4 Reasons Why My Apartment Is Stuffy | 7 Tips To Fix

stuffy apartment

By design, apartments have fewer windows and air vents than houses, trapping stagnant air inside rooms. Stuffiness occurs due to inadequate air flow in the apartment or when their inside is not exchanged with fresh outside air as often as it should be.

The good news is that the stuffiness can usually be solved quite easily. The key is improving your apartment’s airflow, which will allow you to get rid of the stale, stuffy air and improve your air quality. 

Here are the four most common reasons your apartment is stuffy:

1. Hot air is getting into your house

Man feeling hot in his apartment

Ideally, your apartment should be able to keep inside air in and outside air out. It should also be able to properly regulate the airflow, allowing cool air inside and getting rid of hot air from inside as needed. The apartment’s thermal boundary performs this function. 

The thermal boundary is the areas of your apartment that separate the inside from the outside, such as the roof, ceiling, and walls. These areas should be sufficiently air-sealed and properly insulated. 

If there is a problem with your apartment’s thermal boundary, warm outside air will be able to get inside. This warm air is heavier than cooler air, and it is more difficult to expel it back outside, so it settles over your entire apartment and moves slowly, creating a feeling of stuffiness in all your rooms. 

So, how can you tell that your thermal boundary has a problem? Well, if you notice that stuffy hot air collects in the upper regions of your apartment and stays there during the summer, your thermal boundary is likely to blame. The only solution here is to have insulation and air sealing upgrades done. If you suspect your apartment’s thermal boundary has a problem, reach out to your landlord and ask for it to be professionally evaluated and maintained. 

2. Your apartment’s airways need maintenance

apartment vent

Sometimes, the stuffy air in your apartment can easily be traced to a clear source. For example, you may notice that the stuffiness in your apartment is coming from your vents or ducts. Blocked air vents, air leaks in your ductwork, and dirt or dust in the ductwork can all make your apartment stuffy. 

If your ductwork has not been inspected or cleaned in a long time, it may be wise to get them professionally maintained. 

You can also do a quick pass of your vents, ducts, and other airways to ensure that things like fabrics and upholstery are not blocking them. Turn on your AC unit and HVAC circulation system and hold your hand in front of your vents. Confirm that air is indeed coming out of them. If not, you may need professional assistance. 

3. Your apartment has a mold or mildew problem

mold in the bathroom

Sometimes, the stuffy stale smell can be caused by mold or mildew. This usually happens when moisture is allowed to build up, usually more common in older apartments with long-term airflow and circulation issues. 

Mold and mildew growing in your apartment can be dangerous if not sorted out quickly. Living in an apartment with a mold problem can lead to serious health problems because breathing in the mold can not only make it harder to breathe but can also lead to a large number of respiratory diseases. 

If your apartment has a history of water damage, if it smells musty, or if there is some visible growth on the walls and ceiling, you probably have a mold or mildew problem. Check out our detailed guide on what to do if you find mold in your apartment

4. Your AC or HVAC system is not working properly

Cleaning apartment HVAC system

If your house feels stuffy, your AC or HVAC may not be working as it should. 

Your AC unit is designed to keep the air flowing through your apartment, ensuring fresh outside air constantly replaces the inside air. If your AC unit has a problem, for example, if its filters need to be replaced, it may not be able to perform this role as efficiently as it should be. 

Similarly, an HVAC system that is working as it should is designed to constantly push old air out of your apartment and bring in the new fresh air. If your HVAC system is faulty, it may not be able to keep air flowing properly.

If you notice that your apartment is stuffy even when your AC or HVAC is on, and it does not feel like there is any consistent airflow in the apartment, the chances are that the AC or HVAC is due for a maintenance session or needs to be replaced. 

7 tips to make your apartment less stuffy

Cleaning ventilation grill, HVAC

There are several things you can do to make your apartment less stuffy. The concept behind most of these methods, though, is pretty much the same: they involve increasing air circulation within the apartment. Your apartment is stuffy because the air in it is not moving as much as it should, so you want to get things moving to eliminate the stuffiness. 

