How to Remove Musty Odors from Your Home

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.

Further Information


  1. 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.

  2. 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

    • 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

    • 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!”

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. Hi, We bought an old house (1960’s) six years ago, when viewing we thought the musty smell would clear when we replaced old roof tiles and aired the rest of the house, sadly the smell although much less powerful still lingers. I’ve had a spell in hospital with asthma and my husband constantly clears the dirt from his throat too. We need to act only I don’t know who to engage or any idea of cost or how much work we could do on our own. The odour is through all our soft furnishings and I’ve had to throw out several items which have moulded. Can you possibly point me in the right direction?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here