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How to Get Rid of Basement Odor?

You might be worried because of the bad smell in your basement and home and you must be wondering, what is the reason behind it? How to get rid of that odor. No doubt, a musty smell is a sign of something wrong happening in your basement. So, it is necessary to remove the bad smell from your basement, improve your quality of life and give value to your home. Let’s find out the reasons why your basement might get smelly and learn what initiatives we can take to get rid of Basement Odor.

Why Does My Basement Smell Musty?

You might need to use different ways to remove the bad smell. But first, you need to know the reasons behind it. These are some reasons why your basement is smelling musty:

Mold and Mildew

The main reason for the musty smell in the basement is mold and mildew. mold and mildew grow in dark and damp places. These are the perfect places for growth. So, these can easily spread in your basement, walls and ceiling. Though the growth of mold is bad news, it has become the cause of many health issues, such as allergic symptoms and respiratory problems. molds can eat organic materials such as wood and fabric. This way, it damages the structure and basement. 


Another reason is dampness in the basement floor that develops molds and mildews. There may be many sources of dampness in your basement. It also causes a musty odor in the basement. 


Suppose you see leaks in the sewage lines of your basement. Then it is the right time to call a plumber. Remember that these lines have a short life span, particularly if you are in an old home. The pipes made of copper can remain for 70-80 years. While the lifespan of brass, steel and iron pipes is 80-100 years. At the same time, the lifespan of PVC is 25-40 years. Besides, the shelf life of some modern pipes is 70 years. 

Other Issues

In case you have dried your basement, but it still smells musty. Then it may be due to some other issues. The following are other reasons for the foul basement smell –


Check out drains under the sinks of your home basement. You should also check the p-trap, which is a u-shaped pipe in the draining system. In this pipe, there is little moisture that keeps gasses from rising in the home. 


Another cause of the bad odor is the presence of pets in your home. Pets can contribute to unpleasant odors in a basement due to reasons like urine and feces seepage, accumulated shedding, dampness fostering mold growth, accidental spills, and poor ventilation. 

So, How to Get Rid of Basement Odor 

Find the Source

Locating the source of a basement odor requires a systematic approach. Begin by thoroughly inspecting the basement, focusing on areas prone to moisture accumulation such as corners, walls, and the floor. Check for visible signs of water damage, leaks, or dampness. If you encounter any wet spots or discoloration, these could indicate the presence of hidden water sources. Examine stored items for signs of mold growth or moisture absorption. Next, assess the ventilation. Poor airflow can trap odors, so ensure vents and windows are unobstructed. If you’ve ruled out visible issues, consider using your sense of smell to trace the source. Move through the basement and note any areas with stronger or more distinct odors. In cases where the source remains elusive, it might be beneficial to contact a professional plumber or inspector, particularly if the odor persists or is accompanied by other issues like water leaks or mold growth.

The following are some areas that you should check in case of a bad smell:

Windows in your basement

Windows can be a source of ventilation and can help air out the basement. Check if windows are not properly sealed or if they are broken. Your basement might not be adequately ventilated, allowing stagnant air and outside odors might seep in. 

Entrance of basement

The entrance of your basement can be a common point of entry for odors. If the door doesn’t seal properly, or if there are gaps, odors from other parts of the house or outside can easily infiltrate the basement.

Windows from the floor above

If there are windows directly above the basement, any odors present on the upper floor can potentially find their way into the basement through open windows. It can happen if the windows on the upper floor are near cooking or bathroom areas.

Exterior doors from the floor above

Just like windows, if you dont seal exterior doors on the upper floor properly,it can allow odors to travel from one level to another, including the basement.

Bathroom and kitchen plumbing from the floor above

Plumbing issues in the bathroom or kitchen on the upper floor can lead to leaks or sewage smells that can easily permeate down to the basement. You have to check for any plumbing leaks or problems which may be crucial to prevent these odors.

Make the Repairs

Though all homeowners have many ways to get rid of the smell, all these are temporary solutions. For a permanent solution, you should consult a professional. 

Suppose you don’t focus on a permanent solution to get rid of the smell. Then during rain, your windows and doors leak. Besides, cracked pipes become the cause of odor until you replace them. In case your old water pipes leaked. Then you can wrap pipes with tape to avoid leakage. For most leaks in the foundation, you need to apply a waterproof membrane. 

Control the Humidity

After repairing, you have to dry your home’s basement. For this, you can use a dehumidifier. It is a device that can keep moisture away from the air. This way, moisture starts accumulating in the tank, and you can remove it if you install a drain system on the floor. Then you don’t need to empty the tank. A dehumidifier is the best way for basement settings. 

Try to bring the humidity level to almost 50%. At this level, you can stay comfortable and mold growth stops. Another important way is to use a window fan to enhance ventilation. 

Damage caused by damp on a wall in modern house

Tackle the Smell

When you have a controlled moisture level in the basement, then you can easily control the musty smell. After this step, the next process is simple. You just need to have some important supplies. 

