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How to Get Rid of Musty Odor in Shed?

You may not have used your shed much or at all in the winter, but now it’s time to open it up for the first yardwork of spring. You may have bought a house that has the bonus of a shed. However, once you open the shed you discover that it smells musty inside.

While this may just be stale air caused because it has been closed and locked up for a time, if it really is a musty smell, it means that dampness has had time to work on it and cause mold growth.

How Do You Get Rid of a Musty Smell in a Shed?

The best way to start is to clear out the shed, unfortunately. Check over your items for any signs of a mold or mildew film or to see if anything smells. If possible, discard anything that has mold, especially things such as cardboard boxes.

While they can be cleaned, it’s much easier to repack your items in another box after you ensure that the stored items are not infested as well. A box with mold has been damp and its structural strength is not what it was. While vinyl can be cleaned, some upholstered objects such as extra chairs with vinyl seats have seams that are hard to clean thoroughly

Cloth items can be treated and washed to remove mold or mildew. You can use a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water to soak affected areas before washing. If that doesn’t work, full-strength vinegar may be necessary. Add bleach to your washing machine if your items allow. You can also try a mixture of one part bleach to three parts water to soak the areas if allowed, then wash as usual.

If you notice worrisome areas on your flooring or studs, a spray bottle filled with white vinegar will usually take care of it. Open your shed. Spray affected areas and allow them to sit for three or four hours. You may need a mask to prevent you from inhaling spores. Then fill a flat container with baking soda and hot water in a bucket.

Dip a scrub brush or abrasive sponge into the hot water and then into the baking soda. Scrub the fungi off the surfaces, and be prepared to really scrub, as the stains can be stubborn. Blot up what moisture you can when done, then try setting a fan in your shed to dry it out.

Another method is to use a bleach mixture rather than baking soda. If you do, you really need good ventilation. It’s not advised for sheds without a window for airflow. When you put your items back into your shed, try to keep things such as boxes off the floor and a few inches away from the walls to prevent further mold growth. Air circulation is vital to keeping mold from forming.

Afterward, you may want to use a moisture-absorbing product or use something like charcoal briquettes, baking soda or non-clumping kitty litter in cloth bags to absorb moisture and prevent further mold formation. These will also help eliminate residual smell also.

There is a difference between a musty smell and a moldy one. The primary difference is that the moldy smell is stronger. Mold and mildew are both fungi and have tiny filaments like roots that enable the mold to spread. Mildew is a white, powdery substance that usually grows on plants or plant material. Keep in mind that wood is plant material, so the wooden parts of your shed are subject to it.

A white substance may form on other things in your shed, but this may be a white mold, not mildew. While mildew is usually flat and powdery, mold growth can be a little thicker and can be slimy or fuzzy. It can also be green, black, white or even orange. Many things can support the growth of mold in your shed, such as cardboard boxes, leather goods, vinyl or plastic products, and wood.

There are many different kinds and colors of mold, and they can affect almost anything in your shed except metal. In addition, any fungal growth can cause or contribute to respiratory or other health problems. You may never have been bothered much by spring hay fever or pollen but find that an unexpected allergy to mold brings you to your knees.

While many are aware of the health dangers of mold in the environment, mildew can also cause problems with exposure over time. The fungus itself is not toxic, but some species produce substances that can affect your whole respiratory system from your sinuses to your lungs. Read my article Why is My Shed Damp Inside? for more helpful tips.

How Do I Find Out Where the Musty Smell Is?

Since mold and mildew thrive in damp places, the first place to look is your roof. Check for any loose or missing shingles to see if moisture has seeped underneath. Even a cracked shingle can let in moisture. Check inside the shed underneath the roof carefully for any sign of water leaks. Just a tiny one can have an impact.

The best time would be a few hours after significant rain. Check for any signs of dampness under the roof or down the sides near the roof. Also, check the walls around the flooring or the flooring itself if it is wood or a wood product.

Take out anything that has a sign of mold or mildew on it. Then air out the shed and check later to see if the smell is still there. You may have to follow the smell to find out just where it is coming from.

Does a Musty Smell Mean Mold?

If your shed has a musty odor, it means that there is some kind of fungus hiding somewhere and it’s time to do a search, both for the source of the smell and the cause, usually some kind of moisture.

The annual shed clearing is a good time, and it will add importance to the task. Your shed should be checked periodically for moisture anyway, even if you don’t smell a musty odor. Not everyone can smell mold, so it may still be lurking even if you don’t smell it.

Will a Dehumidifier Get Rid of Musty Smell?

A dehumidifier will get rid of a musty smell temporarily, but it will return until the source of the smell is removed. A dehumidifier really does a better job of preventing the cause in the first place. If you have mold or mildew existing in your shed already, causing the musty smell, the dehumidifier can’t do anything about getting rid of them.

It’s necessary to discover the source of the smell and get rid of it. Then you can use the dehumidifier if you think it’s needed to prevent recurrence of mold or other problems.


Actually, we should be grateful when we smell a musty odor in a shed. It is a signal that something needs attention. If not for that, we might not discover mold growth until it really does some damage. If you notice a musty smell in your shed, be sure to check it out as soon as possible.