Top 4 Reasons Your Kitchen Cupboards Smell Musty

Top 4 Reasons Your Kitchen Cupboards Smell Musty

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Here’s how to zap the moisture or mould that is making your cupboards musty.

A musty cupboard can be saved. Some just need a springcleaning session. Vinegar and baking soda in a dish can also banish the smell. More serious problems like water leaks require a plumber or dehumidifier while mould and mildew need to be removed with a commercial or homemade cleaner.  

Some musty smells might be a cause for concern. Identify the real problem in your cupboards and keep the danky odours away for good.

The Reasons Your Cupboards Are Musty And How To Fix Them

When you open a cupboard and there’s a musty whiff, that is a red flag that you are possibly dealing with a serious problem. To be fair, most musty odours are not dangerous and can be easily fixed. Let’s have a look at all the main reasons why your kitchen cabinets are smelly.

  1. They are old.
  2. The cabinets have not been cleaned for a long time.
  3. Too much moisture (from cooking or a pipe leak).
  4. Mould.

Nearly this entire list can be fixed by the homeowner without calling an expensive professional. You simply need to identify the problem and use the right cleaning materials (which we will cover in a moment). However, if the cause is a serious pipe leak or mould then it might be best to call a plumber.

Old Cabinets Tend To Smell Musty

Top 4 Reasons Your Kitchen Cupboards Smell Musty

This is especially true when the home has stood empty for a long time. The best solution is to put on those yellow rubber gloves and pretend it is spring. That is right. Some serious top-to-bottom cleaning is the first step to get rid of old smells in cupboards.

Step 1: Remove everything from the cupboards. That means groceries (or whatever you keep in there), removable shelves and definitely old shelf liners.

Step 2: Check for damp spots. If there are none, that is great. But if you notice some moisture, place a fan on the open cupboard for a while or place a dehumidifier nearby. This might take a couple of days.

Step 3: Gather a bucket, cloth, rubbing alcohol, vinegar and water.

Step 4: Mix equal parts of water, vinegar, and rubbing alcohol. Use the cloth to wipe the inside of the cupboards. Don’t forget the doors.

Step 5: Let the cupboards air-dry. You can open a nearby window or switch on the ceiling fan to quicken the process. If your ceiling fan moves at a snail’s pace, find out why your ceiling fan is moving so slow.

The Cupboards Need A Serious Cleaning

Life is so busy these days, one can be forgiven for not scrubbing every part of the house. Nobody is perfect. Experts suggest that a yearly cleaning is adequate for cupboards but in some homes, this chore was last done when Neil Armstrong came back from the Moon. In that case, you can follow the previous suggestion and wipe down the interior. But for more serious cleaning, try the following.

  • Do you see tough stains like grease, dyes, and grime? Mix baking soda with warm water until you get a thick paste. Apply the goop to the stains and gently work the stain until it lifts. The paste also removes odours caused by stains.
  • Permanently leave a bowl with baking soda inside to absorb odours. Replace when you notice the smell has returned.
  • Alternatively, you can also do the same with a small bowl of vanilla essence. Vanilla essence also removes odours and make your cabinets smell wonderful at the same time.
  • If the smell persists no matter what you do, it might be time to sand the cupboards and apply a primer that is designed to block odours.

When Moisture Makes Your Kitchen Cupboard Smell Musty

Too much moisture inside cupboards is a reason for concern. Sure, there is the musty smell. But wetness inside your cabinets can ruin foodstuff, encourage bacteria, or ultimately damage the cabinets beyond repair. 

The moment you notice a musty smell, check for signs of a water leak. Feel the interior for wetness or cold spots. Also, keep an eye out for damp spreading along the back wall. If you find any of these, then there is a leak somewhere. Check for nearby suspects like pipes, the dishwasher, or water lines. If you are certain that a leak is present but it’s quite severe or you cannot find the source, then a plumber can help.

Find out why your mini-fridge is leaking.

High Humidity Can Also Cause The Smell

Top 4 Reasons Your Kitchen Cupboards Smell Musty

People who live in areas with high humidity face all sorts of special problems. One of them is musty kitchen cabinets, laundry baskets, and wardrobe closets. 

If you live in a region where the humidity is high, first run through all the other problems and solutions. Check for obvious water damage, dirt, and age. Thoroughly clean the musty cabinet and then keep a dehumidifier nearby to control the humidity levels in your kitchen. This should keep your cabinetry in fine condition.

How To Deal With Mould

Here’s another fun fact about moisture. Okay, it’s not really fun. Mould spores are plentiful in the home but they only flourish when they encounter a moist spot. That is usually why mould is present when the cabinet has wet spots or too much humidity. 

Remember when we mentioned a little earlier that a musty smell could be a health hazard? Mould is the reason why. The spores can cause respiratory issues in a healthy person who inhales too much of the stuff – but they can pose a particular danger to those with breathing difficulties, including asthma and allergies.

Bottom line? When you spot mould, do not wait to get rid of it.

Step 1: Gather a brush, a couple of clean wiping cloths, two spray bottles, gloves, a mask, chlorine bleach, and a non-ammonia based cleaning product (you can replace the cleaner with a commercial anti-mould spray).

Step 2: Open all the windows you can to ventilate the room.

Step 3: Put on the mask and rubber gloves.

Step 4: Take the commercial product or fill a bottle with the cleaning product and mix with hot water.  

Step 5: Spray the affected area and scrub with the brush until the mould is removed.

Step 6: Dunk the clean cloth in water, wring out the excess water, and wipe the spray and mould away.

Step 7: Mix a quart of cold water with ⅛ cup of chlorine bleach. Spritz the interior and focus on the areas where the mould refused to go. 

Step 8: Leave it for about 20 minutes, then blot the remaining bleach away with a dry cloth. Leave the doors open to air dry.

A Quick Summary On How To Fix A Musty Cabinet

  • A musty smell inside cupboards is usually caused by too much moisture, a lack of cleaning, or old age.
  • A thorough cleaning can fix most of these issues
  • If the problem is a serious or mysterious water leak, a plumber must be consulted.
  • Mould is another cause and needs to be dealt with immediately as it poses a health risk.

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About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.