Place baking soda near your basement. Baking soda is the best smell absorber, and you will see significant change after some days. Another way is to use white vinegar for smell absorbance. It is good to specially use a product that is designed for humidity absorbance and bad smell. 

Besides, you can also use deodorizers to absorb the smell and clean your basement. The inexpensive way is to use water and white vinegar in equal quantities. Spray this mixture on the floors, especially if there is mold growth. 

Remove mold and Mildew From Surfaces

There are many ways to get rid of mold and mildew growth in the basement. For this, you can use bleach and white vinegar. It is necessary to wear PPE when you have to deal with mold. 

Besides, ventilation in the area is also important. This way, you allow fresh air to enter your home. Another way is to keep the fan on to allow air circulation and the moving of water vapors out of the windows. 

Is it normal for a basement to smell damp?

Yes, it’s not uncommon for a basement to have a damp smell. Basements are naturally more prone to moisture-related issues due to their location below ground level. This can happen due to poor ventilation, high humidity, and water seepage. The damp smell often arises from the presence of mold and mildew, which thrive in such environments. 

While a mild damp odor might be considered normal, it’s important to distinguish between a typical mustiness and a strong, persistent odor, as the latter could indicate more significant moisture problems that need to be addressed to prevent potential damage and health concerns. Regular maintenance, proper ventilation, and addressing moisture sources can help mitigate the damp smell and its associated issues.

Is basement waterproofing the ultimate solution to get rid of basement odor?

No, Though basement waterproofing can significantly contribute to reducing basement odors, it might not be the ultimate solution on its own. Waterproofing addresses the root cause of moisture intrusion which prevents water from seeping into the basement and creating a damp environment that promotes mold and mildew growth. By sealing cracks, installing proper drainage systems, and ensuring effective foundation waterproofing, you can minimize the conditions that lead to odors. 

If the odor is already present due to mold growth, simply waterproofing might not completely eliminate the smell. In such cases, a comprehensive approach that combines waterproofing with proper ventilation, using dehumidifiers, and addressing any existing mold infestations would be more effective. By tackling both the moisture source and the consequences of excess humidity, you stand a better chance of achieving a truly odor-free and healthy basement environment.

How can I make my basement smell better?

You can follow the following ways to keep the basement smelling better:

  • Keep the basement of your home ventilated. Air is important to pass through the house to keep it clean
  • Control moisture
  • Cleaning of the dryer vent.
  • Waterproofing of basement.
  • Repairing leaks

What causes a smelly basement?

A smelly basement can be attributed to a variety of factors, all linked to excess moisture and poor ventilation. The primary cause is when the area becomes mold and mildew, which results in damp environments. Moisture can infiltrate through foundation cracks, leaks, or poor drainage, creating the perfect breeding ground for these fungi. 

Additionally, stagnant air due to inadequate ventilation traps odors and allows pollutants to accumulate. Stored items made of organic materials can absorb moisture, promoting mold growth and emitting musty smells. In some cases, pests and rodents might also contribute to basement odors. Addressing the underlying moisture issues, improving ventilation, and taking preventive measures are crucial to eliminating the smelly basement problem at its source.

Will a dehumidifier prohibit basement smell?

Yes, using a dehumidifier can be an effective way to reduce or eliminate the basement smell caused by excess moisture. A dehumidifier works by removing excess humidity from the air, which in turn helps to prevent the growth of mold and mildew—the primary sources of the musty odor associated with damp basements. By maintaining optimal humidity levels, typically between 30-50%, a dehumidifier can create an environment where mold and mildew struggle to thrive. 

While a dehumidifier can significantly improve air quality and reduce the unpleasant smell, it’s important to note that it might not completely eliminate the odor if there are other underlying issues such as water leaks, poor ventilation, or existing mold infestations. To effectively address the basement smell, it’s recommended to use a dehumidifier in conjunction with proper ventilation, moisture control measures, and addressing any sources of water intrusion. 

How do I purify the air in my basement?

Purifying the air in your basement can greatly enhance its overall environment and eliminate musty odors. To achieve this, consider implementing a combination of strategies. Firstly, ensure proper ventilation by opening windows when weather permits or installing exhaust fans to facilitate air circulation. Next, using a high-quality air purifier equipped with HEPA filters can effectively remove airborne particles, including mold spores and dust, contributing to improved air quality. 

Additionally, utilizing a dehumidifier to maintain optimal humidity levels (between 30-50%) can prevent mold and mildew growth. Regularly clean and vacuum the basement, focusing on corners and hidden areas where dust and debris accumulate. Incorporating indoor plants, like spider plants or peace lilies, can also help filter the air and add a touch of nature. 

Lastly, addressing any water leaks, sealing cracks, and waterproofing the foundation will prevent moisture from seeping in and further contributing to poor air quality. Implementing these strategies in tandem will create a healthier and more pleasant environment in your basement.

Final Words

Though there are many reasons for the musty smell in the basement, the main one is the presence of moisture. So, it becomes difficult for you to spend time in a musty smell. If this smell is strong, then it can easily make its way to your home. Never ignore this issue. Ask the professional to find the reason and solve this smelly issue.

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