new bathroom smells musty

New Bathroom Smells Musty – Causes and Solutions

A new bathroom can transform your house from looking drawn and dated, into a home that’s modern, sleek and stylish. 

Yet, when your new washroom smells funky it can set alarm bells ringing. 

Is everything plumbed in properly? Is there a leak? Is the drain blocked? 

These are just a handful of the questions you’ll worry yourself with. And, eventually, you’ll start to panic about how much more money you’ll have to spend to fix the problem!  

But, in reality a stinky new bathroom might not be as horrific as it sounds, and there’s usually a reasonable explanation as to why your washroom’s a bit musty. 

So, let’s find out what can cause your new bathroom to smell!

Below you’ll find a list of common reasons why a bathroom smells stale, and you’ll also find solutions to help get rid of the issue. 

It’s worth pointing out that some of the causes will be more applicable than others, and you might find that you have a mix of reasons contributing to your problem! 


Cause 1: Bathroom Hasn’t Dried Out Fully After Being Used

wet bathroom tiles

The most likely reason why you’re smelling a musty smell in your new bathroom is because there is too much moisture in the room. 

In short, the room isn’t being dried out properly after the shower/bath has been used, and the room has poor ventilation. 

You might be very lucky and the pesky smell is just a warning that a bigger mould-related problem is on the way. And if this is the case, you can deal with it quickly before the issue escalates. 

Of course, moisture will almost always be present in a washroom because there’s a shower, a bath, taps and a toilet in there, however, it doesn’t mean that the condensation in the room cannot be managed. 

You can manage the situation by using an extractor fan in the bathroom. An extractor fan is usually the easiest way to control such a problem, they’re simple to use, they don’t encroach on bathroom space, and they’re not too expensive to buy and to install. 

Another option is to purchase a dehumidifier that you can place by the bathroom door. This gadget will remove the additional moisture from the air, and can prevent a mouldy problem from occurring. 

An additional option is to keep the window in the bathroom open for as long as possible, both when the bathroom is in use and afterwards. 

This will allow moisture to escape and should reduce the likelihood of mould forming further down the line.


Cause 2: Mould

mould in bathroom

If you don’t manage the moisture levels in your bathroom, you’re almost guaranteed that mould will put in an appearance. 

So, your bathroom could be whiffy because there is actually mould present in the room. 

As you might’ve guessed, mould isn’t exactly a welcome visitor in any home, and it can be a bit of a pain to get rid of, although it’s not impossible to do so. 

To get rid of mould you should do the following:

  1. Clean all the mould away! Not sure how to remove it? Follow our step-by-step guide to removing mould from walls. You will need to check all the nooks in your bathroom, this includes under the bath, behind pipes and along the skirting board. If you don’t treat all the patches of mould, the problem will not be solved, and the mould will keep on returning. 
  2. Have a look around your bathroom for water related problems or damp items that could be adding to the issue – leaks, wet towels, soaking bath mats, for example. 
  3. Remove and fix any potential issues that you come across. 
  4. The bathroom needs time to dry, so switch on the extractor fan, open the window, and use a dehumidifier to help speed up the drying process. 
  5. You could, if it’s possible, paint the walls in your bathroom with anti-mould paint. This can help to reduce the chance of the mould returning and spreading. 
  6. Continue to look out for mould in your bathroom, and in other areas of your home, so you can treat the problem as soon as possible so it doesn’t spread. 


Cause 3: Bathroom Is Dirty

cleaning dirty bathroom

Although bathrooms are supposed to be cleaned thoroughly every few weeks, not everyone does this. In some cases, bathrooms go uncleaned for months on end, and even more so if they’re newly fitted. 

This means that dirt has plenty of time to sit, gather and to fester, and this usually results in the room becoming quite stinky. 

So, the odours you might be smelling in your bathroom may just be signals that it’s time to clean the room. And this doesn’t just mean wipe the toilet down and spray the bath with cleaner, it means an actual deep clean. 

Cleaning a bathroom sounds like a big task, and to some extent, if your bathroom is dirty the job may take you a while. But it will be very rewarding in the end! 

