How to get rid of musty smells in a bedroom – 5 ways to clear the air

Don’t put up with a musty-smelling sleep space. These 5 tricks will instantly freshen up any bedroom

(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

There is nothing worse than waking up and the first thing you’re hit with is a musty smell. Ideally, we want to be waking up to the smell of fresh sheets and clean air to start the day off on the right foot.

But what causes musty smells in the bedroom, and how can we quickly get rid of them to improve our sleep?

We talked to the experts to learn the five best ways to get rid of musty smells in a bedroom and make your bedroom smell good for sleep again.

How to get rid of musty smells in a bedroom

Getting rid of musty smells in a bedroom is usually straightforward – all you need is a few simple cleaning tricks, the experts assure.

1. Clean bedding and furnishings regularly

yellow floral twin bedroom with rattan accessories

(Image credit: Joshua Smith Inc /Photography Read McKendree)

It isn't groundbreaking, but one thing people with nice-smelling bedrooms always do is clean – and clean regularly, begins James King, operations manager at DeluxeMaid:

‘If you’re not washing your bedding frequently, the sweat, oil, and dead skin cells combined with moisture from sweat and humidity can spell a musty odor you can’t ignore,’ he warns. ‘Aim to include them when doing laundry at least once a week. Use hot water in your wash cycle to kill bacteria and remove odors,’ he adds.

‘And it’s not just bedding, either! Bedroom furniture with fabric and padding can trap dust, moisture, and odors. My tip? Vacuum them up.’

2. Work with natural deodorizers

Sometimes, we need to do more than wash our bedding and vacuum. Bedroom carpets and mattresses also need the occasional refresh to keep musty odors at bay, Tina Priestly, a home refresh expert and the CEO of Ready, Set, Refresh, reminds us. She recommends using natural deodorizers, such as cleaning with baking soda, to remedy lingering smells:

‘Natural deodorizers like baking soda and white vinegar are fantastic for absorbing and neutralizing odors. For bedrooms, sprinkle baking soda around evenly and let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming to clean carpets without a machine and clean mattresses.’

3. Ventilate the room

As we sleep, we exhale bacteria and moisture into our bedrooms. If you sleep with the windows and doors closed, this then gets trapped in the room with you, resulting in a stale odor. To remedy this, Tina Priestly, a home refresh expert, suggests opening up the door to sleep or opening your window every morning to improve ventilation.

‘For bedrooms, opening windows regularly can make a big difference. Fresh air circulation helps to reduce moisture buildup and prevents that musty smell from settling in.’

You can also add an air purifier to your bedroom to help improve air quality throughout the day and while you sleep, boosting your sleep hygiene.

4. Don’t forget hidden dust spots

mcgee and co neutral coastal bedroom scheme

(Image credit: McGee & Co)

Dust is more than an eye sore; it can also be the cause of musty odors in the bedroom. When cleaning a bedroom, remember to also dust and vacuum the hidden spots, such as inside of your closet and underneath your bed and vanity.

This doesn’t need to be done every time if you need to clean your room fast, but it should be done at least once per month, especially if you share your bedroom with another person, or have pets.

5. Try room sprays

If you have cleaned your bedroom but a lingering odor persists, it can be helpful to invest in a good scented room spray or diffuser to help replace residual smells, Kerry Kip, home fragrance expert and founder at MINOT Candle, recommends.

‘Room sprays are a great way to quickly freshen a musty space when you don't have time for a deep clean and you don't want to worry about a candle flame around pets or little ones. Just two to three sprays about six to eight inches from linens can create the perfect, even coverage you need for aromatherapy bliss.’

When picking a room or linen spray, check for the best and worst bedroom scents for sleep first to ensure you don't accidentally disrupt your REM sleep.


Why does my bedroom smell bad even though it is clean?

If you have thoroughly cleaned your bedroom but it still smells musty, try leaving the doors and windows open for an hour or so to see if it is just a lingering odor that needs to be blown out by some fresh air. If this fails, it can be worth checking in hidden dirt spots such as under the bed and in the closet for dust build-up, or mold growth (especially in winter, or if you sleep with your windows and doors closed).

How often should you clean a bedroom?

To keep a bedroom hygienic and prevent musty odors, it is a good idea to clean your bedroom at least once per week, deep cleaning mattresses and carpets around once every one to two months. Weekly tasks should include dusting, disinfecting nightstands, changing bedding, and vacuuming, while bigger deep cleaning tasks should involve cleaning your mattress with baking soda, cleaning out your closet, and vacuuming underneath the bed and other furniture.

You might notice a musty odor in a bedroom if you rely on bedroom cleaning hacks that don’t work too often. If you are cleaning regularly but still experiencing a recurrent musty smell, consider switching up your routine with some expert cleaning tips to ensure you are reaching every nook and cranny and leaving no dirt behind.

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.