Why Does My Apartment Feel Stuffy? (Easy Fix)

A common complaint tenants have when living in apartments is that the apartment feels “stuffy”.  

An apartment usually feels stuffy because the airflow is inadequate and when the air isn’t exchanged appropriately, it becomes stale and can smell musty, which gives an apartment a “stuffy” feeling. 

Most times, a stuffy apartment can be solved by improving the airflow in the apartment.  Airing your entire apartment out periodically will also help the air quality when you are inside.   

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I am going to go over the things which can make an apartment stuffy, why it happens, and what you can do to solve the problem. 

What Makes A Room Stuffy?

In short, the reason a room feels stuffy is because there is a lack of airflow throughout the room.  This can make the room feel smaller, more cramped, hotter, and a feeling of not being able to breath sufficiently when the air is trapped and confined. 

On top of this, if your room has any moisture content in it at all, it is going to take on a musty smell as well.  Many people would also define a musty smell as stuffy, and sometimes these terms are used interchangeably.  

Moisture content will not only make a room heavier, but hotter as well.  As the humidity rises in the room, the more difficult it is going to be to breath, which again, is going to classify the room as stuffy. 

If a room is sealed off, or just closed off for the majority of the time, the air will go stale in it.  You may have experienced what this smells like when you have visited your grandparents house and gone into rooms that nobody has been in in weeks or longer.  

The same phenomena can happen to anyone, and to an entire apartment if not enough people are coming and going, or if no air is coming in from outside.  

Some people choose not to run their air conditioner until their apartment gets unbearable.  This not only lets the moisture content in their unit build up unnecessarily, but also prevents the air from being exchanged.  

Another warning sign you should look for if the room does smell damp is the presence of mold in the apartment.  If there is mold growing, that can have serious impacts on your health, cause respiratory issues, and can make it hard to breathe.  A simple mold detection test can determine whether or not you have mold in your apartment. 

When you break it down though, most of these problems have to do with insufficient airflow moving throughout your apartment.  The worse the airflow situation is in your apartment, the stuffier it is going to feel. 

How Can I Make My Apartment Less Stuffy?

The quickest way to make you apartment feel less stuffy is to increase circulation of the air in the rooms.  Air out your entire apartment for 20-30 minutes on a nice day, then set up fans around the apartment, or just run the thermostat fan to keep the air circulating. 

Airflow is the name of the game here.  The reason it smells funky is because there isn’t enough air moving around the apartment.  

One thing you should check right away is that none of your vents are blocked, they are all open if they are closable, and that the fan inside your furnace system is actually blowing air through the apartment.  

If all of this is happening, then you may have a block somewhere in your vents that may require further attention by a professional.   

In the meantime, set up some fans that allow for good circulation of air from room to room.  The best thing to do is first air your entire apartment out.  This means exchanging all the air inside with air from the outside.   Usually, this doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes as long as you have fans going or there is a nice breeze outside. 

You have to exchange your air frequently to avoid your apartment smelling musty or feeling stuffy. 

My Apartment Feels Damp

If your apartment feels damp then you are not getting sufficient airflow and exchange throughout the apartment.  You will also want to check for water damage or mold growing if you are constantly getting a “damp” smell in the apartment. 

We have all been in a place that has just suffered water damage, or currently has water in it.  You can even get this mildew smell if a bunch of people have just showered and not let enough time for the moisture to get out of the bathroom.  

All that mildew and grime that builds up in the cracks of your bathtub and shower is exactly what is causing that smell.  That smell can lead to straight up mold, which can be hazardous to people’s health and cause serious breathing and respiratory issues.  

Also check to make sure that all sources of moisture are gone from the apartment.  In your bathroom, make sure that people are running the fan anytime someone shows, that the towels people used are washed and dried on a regular basis, and there are no piles of wet or dirty clothes just lying around, particularly in the bathroom.   

All of these things can cause a room to smell damp and like mildew in short fashion, but keeping the air moving and preventing things like clothes and towels piling up are easy remedies to the situation. 

My Apartment Smells Like Mold

If your apartment smells like mold, then more than likely you have current or previous water damage and need to have your apartment tested for mold to prevent health concerns. 

A simple test can be bought that you can do to test for mold in your apartment yourself.  It is easy to use and fairly inexpensive to get.  Talk to your landlord about reimbursing you for the kit if you think the damage was inherent before you moved in and you are doing nothing to contribute to the current cause of the smell.  

You can also get your landlord to pay for removing the mold from your apartment as well.  When you rent an apartment, it is their job to make sure that the apartment is habitable when you move in and stays habitable throughout the course of your time at the apartment complex.  Even if you are a part of the cause of the mold, you can probably get them to help take care of the problem so the mold doesn’t spread throughout the apartment building. 

How To Make Your Apartment Smell Great Again

Once you have controlled the source of what was making your apartment smell stuffy, whether it was poor air circulation, wet towels or clothes lying around, or whether it was because of current or past water damage, you need to find a good way to make your apartment smell new and fresh again. 
I have written an entire article on “How To Make Your Apartment Smell Great” in which I go over a TON of great ways to make your apartment smell as good as possible!  Go check it out and turn your stuffy apartment into one that smells like a million bucks!!

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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