Not to worry, in this article, we’ll be giving you vital tips on how to eliminate musty odor from finished and unfinished basements.
You can achieve this by using a basement odor eliminator, or a few DIY approaches we will discuss as we proceed.
So here is how to get the musty smell out of your basement.
How To Get Rid Of Musty Smell In Basement
Your basement is located at the bottom part of your home, and this means two things –
- It doesn’t get as much air as the upper parts of your home
- It is prone to more water damage than the upper parts of your home
So, what do you get from a damp, poorly ventilated room? The correct answer is bad odors!
If you walked into your basement and notice an unfriendly smell, then something is wrong. But don’t panic, you can restore the air in your basement back to its original freshness.
The good news is, I’m here to give you tips on how to get rid of basement smells. Stay with me!
Besides the formation of mold, efflorescence, or mildew, moisture and dampness also cause your basement to have a terrible odor.
Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t know what to do in terms of a permanent fix.
Causes Of Basement Smell
To have a proper understanding of how to remove bad odors from your basement, you need to first have an idea of what causes the bad smells in the first place.
Let us take a look at some of the most common causes one by one.
Dampness: When water makes its way into your basement, it can soak up furniture like the couch, mattress, and rug. Unwanted basement water can also affect your shoes, bags, and jackets.
When these items retain moisture for long periods, they develop a damp smell, which oozes all across your basement.
Poor ventilation: Damp furniture and clothing can produce an offensive odor, but it becomes more pronounced when there isn’t any air coming in.
If leakages or rainwater has left the items in your basement damp, and your basement windows are shut, then you can expect the worst in terms of bad smells.
Mold growth: Mold can begin to grow in your basement if the conditions are right. A perfect environment for mold growth is moist, warm, and dark.
If your basement offers these conditions, then expect to see mold growing on the walls, ceilings, floor, and even on your furniture.
It is bad enough that mold causes several health problems, however, it leaves behind a musty smell too.
The mold doesn’t even have to be visible for you to perceive its odor. It might be growing in-between wall cracks and the odor will still be obvious.
Here is how to check for mold.
A dried-out water trap: For those who don’t know, a water trap is a U or S-shaped pipe that is found under the kitchen or bathroom sink. You can also find water traps under your basement floor drains and laundry tubs.
You may wonder what the bend in the pipe is for, and I’ll tell you.
The bend is designed to trap a small amount of water in the pipe at all times to stop sewer gas from passing through the pipe and into your home.
If the drain in your basement remains unused for long a period, then the water in the trap will eventually evaporate. When it does, there would be nothing blocking the gas in the sewer from moving into your basement, hence the bad sewer smell.
Missing cleanout plug: The floor drain in your basement works just like the drain under your bathroom sink. It has a trap that keeps water lodged in the pipe, which prevents gasses from the sewer from passing through and stinking up your home.
The differentiating factor is that floor drains contain a section that bypasses the trap. This part has a plug that stops the sewer gas.
Anytime you clean the drain, you have to put this plug back into its original position. If you don’t, then the sewer gas will pass through and cause your basement to smell bad.
Evaporated water in toilet trap: If you’re out of town for a while, then it means it has been a long time since you flushed your toilet. If that is the case, then the water in the toilet trap will eventually evaporate, allowing the sewer gas to pass through.
Basement Odor Eliminator Guide
As the name implies, a basement odor eliminator is a product or substance (organic or otherwise) that can be used to absorb terrible odor molecules out of a room or space. In this case a basement.
Many commercially produced air fresheners can do the trick. They come with different chemical compositions and flavors, and you can find them in any supermarket or home improvement store.
They usually come in cylinder-shaped spray cans and can be applied by exerting pressure on the spray trigger or cap. This releases the sweet-smelling content into the air, which then absorbs the odor completely.
This form of basement odor absorber is great if you want an instant remedy for the smell. However, the effects can only last for some hours, so the odor will come back if the problem isn’t addressed at the root.
Besides commercially sold air fresheners, you can opt for a homemade basement odor eliminator. These are usually made using organic products, and they also absorb bad odors out of the air.
One of such homemade remedies is placing bowls of baking soda in different sections of the basement floor. Baking soda can absorb odor molecules so it’s a quick and easy fix.
If you don’t have any baking soda at home, you can use white vinegar as a replacement. Just like baking soda, white vinegar also can absorb and neutralize odor molecules.
Even though the homemade approach works well, it remains a temporary fix. To deal with bad odors in your basement, you have to tackle the smell from the root cause.
