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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Has it ever happened to you that you went to your basement and as soon as you entered you smelled something strange and stuffy? This is typically a sign of moisture infiltration that results in the formation of mold and mildew. Wondering how to get rid of this unpleasant smell in the basement? Follow us through this article and find out more about this smell and equip yourself with the right information and tools to turn your stinky basement into a livable space.

Understanding the Source of Musty Basement Smells

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Basements are characteristically more humid than other rooms because they are located underground and close to the soil. The water can enter the building through the floor, cracks on the walls or leaking pipes. When the humidity level increases in the basement, it provides a conducive room for growth of molds and mildews.

Mold and mildew thrive in wet areas and release spores that have a very characteristic smell. Check for the presence of mildew and molds in the basement window sill, floor, walls, the wood stud and the corners of the room. Small water droplets from condensation around insulation pipes and minor dripping from exposed pipes also cause moisture build up and mold. Also, check round other objects in the basement that can retain moisture, for instance the storage cartons or the cat litter.

If you pinpoint the source of the mustiness, you can plan how to effectively fight whatever is creating the smell. And not only in the present but in the future as well. Here are some of the steps you can take to eliminate musty smells in your basement:

1. Clean Your Basement Regularly

Just like any other part of your house, the basement needs cleaning and it has to be done frequently. Mold removal therefore begins with cleaning, which should be done as soon as you find that your basement has a musty smell. It might be wise to thoroughly clean the basement before doing any construction work if there are bad odours present.

Image Credits: avoision.com

Begin the cleaning procedure by clearing the basement at least for some time to detect the root cause of moldy smell. Clean the basement walls, ceilings, light fixtures, and floor to knock off cobwebs, loose debris, and mould spores that can cause the bad smell in the basement. Finally, vacuum clean the hard-to-reach crevices and corners of the basement.

In this case, the best approach is to use warm water, detergent, and a disinfectant such as the household bleach to wipe the surfaces. To avoid spreading mold spores in the room, try to use hydrogen peroxide and water solution to wipe the surfaces. It is also important to focus on the areas such as doorknobs and light switches that can be easily contaminated with mold when cleaning.

2. Waterproof Your Basement

Image Credits: fixmyfoundation.com

Waterproofing is a completely game changing process if you are having issues with a damp basement. It includes basic basement renovations that include the installation of a sump pump, application of waterproofing, and fixing of cracks which may cause water seepage. They are very effective in stopping water from penetrating the walls and the floor of a basement. It aids in prevention of damping, restricting extent of humidity, and controlling remaining moisture.

If you are asking yourself if waterproofing is possible or if it makes sense to deal with damp odors in the basement, you do not have to worry anymore. Sealing is a long-term solution that deals with the cause of the unpleasant smell in the basement. It also enhances the quality of air indoors in the basement and the overall house environment.

3. Install a Basement Dehumidifier

Image Credits: ohiobasementauthority.com

The musty basement smell could be eliminated by installing a dehumidifier that would provide much needed relief. A dehumidifier decreases the amount of humidity in the basement, making it difficult for mold and mildew to thrive. It also plays a major role in providing healthier air circulation in basement as it manages the humidity properly. It also helps to avoid water infiltration to furniture, clothes or any other property that might be stored in the basement.

4. Use Activated Charcoal

Image Credits: goodhousekeeping.com

In dealing with odors, activated charcoal is your best friend in eradicating musty smell in the basement area. This is an environmental friendly product that has a very high surface area that facilitates its ability to remove excess moisture and bad smells from a particular room. As such activated charcoal can help to maintain the dryness of the basement not forgetting the fresh smell of the place.

To maximize effectiveness of the activated charcoal, one should place them at specific areas in the room. It is advisable to position them in the basement corners, surfaces, or any other objects and areas that are likely to develop mildew. While may not be a long-term solution in getting rid of the musty smells in the basement, activated charcoal may help in eliminating the odors by neutralizing them as well as absorbing them.

5. Improve Your Ventilation

Whenever you are faced with a musty basement, do not underestimate the importance of air circulation. Proper ventilation goes hand in hand with eradicating bad smells in the basement since proper circulation keeps the air dry and fresh. The constant supply of fresh air reduces the probability of developing conditions that favor mold growth.

Image Credits: ecotechwindows.ca

One idea might be to open the windows of your basement every other day. Basement windows therefore provide for cross flow ventilation where fresh air moving in the basement displaces the stagnant air. Windows also provide light and warm air in the basements in order to decrease moisture and dampness.

If you do not have windows in the basement, consider putting fans all over the room. When properly installed, fans help create a natural airflow pattern and blow air across the room. This air circulation helps to prevent basement moisture.

6. Use a White Vinegar Spray

Image Credits: bobvila.com

White vinegar in particular is well known for its ability to kill bacteria and thus can be used to deal with the smell of basements. This kitchen essential works wonders in removing foul smells within a short time by degrading odor proteins. You just have to add some white vinegar to a spray bottle and then spray it throughout the musty smelling basement. The smell of vinegar disappears rather slowly and what is left in the basement is a fresh smell that is easier on the lungs.

7. Make a Baking Soda Bowl

Image Credits: lovetoknow.com

If you want a less obtrusive way to address the odor then try making a baking soda bowl. An excellent absorbent, baking soda can simply get to work eliminating those unwanted smells from a damp basement. Sprinkle baking soda in small bowls or other open containers and place them in the stinkiest parts of your basement. The baking soda counteracts the odors by drawing moisture from the air and that is what mold and mildew feeds on.

8. Essential Oil Diffusers

Image Credits: naturallivingideas.com

An essential oil diffuser might be a good investment if you are seeking an organic way to cover up any lingering smells in a basement. Essential oils like tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender repel mold and have a pleasant smell. These oils when dispersed in the air assist in cleaning the surrounding environment and making it welcoming. Their gentle fragrances are perfect for the final touches of your work and will help you transform your basement from merely smell less into something pleasant.

9. Seek Professional Help If Necessary

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Those who specialize in mold removal or basement sealing fully comprehend the specifics of your stench problem and possess the capabilities to handle even more complex cases. They too are able to use commercial equipment and products which successfully deal with stubborn smell issues. 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 

The best way of dealing with the musty smell in the basement is to get rid of the mold and mildew. To avoid such unpleasant smells, it is recommended that the basement is kept dry and that fresh air is let in from time to time. To minimize the issues of musty smell, clean the basement often and fix any leaking issue or mold formation. Consult a professional for further assistance if you have any questions or questions about the smell of mold in the basement to prevent them from getting worse and to ensure that people living in the house have a healthy home 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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