Asked on Jan 03, 2015

My Old Smelly House

by 861650
I have rented an old guest house and it smells like old moldy dirt or something like it. I have tried everything and spent too much money already. What do you think about using a crock pot and putting some type of scented oil in it. I have used plug-ins, Febreeze, white vinegar and water in a spray bottle, perfume, and candles. Nothing seems to help. Will probably be here about a year.
  48 answers
  • Denise Van Hulst Denise Van Hulst on Jan 03, 2015
    Put some containers of charcoal (not the ones with accelerant added obviously) in crawlspaces, attics, basements, perhaps even under house crawlspaces if its really bad. Terracotta works well, but anything will do. Indoors you can get that crystal kitty litter and put it in attractive containers. I do that and put a scented candle or some potpourri in with it. Those are some easy inexpensive unscented ways that help. Watch your charcoal, when it starts looking moldy throw it out and replace it.
    • See 2 previous
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 03, 2015
      @Denise Van Hulst Thanks for the info. I have heard about the charcoal previously but forgot about it. I will use this immediately.
  • Shirley Dorfman Shirley Dorfman on Jan 03, 2015
    Put scented dryer sheets around the house
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 03, 2015
      @Shirley Dorfman I have tried the dryer sheets so many times....did not work.
  • Cyndi Cyndi on Jan 03, 2015
    If the house is carpeted, remove or replace the carpets. They are probably moldy.
  • Lori Granata Lori Granata on Jan 03, 2015
    Let sugar melt in a pan until it begins to burn, a delicious smoke aroma'll start spreading around you
  • Mary Laabs Mary Laabs on Jan 03, 2015
    I would find the mold and remove it or have it professionally removed.
  • Nancy Appel Nancy Appel on Jan 03, 2015
    I would move. If its moldy it could make you very sick....
  • Pat G Pat G on Jan 03, 2015
    Use a dehumidifier if it is possible that humidity is keeping it moldy. Some of these ideas just cover the smell, but don't address the problem directly. I like the charcoal idea also.
  • Al Al on Jan 03, 2015
    As others have pointed out, if there is mold which seems to be obvious you have a potential health problem. As far as cleanup is concerned there are many mold/mildew products on the market. If you look at the ingredients, ammonia is the main ingredient. Not bleach as commonly believed. You can make your own.
    • See 3 previous
    • Al Al on Jan 03, 2015
      @Karen Criner If you are stuck there I'd get an air cleaner/purifier that has charcoal filter. You need to get air out of basement. Actually YOU need to get out of there... plenty to break a lease. This NOT a good situation. Call the local health department.
  • Barbara Kahl Barbara Kahl on Jan 03, 2015
    Have you talked to the landlord about getting the carpets cleaned?
  • Linda Johnson Linda Johnson on Jan 03, 2015
    We had a funky smell in our camping trailer. We found a plumbing leak and fixed it. We used a dehumidifier to get the moisture out of the air & replaced the damaged wood flooring under the plumbing leak. This cleared up a majority of the funky smell. (We didn't have mold, though.) Black mold is dangerous. Make sure that you're living in a safe, healthy home that doesn't have black mold.
  • Rosemary Kelly Rosemary Kelly on Jan 03, 2015
    Black Mold can make you very sick. I know people who have ended up in the hospital. I'd have your landlord get some professionals in, ASAP. I would also call the Health Dept.
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 04, 2015
      @Rosemary Kelly No mold has been found under the house or on the wooden support beams as well. And, there is no mold inside the house. I suspect it is inside the walls. Inspectors from the Health Department are not going to cut holes in the walls.
  • Norma Jones Norma Jones on Jan 03, 2015
    If it's a wet basement, you can get a big bucket filled with something to help. As it draws up the moisture it swells way up in the bucket and then just replace it , that helps too. We got ours at Farm and Home store, can't remember the name of it , also Walmart had it over around the paint department too.
    • B. Enne B. Enne on Jun 10, 2015
      @Norma Jones I was just looking for that yesterday. The top part has little white beads. The beads start to disappear and the bottom starts to fill with liquid. You then dump the accumulated water (moisture from air I guess) in the toilet. I was shocked at how good this works! It lasted a long time too. I had bought it at a $ store so it was cheap. I expected it to last 1 month and it worked for close to 8 in a small damp basement bathroom. p.s. This looks interesting...same thing but DIY