To clean a bathroom all you need to do is:

  1. Prepare all your cleaning gadgets. 
  2. Remove items from the bathroom – shampoos and dirty towels, for example. 
  3. Clean one area in the room at a time – start with the bath and work around to cleaning the sink, for example. 
  4. You can use different kinds of cleaning items to make the job easier for yourself.
  5. Clean the floor, walls and ceiling. 
  6. Clean out the extractor fan too – this will help it to work better.  
  7. Remove the rubbish from the bin. 
  8. Add air fresheners to the bathroom if need be – in the toilet, for example. 
  9. Continue to do mini-cleans of your bathroom on a regular basis, so you can avoid doing such large-scale cleans in the future.

See our in-depth guide to cleaning a bathroom for more tips.  


Cause 4: Wet Towels and Bath Mats

wet bathroom towel

If you leave your wet towels in the bathroom after using them, they will start to smell quite quickly. 

The odour will become more musty and pungent the longer the damp towels are left in a pile on the floor, and as you add more towels to the already mountainous pile, the smell will intensify. 

In addition to this, if you leave a wet bath mat on the floor, you’ll notice that it will also start to smell odd too. 

Plus, if you’ve got a busy home where multiple people stand on the bath mat each day to dry, the mat will be soaking wet, and this can make it slippery as well as smelly!

The easiest way to deal with such issues is to dry the items or to wash them. 

You can pop the towels and bath mat on a radiator to dry before they get used again. Or you could launder and line dry them as usual. 

This type of exercise should be done on a regular basis because leaving wet items on the floor can start to affect the floor itself. 

Flooring problems are typically more expensive to deal with, so it’d be better for you to avoid such an issue. 


Cause 5: Shower Curtains Need Cleaning

shower curtain

Replaceable and plastic-feeling shower curtains, as well as cloth curtains, are often a handy alternative to having a glass shower door. 

While they can be picked up for a good price and they’re simple to use, they can start to smell if they aren’t maintained properly. 

If you have a shower curtain like this you may notice that black spots have started to appear along the bottom of the material. These are little mildew spots, and they’re quite unsightly as well as stinky! 

These patches are often caused by the curtain not being dried after coming into contact with water. 

The simplest way to deal with such a problem is to either wash the curtain down or to replace it. 

You can either bleach or treat the curtain with a stain remover to clean it. But before you do this, you’ll need to take into account what material you’re working with and perform a patch test. 

Keep in mind that a shower curtain should be washed every month or so. And try and wipe down the curtain after you’re done in the shower – just be careful not to pull the rail down in the process. 


Cause 6: Dirty Toilet Brush

toilet brush

The smell in your bathroom might be being caused by your toilet brush! 

As humorous as it may sound, your little toilet brush might be causing quite the nasal storm for you. 

Your toilet brush, as I’m sure you’re aware of, comes into contact with some hazardous materials from time to time when it cleans the toilet basin out. 

And while, you’d like to think that the brush is being kept clean and maintained in its pot, it isn’t actually the case.

You see, you have to actually clean the toilet brush with cleaning items yourself, otherwise it’s just sitting in filth in its holder. 

The dirt and bacteria start to thrive and an unpleasant aroma starts to burst into the bathroom. 

Lucky for you, you can clean a toilet brush with ease! All you need in most cases is a bucket filled with hot water and some disinfectant cleaner. 

Or, if the brush is beyond saving you could just purchase a new one. 

Ideally, you need to wash your toilet bush every few days, for future reference.  


Cause 7: Blocked Drain

blocked bathroom drain

Although you’d expect a new bathroom to be working in tip-top condition, it isn’t always the case.

Over a short period of time, things like hair can get caught up in a drain, and they can cause a lot of havoc. Not just because the water takes a long time to go down the plug hole, but also because blockages can cause funny smells to pour out of drains.

The scents left behind are often unpleasant and can make you feel quite queasy too. So, it’s best to put an end to the issue before it causes more chaos. 

To eradicate the problem you can use an off-the-shelf drain unblocker that you can pick up in most stores. 

Or, you could make your own drain unblocker by mixing bicarbonate of soda and vinegar! Interestingly, bicarbonate of soda can also be used to neutralise the poor odour that’s coming from the drain too. 


