How to Get Rid of the Musty Smell in Your Basement: 24 Effective Strategies

Musty smells can be a real annoyance, and if you’re like many people, you probably don’t know how to get rid of the musty smell in your basement. Basements are notorious for collecting moisture and developing a musty smell as a result.

If this is a problem in your home, don’t worry – we have 24 effective strategies for getting rid of that pesky smell!

In this article:

Is it normal for basements to smell musty?

Yes, it is common for basements to have a musty smell. This odor is often caused by moisture and can be unpleasant. However, there are many ways to get rid of the smell and make your basement more comfortable.

What causes a musty smell in the basement?

There are a few different things that can cause a musty smell in your basement. One common culprit is excess moisture, which can lead to the growth of mold and mildew. Other causes of a musty smell may include poor ventilation, high humidity levels, or even a water leak.

1. Mold and mildew

Mold and mildew are the most common causes of a musty smell in the basement, and they can be dangerous if left untreated. Mold can cause respiratory problems, while mildew can lead to skin irritation.

2. Poor ventilation

Poor ventilation can also lead to a musty smell in the basement. As warm air rises, it carries with it moisture that condenses on cold surfaces such as windows and walls. This causes mold growth, which leads to an unpleasant odor.

3. High humidity levels

A high humidity level is often caused by poor ventilation or lack of insulation in the attic. This excess moisture can lead to mold growth, which causes a musty smell.

4. Water leaks

A water leak from the roof or plumbing is another common cause of a musty smell in your basement. The dampness may not be visible at first, but over time it will seep into drywall and wood surfaces- making them a breeding ground for mold.

5. Sewage leaks

If your basement smells like sewage, it could be a sign of a sewer leak. This is a serious problem that should be addressed immediately by a professional.

6. Dirty laundry

If your basement doubles as a laundry room, the musty smell may be coming from your dirty clothes. This is because moisture and dirt create an ideal environment for mold to grow.

7. Old books

If you have a lot of old books in your basement, the smell may be caused by the pages rotting. This creates a musty odor that can be difficult to get rid of.

8. Carpet or flooring

If your basement has carpet or vinyl flooring, the smell may be coming from the adhesive that was used to install it. Over time, this adhesive can release a gas that smells musty.

9. Mothballs

While mothballs are an effective way to get rid of pests, they can also cause a musty smell in the basement. This is because mothballs release a gas that smells like ammonia.

10. Dampness

If you can’t identify the source of the musty smell, it may be due to dampness in your basement. Dampness can occur when water seeps through the floor or walls of your home. Even if you don’t see any visible signs of water damage, there’s a good chance that moisture has seeped in from somewhere else- like under the house through cracks in the foundation.

11. Iron ochre

If your basement has an iron ochre problem, it will likely have a musty smell. This is because the bacteria that causes this problem releases a gas that smells like rotting meat.

How do I get rid of the musty smell?

If you have a musty smell coming from your basement, there are a few things you can do to get rid of it. These include:

– improving ventilation by installing fans or vents

– increasing insulation in the attic

– using a dehumidifier to reduce humidity levels

– fixing any water leaks

– cleaning up any mold or mildew growth

– removing carpet or flooring and replacing it with tile or concrete

– cleaning carpets and flooring to remove dirt and debris

– getting rid of old books that are rotting

– removing mothballs from the area where they were placed.

12 Strategies for Getting Rid of a Musty Smell in Your Basement

There are a number of things you can do to get rid of that musty smell in your basement. Here are 12 strategies that will work:

Strategy #1: Identify the Source of the Smell

The first step is to identify the source of the smell. Once you know where it’s coming from, you can take steps to fix the problem.

Strategy #2:

If you still can’t find the source of the musty smell, try these tips:

– Clean up any areas where water might be entering your home. This could include fixing leaks in the roof, checking for mold or mildew on walls and ceilings, and making sure there aren’t any dead animals in your basement that could be causing the smell (this is especially common if you have a crawl space).