  • Mjstucki Mjstucki on Jan 03, 2015
    Ionizers, an air purifier will work. Get it with a uv light. Also, house plants such as Lily of the Valley naturally purifies the air. Try getting the air ducts cleaned.
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 04, 2015
      @Mjstucki Thanks so much for the info. And about that air purifier--why get one with a UV light? What is the difference?
  • Lucid Designs Lucid Designs on Jan 03, 2015
    If it is a mold problem, your landlord absolutely has to address and fix the problem quickly. If they don't, you can get out of your lease easily, since (as stated above) it's a major health concern.
    • See 3 previous
    • Lucid Designs Lucid Designs on Jan 05, 2015
      @Karen Criner Yes... I actually ripped it all off the studs! I was going insane... throwing up all day, couldn't breath, couldn't see because I was suddenly completely light sensitive, my cat was walking backwards in zig-zag lines, and my mother fainted within an hour of being there. It was a huge issue. I woke up to a water puddle in the middle of the bedroom floor one day (there were no units above me), and realized what was going on. Maintenance wouldn't do anything, so I had no choice but to take matters into my own hands.
  • Pat Pat on Jan 03, 2015
    Basement? Crawl space? These places are notorious for stinking up the whole space. Check those out. Also, check carefully under sinks and toilets.
  • Rosemary Miller Rosemary Miller on Jan 03, 2015
    Put containers of charcoal around the house to absorb the odors. You can put them behind bookcases, under a bed, they don't have to be out where you can see them. Cheap charcoal briquettes (obviously don't use Match Light brand--just plain old regular ones).
    • See 1 previous
    • Rosemary Miller Rosemary Miller on Jan 04, 2015
      @Karen Criner I don't think so, but you could put the charcoal in plastic containers and make holes in the covers. It would still absorb the odor and they couldn't get at it.
  • Carr Carr on Jan 03, 2015
    This is not good. Mold is extremely dangerous. Your landlord needs to have professionals come in and check it, if not move.
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 04, 2015
      @Carr No mold has been found inside the house or underneath it.
  • Cathi Cathi on Jan 03, 2015
    You need to find the source of the smell in order to treat it. I would suggest that if there was water in the basement previously, that your landlord should provide a dehumidifier. It's a Good place to start, and will remove the "wet dirt" smell.
  • 918210 918210 on Jan 03, 2015
    As a maintenance professional, I have been to mold seminars. 80% of the earths bio matter guessed it, mold. Assuming there are no water problems (leaks,water infiltration due to clogged gutters, ground water etc) which must be repaired before the next step which is cleaning. Clean, clean, clean! If the air is naturally damp, a dehumidifier will help. An air cleaner with ozone generator will also be of benefit, Use caution and follow directions when using ozone generating products. Good luck!
    • See 1 previous
    • 918210 918210 on Jan 04, 2015
      @ @Karen Criner I was taught at the seminars that mold must attach itself to dust/dirt. It can't grow on a clean surface. Since you have no visible mold, it is possible that it could be growing inside wall cavities, under carpet padding, any place that is hidden (even under wallpaper). I have literally ripped out drywall and carpeting in mold remediation. There are professional companies that do this some even offer free inspections. In my area, it is the landlord responsibility to remedy any such problem. Quite odd to mention your flowers die outside. Can't say if that problem is connected to your moldy musty smell or not. Good luck!
  • Louise Fulton Louise Fulton on Jan 04, 2015
    Maybe you should start with a dehumidifier to get the damp out of the house. I think it just needs to dry out.
  • Adrian Adrian on Jan 04, 2015
    Baking soda and activated charcoal should work. Also, take real lemons and squeeze them into bottled water to make a cleaning solution that you can mop with and also dampen a cloth to wipe down everthing. Buy the super sized bag of baking soda usually available at Sams and maybe Walmart. Or you can buy a bunch of boxes but it will cost more. Activated charcoal is the charcoal you buy at pet stores that is used for fish aquariums and is sold in bags. With both the baking soda and the charcoal all you have to do is place some in any kind of open container and put them everywhere. You can also try charcoal that you buy for BBQ pits and put them inside of old pantyhose, but you'll probably also need to put them in or on a container to prevent the charcoal dust from getting on other things. The baking soda and activated charcoal actually absorbs the bad smells as opposed to the products you have been using which only cover up the bad smell with a different smell. Once the new perfumy smell is gone the bad musty smell will still be there. Good luck.