Cause 8: Leaking Pipes

leaking pipe in bathroom

Another common reason for musty-smelling bathrooms is leaking pipes.

If there is water dribbling out of a pipe somewhere, it is probably dripping out quite slowly so you don’t notice it. But in the process the water is pooling, becoming stagnant and stale, and is creating an odd scent. 

Leaks aren’t always obvious at first glance, so to find one you’ll probably have to take your time looking around all the joins and seals in your bathroom. 

If it is a leak that’s causing the stench, you should call out a plumber to repair the leaky pipe for you. 

Further to this, if you can’t see a leak in your actual washroom, it might be worth checking for leaks in the attic or under the floor. There might be a burst pipe that’s slowly losing water. 

Again, if this is the case you need to get the problem sorted out by a professional before any more damage crops up! 


Cause 9: Check the Room Above

If you’ve just moved into a new house and you’ve added a new bathroom, and you know for sure that there are no issues with your new suite, you should check the room above the bathroom for potential stinky problems. 

It’s worth checking the upstairs out just to make sure that there isn’t something up there that’s causing a smell downstairs. You should keep an eye out for leaks. If the room above is an attic, there could be animals, droppings, old furniture or unwanted items left by the previous occupant. 

Any of these might’ve been dislodged or aggravated when you were moving in and putting in your new bathroom, hence the smell that’s not permeating around your bathroom. 

You will need to remove whatever it is that’s in the attic, but of course, how you solve this issue depends on what you find up there!

If it’s animals, you’ll need pest control, for leaks you’ll need a plumber, and if it’s smelly old furniture you’ll probably need to throw it out.


Cause 10: Odours from Outside

open bathroom window

As odd as it may seem, the smell you’ve got in your bathroom may not have anything to do with your house or bathroom at all. It could very well be a smell that wafts into your home, every now and again from outside. 

If you live near somewhere particularly pungent, you might be smelling the odour that’s coming off the site, for example.

If you think this may be the case, keep a diary of when, what time and under what conditions you smell the musty odour in your bathroom. Once you’ve got a clearer picture you can decide on the best course of action. 


Cause 11: Newly Installed Items in the Bathroom Smell Musty

new bathroom

If you’ve popped a new bathroom into your home, there’ll inevitably be a smell coming off the materials that you’ve just brought in. 

A lot of people can usually deal with the scent, but some individuals find the items smell musty.

It’s not usually a big problem to deal with because the smell typically goes by itself. You can, of course, speed the process along by cleaning the bathroom when it’s fitted, opening a window and using air fresheners to mask the odour.


Cause 12: Products Used During Fitting

constructing new bathroom

When a bathroom is being fitted, the person doing the fitting will use a number of different products, like sealants, glues and paints, and tools to complete the work. 

It’s very likely that goods and equipment used doing this entire process will give off some kind of smell. And these scents are likely to be strong, chemically and even musty. 

And while these odours are unpleasant for a few days, they do wear off and leave the bathroom.

So, if your bathroom is very new, you need to open some windows and wait for the smell to leave.


Cause 13: Bathroom Hasn’t Been Used or Is Only Used Occasionally

Running tap in bathroom sink

If your bathroom has never been used or is only used occasionally, the drains and pipes can start to develop an unpleasant smell.

To prevent this, run the taps for a few minutes on a regular basis. This will flush out the pipes and prevent unpleasant odours from developing.


How To Keep a Bathroom Free From Musty Smells

keeping bathroom smelling fresh

A bathroom can quickly get overrun with different smells, and not always good ones at that! So, here are a couple of tips on how to keep your bathroom smelling fresh: 

  • Clean the bathroom often.
  • Use air fresheners.
  • Use candles. 
  • Pop a diffuser(s) in the bathroom. 
  • Use a toilet bowl freshener to keep the toilet smelling clean.
  • Leave bars of soap in little soap dishes, so their scents permeate the air. 
  • Open the window as often as you can.
  • Make use of your extractor fan, even if you only use the toilet.
  • Don’t leave wet items lying around.
  • Preventing mould from forming is something you should always think about. 
  • Empty the bin in your bathroom.