Strategy #3

Increase the ventilation in your basement by opening windows and doors, or installing a fan. This will help to get rid of any odors that might be trapped inside the walls or floors.

Strategy #4: Remove standing water

Standing water is a common cause of musty smell in basements. Even if it’s just a few inches, standing water can create an odor problem that will make your entire home stink. It could be coming from the pipes or sewer system, but whatever the source, you should get rid of it immediately!

If the water is coming from a broken pipe, you will need to call a plumber to make the necessary repairs. If the water is simply seeping in through the foundation, there are some things you can do yourself: install drainage tiles around the outside of your home, put down a waterproof membrane on your basement floor, or create a sloped area using gravel or dirt near any entrances to the basement.

If these solutions don’t work, you may want to consider hiring a professional who can install a sump pump. A sump pump will allow water that gets into your home through cracks in walls and floors as well as ground water seepage (which is common in older homes) to be pumped out and away from the house.

Strategy #5: Add some humidity control devices to your home, such as a dehumidifier or humidifier.

These devices are designed to remove excess moisture from the air and prevent mold growth.

The problem with these devices is that they can be expensive and not very effective at removing mold spores from the air.

However, if you decide to use one of these products, make sure it has been tested for effectiveness by an independent lab before using it in your house or apartment building.

There are other ways to remove mold spores from the air without using a dehumidifier or humidifier.

One way is to install ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) system in your home.

This type of system uses ultraviolet light to kill mold spores and other microorganisms in the air.

UVGI systems are effective at killing mold spores, but they can be expensive and not very effective at removing mold spores from the air.

Another way to remove mold spores is by using a HEPA vacuum cleaner with an ultraviolet lamp attachment.

These vacuums are designed to suck up dust and debris along with other allergens that may be floating around your house or apartment building, but they also can help kill mold spores in the air.

If you decide to use one of these vacuums, make sure it has been tested for effectiveness by an independent lab before using it in your house or apartment building.

You can also purchase a HEPA filter that attaches directly onto your HVAC system and filters out mold spores along with other allergens floating around the air inside your house or apartment building.

These filters are designed to trap mold spores and other allergens, but they can be expensive and not very effective at removing mold spores from the air.

Strategy #6: Install a Dehumidifier

If the musty smell in your basement is due to high levels of humidity, you can install a dehumidifier to bring the moisture levels down. Dehumidifiers are available at most home improvement stores and they are relatively affordable.

Make sure to get one that is large enough for the size of your basement. Once you have the dehumidifier installed and working, it should get rid of the moisture that is causing a musty smell.

Keep in mind that dehumidifiers are not effective if there is a leak or some other source of water getting into your basement. They also cost money to run 24/12 so make sure that you only run your dehumidifier when needed.

Strategy #7: Clean the air filter in your air conditioner

Another effective way to get rid of the musty smell in your basement is by cleaning the air filter in your HVAC unit. If you have a window unit or portable AC, then this means replacing it with a new one every few months. If you have central heating and cooling, then make sure that you inspect your ductwork regularly for dust and debris buildup.

You can do this by turning off the power to all vents in the house, then turning on a fan to draw outside air into them (this will ensure that none of those nasty particles get sucked back into your furnace). Make sure there’s no one in the room with you while cleaning out your ducts!

Strategy #8: Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air

If you are dealing with an overly humid basement, then it is important that you install a good quality dehumidifier. You can purchase one at most department stores or online for under $100. Most dehumidifiers are portable and will work well in a small space such as a basement.

Make sure that you change the water tank every few days to prevent mold growth on top of it! The less moisture there is inside your home, the less likely things like dust mites or other allergy triggers can survive. This way no one has to suffer from allergies and musty smells in the basement.

Strategy #9: Clean the Dryer Vent

The dryer vent is often overlooked, but it can be a major contributor to the musty smell in your basement.

Make sure to clean the lint from the dryer vent on a regular basis, and also check for any blockages that may be preventing the air from flowing properly.

A clean and clear dryer vent will help your basement smell fresh and clean!

