How To Get Mildew Smell Out Of Wood: 5 Helpful DIY Methods

The first way on how to get mildew smell out of wood is to remove mildew itself first. That’s likely the best way to remove the musty smell of mildew, but you can find more options below. 


how to get mildew smell out of wood

Mildew Smell: Explained

You’re probably familiar with the unpleasant odor that sometimes exists in your home. Sometimes, it may smell like wet socks, and sometimes it may have an earthy smell.

This smell is mildew or mold. Those two have similar scents since they are both fungi.

Their odors are due to the chemical compounds they break down and release. These compounds (a.k.a. microbial volatile organic compounds) are released as the mildew develops.

The smell is different each time it develops, so it may not raise the alarm for you. Maybe your first thought upon encountering it is to encourage airflow.

That’s good and okay. However, this is a temporary solution.

We recommend addressing the root problem of the mildew smell. Otherwise, the smell would come back. 


How Does Mildew Develop On Wood?

The musty or earthy smell is due to mildew, but how does mildew develop on wood anyway? Firstly, mildew needs to meet four conditions before settling on a surface. 

Typically, the last criterion it needs is moisture. The other three (food source, temperature, oxygen) are all ever-present in the environment. 

Lucky for mildews, water damage is pretty standard in households. From ceiling leaks to burst pipes, mildew spores get to settle on a specific surface because of water damage. 

Your household is more likely to suffer from water damage due to burst pipes and faulty appliances than the weather. Apart from the cause of water damage, you have to consider the type of water contamination.

If it’s black water, you will not only deal with mildew and mold. You have to deal with bacteria and possible infection upon contact as well.

Wooden floorings are more vulnerable to water damage than you think. One reason is that appliances stand on them, and they’re exposed to the moisture the appliances exude. 

Moreover, wooden flooring is also a victim of faulty piping systems and leaks from adjacent home structures (walls, ceilings). If you’re struggling with water damage, here is an article about how to patch a water damaged ceiling


The Different Ways Of Removing Mildew Smell On Wood

After learning about the reason for the mildew smell and how mildew grows, you can now remove the mildew scent. To eliminate the mildew smell, you have to remove the mildew itself. 


1. Use vinegar

One odor-absorbing substance that is commonly used in removing mildew is vinegar. Pure, undiluted vinegar not only kills mildew but also helps in removing the pesky smell that comes with it.

Although, a disadvantage of vinegar is that it has a distinct smell. However, you can amend this by putting a half-slice lemon in the vinegar solution.

Although, you can only use this vinegar mixture with lemon once, and you have to remove the citrus fruit once you’re done. 


2. Use commercial products

In cleaning off the mold from the wood it has settled on, you can use a natural solution like vinegar. However, you can also opt to use commercial products.

One effective commercial product is CLR Mold and Mildew Remover. Here is an article outlining where to buy CLR Mold and Mildew Remover to help you. 

These commercial products are specifically made to combat mold and mildew; hence, they are bound to be effective. Although, we recommend you put on protective gear when handling mildew and using this product.


3. Natural light

If you can expose your wooden furniture to natural sunlight, it can help kill and eliminate the mildew spores and scents. However, if you can’t, you can use a dehumidifier to suck up the moisture from the wood. 

Sucking up the moisture would kill the mildew, removing the wood’s musty scent. 


4. Sand the wood

Another way of eliminating mildew spores and odor is to strip the wooden furniture. Remove the area by stripping and sanding the wood, which would help the wood to breathe.

If the odor persists after removing the finish, you can use vinegar or baking soda to remove the mildew smell. 


5. Use odor absorbing substances

After disinfecting the area and ridding your wooden furniture of mildew, you can eliminate the remaining unpleasant smell by using odor-absorbing substances.

You can use a kitty litter if you have one lying around. You can also use charcoal or coffee grounds, which are more accessible in a household.

Before you know it, these substances have absorbed the mildew smell.

Lastly, we know that the standard product used in removing household fungi is bleach. However, it is too potent and may damage the wood, so we do not advise its use.

There are other less harmful options available to you, so we hope you use these instead of going straight to bleach. 



Learning about how to get mildew smell out of wood includes knowing how they grow in the first place. This way, you get to know what to avoid (e.g. water damage) to prevent mildew from growing in your household.

Leave a Comment