How to Eliminate Musty Basement Smells

Updated on September 10, 2021 by Joseph D. Nielson

Table of Contents

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If you dread the thought of going down to the basement to do laundry and choose to wear dirty clothes instead of smelling your basement’s musty odour, your home has a real problem. 

For many households, the basement is an unforbidden dungeon that no man must enter due to its unpleasantness. Sadly, the pungent and musty smells often associated with basements don’t do anything for their reputations. Although the basement isn’t the most appealing part of a home, you shouldn’t have to make excuses to steer away from the area.

Most of the time, the dank smell in a basement comes from mould and mildew, as the damp and dark environment allows them to feel comfortable and settle there. This smell in the basement may not initially seem bad, but that’s before it starts spreading upwards to the rest of your home. Imagine hosting a dinner with your guests covering their noses to find relief. How embarrassing would that be? 

Find a solution for the problem before your home becomes the talk of the town. Learn how to eliminate musty basement smells for your health and peace of mind.

Why Do Basements Smell So Bad?

If every time you walk down to the forbidden land known as the basement, you breathe in a musty smell, you’re not alone. A musty smell in the basement indicates that mould or mildew is growing somewhere in the space. Often, the odour roots from the cold, moist soil on walls or the basement are wet. Since the basement temperature is more relaxed than the rest of the house, the moist surfaces act as a breeding ground for mould and mildew, creating a musty smell in the basement.

As with anything, the first step to identifying the problem is finding the cause. Go through your basement to see if warm air is seeping into your basement. When air lurks into the basement, the moisture condenses and makes its way to the cold-water pipes, forming mould. Always be on the lookout for broken seals on windows, cracks on foundation walls, or clogged rain gutters. You’d be surprised by the number of ways mould can creep into your home.

One of the best musty basement solutions consists of a vacuum. You can always invest in the best wet dry vacuum to eliminate the wetness problem potentially causing the smell.

If you’ve gone through your basement and found no trace of moisture anywhere, you might be wondering why your basement is dry but still smells musty. Musty odours can be an indicator that you need to inspect your basement. Get rid of the musty smell by taking a multi-step approach:

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Get Rid of Everything with Mold on It

Since the mould is what is causing a musty smell in the basement, the first thing you need to do is get rid of everything with mould on it. If the mould managed to creep its way onto your rugs, furniture, carpet, or clothes, you could still save some of your precious belongings with an odour absorber for the basement. 

Mould and mildew can be detrimental to the health of all members of the household, especially those with existing allergies or a weakened immune system. Mould exposure can cause breathing problems, allergies, skin irritation, and other health problems that can escalate in the future. It is in your family’s best interest to remove mould as soon as possible to avoid any health issues in the future.

Ways to Remove Mold

High-Power Carpet Cleaner

A high-power carpet cleaner will be a significant help in removing your basement mould. The cleaning power acts as the best basement odour absorber you can use in a musty basement. If you’re not sure what model to choose, read the Hoover Max Extract 60 Pressure Pro Carpet Deep Cleaner Review to determine whether it’s a good fit for your home.

Store-bought Cleaning Liquids

To kick the mould out of your home, you can use various store-bought mould removal products such as bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and tea tree oil.

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Natural Remedies

If you’re hesitant to try store-bought products, you can also use home remedies by creating pastes with ingredients such as vinegar, baking soda, or lemons. 

After cleaning out any mould evidence in the space, use a basement odour absorber and air freshener to finish the process. There are various forms of odour absorbers for the basement that you can use to get rid of the musty smell, such as gel, sprays, and air purifiers. Whether the smell is in other corners of your house or basement, an odour absorber air freshener will do the trick.

Vacuum Up the Dust

Cleaning up mould in the basement isn’t a one-step job. If your basement smells musty, you have to focus on cleaning up dust in the area. When you have guests over, and they’re roaming around trying to find the second washroom and wind up in the basement, the strange smells can be embarrassing. Transforming your home to get rid of the musty smell in the basement will require you to eliminate any dirt or dust remains. 

You will want to use a vacuum to clean up your basement thoroughly. However, a vacuum alone might not be enough to combat the dirt accumulated in every corner. You could use humidifiers for small spaces after you vacuum the area. Dehumidifiers remove water from the air, allow the basement to be free of moisture, eliminating basement smells.

Dehumidifiers also reduce the clutter of mould and dust mites in your home. If you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of basement smell in a house, a dehumidifier can be helpful in the process. 

How to Get Rid of Basement Smell with a Vacuum?

Since a vacuum sucks away dirt clogged up on carpets or other areas of a home, it can also take away basement smells to an extent. Although the process might seem simple, there is a right way to vacuum.

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Choose the Right Vacuum

You need to figure out if you’re cleaning wood flooring, tile, or only the carpet. If you need to clean a single surface, you could get one that focuses primarily on one area. Or, you can find a high-power vacuum that cleans multiple surfaces. 