Strategy #10: Try using an odor eliminator or air freshener to get rid of the musty smell in your basement.

Odor eliminators and air fresheners are designed to mask or cover up the smell of mold, but they are not effective at removing the source of the odor.

In fact, using an air freshener can actually make the problem worse by causing the mold spores to spread throughout your home or apartment building.

If you are going to use an odor eliminator or air freshener, make sure that it is a product that is specifically designed to remove mold and mildew odors.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and test the product in a small, inconspicuous area before using it on a larger scale.

Strategy #11: Use Bleach to Kill Mold and Bacteria that Cause a Musty Smell

If mold or bacteria are the cause of the musty smell in your basement, you can use bleach to kill them and get rid of the odor. Make sure you wear protective clothing such as rubber gloves, mask and long pants when using bleach. Don’t mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning agents as the combination can be lethal!

To use bleach to kill mold and bacteria in your basement you need a bucket of water, some non-ammonia soap (dish liquid works well) and ¾ cup of bleach per gallon of water. If you have mildew in the basement, use a stronger solution of one cup of bleach per gallon of water.

Fill your bucket with hot water and add the soap and bleach mixture to it. Then apply this solution to affected areas using a sponge or mop. Make sure that you completely soak all surfaces that have mold or mildew. Let the solution sit for at least 20 minutes and then use clean water to wipe it off.

If you are using bleach on porous surfaces such as wood, don’t let the solution linger too long as it could damage these surfaces over time.

Strategy #12: Use Borax to Kill Bacteria and Mold

Another way to kill bacteria and mold in your basement is by using borax. Borax is a natural mineral that you can buy in most grocery stores or online. You can use it just like bleach, but the good thing about borax is that it won’t discolor clothes or fabrics if they get wet with it.

To use borax to kill bacteria and mold in your basement you will need a spray bottle, some non-ammonia soap (dish liquid works well) and ⅓ cup of borax per gallon of water. If you have mildew in the basement, use a stronger solution of ½ cup of borax per gallon of water.

To make the solution, mix the soap and borax together in the spray bottle first. Then add water and shake well to combine. Spray the areas where you have bacteria or mold growth, making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Let the solution sit on the surface for one hour and then rinse thoroughly.

You should notice a big difference in the odor of your basement after using borax, especially if you had mildew growth on walls or furniture. The borax will also help to prevent future mold growth in the space so long as it’s clean and well-ventilated.

Strategy #13: Use vinegar to clean the air

Vinegar is a natural fungicide and disinfectant that can help kill mold spores in the air. You will need white distilled vinegar (not apple cider), water, a spray bottle, and essential oils of your choice for scent if desired.

Mix together equal parts vinegar with about ½ cup of water per gallon size container you have available (you don’t want more than that because too much liquid will cause mold growth).

Spray this solution around your basement walls and floors to kill any mold spores on contact. You can also add a few drops of essential oils for some extra scent if desired! The next day, wipe down all surfaces with vinegar again before spraying another coat on top of them (this is just to make sure you kill all those nasty little spores).

Strategy #14: Use tea tree oil to clean the air

Tea Tree Oil is another natural fungicide and disinfectant that can help kill mold spores in the air.

You can use tea tree oil by spraying it into the air, or you can place a few drops onto cotton balls and place them around your basement.

The scent of tea tree oil will also help to deodorize your basement at the same time!

Strategy #15: Use cinnamon sticks to make your basement smell fresh again

Cinnamon is a great natural way to freshen up your basement and get rid of the musty smell.

You can place cinnamon sticks in bowls around your basement, or you can make a potpourri mixture with cinnamon, cloves, and rosemary.

The potent scent of cinnamon will help to overpower the musty smell and leave your basement smelling fresh and inviting.

Strategy #16: Use beeswax candles to freshen up the air in your basement

Beeswax candles are made from natural materials, which means they will not add any chemicals or toxins into the air.

They can help to neutralize odors, as well as purify the air and improve the air quality.