    • See 3 previous
    • Adrian Adrian on Jan 06, 2015
      Karen, DampRid takes moisture out of the area to help dry the source of moisture which is sometimes the source of musty oder smell. When you say the source of the smell is in the walls and that usually means the beams in the wall are wet. You are right about that musty smell getting into everything you own too, it definitely will do that if you are unable to get rid of this problem very soon. I was curious how long you've been living in this house? My other concern for you is that you said earlier all the plants/flowers you planted died and that's not a good sign for sure. Keep a check on any changes with your health too. Please keep us posted on the outcome and I wish you much luck. Years ago I had a similar issue - I put a deposit on a house to rent that had been flooded. Although I knew the musty smell was there I truly thought that it just needed to air out. After almost a week of going into the house every day to 'air it out' the smell was still there and I decided to move elsewhere. I couldn't get past that smell and I too was concerned that it would get into everything I own.
  • Patti Patti on Jan 04, 2015
    Karen, as you first stated, you are "renting" this old place. Anything you do to clean, repair, etc. should be reimbursed to you or repaid in some manner by the owner, unless, you had a previous agreement to clean. If the odor is that bothersome, the owner had an obligation to let you know about the permanence of the smell. If you decided on this place because it was economically within your budget or other financial reasons, you need to decide if what you pay is worth the aggravation and grief of all the cleaning, and maintaining someway to permanently eliminate the odor as well as medically. Also, as mentioned, the "smell" may be the "least" of your worries. I have read and heard that mold can cause breathing problems, headaches, stomach and other medical issues. Have you had a "runny nose"? This, as well, could indicate some problem with air quality. It seems that if the owner is a longtime owner/resident of the property, he/she should have "some idea" as to what it could be. Maybe they just aren't willing to divulge that information! I do remember, as a little girl in the mountains of Virginia, going into my grandmother's "root cellar" where they kept all their canned vegetables. This was a room dug back into the side of a hill with studs around the dirt walls to support the little "storage shed" above. The smell was just as you described, a "dirt scent", and cool, but it did not smell moldy. The dead flowers would definitely be a bad signal for me. If you are set on staying in this house, I would (at the very least) inform the owner you need to have soil and air quality tests done - sooner and not later, say within the next week to ten days, as it already sounds like he could be a procrastinator. If he isn't will to do that, I would consult someone who could give you sound legal advice about serving notice and breaking a lease (if you have one). One other item, if there are children living there, as well, please, please, make sure their health is not in danger - ASAP.
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 04, 2015
      @Patti You are preaching to the choir. And, yes I have a runny nose when the windows are closed. No children. No lease involved. Another big issue is this house does not breathe. No ventilation/fan/exhaust in bathroom and kitchen. I could go on and on. Am planning on moving but for now, I will do what I can to make the house a little safer
  • Becky D Becky D on Jan 04, 2015
    I used to get that kind of smell,that earthy odd odor, in my bathroom area especially after several days of rain. Under our house in that area was what I think people around here called a cistern. It was a small room like area about 5' x 5' directly under that bathroom that had no inside or outside access. It has block walls but a dirt floor. We were advised to put lime in there 1st then fill it in with fill dirt and rocks. Not an an easy task as the vented opening in the foundation was not very big so we had to take out a couple of the blocks to get in there but the smell went away after we did those things. I don't know if that caused the problem as nothing would grow out there in back of the house either but we are seeing grass grow now. Good luck.. I hope you are able to solve that problem soon.
