A collection of cleaning supplies in the corner of a basement, including rubber gloves and Fresh Wave Odor Removers

How to Get Rid of Musty Smells in the Basement

If going downstairs makes you want to hold your breath, you’re not alone. Basements are often one of the smelliest places in the home, and basement odors are some of the most difficult to deal with. Removing a musty smell from a basement is particularly challenging, but it’s far from impossible. This guide will introduce you to the most common sources of musty smells and teach you how to get rid of a musty smell in the basement.

Why Does My Basement Smell Musty?

In general, a musty smell in a basement usually occurs due to moisture buildup. A basement is already a cool, dark place. When you add moisture to the mix, conditions become ideal for mildew and mold growth, and these microorganisms give off volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have an unpleasant musty smell. Some specific causes of a musty odor in the basement include:

  • Basement windows and doors: Aging seals and frames can allow moisture to enter the basement, leading to musty smells. In some cases, you may not be able to notice any damage. One way to test for leaky windows is to have someone shine a flashlight from the inside of the basement at night. Stand outside and look for the light. Cracks and gaps big enough to allow light through may also be letting water in.
  • Plumbing fixtures: Leaky bathroom and kitchen plumbing can bring moisture into the basement. When this occurs, you may end up with a sewer smell in the basement in addition to a musty odor. Check any exposed pipes for dampness. If you suspect a leak, have a plumber come and inspect your plumbing system.
  • Flood damage: A previous flood or water issue can result in mold and mildew growth in places you can’t see, such as behind walls. Professional basement restoration services can remediate mold and mildew to both reduce odors and ensure your family is breathing fresher air.
  • Humidity: During the hot summer months, humid outdoor conditions can lead to a musty basement smell. This is especially true in homes that lack central air conditioning.

My Basement is Dry But Still Smells Musty

If your inspection of the basement reveals no signs of moisture, other factors may be causing the musty smell, such as:

  • Groundwater: The grading of your lot could cause water to run back toward your home. In this case, installing a French drain to redirect the water may reduce the smell.
  • Drains: Dry floor drains sometimes back up, leading to a musty scent or sewer smell in a basement.
  • Stored items: Check anything that you have stored in the basement for mold and mildew growth. These microbes may be hiding out of sight inside a box or storage bin.
  • Carpeting: In a finished basement, previous moisture exposure could cause a musty scent that lingers long after everything is dry.

Ways to Get Rid of Musty Basement Smell

To get rid of a musty basement smell, try the following:

1. Address the Source

If you want to know how to get rid of the musty smell in a basement for good, you need to address the initial cause of the odor. Some projects you may be able to complete yourself, but others, like flood damage restoration, are usually best left to the professionals.

2. Consider a Dehumidifier

Minimizing moisture buildup is vital to prevent a musty smell in the basement. A dehumidifier controls humidity levels to combat mold and mildew growth. One of these appliances can be highly beneficial in a basement where ventilation is lacking.

3. Throw Out Damaged Items

Toss out anything that has mold or mildew growing on it. Once microorganisms start to accumulate, they can be very difficult to treat.

4. Absorb the Odors

Once you have eliminated the sources of musty smells in the basement, you can take steps to freshen the air. Odor eliminating products that absorb and neutralize the VOCs that cause unpleasant odors are an effective solution. You can place an odor-absorbing gel in key areas for extended benefits. If a certain area of the basement is particularly smelly, try securing an odor-absorbing pod to the wall or a fixture with double-sided tape.

5. Deal with Musty Upholstery and Carpeting

In some cases, furniture and carpeting in the basement may not be salvageable, but before you replace something, you can try using an odor eliminating spray. Spritz it directly onto the upholstery or the carpeting and allow it to dry. You may need to repeat the process several times, giving it the sniff test to see if it’s working. If a few treatments fail to neutralize odors, you unfortunately may need to remove the affected floor coverings and furnishings.

6. Give Everything a Deep Cleaning

Thoroughly clean walls, tables, shelving units, and other hard surfaces in the basement using an odor eliminating multipurpose cleaner. Simply dampen a soft cloth with the product and wipe down surfaces. Doing so can neutralize lingering compounds to help get the space smelling fresh.

Try Our Basement Odor Eliminators

Basement odor eliminator products can help you freshen the air and fight that musty scent, but it’s important that you are selective about the ones you choose. Many conventional products use harsh chemicals and synthetic ingredients to mask odors. Fresh Wave basement odor eliminator products are a natural, safer alternative. Instead of covering up scents with perfumes, our products neutralize the scents with plant-powered ingredients, such as lime, pine, cedarwood, clove, and anise. All Fresh Wave products are free of phthalates, alcohol, VOCs, CFCs, and parabens, so you can feel good about using them in the basement and beyond.