Change the Filters

It would be best if you changed the filters between uses. If the filter gets clogged with dust, your surface will not become clean, making it difficult to remove mould.

Focus on Each Area

When you’re vacuuming your home to get rid of dust or pet fur, it’s not the end of the world if you miss a spot or two accidentally. But, when you’re attempting to get rid of a basement smell, you need to focus on every corner. Any leftover mould can reverse the cleaning process. 

You can get rid of basement smells by eliminating the problem from its root. Vacuuming the surface can remove the mould, making your next step more straightforward. As you get rid of the source of the mould, it’s time to lift the smell.

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Use Vinegar and Baking Soda to Deodorize

Have you ever noticed how musty your house smells after a big rain? Sometimes, the rain leads to floods, leaving a strong odour. You might have tried everything, from air fresheners to vacuuming, but nothing takes out the trace of the rain aftermath. So, what will take the smell out of a flooded basement area? 

If you’ve tried it all and you’re struggling to remove the musty smell from the basement, it might be time to try using cooking ingredients, especially if the smell roots from your carpet. A wet carpet can absorb the flooded basement smell and make you never want to revisit the basement!

The best carpet cleaning technique has pros and cons, depending on how strong the odour is and what material you’re cleaning. If you want to get the smell out of a flooded basement without destroying your products, figure out the material of your carpet and the products that might stain the item. Vinegar and baking soda are two of the best basement odour absorbers you can find. 

Use A Dehumidifier to Clean the Air

The main floors of your home might look stunning, but if your basement is unfinished, you’ll be stuck with an unfinished basement smell that’s unappealing to everyone that steps inside. An unfinished basement already has its cons. Adding an awful smell to the mix will make it difficult for you to invite people over or enjoy the luxury of living in your home.

How to Get the Mildew Smell Out of a Flooded Basement

Follow the techniques below if you’re using vinegar and baking soda to eliminate the basement flooded smell.

Step 1

Mix two parts baking soda, one part vinegar, one part water. 

Step 2

Stir together until the mixture thickens.

Step 3

Apply some of the mixtures to the area with mould or mildew and let it sit.

 Step 4

Once the paste dries up, scrub it.

Step 5

Continue the process until the mould or mildew disappears.

The rain may make for a relaxing day in, but it can be detrimental to the condition of your home as it often will leave your house smelling musty.

Even if the rain wasn’t harsh enough to vastly impact your home, you might still experience a flooded basement smell. Luckily, the process to remove the smell isn’t as challenging as it may sound. Make sure to dry up the area before you take further steps to remove the odour.

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Why Does my Unfinished Basement Smell?

An unfinished basement will usually go unused for extensive periods. They are usually enclosed, lack proper ventilation, and contain poor lighting. A combination of these factors contributes to a musty smell in the basement. If you’re losing sleep over how to get rid of the musty smell in an unfinished basement, you’re about to be thankful. Here are some ways you can use humidifier and air purifier combos to clean the air.

Two is Better Than One

A humidifier adds moisture to the air to prevent dryness. In contrast, an air purifier removes contaminants from the air in the room. When you simultaneously use two devices in the same area, it uses double the power to eliminate toxins in the air and adds moisture to the environment. They work well together, just like Batman and Robin – a duo you can count on for every situation.

Choosing the Right Combo

One of the best ways to control smell and humidity in an unfinished basement is selective with your device choices. Sometimes, a finished basement smells musty too. However, using the right products can eliminate your odour complaints in no time.

Step 1

You have to think about the types of contaminants you are attempting to remove. Reading the owner’s manual for both devices will allow you to understand which ones work better to remove smells versus particles or bacteria.

Step 2

Do your research about efficiency. It would help if you had a combo that works well together to get rid of musty smells. The right product will control the smell and humidity in an unfinished basement.

Step 3

Think about the level of noise. If you’re a light sleeper or book lover that likes to enjoy their free time curled up in bed and enjoying a good story, you need a device that isn’t noisy. Different air purifiers and humidifiers come with different levels of noise.

Now that you know how to get rid of the musty smell in the basement, it’s time to transform an integral component of your home. After you figure out why your unfinished basement smells, a little bit of patience will allow you to get rid of the problem for good.

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Enjoy Your Odour Free Home

The basement is an essential component of most homes. Any unpleasant and musty odour can take away its appeal. However, using the right products and techniques can help you restore its freshness and allow you to turn the space into a livable apartment. 

Once you get a hold of all the musty basement solutions, you can finally make the best of your home. Whether you want to rent it out, resell it, or use it as a recreational space, musty odours will no longer be one of your worries.

Joseph and Family
About Joseph D. Nielson

Former journalist and editor for various press groups, I now dedicate my time to reviewing products for the home and family life. When I get time to myself, I enjoy rock climbing, taking my dirt bike for a rip, and most importantly providing my family with the best home possible!