  • Gerri Gerri on Jan 04, 2015
    these are great ideas i am gonna try teh charcoal on ein my grandsons room smells like an old mans room he is 21 but has cp and does what he can do but once a mont i get in ther e and do a what i call througho cleaning . gonna put charcoal in a container under his bed, bureau , closet, where ever i can
    • 861650 861650 on Jan 04, 2015
      @Gerri You are such a kind individual and I know you love your grandson very much. After reading all these notes, what about getting your grandson an air purifier? Also, cleaning products can have chemicals that are harmful. For general cleaning, I use white vinegar & water, (one part vinegar & three parts water), in a spray bottle. White vinegar is non-toxic to humans and pets. It deodorizes and kills germs. The vinegar smell is gone in a few minutes and leaves a clean. type of clothes detergent is being used in your grandson's home? Recently, I began hearing about the effects of "Borax" in clothes detergents so I started researching and talking to other folks. Borax is a dangerous chemical and can cause health AND breathing problems. Borax is great for killing roaches and fleas but it has to be used carefully and cleaned up afterward. Please consider using a clothes detergent for "sensitive" skin, and/or check the chemicals in laundry products. All the best to you and your grandson.
  • Renae Krebs Renae Krebs on Jan 04, 2015
    Another good odor absorber is kitty litter. Use it like the charcoal suggested above, in pans or shallow boxes under furniture, etc., and see if that doesn't help!
  • Greenia Louida Jeans Greenia Louida Jeans on Jan 04, 2015
    I use damp rid ,you can get it at Wal-mart in the ckeaning isle or deodotixeing isle .looks like little white beads .you vsn buy it with the containers to put it in .Strange stuff, but it works .my house is on perer and beam also dirt underneath. .I call it the old house smell .
  • Connie Lehman Madia Connie Lehman Madia on Jan 04, 2015
    Do you have floor mounted furnace registers? If so, check them to see what's down there. Good luck!
  • 861650 861650 on Jan 04, 2015
    I want to thank everyone for stepping up to the plate and giving me such great information. I feel so blessed to have found Hometalk!
  • Joree brownlow Joree brownlow on Jan 04, 2015
    My husband put rat killer in the attic. You guessed it, one died in the wall and the smell was awful. I was amazed what a bowl full of charcoal did to get rid of the oder
  • Karen Miller Karen Miller on Jan 04, 2015
    Try Odor Genie by DampRid. I came across it at Walmart in the RV section. I am using it in an area where we have a litter box seems to be working wonderful.
  • Claire M Claire M on Jan 04, 2015
    Karen, I am also a Criner (my maiden name) we need to talk, LOL!!
  • Claire M Claire M on Jan 04, 2015
    And I would see if I could get any free professional opinions/quotes. You don't want to mess around with mold.
  • Marcelina Marcelina on Jan 05, 2015
    Use a dehumidifier,got mine from Home Depot.
  • Carole Carole on Jan 05, 2015
    Talk to the owner/landlord about the smell. Mould is detrimental to your respiratory system and your overall health. You should not have to put up with it. Let them get it fixed.
  • Kathy Kathy on Jan 06, 2015
    Check out an item called Lamp Berger and oil. This won't get rid of actual mold but I have freshened rooms, closets, bathrooms, cars, with much success. Can be found at some better department stores and on line.
  • Dee Dee on Jan 07, 2015
    I put shallow dishes filled with white vinegar, within a day or two you'll notice a difference, I rented a place like this before and it reeked of stale cig. smoke, this totally worked removing the odor. I keep a dish in inconspicuous places just because! The vinegar smell also goes away quickly. Good Luck!
    • B. Enne B. Enne on Jun 10, 2015
      @Dee I do the same in my basement and add a few drops of essential oils. I use old yogurt or dip containers.
  • 861650 861650 on Jan 07, 2015
    Thanks for the answers, but I'm still hoping for more ideas.
  • Lindcurt Lindcurt on Jan 08, 2015
    Might try venting the crawl space or basement, fresh air would help a lot. We have a limestone walled basement and running a dehumidifier down there helps a lot.
  • Linda Mudge Neice Linda Mudge Neice on Jun 10, 2015
    Charcoal...the kind you use in a BBQ....put it in foil pans around the house, under beds, behind chairs in closets...charcoal absorbs the odor
    • See 2 previous
    • Linda Mudge Neice Linda Mudge Neice on Jun 15, 2015
      Also if you have carpet.....sprinkle with baking soda...sweep it into the carpet...vacume after a couple of hours or even over night..
  • K. K. on Feb 03, 2017

