How to get rid of musty smells in a bathroom – 5 ways to achieve a spa-like freshness

These five tricks for getting rid of musty smells in a bathroom will be sure to make your bathroom space feel more fresh and inviting

(Image credit: Bert & May | BC Designs | House of Jade / Lindsay Salazar)

Bathrooms are the dampest, most humid rooms in our homes, so it can be normal for a slightly musty odor to arise here and there.

That is not to say that we have to put up with them, however. More often than not, these musty smells are pretty easy to get rid of, so you can make a bathroom smell good again with ease – and all you need is a few smart cleaning tips, professionals assure.

These are the five best ways to get rid of musty smells in a bathroom to make even the smallest of wash spaces a little more like a five-star spa.

How to get rid of musty smells in a bathroom

Much like getting rid of musty smells in a bedroom, preventing odors in a bathroom comes down to identifying the smell, cleaning, and prevention.

1. Wash towels and bathmats regularly

White bath towels hanging from a heater above a bath

(Image credit: Fanny Rådvik / Cathy Nordstrom)

One of the most common causes of musty smells in a bathroom is our bathroom textiles, so it pays to know how often you should clean a bath mat, and how often to wash towels, to keep odors to a minimum and keep your bathroom hygienic.

In between washes, a linen spray can also help to keep the room smelling fresh, adds Kerry Kip, home fragrance expert and founder at MINOT Candle:

‘Bathroom mats and towels are common sources of musty smells thanks to all the extra moisture, so I always keep a bottle of our linen and room spray in the bathroom,’ she says. ‘It's perfect when I need an instant scent refresh, and I love knowing that the simple ingredients – just organic cane sugar alcohol and plant-based oils – are fighting the odor, not just covering it up. I like our MINOT Candle Cerulean Tide Room + Linen Spray in particular for bathroom linens because the lemon essential oil gives a fresh, clean scent and also has natural cleaning properties, as well.’

2. Ensure good ventilation

bathroom with botanical wallpaper

(Image credit: Genevieve Lutkin)

If you are often left wondering why your house smells musty, it could be down to ventilation – especially in a room as humid as the bathroom, points out Tina Priestly, a home refresh expert and the CEO of Ready, Set, Refresh:

‘One of the most common causes of musty smells is poor ventilation. In bathrooms, make sure your exhaust fan is working effectively and consider keeping a window slightly open when showering,’ she suggests.

3. Dry your shower after every use

large marble shower enclosure with floor and wall tiles and traditional crown molding victorian home

(Image credit: Mylands)

While you should be cleaning your shower at least once per week, it also helps to dry your shower after every use, suggests James King, operations manager at DeluxeMaid:

‘Even shower curtains and liners can hold on to moisture, too, if they don’t completely dry between uses. So, rinse or swap them every now and then to keep mildew at bay. After your shower or bath, ward off mold by quickly wiping wet surfaces.’

Using a squeegee, such as this from Walmart, will help to prevent grout staining and mold growth that contributes to musty odors. It can also help prevent sitting water in your tub or shower basin that can begin to smell if left for too long.

4. Check for mold

marble bathroom vanity and freestanding bath

(Image credit: Ema Peter)

Mold is normal in a bathroom, but you should always look to get rid of black mold as soon as you spot it – both to make a bathroom smell fresher and to protect your health and home, warns Tina Priestly, a home refresh expert.

‘Musty smells often stem from excess moisture and inadequate ventilation. In bathrooms, damp towels, leaky pipes, and mold growth are common culprits. Regular cleaning and ensuring proper airflow are crucial steps in keeping these areas fresh.’

If you do find mold, treat it accordingly by using vinegar to clean mold and use a dehumidifier to dry out the area thoroughly.

5. Deep clean your drains

marble topped bathroom sink with wooden cupboards below

(Image credit: Meg evans)

Another common source of musty bathroom smells is our drains. While this is not a spot you need to clean every time you shower, it should be a part of your weekly bathroom refresh, says Kathy Cohoon, operations manager at Two Maids & A Mop. The secret to a nice-smelling shower drain, she shares, is cleaning with baking soda and cleaning with vinegar:

‘Combat musty odors by pouring half a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar down the drain. Let it sit for about 30 minutes, then flush with hot water. You can follow up with a drain cleaner like Drano, available at Walmart if needed.’

Don't forget to also clean any removable parts such as hair traps, drain covers, and plugs to really combat nasty smells and prevent later blockages.


Why does my bathroom smell damp but has no leak?

If your bathroom has a damp, musty odor but there is no continuous leak, it might be that your bathroom is not able to fully dry out between uses. This is usually caused by a lack of ventilation. When showering, open a window, and ensure that your extractor fan is turned on and free from blockages and dust build-up whenever you are using water in the space. This will not only improve the small of your bathroom but will prevent more serious issues down the line such as rot and black mold.

Of course, any bathroom will instantly smell nicer with the best candles or best reed diffusers to scent the space like a spa. These are not replacements for a good cleaning routine, however, and should always be used after cleaning for an extra touch of luxury.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.