Once that is done, you will only need the air fresheners as a backup for sweet-smelling air.
How To Eliminate Odor Caused By Mold And Mildew
Do you know why some finished basement smells musty?
Mold and mildew are responsible for some of the bad smells you perceive in your basement. That’s not all, mold is also a health hazard, and that’s more than enough reason to get rid of it once and for all.
Mildew Smell in Basement
Follow the steps below to eliminate the smell caused by mold in the basement.
Find the leaks in the basement that might cause mold to grow
When you find the source of humidity, then you can fix it and stop mold from growing in your basement. As soon as the conditions become unfavorable, mold will not be able to thrive in your basement any longer.
While you’re on a quest to eliminate mold odor, use the opportunity to fix the issues you discover along the way.
Two of the most common problems that lead to mold formation are leaking windows and condensation from an uninsulated pipe.
A lot of basement pipes run along with the ceiling or walls, so if you discover that the pipes are “sweating”, be sure to insulate them using a foam pipe wrap.
You can get them at a home improvement center for about $10.
Don’t forget to look for leakages around your basement windows. If you find water puddling under the window during rainfall, then clear the window wells of all debris so the water can flow away.
Lower the humidity level to hinder mold growth
Another way to remove mold and its bad odor from your basement are to reduce the humidity levels. Keeping it below 50% is highly recommended for the best results.
Keep in mind that the basement will be cooler than the upper sections of the home during the summer because of its sub-surface position. This could be a problem since warm air from the upper floors will move down into the basement.
When the warm air cools off in the basement, the water vapor will condense into moisture settlements on your basement walls, floors, and even furniture.
All this will increase indoor humidity and create a perfect environment for mold to grow.
You can buy a humidifier to keep the humidity levels between 30% to 50% since mold is known to thrive at humidity levels of 60% and above.
You can use a hygrometer to test humidity levels. You can buy one from a home improvement store near you.
Using a humidifier to keep mold away will ultimately eliminate their terrible musty smell in the process.
Clean up all mold or mildew spores left behind
Now that all the humidity is under control, the next thing you should do is physically remove the mold from the walls, furniture, or any other area where they might be growing.
After all, the already-existing mold won’t disappear in an instant.
Before you proceed, keep in mind that mold has allergenic properties and can irritate your skin. Make sure you do not make direct contact with it. Wear long rubber gloves to protect your fingers at all times.
You can begin by getting rid of any mold-infested boxes, bags, or books. If you have a place where you store other paper products, then take a look at them to see if they have mold on them.
Also, look at the clothes you have in the basement, if there is mold on them, you can wash them with bleach and spread them out in the sun.
The harsh ultraviolet rays from the sun will kill the mold spores in no time.
Get rid of as many mold-infested disposables as you can find, then follow up by scrubbing off the ones on the walls and floors.
You can use bleach, water, and a hard brush to peel them off the walls and any other surfaces they may be clinging on. Four parts of water and a single part of bleach will effectively remove mold and mildew from the surfaces and leave you with an odorless basement.
Once you’ve gotten off all the mold, make sure you spray the wall down with clean water. All the mold spores have to be killed, if not they will grow again under favorable conditions.
Flush the toilet
If the cause of the bad smell in your basement is evaporated water in the toilet trap, then all you have to do is replace the water.
Surely there’s water in the toilet tank, so all you need to do is flush the toilet. By doing so, water will be lodged back in the trap and block the sewage gas from messing up the air in your basement.
Pour some water into the drain
Similar to the toilet trap, evaporated water in the toilet drain will also give way for sewage gasses to pass through and spread all over your basement.
You can replace the dried-out water in the drain trap with a fresh batch. A gallon of water poured into the drain should be enough.
This too will stop the smelly sewage gasses from passing through.
How To Eliminate Odor Caused By Dampness
If your basement is damp, it can soak up the furniture you have in there, as well as your shoes, boxes, woodworks, curtains, and paper. When these get damp, they produce an unpleasant smell.
Follow these tips to get rid of basement odor caused by dampness.
Take out the damp materials
The first thing you should do is take out as many damp belongings as you have in the basement. Everything from your sofas to your wooden cupboards, to clothes, shoes, and bags. They all should be removed.
As long as they are damp, then they will stink, and keeping them out in the sun to dry is the wise thing to do. If need be, leave them out for more than 48 hours, especially large furniture with a lot of cushions.
Also, check the forecast to be sure there will be no rain over the coming day or two.
