinds and curtains. Sunlight is a natural disinfectant!

If none of those things eliminates your musty odor, chances are good your HVAC system is to blame.

What’s in Your Ducts? 

We’ve helped hundreds of Columbia HVAC customers track down musty smells. Typically, we find one or more of the following problems.

Clogged air filters can cause musty odors. 

Your furnace filter doesn’t just prevent dust and dog hair from moving through your ducts. It also traps mold and mildew. If you don’t regularly change your filters, those stinky microbes flourish. Plus, if the filter is clogged, air can’t move through it—which means all the dust it should be catching settles into your duct work. You can try vacuuming your filter to bring it back to life, but if it’s really packed with grime, it’s best to replace it.

Dirty air ducts can cause musty odors.

The microbes that cause musty odors love dark, moist environments. Add in some dust and grime, and your ductwork will, sooner than later, become mold and mildew’s best bud. HVAC professionals can snake a tiny camera through your ductwork to scope out trouble spots that need attention. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you should consider having your ducts serviced if:

  • You can see mold in your ducts or any other component of your HVAC system.
  • You have a pest problem in your ducts, such as insects or rodents.
  • Your ducts are plugged with dust or you see dirt particles coming from your HVAC registers.

Clogged drains can cause musty odors.

HVAC systems create significant condensation—which is why there’s a drain near your unit. If the drain gets plugged up, moisture can seep into your duct work. Excess moisture can also back up into the evaporator coil pan and accelerate mold growth. Try using a wet-dry vac to clean out the drain line. If that doesn’t seem to help, call in a Columbia HVAC professional.

A dirty evaporator coil can cause musty odors.

In case you haven’t noticed the theme here, it’s moisture + dirt = musty smell. The same goes for a dirty evaporator coil. To clean the coil:

  • Turn off your HVAC unit and carefully remove the access panel to expose the coil.
  • Gently vacuum the fins and coils with a soft brush attachment.
  • If you notice any bent fins, use a screwdriver to straighten them back out.
  • Spray the coil with a solution made of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water and gently wipe them clean. Do not use undiluted bleach, as that will damage the metal. Also, most hardware stores sell evaporator coil cleaner.
  • Remove the evaporator pan and clean that as well.
  • Put everything back together, and turn your unit back on.

Sick of That Musty Smell? We Can Help!

Many homeowners are uncomfortable working on their HVAC units—for good reason. We’re happy to come check out your system to identify what’s causing your musty odor. We’ll answer all of your questions, show you exactly what we’ve found, and be upfront about what it’ll cost to fix it.

You deserve to enjoy a fresh-smelling home. We can help! To get started, just give us a call.

We had a great experience with Mastertech Plumbing from the time we made the phone call to request service. Our plumber Tyson was friendly, knowledgeable & professional. I would highly recommend this company & him for any plumbing needs.
Jamie Hogan
Jamie Hogan
17:40 22 May 20
I had a clogged drain that needed professional assistance. MasterTech was able to get Devin out to my house to fix our issue in record time. Devin was great and very professional and made sure the issue was fixed, the work area was clean and that I was satisfied with his work before he left. I highly recommend MasterTech.
Jeffery James
Jeffery James
17:01 08 May 20
When I called, the phone was answered by a pleasant service representative that remembered me and was understanding to my immediate need. MasterTech Plumbing tech Chad was very professional and friendly. He kept me informed of all what was wrong and didn’t try to up sell anything. I really appreciate Chad’s skillful knowledge. The quality of his work is exceptional. I know I can rely on Chad and MasterTech Plumbing.
Angela Hernandez
Angela Hernandez
02:12 08 Apr 20
The service we received today was awesome! Punctual, efficient, and up front and honest about prices and what products that we needed. Excellent work.
Cole Stoecklein
Cole Stoecklein
14:52 18 Mar 20
Josh is great! He is the one who usually comes to our house. He installed an overhead tank toilet, which is a tricky and time-consuming job. He overcame many obstacles and stuck with it until the job was completed and done right. Price was also good. MasterTech has always taken care of all our needs in a prompt and professional manner. Emergency service has always been rapid too.
Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
17:24 11 Mar 20
Chris was great. Dispatch was great. We were scheduled quickly. Prices were very competitive. Edit: We had great success having our pipes fixed. Due to Missouri weather things were touch and go but Master Tech sure delivered! We are so please with the fix, financing and friendliness Master tech and our technician Chris Gilpin provided us. Will forever and always us Master tech. Certainly mighty nice people
Kimberly Threatt
Kimberly Threatt
01:30 29 Feb 20
We had to have emergency service today, Saturday. A serviceman was here in less than an hour. The repairs were made quickly, the charge was not over the top, even though it was not a work day, and the individual was friendly and courteous. We have learned to expect this kind of service from Master Tech. Thank you.
Barbara Timbrook
Barbara Timbrook
03:48 26 Jan 20
I recommend MasterTech. They show up when they tell you they will show up. They provide a comprehensive estimate and also a good explanation of the work that need to be done. Their work is good quality. They usually have the needed parts on their truck so they can do the task in a timely manner. They clean up the work area after the job is finished,
Dennis Catlett
Dennis Catlett
22:15 23 Jan 20
A great experience. First, on time, service tech was sent out when promised. Second, quick assessment of the problem (faulty sump pump). The tech not only quickly replaced the pump, but he made an alteration that will make it easier whenever a replacement has to be made. Bottom line, a most professional service. Certainly would recommend Master Tech to folks needing their service.
W B Tichenor
W B Tichenor
16:08 31 Dec 19
MasterTech is so great to work with. They're quick, clean, do great work, and have fair pricing. But the best thing about MasterTech is their people. Whoever is responsible for their human resources does a terrific job of selecting and/or training them. They're so friendly and provide excellent information and customer service. I highly recommend MasterTech!
Jason Black
Jason Black
20:37 26 Dec 19
Previously I had not been impressed with master tech. However, their technician Dillon not only fixed my emergency pipe break at 1am on a holiday but also saved me as a customer. This was the best service I have ever had at my home. He arrived promptly at 1am. Provided a couple of options on how to fix my problem both in the short and long term and quickly made repairs. He also has provided advice on how to address issues related to the water damage caused by the busted pipe. This was one of the most positive bad situation we have had as homeowners. Thank you Dillon and mastertech.
Michael Grote
Michael Grote
20:35 26 Dec 19
I had to change my appointment at the last minute and they were able to accommodate my new availability without any hesitation. My tech was really professional (Dillion). I got a call and a text to let me know he was on the way. He fixed my problem quickly and was so friendly. This is the second time that I have had to use a plumber and I will use Master Tech again since I have an old house with old plumbing.
Leigh Burton
Leigh Burton
14:01 22 Nov 19
HVAC and plumbing under one roof, what else do you need?! Great team!
CJ Roe
CJ Roe
01:06 30 May 18

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