How to Get Rid of That Musty Smell in Your Basement

The first step in learning how to get rid of musty smell is to find the culprit.

Laundry room in basementPhoto: Shutterstock

No matter how much sweeping, mopping and spraying you do, that musty basement smell just won’t go away. You’ve come to realize it’s just the way your below-ground floor prefers it. But don’t give up so fast! That damp scent reminiscent of a wet dog can be eliminated!

The first step in learning how to get rid of musty smell is to find the culprit. It’s not enough to clean, because the reality is it’s not a build up of dust or dirt at all. Basements are the ideal environment for harboring moisture, which is why you’ll need to do some investigative work to determine what is causing the smell. Water in your basement? Many basement leaks can be cured with a weekend’s work.

Underground living spaces can’t hold moisture like the upper levels of your home. When the warmer air from above seeps into your basement, the moisture in the air condenses and ends up on your dark basement walls and cold water pipes. Mold begins to form, and the unpleasant smell you can’t seem to shake is born.

It’s important to find out if moisture is entering your basement in other ways, as well. If you notice a broken seal on a window or a crack in the foundation wall, you may have found your musty culprit. You should also check to see if you have clogged rain gutters, French drains, sewer backups, leaky pipes or even a broken seal on your laundry dryer vent as these problems can all contribute to a musty basement. (Check out the 25 things you need to do when you move into your new home.)

Once you’ve determined where the smell is coming from, it’s time to remove it! This is the second step for understanding how to get rid of the musty smell, and while it won’t rid your basement of the stench just yet, it’s important you have some patience.

Certainly repair your broken seals, leaky pipes and wall cracks, as well as fix any outdoor water coming in contact with your foundation. Then, use a dehumidifier to suck up the moisture, and install a window fan to increase ventilation. You can also insulate your pipes for even more protection.

The third step for how to get rid of musty smell is to kill the mold. To do this, you can pour undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle and heavily mist the affected areas, keeping your windows open and air circulating. Allow the spray to dry. (Here are 20 home repairs anyone can do.)

The final step for how to get rid of musty smell is actually lifting the odour! You can place bowls of white vinegar, cat litter in open containers, or baking soda throughout your basement in order to absorb the stench. You should notice a more pleasant smelling basement in a couple of days.

So long as you ensure you identify and fix any condensation, leaks or other sources of moisture in your basement, properly cleaned and dried the area and used a DIY odour eliminator your basement should be good to go!

Next, find out the 12 home renovations you’re likely to regret later.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman