Eliminate Basement Odor: 12 Tips

A renovated basement space with white walls.

Basement odor is a common complaint in many households. Trying to rid your basement of that musty old smell can be quite annoying and sometimes frustrating. Sprays and perfumed candles may provide temporary relief, but will not solve the problem. In fact, the problem might be getting worse, degrading the structure of your home and creating health problems like allergy attacks and asthma for your family.

However, you can make significant progress once you identify and eliminate the main causes of basement odor: excessive moisture, mold, mildew, and lack of ventilation. Below are 12 tips on how to rid your basement of these horrendous smells.

1. Inspect the Plumbing

Check for cracks and leaks on walls and in plumbing. Repairing and sealing such openings is the first step towards keeping your basement dry. Rainwater can seep in through small crevices, and even tiny fissures in pipes also cause major problems with regards to dampness. Seal all such openings, and apply a waterproof coating of paint or sealant on the walls and floors.

2. Let in Some Air

Once you have tackled the source of moisture, you can start repairing the damage already done. On a sunny day, open up the windows in the basement and let the air flow out, inviting fresh air to come inside.

3. Install a Dehumidifier

Place a dehumidifier in the basement. This will help in controlling the level of moisture and humidity, and reduce the intensity of basement smells.

4. Clean the Ventilation System

Have the air ducts and vents in your home cleaned at least once every couple of years. This will ensure that the air flow in your home is safe, odorless, and clean.

5. Remove Unwanted Items

Clear out and clean the basement regularly. Many of us tend to store rarely used items in the basement, but over time, they gather dust and contribute to less-than-savory smells. It is best to dispose of articles that you haven’t used in a long time.

6. Clean All Upholstery

Clean all furniture, carpets, and rugs in the basement. Damp furniture and carpets will need a good drying out as well if you have had a moisture problem. You can either use a vacuum cleaner, or try to place these items in the sun for some time. If the rugs or couches are beyond repair, it is best to dispose of them and invest in new items. Look for materials that are less porous so they are resistant to mold and mildew.

7. Clean Any Mold and Mildew

Clean all the mold and mildew with a solution of bleach and water, or vinegar. Scrub with a sponge and let the area dry thoroughly (leaving the cleaned area damp will trigger the growth of new mildew). Thoroughly check all areas that are susceptible to mildew growth, such as laundry rooms, windows, bathrooms, carpets, and furniture.

8. Place Baking Soda in the Basement

Place an opened container of baking soda down there. Baking soda absorbs unpleasant odors for up to three months, after which you must replace it. If you have an unused freezer or refrigerator down below, place a container of baking soda inside the appliance as well.

9. Check Direction of Water Flow Outside the House

Inspect the area around the house to ensure that any water flows away from the house. Correct any problem areas where rainwater pools and collects for a long time.

10. Wash Clothes Stored in the Basement

If you store clothes in the basement, clean and dry them thoroughly. Then, try to find an alternate storage area so they don't continue to absorb and hold the smells you're trying to get rid of.

11. Clean All the Shades

Clean all window curtains and blinds, and dry them thoroughly. Fabrics of all kinds are notorious for locking in scents.

12. Keep Moisture Away

Once you have removed the odors and fixed the problems associated with excess moisture, keep them away by opening windows often in good weather, letting the air in to ventilate the basement. Also be alert and tackle any water problems as soon as they appear.