Air Purifier or Dehumidifier For Musty Smell? Both Can Help

If you have a musty smell in the house, it mostly means one thing: the presence of mold. And if you have mold, it means one thing: you have too much indoor humidity.

Therefore, you might wonder whether to run an air purifier to remove musty smell, or to use a dehumidifier to lower the humidity and discourage the growth of mold. The good thing is that you can use both appliances, even simultaneously, if you like. 

In this blog, I regularly recommend that you get a dehumidifier to lower the humidity level in summer, a humidifier to increase the humidity level in winter, and if you live in a place with air pollution, an air purifier to cleanse the air.

You might want to read my post on: Humidifier Sickness Symptoms

Do air purifiers get rid of musty smells?

Do air purifiers get rid of musty smells

When there are mold spores floating in the air, they produce the musty smell that most people in high-humidity places experience.

When you lower the humidity in your house, the musty smell will remain because a dehumidifier does not remove odor.

While it has a filter, it does not remove the air pollutants as efficiently as an air purifier does. Besides, even when the humidity is okay, the mold spores stay dormant until the conditions are right, and then they start new mold colonies.

Therefore, you need to lower the humidity and, at the same time, remove the mold spores from the air.

A Levoit air purifier can remove such pollutants efficiently. You can follow up with fumigation to get rid of all the mold in your home. Soon after, the musty smell will go away for good.

So yes, air purifiers get rid of musty smells in the house, especially if you choose one that comes with activated carbon filters. An air purifier that has a three-stage filtration mechanism will remove the odors from your indoor air.

How do I know if I need an air purifier or a dehumidifier?

How do I know if I need an air purifier or a dehumidifier

If you really care about your health and comfort at home, you will need these two important devices. They will let you know when the humidity is too high and when the air is too dirty.

Air quality monitor

As its name suggests, an air quality monitor keeps tabs on the quality of your indoor air. One of the best ones is Langkou Air quality monitor that you can buy on

It can sense pollution of different types in your indoor air. For instance, it can detect formaldehyde in your indoor air, particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, dust, and others.

It measures their quantity in the air in real time too. It is lightweight and portable, so you can even travel with it anywhere.


This measures the level of indoor humidity. The ThermoPro TP50 Digital Hygrometer that you can buy on is one of the best ones on the market. It is affordable, accurate, and tamper-proof.

If you live in Florida, which has high humidity most of the time, keep an eye on the hygrometer. If the indoor humidity level rises above 50 percent, you should switch on the dehumidifier.

In the article on humidity and mold growth chart, we said this fungus will grow in a humidity level that is above 50 percent.

For more information about how a hygrometer works, refer to my post on hygrometer vs humidistat.

When you are armed with an air quality monitor and a hygrometer, you will know when you need to run both the Honeywell air purifier and the dehumidifier.

Can a dehumidifier get rid of a musty smell?

A dehumidifier can certainly help get rid of musty smells from your home. However, it is not as effective as the air purifier. It does not take care of the smell directly. Rather, it makes it hard for mold to produce spores, which cause the musty smell.

The mildew smell is also musty. To get rid of it from your home, too, you need to keep the humidity between 30 and 50 percent.

Black mold usually grows at humidity levels above 50 percent. If you are experiencing the musty smell from your closet, well, that means you have damp clothes in there. Using a small dehumidifier for the closet can help with this.

If the musty smell is coming from the basement, you need a big dehumidifier with drain hose for the basement.

That is not all, because you also need to remove the mold itself. You need to find out where, in particular, the mold colony is, and then fumigate it.

This is essential because mold spores don’t die even when the humidity is low. They just stay dormant until the conditions are right, and then they establish new colonies.

Using a dehumidifier to dry laundry in the winter can lower the humidity level. This will prevent the development of a musty smell.

Will a dehumidifier get rid of a musty smell in a basement?

It will certainly help to lower the musty smell in the basement. However, there are a few things to note so that your house can be completely free of the smell:

  • Find out where the mold is, and remove it completely
  • Run an air purifier with activated carbon filters to get rid of the smell completely
  • Run the dehumidifier whenever the humidity level exceeds 50 percent
  • If there is a leakage of water from the outside to the basement, take care of it

To get rid of the musty smell caused by mold and mildew in the basement, you need to run a big portable dehumidifier such as the Frigidaire dehumidifier.

If you have a whole-house dehumidifier, it can help keep the humidity level in the entire house low and manageable.

Use a hygrometer to find out the humidity level all the time in the basement. If you leave it high, it will spread to the rest of the house because damp air moves from the source to the surrounding dry air.

If there has been flooding in the basement, you might need to run a dehumidifier with a pump. It can remove moisture continuously and pump water over a vertical height.

What is the best way to get rid of musty smells in a house?

What is the best way to get rid of musty smells in a house

The best way to get rid of the musty smells in a house is to get it out by the root. If you do not address the root cause of these smells, they will always come back!

So, what causes musty smells inside your home? This is definitely a problem of high humidity in the basement or in any other part of the house.

Because the house has heat, mold starts to grow in the house, in the closet, in the kitchen, and in the bathroom. In that case, consider the following:

  • Run a dehumidifier to lower the humidity level in the basement. Always keep the humidity level at 30 to 50 percent
  • Find the actual location of the mold and remove it by fumigation. This can remove all the mold spores
  • Use an air purifier to get rid of the musty smell. If it has an activated carbon filter, it will remove such odors
  • Always stay on the lookout for black mold, especially if you live in a high-humidity place like Seattle
  • Improper drainage around the home could also cause high humidity and, in return, a musty smell

The bottom line: The musty smells in the house are caused by mold and mildew, which are in turn caused by high humidity indoors. Therefore, if you just remove the musty smell using an air purifier without removing the mold, the smell will come back.

Wrapping it up

As you can tell here, both air purifiers and dehumidifiers can help with the musty smells in your house.

However, nothing, not even using both appliances, can beat getting rid of the main cause of the mustiness. Usually, mildew and mold colonies in the house cause the smell.

This happens irrespective of the age of the house, in both new and old houses. This is why you should run a dehumidifier in a new house.

Remove the mold from your home because it causes mold toxicity symptoms, which can mean endless trips to the hospital for your family.

Also, check out my other articles on:

Is Pink Mold In Humidifier Dangerous?

Mold Growth Humidity Chart: The Fungus Grows!

At What Humidity Does Mold Grow?

Humidifier Tablets To Prevent Mold

Can A Dehumidifier Spread Mold Spores?

How To Clean A Dehumidifier With Vinegar: Kill That Mold Now!