Place a few beeswax candles in your basement to help freshen up the air and get rid of that musty smell!

Strategy #17: Use coffee grounds to absorb odors.

Coffee grounds are a great way to absorb musty smells. They work best when they are fresh, so try to use them as soon as possible. Pour a layer of coffee grounds on the bottom of your basement, then place a layer of newspapers on top.

Repeat this process until you reach the desired height. This will help to keep the smell at bay and will also help to keep pests away.

Bonus: coffee grounds can also be used as a natural fertilizer for your plants!

Strategy #18: Use cat litter to clean the air

You must have heard of the benefits of baking soda and how it can be used to clean your home. Well, you can use the same method for removing mold from the basement using cat litter.

The product is made of clay, which absorbs moisture and traps bad smell in its crystals making it an effective solution for getting rid of mildew. All you have to do is place a few boxes of cat litter in different parts of the basement and wait for it to start working.

You can also use charcoal briquettes, which are composed of carbon that works as a natural odor absorber. Simply put them where there seems to be more moisture or bad smell and leave them there for a while. They will eventually start working and absorb all the unpleasant smells in the basement.

Strategy #19: Clean Iron Ochre Stains with Vinegar

Iron ochre is a type of mineral that can be found in many basements. It’s usually not harmful, but it can leave ugly stains on the walls and floor. The good news is that these stains can be removed with vinegar.

Simply mix white vinegar and water in equal proportions and use a cloth to clean the affected area. If you don’t have vinegar, you can also use lemon juice or any other acid like apple cider vinegar instead.

Keep in mind that this method will not work if there’s mold on top of iron ochre stains because it needs to be cleaned first before cleaning with an acid solution since acids will only reactivate its staining properties.

Strategy #20: Install an air exchanger

If you have been unsuccessful in getting rid of the musty smell in your basement using other methods, then it might be time to install an air exchanger. This device helps improve the air quality in your home by removing pollutants and exchanging the indoor and outdoor air. It is a great solution for people who suffer from allergies or asthma.

The best part about air exchangers is that they are not very expensive and can be installed quite easily. You just have to find the right model for your home and make sure you get it serviced regularly.

As you can see, there are several ways to get rid of the musty smell in your basement. Using these methods will not only help remove mold and mildew but also improve the quality of air inside your home. It is important that you keep all areas clean and dry so as to prevent any future growth of mold and mildew.

Strategy #21: Dry out the basement.

One of the most common causes of musty smells in basements is excess moisture. If your basement is not well-ventilated, the moist air will create a perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow.

To get rid of the musty smell, you need to dry out the basement. You can do this by installing a dehumidifier. This will help to remove the excess moisture from the air and keep your basement dry. You can also try opening up windows or installing a ventilation system to increase airflow in the basement.

Strategy #22: Clean moldy walls.

If you have mold growing on the walls, consider cleaning it with bleach or another mold-killing agent. Be sure to wear a mask and gloves when cleaning mold, and make sure the area is well-ventilated.

Strategy #23: Use fans or air conditioners.

In hot weather, use fans or air conditioners to circulate the air in your basement. This will help to dry out the space and get rid of the musty smell.

Strategy #24: Use essential oils for a fresh scent that lasts all day long!

Essential oils are very effective in masking unwanted odors. The most popular essential oil for this purpose is lavender oil, which has a calming effect on the mind and body. Other essential oils include peppermint oil, tea tree oil (for cleaning up pet urine) and eucalyptus oil (for fighting germs).

Bonus Tip!

If you have tried all of these strategies and your basement still smells musty, it might be time to call in a professional. There are many companies who specialize in mold removal, and they will have the tools and knowledge to get rid of the smell for good.

How long does the musty smell last?

The musty smell in your basement can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the cause of the smell and how severe it is. If you are able to take steps to correct the problem, the smell will eventually dissipate. However, if the smell persists or gets worse, it might be time to call in a professional.

If you have any other tips on how to get rid of the musty smell in your basement, feel free to share them in the comments section below!