How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Basement

9 DIY Tips on How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Basement

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Have you ever ventured down to your basement and instantly noticed a peculiar, musty odor? This smell is usually indicative of excess moisture, leading to the development of mold and mildew. Interested in methods of eliminating this musty basement scent? Come along with us as we delve into the origins of this odor and arm you with the necessary knowledge and strategies to transform your mildew-filled basement into a habitable room.

Understanding the Source of Musty Basement Smells

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Basements are prone to higher moisture and humidity levels than other rooms due to their underground location and proximity to the soil. Water may seep into the basement through the floor, wall cracks, or leaky pipes. When the humidity level in the basement rises, it becomes a supportive environment for mold and mildew to grow.

Mold and mildew grow in damp spaces and produce spores that emit a distinctly unpleasant odor. Look for mildew and mold spores on your basement window frames, floor, walls, wood studs, and around the room's corners. Condensation dripping from insulation pipes and small leaks from exposed pipes can also contribute to moisture accumulation and mold growth. Also, check around other objects in the basement that might absorb moisture, e.g., storage cartons or cat litter.

By recognizing the problem at its root, you can strategize a practical course of action to combat whatever is causing the mustiness. And not just in the present but in the future, too. Here are some of the steps you can take to eliminate musty smells in your basement:

1. Clean Your Basement Regularly

Like any other area of your home, your basement requires proper and regular cleaning. Cleaning is the first mold remediation step to take soon as you notice your basement smells musty. Consider deep cleaning the entire basement before making any installations or repairs to eliminate musty smells.

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Start the cleaning process by decluttering the basement temporarily so you can detect the source of musty smells. Dust the basement walls, ceilings, light fixtures, and floor to remove cobwebs, loose debris, and mold spores that may be the source of the musty basement smell. Vacuum clean the hard-to-reach crevices and corners in the basement.

Use warm water, detergent, and a disinfectant like household bleach to wipe the surfaces. Consider using a more potent disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide and water mixture to wipe surfaces with mold spores without spreading them in the room. Pay attention to surfaces like doorknobs and light switches that may be exposed to mold growth when cleaning.

2. Waterproof Your Basement

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Waterproofing can be an absolute game changer when dealing with a musty basement. It involves making basement repairs like installing a sump pump, applying waterproof coatings, and sealing cracks to prevent water leaks and accumulation. Waterproof coatings or sealants help prevent water from seeping into the walls and floors of your basement. It helps to reduce dampness, limit humidity levels, and lower residual moisture. 

If you are wondering if waterproofing is a practical or worthwhile idea for getting rid of musty smells in the basement, worry no more. Waterproofing is a long-term approach that addresses the root cause of the musty basement smell. It also improves indoor air quality in the basement and your house.

3. Install a Basement Dehumidifier

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Installing a dehumidifier may give you much-needed relief from the musty basement smell. A dehumidifier reduces high moisture levels in the basement, creating a less hospitable environment for mold and mildew growth. This device also contributes significantly to healthier air circulation in the basement by efficiently controlling humidity. It also prevents moisture from seeping into furniture, clothes, or other items in the basement.

4. Use Activated Charcoal

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In the realm of odor elimination, activated charcoal can be your secret weapon for removing musty odor in the basement. This eco-friendly solution has a highly porous structure that allows it to absorb excess moisture and foul odors from a room. As such, activated charcoal can help to keep your basement dry and smelling fresh.

Place the activated charcoal strategically in the room to make them more effective. Consider placing them in the basement corners, surfaces, and objects prone to mildew growth. Though not a permanent solution for getting rid of musty smells in the basement, activated charcoal can assist in neutralizing and absorbing the musty odors. 

5. Improve Your Ventilation

When dealing with a musty basement, always appreciate the power of proper ventilation. Good airflow can have a profound impact on effectively managing basement odors. A consistent fresh air flow makes you less likely to harbor conditions that encourage mold. 

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Consider opening the windows of your basement every other day. Basement windows allow for cross-ventilation, where fresh air circulating in the basement pushes stale air out. Windows also allow light and warmer air in the basement, which helps to eliminate moisture and dampness.

Consider installing fans across the room if you don't have basement windows. When strategically placed, fans mimic natural airflow and circulate air across the room. This air circulation discourages basement moisture buildup.

6. Use a White Vinegar Spray

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White vinegar is well-known for its deodorizing properties, making it a practical solution for musty basements. This household staple can quickly neutralize unpleasant odors by breaking down odor proteins. All you need to do is put white vinegar in a spray bottle and spritz it around the musty-smelling basement. The smell of vinegar dissipates pretty quickly, leaving the basement smelling cleaner and fresher in its wake.

7. Make a Baking Soda Bowl

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Consider making a simple baking soda bowl for a less intrusive scent solution. As an excellent odor absorber, baking soda can quietly go to work, combatting those musty basement smells. Fill open containers or bowls with baking soda and place them around your basement, specifically the stinkiest areas. The baking soda neutralizes the odors by absorbing moisture from the environment, which mold and mildew tend to thrive on. 

8. Essential Oil Diffusers

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Essential oil diffusers might be a valuable addition if you're looking for a pleasant, natural solution to mask any remaining musty odors in your basement. Use oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, lavender, which are fragrant and have antimicrobial properties that deter mold growth. When diffused in the air, these oils help purify your surroundings and create an inviting atmosphere. Their soothing scents are an excellent finishing touch to your efforts, helping you turn your basement from merely odor-free into a genuinely pleasing environment.

9. Seek Professional Help If Necessary

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Experts in mold remediation or basement waterproofing understand the intricacies of your musty smell issue and are equipped to deal with more challenging situations. They also have access to professional-grade tools and solutions that effectively resolve persistent odor problems. Consider getting professional help for your basement if you have any of the following challenges:

  • Extensive mold and mildew growth
  • Persistent water leaks
  • Structural damage, such as decaying wood studs, crumbling walls, or a deteriorating foundation
  • Persistent musty smell after remedial cleaning attempts
  • Concern for your health
  • Large basement area
  • Limited time to clean moldy basement

In Conclusion 

Eliminating mold and mildew in the basement is the surest way to eliminate the musty basement smells. You can prevent these unpleasant smells by keeping the basement dry and allowing fresh air in at all times. Clean the basement regularly and address any leakages or mold growth immediately to reduce the likelihood of musty smells. Seek professional help if you have any doubts or concerns about the musty odors in the basement to prevent further damage and ensure a safe and comfortable living environment.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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