Here is a list of things you can do to make your apartment less stuffy. Note that these solutions range from temporary fixes (like airing out your apartment) to permanent solutions (like replacing your entire HVAC/AC system). The solution you eventually go for will depend on your budget and your unique situation. 

  1. Air out your apartment for 20 to 30 minutes on a nice day. This will exchange the stale air inside your apartment with fresh air from outside, reducing the stuffiness significantly. You can do this by simply opening all your windows, or at least as many windows as you can. 
  2. Set up fans around the apartment to get the air moving. This will give you a boost and assist in air circulation from room to room. If you have ceiling and bathroom fans, get them going as well. As this is only a temporary solution, set up a few portable fans at strategic places around the apartment as close to windows as possible, then let them blow fresh air through the room. 
  3. Run the apartment thermostat fan to keep the air circulating
  4. Get your HVAC serviced. If it has been a while since your heating and cooling system was serviced, reach out to your landlord and ask to get it serviced. This will ensure that it is always working to its full potential. In most cases, a simple tune-up will dramatically improve your apartment’s air quality. 
  5. Confirm that none of your vents are blocked. If you have closable vents, make sure they are open. 
  6. Ensure that the fan in your furnace is blowing air through your apartment. If this happens and your vents are not blocked, and you still have the stuffiness, there may be a blockage in the vents that needs to be professionally cleaned. 
  7. Upgrade your AC/ HVAC system (depending on what you have). The AC/ HVAC system is often to blame for any stuffiness issues you may be experiencing. Sometimes, it may be wise to rip off the bandaid and upgrade it all together. As this may be a costly endeavor, you will have to involve your landlord to work out the logistics. 

Why does my apartment feel damp? 

damp apartment

If your apartment feels damp, it usually means some moisture in the air around the apartment, which is not getting sufficiently exchanged for fresher outside air. Therefore, while ensuring sufficient airflow, you also need to check for water damage. 

Check for water damage and/or mold growth if your apartment has a constant damp smell. There will usually be a familiar mildew smell, typical of what a place that has just suffered water damage would smell like. If left untreated, the mildew will become a mold problem, leading to respiratory issues in the apartment’s occupants.

If you find and take care of the source of moisture, the next step is to confirm that all potential causes of moisture or water damage are taken care of. If the moisture is in the bathroom, ensure that everyone runs the fan when they shower. Any towels should be washed and dried properly, and any piles of wet or dirty clothes should be removed. 

Final Thoughts

If you do not want your apartment to be stuffy, the most important thing that you need to do is ensure that the air inside your apartment is exchanged frequently with the fresh air from outside. This will prevent any musty or stuffy smells from accumulating in your apartment, as they usually occur due to stale air that is not moving as much as it should be. 

If your room has any moisture content, the moisture will add a layer of staleness to it, and it will get a musty smell that lingers in the air. Sometimes, staleness, stuffiness, and mustiness are used interchangeably to describe such a room.

Apart from the smell, the moisture content will make a room feel heavier and hotter. The humidity rises around the room, making it difficult to breathe, which also adds to the feeling of stuffiness. 

If you have a room that is sealed or closed off for an extended period, the air inside it will go stale. This produces a signature smell that many people may be familiar with. For example, if you walk into a room that no one has been in for weeks or months, you will notice this familiar stuffy smell. This can happen to an entire apartment if no one is coming or going and no air is coming in from outside. 

Your room may get stuffy if you decide not to run your air conditioner until you need it. Some people intentionally do this, only running the AC when the room or apartment is unbearable. This results in moisture being allowed to build up more than it should, and the air inside the apartment is exchanged less often than it should. This can make the space feel stuffy. 

If your room feels stuffy and there is no clear point of origin of the stuffiness, it is quite likely that you may have a mold problem. Mold growing in your apartment can seriously impact your health because it can make it harder to breathe in the space and lead to respiratory issues. Check out our detailed guide on what to do if you find mold in your apartment

At the end of the day, though, all these problems are rooted in insufficient airflow through the apartment. The worse the airflow through your apartment, the stuffier it will feel.

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Last update on 2023-04-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Zoltan Szatmari

Zoltan is a test and industrial engineer from Europe who loves learning anything new and working on small projects. When he is not working, he is usually hiking or going to the cinema.

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