    Karen, I agree with Linda Mudge Neice baking soda is great for getting foul odors out. That's the reason it's used in refrigerates to keep the oder of one food (say onions) from overwhelming other foods.

  • Libby Libby on Feb 04, 2017

    OZONATORS... Got mine for $99 on Amazon.

    Discovered when friend nearly burnt her house down. The insurance company brought in the industrial size, which ran for a week.

    A large one rented from an equipment rental place is better than my small ozonator bc you can do the whole house at once. Important bc no living beings or creatures should be in the home while they run.

    My little unit has a two hour run time. It took 4 cycles to eliminate an ethnic food spice odor that worked into everything during The five week period we had friends living in our guest cottage.

    Have used in three buildings with three distinct issues (mold/musty building, cooking spices, and unused closed up RV). The ozonator is a great tool to own.

  • Claude Claude on Feb 04, 2017

    Libby is correct. These things WORK! If it's a rental and there are other apps, you need to make sure no pets or people are in there when you run it. I have a 1000 sf basement and the most I run it for is 2 hrs. These little boxes have delicate porcelain be careful.

    they will also remove pet smells, smoking odors and odors in cars. Follow the direction.s

    • Libby Libby on Feb 07, 2017

      Hi - Do you know how we would know if we've damaged the delicate porcelain plates? The last thing we've been is careful :/

      This thing goes to work, into the RV, etc.

      Wondering if we need to take a good look at it ?

      Thank you!!

  • 861650 861650 on Feb 04, 2017

    Thanks so much for the info. But this house has NO ventilation and does not breathe. Hopefully, I will be out of here in 8 or 9 months.

    • Libby Libby on Feb 09, 2017

      *Odor... not order

  • Grandmaquilts Grandmaquilts on Feb 04, 2017

    Karen, you live in a home with NO windows? When we moved from Miami to Illinois, my neighbors thought I was crazy; but I would pick a day when the temp was above 45, turn off the furnace and open all the windows. An hour before my children came home, I closed the windows, and turned the heat back up.

    My kids came home to a nice, fresh and warm home. I especially did this after anyone had been sick. Air-out those germs THEN cover remaining odors as above.

  • 861650 861650 on Feb 05, 2017

    I am so laughing! I open all the windows when possible but the heat in this house is so lacking. It is so cold during the winter that I could not open them even for an hour.

  • Suellen Hintz Suellen Hintz on Feb 06, 2017

    Buy a ionic air freshener for this problem. It's what nursing homes use and they no longer smell. They work magic!

  • 861650 861650 on Feb 06, 2017

    Thank you Suellen, what a good idea! Since my father was in a nursing home, you would think I would know that. Have written your info down and will google it this evening. Hopefully, I will be able to move in 8 or 9 months.

  • 861650 861650 on Feb 07, 2017

    Thanks for the info. Will google your suggestion today. I would use essential oils but it is toxic to cats. I realize odors get in to fabrics, etc., so I will have some cleaning to do. Makes my face hurt just thinking about it! LOL! By the way, I bought "Orange TKO" and just received it. Is made from peels from oranges and it is supposed to clean anything. Is environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Has no solvents or petrollum distiliates and is non-carcinogenic. It smells great so I hope it works.