Why Does My Bathroom Smell Musty? Tips and Solutions

We all want a clean bathroom, but what do we do when our bathroom has a smell that we just can’t put our finger on? Many people find that their bathroom smells musty, and often don’t know why. You may be asking yourself, why does my bathroom smell musty?

A musty smell in a bathroom can be caused by the existence of mold and mildew. Bathrooms without proper ventilation and an accumulation of moisture are a prime breeding ground for mold and mildew, growing on shower curtains, grout, bathtubs, behind a leaky toilet, and underneath a bathroom sink.

In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to identify the source of the smell and how to get rid of it. We’ll also show you how to prevent your bathroom from smelling musty in the future.

Bathroom smells musty

Let’s take a deep dive into the many possible reasons your bathroom may have an off-putting smell. Some may refer to the smell as “musty”, while others may simply say it smells bad.

Why Does My Bathroom Smell Musty?

You open the door to the bathroom, and the musty smell hits you like a wave. Your nose wrinkles in disgust as you try to hold your breath until you can get to the window and open it up.

But even with the fresh air coming in, the smell seems to linger. You’ve tried everything, from scented candles to air fresheners, but nothing seems to work. The musty smell is starting to affect your daily life, making it hard to enjoy your time in the bathroom.

The challenges of dealing with a musty-smelling bathroom are all too real. Whether it’s due to a lack of ventilation or something else, getting rid of the smell can be tough.

Before we can address how to get rid of the musty smell in the bathroom, we first need to understand how it got there in the first place.

Mold and Mildew Can Cause a Musty Smell

Mold and mildew are types of fungi that grow in moist environments. Bathrooms are particularly susceptible to mold and mildew growth because they are often humid places where water can easily collect.

The most common type of mold found in bathrooms is called black mold, which can cause a range of health problems including allergic reactions, respiratory problems, and headaches.

Mildew, on the other hand, is often simply a cosmetic issue. However, if left untreated, it can damage surfaces and lead to the growth of more harmful types of bacteria.

To prevent mold and mildew growth in your bathroom, be sure to ventilate the space after showering, keep the surfaces clean and dry, and fix any leaks as soon as possible.

You may see mold and mildew growth in your bathroom on the following:

  • Grout
  • Tiles
  • Caulking
  • Shower curtains
  • Towels
  • Ceilings
  • Walls

Although bleach kills mold, the EPA suggests using an alternative means of killing the fungus. Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide (3%) are also effective at killing mold. There are also cleaning products one may purchase at a local store.

Poor Ventilation Leads to Mold and Mildew Growth

Poor ventilation in a bathroom can create the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow. Moisture from showers and baths, combined with warm temperatures and lack of airflow, create the perfect conditions for these fungi to thrive.

In addition, mold and mildew can release spores into the air, which can trigger allergies and respiratory problems. As a result, it is important to ensure that your bathroom is well-ventilated in order to prevent the growth of these harmful organisms.

A Sewage Smell May be Coming from Your Pipes

If your bathroom has a sewage smell, it could be due to a clog in the drain or vent pipe. If you have a septic tank, it could also be due to a problem with the tank itself.

A sewage smell in a bathroom may also be caused by a blockage in the pipes that carry waste water away from the home. The blockage can be caused by a build-up of grease, soap scum, or even tree roots.

In some cases, the blockage may be located in the main sewer line, which will require the assistance of a professional plumber. In other cases, the blockage may be located closer to the bathroom, in which case it can often be cleared with a plunger, auger, or snake.

If the blockage is not removed, the sewage will continue to back up into the home, causing an even more unpleasant smell. In extreme cases, the sewage can even cause flooding.

As a result, it is important to address a sewage smell as soon as possible to avoid further damage to the home.

All that said, the “sewer” smell could be unrelated to sewage altogether, with the smell being caused by a clog that can simply be resolved with a product such as Drano.

Wet Towels and Clothing Add to Moisture in the Air

Walking into the bathroom and being instantly hit with the smell of a thousand wet towels that have been left to mildew in the humid summer heat is not a pleasant experience. Surely, this can’t be good for your health, you think to yourself.

If you leave wet clothing or towels in your bathroom, they may eventually start to grow mold and mildew. This will cause a musty smell and can be easily prevented.

Allowing wet clothing or towels to hang out in the bathroom only adds to the reason for the musty odors. Running the bathroom fan and opening a window will help eliminate humidity buildup as the moisture from the towels and clothing evaporates as they dry.

Finally, try not to leave towels or wet clothing bundled up on the bathroom floor. Doing so is practically begging for a musty-smelling bathroom.

