How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Bathroom

Updated: Feb. 14, 2024

Consider using essential oils to get rid of mildew in the bathroom.

What Does Mildew Smell Like?

When people say something smells musty, they often mean they smell mildew. Mildew in the house can smell like wet socks, rotting wood or paper. Mildew is an early form of mold and a quick way to determine which one you have is to see if the smell persists after you’ve ventilated the area. If the smell persists then you likely have mold but if it goes away you probably have mildew.

How to Remove Mildew Smell From Towels

As you might expect, the first thing you’ll need to do is find out where that yucky smell is coming from. If you’re lucky, you might find it’s simply coming from your towels. If that’s the case, soak them in all-fabric bleach for about 30 minutes, rinse them off and then run through the washing machine. But, if you spot the dreary discolored mildew spot in your tub, prepare to get your hands dirty.

Methods for Removing the Mildew Smell

Bathrooms require work. You use them for the most intimate and essential of duties, and so keeping them pristine and clean is a must. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, the slight smell of mildew arises and you realize damage control is in order. But where to begin?


  • Soak a sponge in vinegar or fill a spray bottle to soak the affected areas.
  • Let the solution sit for a few hours on the mildew, then
  • Scrub with a coarse sponge. Have an old toothbrush? That will work too!

Essential Oils

Essentials oils are a wonderful way to get rid of yucky smells while using yummy smells! After the vinegar has soaked and the area has been scrubbed,

  • Dilute grapefruit seed extract it in a spray bottle with some water
  • Spray solution on the mildew to both tone down the smell of vinegar and also boost the vinegar’s ability to kill the mildew.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is another essential oil you can use for its antifungal properties. And, instead of using vinegar, you can simply apply tea tree oil all on its own. It still has a strong smell, but it’s a much more appealing one than vinegar.

  • Dilute it in water in a spray bottle
  • Apply to the affected area
  • Allow it to sit, then scrub away

Preventing Mildew Smell in the Future

Reducing moisture is the key to preventing mildew smell. Be sure to check areas that get damp, like the bathroom, laundry room and air conditioning ducts.

  • Make sure your bath fan is big enough: If the fans aren’t clearing out most of the moisture in your bathrooms after five to 10 minutes, your fans may not be moving enough air. Check the cfm volume of your fan, usually marked on a label under the grille. Replace it with a larger model if it’s too small for the size of your bathroom. Here’s what to do if you spot mold on your bathroom walls.
  • Buy a humidity-sensing fan designed to automatically turn on and off as moisture levels at the ceiling rise and fall.
  • Squeegee your shower every time you use it. Smelly shower drain? Here’s how you can get rid of the smell in your shower drain.