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Causes of Musty Smell in Kitchen Cabinets and Cupboards and Solutions

Musty Smell in Kitchen Cabinets and Cupboards: Causes and Solutions

Find out the causes of musty smell in kitchen cabinets and learn how to get musty smell out of kitchen cabinets.

Your heart likely sinks when you notice a musty smell coming from your kitchen cupboards. A musty smell typically means mold or mildew has taken up residence in your kitchen. If this is true for you, do not fear.

There are many ways to rid your kitchen cupboards of their newly acquired musty smell, clean them and have them smell like new.

Musty smells are usually caused by mold or mildew. In kitchens, the air moisture content is high. Humidity and cooking grime are the perfect ingredients for mold and mildew to thrive. Clean your cabinets with detergents, dry them out, and use a scent absorber like baking soda to refresh them.

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Kitchens are prime real estate for mold and mildew. If you have a musty smell in yours, it is likely caused by these culprits.

There are ways to effectively clean your cupboards, dry them out and rid your kitchen of the musty smell. Read on as we reveal the probable causes of that musty smell in your kitchen cupboard and how to fix it.

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What Causes Musty Smell in Kitchen Cabinets and Cupboards?

It is not unusual for kitchens to develop a musty smell from time to time. This room of the house is typically packed with supplies, utensils, and other items crammed into cabinets and cupboards out of sight.

When investigating the cause of a bad smell in your kitchen, you must rule out the possibility of rotten food.

Sometimes, forgotten food can become wedged or pushed into a far corner of a kitchen cabinet. It is easy to go unnoticed when this happens until the smell draws your attention to the problem.

Rotting food smells different from a musty smell and is typically quite noticeable. If you have realized a foul odor coming from a specific cabinet, try to ascertain what type of smell it is. 

If no food is in your cabinet and the smell is rank, it is time to look for mold or mildew.

What are Mold and Mildew?

We use the term mildew to describe many types of mold that typically grow in a flat pattern. It is a tiny, multicellular fungus that grows particularly well in dark and moist places.

Molds thrive on many different surfaces. Paper, leather, floors, ceilings, tiles, wood, and organic matter are all susceptible to mold if left damp and untreated.

Mold and mildew give off a strong, musty smell that can sometimes smell like chemicals. They should be removed when found, and the area should be dried out to avoid having new fungi grow.

What Causes Mold or Mildew to Grow in Kitchen Cupboards?

Kitchen cabinets and cupboards are some of the house’s darkest, warmest, dampest places. If you stay in an apartment, you likely have a corner kitchen cupboard or understand the notion of overpacked storage spaces.

When we cook in the kitchen, the pot’s steam condenses on the surfaces around it, including inside the cabinets. When we close the cabinets to keep the area neat, moisture is trapped inside.

Since mold thrives in dark, moist places, the scene is set for a moldy takeover. 

Another reason you could have mold or mildew in your kitchen cabinets is if you have a leaking pipe. Many kitchens have pipes for the dishwasher and taps inside a cabinet.

If you have this type of setup in your kitchen, look out for a dripping pipe since it is the possible cause of musty smell in the cabinet under the sink.

Instead of placing a container under the drip, consider getting it repaired. That moisture will provide a cozy place for mold and mildew to take up residence.

Lastly, even if your kitchen is not all that damp, cabinets permanently closed tend to become smelly from one thing or another. Air your cupboards occasionally to allow any bad smells to circulate.

How to Get Musty Smell Out of Kitchen Cabinets – Possible Solutions

If you have located a rank, musty smell in your kitchen and have found the cabinets or cupboards in question, it is time to take action and rid your home of this unwanted stench.

There are a few ways to remove a musty smell from your kitchen cabinets. Let us look at a few of them for you to decide which option will suit you the best.

Before you launch into cleaning mode, you must adhere to a “safety first” protocol. Please open any doors and windows you can, wear a mask and gloves if needed, and never mix bleach with any other detergent.

It is wise to begin with the gentlest of approaches. You should move on to more stringent options if these do not work. For this reason, we have listed our ideas in that order.

#1. Air Out the Cabinets and Cupboards

Your first action against the musty smell should be to air out your cabinets. 

Take out the contents and clean them. Look for signs of mold on cloths, sponges, or food items. Soft items that have mold on them should be thrown away. 

If possible, remove the cabinet doors and leave them to dry in the sun for a few hours. 

Leave the cupboards open and bare overnight, but store the doors inside to avoid moisture damage from early morning dew.

Wash the cabinets, on the shelf tops and bottoms, and in the corners, using the regular detergent of your choice. Dry them thoroughly.

In the morning, assess the smell. If it is gone, proceed to replace your washed items to their rightful spots and return the doors. 

Repeat this process occasionally to avoid having the problem arise again.

#2. Baking Soda

If you have washed and aired out the cupboards and there is still a smell, adding baking soda to the mix may be beneficial. 

Baking soda is a kind of miracle smell eradicator. It is a pH neutralizer. Most smells are acidic or potent alkaline. Baking soda is a weak base called an amphoteric compound. It works against bad smells and neutralizes them. 

You may have heard of leaving baking soda in the fridge to eliminate bad smells, but did you know you can leave it in smelly cabinets too?

Place a bowl of this powdery miracle in your cupboard after cleaning it out, and assess the smell the following day.

#3. Vinegar

Vinegar is another option to try when attempting to rid your cabinets of a musty smell. The vinegar’s acids will help eradicate mold and mildew and help neutralize the odor in the process.

Simply wipe the shelves and sides down with it. Then, rinse with a clean, damp cloth. Be sure to dry every corner and inch thoroughly after cleaning.

#4. Bleach

When all else fails, bleach may be your answer. Mix only a cup of bleach with a gallon of room temperature water. Wipe your cupboards all over, remembering the bottoms of shelves, door hinges, and every corner. 

Dry the cabinets thoroughly after washing to avoid leaving any moisture behind.

Be sure not to mix bleach with detergent, as this will likely cause damaging fumes that can hurt you and those in the home.

Here are simple tips on how to remove bleach smell after cleaning your home with it.

#5. A Post-Cleaning Scent Infusion

After thoroughly cleaning your cabinets, the musty smell and the mold that caused it should be gone. 

Still, you may wish to replace the bad smell with something fresh and enticing. Depending on what you store in your cabinets or cupboards, you might like one or more of these ideas for a post-cleaning scent infusion:

  • Fresh coffee beans
  • Fabuloso or another great-smelling detergent
  • Essential oil of your choice
  • Lemon or orange peels

Place any of these in a jar and let their scent delicately infuse your cupboards and all their contents.

If you store food in the cabinets, please be aware that the scent will likely alter the taste of the food.

Final Thoughts on How to Remove Musty Smell from Kitchen Cabinets and Cupboards

It can be disconcerting to notice a musty smell emanating from your kitchen cupboards. While going about the task of finding its origin, cleaning, and deodorizing the cabinets is a big job, it is well worth the effort. Take the time to clean mold or mildew, dry your cupboards thoroughly, air them out, and replace the smell with something more enjoyable.

Now that you know the possible causes of musty smell in kitchen cabinets and solutions, it’s time to get your cabinets smelling great again.

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