What Is the Difference Between Mold and Mildew?

Mold and mildew are types of fungi that grow in damp, humid environments. While they look similar, there are some key differences between the two. Mold is usually black, green, or white, and often appears fuzzy or slimy. While mildew is usually white or gray and has a powdery or fluffy appearance.

Mold also releases spores into the air, which can cause allergic reactions in some people. Mildew does not release spores and is not considered to be harmful to humans.

However, both mold and mildew can cause damage to buildings and other structures. Mold can weaken beams and supports, while mildew can discolor paint and make surfaces brittle.

If you think you might have mold or mildew in your home, it’s important to have it professionally inspected and removed as soon as possible.

Common Causes of Mold or Mildew in the Bathroom

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the growth of mold and mildew in the bathroom. Poor ventilation is one of the most common causes, as it allows moisture to build up on surfaces. Another common cause is leaky pipes or fixtures, which can also lead to high humidity levels.

Mold and mildew can thrive in bathrooms due to the high humidity levels and lack of ventilation. Common causes of mold and mildew include:

  • Leaving wet towels or clothes on the floor
  • Not running the exhaust fan during or after showers
  • Not cleaning the shower regularly
  • Not opening the bathroom window to allow air circulation

Preventing mold and mildew growth in the bathroom requires diligent effort, but it is possible to create and maintain a healthy environment.

How to Get Rid of Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew can cause a number of problems in your home, from damaging your walls and ceilings, and staining grout and toilet bowls, to causing respiratory issues. If you suspect that you have a mold or mildew problem, it’s important to take action immediately.

Here are a few steps to get rid of mold and mildew:

Step 1
Inspect your home for signs of mold or mildew. Look for dark spots on walls or ceilings, Musty odors, or visible mold growth.

Step 2
If you find mold or mildew, determine the source of the problem. Mold and mildew need moisture to grow, so leaks or condensation can be a major issue.

Step 3
Once you’ve located the source of the problem, repair it immediately. This will help to prevent mold and mildew from coming back.

Step 4
Clean all surfaces that have been affected by mold or mildew. Use a cleaning solution that is specifically designed for mold and mildew removal.

Step 5
Dry all surfaces completely after cleaning to prevent mold and mildew from returning.

By following these steps, you can get rid of mold and mildew quickly and effectively.

Is Mold in Your Bathroom Dangerous?

While most molds are not dangerous, some can cause health problems, especially for people with allergies or respiratory conditions. If you’re concerned there might be mold in your bathroom, it’s important to remove it. They can help to identify the type of mold and determine whether it’s harmful.

You wake up in the morning and head to the bathroom to start your day. As you step into the shower, you notice some black spots on the grout between the tiles.

You make a mental note to scrub harder next time you clean, but you don’t think much of it and hop in the shower.

A few days later, you notice that the spots have gotten bigger and there are more of them. Now, you’re starting to worry that there might be mold growing in your bathroom.

In most cases, mold can be removed with a simple cleaning solution. However, if the problem is severe, you may need to hire a professional to do a deep cleaning of your bathroom.

The CDC recommends that if the mold covers more than a 10 by 10 area, it’s recommended to consult a mold remediation specialist.

FEMA advises using a bleach and water solution, for things that can tolerate bleach.

Taking these steps will help to ensure that your bathroom is safe and free of mold.

5 Tips to Prevent Mold and Mildew in a Bathroom

To prevent mold and mildew from taking over your bathroom, follow these simple steps:

Tip #1

Keep surfaces clean and dry. Wipe down faucets, counters, and tiles after every use. Use a squeegee to remove water from shower walls and doors. Be sure to dry the tub or shower completely after each use.

Tip #2

Improve ventilation. Run a fan during and after showers to help remove moisture from the air. Open the bathroom door to allow air to circulate. Consider installing an exhaust fan if your bathroom does not have one.

Tip #3

Use mold-resistant products. When painting or tiling, choose mold-resistant paint, caulk, and grout. These products will help to prevent mold and mildew from taking hold in your bathroom.

Tip #4

Repair any leaks quickly. A small leak can turn into a big problem if it is not fixed promptly. Check under sinks, around toilets, and in the shower or tub for any signs of water damage. Have any leaks repaired as soon as possible to avoid problems with mold and mildew.

Tips #5

Store items properly. Keep toiletries and other items that contain moisture off of the floor and away from walls to prevent mold growth. Store them in a cabinet or on shelves instead. Do not leave wet towels or clothes lying around the bathroom; hang them up to dry instead.

By following these simple steps, you can help to keep your bathroom free of mold and mildew, which will in turn eliminate that musty smell.