Ventilate the area
A friend once informed me, ‘Bro, my basement is dry but still smells musty’
Do you know how to make any basement smell better? Ventilate it.
After taking out the damp furniture, you should open up the windows and turn on the fans so that the basement can get some old-fashioned ventilation.
Air space out for as many hours as you see fit, or until the bad odor has begun to disappear gradually.
Use air fresheners for basement odors
Here is how to keep your basement smelling fresh.
Buy a commercial-grade air freshener and spray across the basement to absorb odor molecules. You can also lay bowls of white vinegar or baking soda to get rid of the damp smell.
Air fresheners come in different flavors, so this is your chance to make your basement smell exactly the way you want.
Musty Smell In Basement After Flood
Floods leave your basement damp, and dampness promotes mold growth, which in turn is responsible for the musty smell in your basement.
Getting rid of the musty smell after the flood can be done with or without the help of a professional service. It all depends on the extent of the smell, and the level of work involved.
What Is The Musty Smell In My Basement
As I have mentioned earlier, mold produces a musty smell which is very pronounced. The worst part is, you can perceive the smell even when the mold isn’t visible.
The larger the mold infestation, the more pronounced the musty smell will be.
Step 1: Clear the basement
The first step to removing the musty smell from your basement after a flood would be to clear the entire area. If your couch, rug, mattress, and clothes have been soaked, then you need to take them out to dry.
Besides having them dry out in the sun, removing them from the basement will also create space for you to clean the flooding.
Let’s not forget that mold can also grow on furniture, so if there’s any on your couch or carpet, it means taking them outside will help reduce the smell.
To add to that, damp furniture produces a bad odor too, so why allow that to pair with the musty smell?
Take them outside!
Step 2: Remove the water
Now that you have taken out all the furniture, you can begin to remove the water without obstructions.
As a precautionary measure, make sure you switch off the electricity before you begin. Remember you’re dealing with a flood, and leaving the electricity on could lead to electrocution.
You can use a small plastic bowl, a bucket, and a mop to remove the water. Use the bowl to scoop up the water and dump it in the bucket until it is filled up.
Take the bucket outside when it’s full and dump the content at least 30 feet away from the foundation. If you dump the water too close it can flow back into the foundation, then into the basement.
Repeat the process until the water is gone, after which you can dry the floor with a mop.
Step 3: Remove the mold
Once the flooding has been taken care of, you can proceed to remove the main cause of the musty smell – The mold.
Some homeowners make the mistake of assuming the smell will disappear once the flooding has been eliminated. But that is far from the truth.
As long as there is still mold in the basement, the musty smell will remain.
Mold remediation is something you can handle by yourself, but it is best to leave larger infestations to the professionals. Since you’ve just recently experienced a flood, I would advise you to invite a professional mold inspector over to your house to know exactly where mold has begun to grow.
The inspector will first take a look at the areas affected by the flooding since that is where mold growth is more likely. Not all basement mold is visible, some may be hiding within the cracks in the walls.
If there is no mold on the surfaces but the musty smell persists, then the mold could be lodged inside the cracks in the drywall. This will prompt the inspector to break the wall to be sure.
Once the locations of all the basement mold have been determined, the inspector will lay out a remediation plan for you, and the mold will be eventually removed.
If the flooding was minor, then you may be lucky enough to have the only surface mold to deal with. This can be easily cleaned off using a commercial mold cleaner, or a homemade bleach solution.
Some hard scrubbing across the surface will remove the mold, and once it’s gone, the musty smell will follow.
Step 4: Ventilate the basement
After drying up the flood and cleaning off the musty-smelling mold, you can clean out the basement air by opening the windows and allowing some fresh outdoor air to come in.
This will help recycle the old musty air and replace it with fresh air. You can also turn on your fan for faster results.
Step 5: Use a deodorizer
A deodorizer can absorb the bad odor particles that have been left behind by the mold. You can buy one from a home improvement store around your neighborhood.
Don’t confuse deodorizers with air fresheners, because they aren’t the same thing.
Deodorizers can neutralize odiferous molecules by absorbing and destroying them. Air fresheners on the other hand do not absorb or destroy odor molecules, they just produce a sweet-smelling scent that hides the offensive odors in a room.
This is not to say you cannot use an air freshener alongside a deodorizer.
Step 6: Set other odor absorbers
Besides commercial deodorizers, other natural substances can also absorb musty odors. One of them is lemon.