How to Prevent Mold in a Bathroom without a Fan

While an exhaust fan is the best way to remove excess moisture from the air and prevent mold growth, there are a few other things you can do to keep your bathroom mold-free. First, make sure to keep the area clean and free of clutter where mold can hide.

Second, open a window or turn on the ventilation fan during and after showers to help circulate air and reduce moisture.

Finally, use mold-resistant products in your bathrooms, such as mildew-resistant shower curtains and mold-resistant tile grout.

By taking these simple precautions, you can help prevent mold from taking over your bathroom.

What Are the Reasons My Bathroom Sink Smells Bad?

Many homeowners struggle with a bathroom sink that smells bad. There are a number of possible causes, and fortunately, there are also a number of ways to eliminate the odor. We will explore some of the most common reasons for a bad-smelling bathroom sink.

Whether your issue is due to a build-up of dirt and grime or a clogged drain, we hope that this information will help you get your bathroom sink smelling fresh and clean again in no time.

Buildup of Soap Scum

Soap scum can build up on the surface of your sink and create a perfect environment for bacteria to grow. If you don’t clean your sink regularly, this soap scum will start to emit a foul odor.

Dirty Trap

Every sink has a “P-trap” which is a U-shaped section of pipe that holds water. This water seal prevents sewer gases from coming up through the drain. However, if this trap becomes dry or dirty, it will allow sewer gases to escape and cause a bad smell.

Clogged Drain

If your bathroom sink is draining slowly, it could be because there is a clog in the drain pipe. This clog can cause water to build up in the sink and create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. As these bacteria multiply, they will release a foul odor.

Sewer Line Backup

If your bathroom sink has a foul smell and you notice that your toilet is also backing up, it could be because there is a blockage in your sewer line. This blockage can cause sewage to back up into your home and create a very unpleasant smell.

Chemical Cleaners

If you use harsh chemicals to clean your bathroom sink, they can sometimes leave behind a noxious odor. To avoid this, always rinse your sink well after cleaning and ventilate the room well while you are cleaning.

How to Remove Odor from Bathroom Sink

The sight of moldy residue caked around the drain is enough to make us grimace and our stomachs turn. Time to take drastic measures.

You could call a plumber, but that would mean shelling out money you don’t have, and waiting around for hours while they slowly sort out the problem.

No, there’s only one thing to do: remove the odor yourself.

If your bathroom sink smells musty, there are a few things you can do to remove the odor.

  • Pour baking soda down the drain and let it sit for a few hours.
  • Boil a pot of water and pour it down the drain.
  • Use a plunger to unclog the drain.
  • Pour vinegar down the drain and let it sit for a few hours.
  • Flush the drain with boiling water.
  • Use a Drain Snake to remove any clogs.
  • Call a plumber if you can’t remove the odor yourself.

Can I Pour Bleach Down the Drain?

Most people think that bleach is an excellent way to clean their drains, but this is actually a myth. While it is true that bleach can kill bacteria, it also has a number of detrimental effects on your plumbing. Bleach is a caustic substance, meaning it can corrode pipes, causing damage and leaking.

In addition, bleach will kill the beneficial bacteria that help to break down organic matter in your sewer lines. As a result, you may find that your drains become clogged more frequently.

If you must use a cleaner on your drains, choose one that is specifically designed for use in plumbing systems. These cleaners are much gentler on your pipes and will not cause the same problems as bleach.

Why Does My Shower Drain Smell?

Have you ever stepped into the shower only to be hit with an unpleasant smell? If so, you’re not alone. A smelly shower drain is a common problem that can be caused by a variety of factors.

In most cases, the odor is due to a build-up of hair, soap scum, and dirt. However, it can also be caused by mold or mildew growth, leaks, or a clogged vent stack.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to get rid of the smell and keep your drain smelling fresh. With a little effort, you can enjoy a pleasant showering experience once again.

Check to see if there is any soap scum or hair clogging the drain. If so, you can try using a plunger or a snake to clear the blockage. If the drain is still slow after doing this, you may need to use a chemical drain cleaner.

Just be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle carefully, as these cleaners can be very corrosive. If the smell persists, it could be coming from the pipes themselves. In this case, you may need to call a plumber to take a look.

In most cases, however, a bad smell coming from a shower drain is due to a simple clog that can be easily fixed.


In the end, addressing a musty smell in the bathroom boils down to making sure that the causes are eliminated. The use of exhaust fans while bathing and showering are important to eliminate the excess moisture in the air. And cleaning mold and mildew right away to prevent them from spreading is important.

Drains may also become smelly, so addressing any clogging issues will also help alleviate any off-putting odors.


Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.