Lemon is a citrus fruit that has a pleasant scent. But that’s not all, it can also absorb odor molecules. This means lemon can act as both a natural air freshener and a deodorizer.
To keep your basement smelling fresh after the flood, you can set bowls of lemon peels in different corners of the basement. This is an organic material so expect it to rot after some time. Replace the peels as at when due.
Rock salt and fresh charcoal are other materials you can use to absorb bad odors.
A lot of people don’t know this, but fresh charcoal can absorb bad odors out of the air. The good news is, fresh charcoal isn’t hard to get, you can make yours at home by safely burning some wood.
Step 7: Replace the missing clean-out plug
If your clean-out plug is missing, all you have to do is head over to any hardware store close to you and buy a replacement.
Fix the plug firmly to stop the sewage gasses from passing through.
Step 8: Take out all the damp furniture
Without proper precaution, you can have leakages or flooding in your basement, and this will cause the furniture to get soaked. This of course will produce a bad smell.
The simple thing to do in this scenario is to take out all the damp furniture. These could include your sofa, carpet, and mattress. The water problem may have also affected your clothes and shoes, and that will equally produce a damp smell.
Be sure you have a bright sunny day before you take out the furniture. The intensity of the sun on that particular day will determine how fast the damp furniture will dry. Give or take, it shouldn’t be more than 2 days.
Make sure your belongings are completely dry before you bring them back into the basement.
My Basement Is Dry But Still Smells Musty
So, the rains have gone and you have dried up the flood. You have ventilated the area and everywhere looks dry and nice, but you can still perceive the musty smell.
This only means one thing – There is still mold in your basement!
As I have mentioned earlier, mold can still produce a musty smell even when it is hidden. This means it can be buried deep in the walls and still ooze out.
If you did not carry out mold inspection after the flood, then you may have missed the mold growing inside the walls. In a case like this, you should do what you failed to do the first time – Call the mold inspector.
The mold inspector might need to tear down a layer of the wall to get a visual of the mold. If the sub-surface infestation is really bad, you may need to tear down the wall completely and build a new one.
The mold should be gone after doing this, as well as the musty smell.
But what about your old clothes and basement furniture? Isn’t it possible some of them have mold growing in areas you can’t see?
Remember you just experienced a flood, and moist furniture is also a great environment for mold to grow. So if you can still perceive the musty smell even after your basement is dry, then you should inspect your furniture and boxes of old clothes for mold.
Look under the couch, beside the cupboard, under the tables, and inside the pillows of the couch. Mold could be hiding anywhere.
If the flooding affected the clothes in the box, then take them out and inspect them for mold.
If you find mold on any part of your furniture or clothes, then that is possibly the reason why your basement still smells musty even after it has dried.
Take all the mold-infested property outside and see the ones you can save. The ones that have been infested beyond saving should be discarded safely.
How To Prevent Bad Odors In Your Basement
The next step to take after eliminating the bad odor from your basement is to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Here are some preventive measures to take.
- Fix the water problems that cause dampness and mold growth
- Take out all leftover/decaying food
- Ventilate your basement regularly
- Always flush the toilet after use
- Use dehumidifiers
- Use deodorizers
Conclusion On Musty Basement Solutions
There are two main reasons you have a bad smell in your basement. These include mold/mildew and dampness.
Basement mold formation is usually associated with an unpleasant musty smell, and the more the mold colony builds up, the harsher the smell becomes.
Another reason for the bad odor in the basement is excessive dampness. Ironically, dampness is what creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow in the first place.
When excessive moisture comes in contact with your basement furniture, it will soak it up and begin to stink in a matter of hours. The situation is worse when the basement is poorly ventilated.
If you can eliminate the dampness, it means you will eliminate the mold, and in turn, eliminate the horrible smell that has clouded your basement for so long.
Without proper waterproofing, the summer rains will surely affect your basement. And with the moisture comes mold, which carries a musty smell along with it.
Getting rid of the smell means getting rid of the mold, but this can be tricky if the mold isn’t growing in plain sight. Follow the tips in this article if you’re dealing with a basement musty smell after rains in summer.
Using the basement odor eliminator techniques mentioned in this article, you can easily get rid of bad odors caused by dampness and mold.
It is very unpleasant to stay in your basement when it is loaded with bad odors. This is why you need to keep it smelling fresh at all times.
First, determine the cause of the smell then follow the tips in this article to eliminate the odor. Remember to take preventive measures as well.
I hope this article has been helpful.
Thanks for reading!