How to Identify and Eliminate Musty Smells in Your Basement: A Step-by-Step Guide
Typically, the musty smell from your basement indicates the presence of mold or mildew. Do not ignore the smell and hope that it will go away on its own. The key is to identify the problem and eliminate it right away – or it can potentially lead to a bigger problem down the road.
It is common if a basement smells musty, and there are several potential causes. Since basements are built underground, the basement exterior walls are generally cool in temperature, and while warm air in the home comes into contact with the cool walls or surfaces, it will produce condensation. The condensation will then begin to cause mold and mildew to grow.
The Basics of Musty Smells
Basically, a musty odor is typically associated with mold or mildew.
What is a “musty” smell, and how is it different from other odors?
A musty smell can be compared to rotting wood, wet socks, rotting vegetables, and other things that produce unpleasant odors. Sometimes the cause is obvious but other times the source is unexpected. It’s important to identify where the mustiness is coming from and to eliminate it because the smell will only get worse and could cause other problems.
It’s common for musty smells to be caused by moisture that has caused mold and mildew to form. But along with the offensive smell, this could affect air quality and cause allergic symptoms like sneezing, wheezing, and headaches. Even worse, molds like Aspergillus and Stachybotrys produce toxins that can be hazardous to one’s health. This is why it’s important to consider other sources of musty smells in one’s home because certain mold growth must be removed for safety reasons. We will discuss how to remove musty smell from basement and how to get smell out of basement in this blog.
High humidity in the air, or a leaky pipe or wall might be the cause of this musty smell in your basement.
How to Identify a Musty Smell in Your Basement
The presence of mold and mildew can result in a rotten, pungent smell that may cause irritation or dizziness. A musty smell is often the most noticeable sign of something wrong in your basement. This pervasive odor could stem from stagnant water or high humidity. If left unresolved, it can lead to potential health problems. Should you notice a musty smell, try to identify the source of moisture and eliminate it as soon as possible. You can use a dehumidifier to help combat excess humidity. However, running a dehumidifier alone won’t offer any long-term solution if the source of the problem doesn’t get fixed or addressed.
Mold and mildew are caused by the growth of bacteria arising from unchecked, stagnant moisture. They can grow slowly over time, or rapidly if you have a major leak. A certain amount of mold spores are always in the air unless you live in an extremely arid region. The more excess moisture, the more mold growth you can expect to see. Basements, being underground, can easily become moist via cracks in walls, windows, plumbing, condensation, etc.
Health Implications of Ignoring Musty Smells
Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all. Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may get serious infections in their lungs when they are exposed to mold. These people should stay away from areas that are likely to have mold, such as compost piles, cut grass, and wooded areas.
Steps to Remove Musty Smells in Your Basement
Before we walk through things you can do to remove the musty smell in your basement, we should stress that the DIY approach to mold removal is not suggested and can be dangerous. Here are a few homemade basement odor eliminator ideas, but this task really should be left to the professionals.
Recommended steps in removing the smells in your basement, may include:
Just like any area that has a strong smell, the easiest thing to do is to utilize airflow to combat the smell.
The first step to getting the stuffiness out is to give the stale air a place to go. Make sure your home ventilation is working effectively. Open windows and doors, and turn on ceiling fans to get things circulating. If you have a central cooling system in your home, now is the time to run it or have a professional conduct maintenance and get it running. Circulating the air and giving it a place to escape will leave your space smelling better and feeling fresher.
Not every room in a house has windows, and not every home has A/C. Those who lack these amenities can use fans to your advantage, instead. The point of a fan is to circulate air. Investing in a fan or two will help maximize circulation in rooms without windows or A/C. Forcing the air in a room to move will prevent that stale smell. We recommend turning on those fans often to keep your home smelling fresh and help with mold control.
Getting rid of the bad smell is the first step towards ridding your home of stuffy air. Once that’s gone, you may still be left with a stale smell in certain areas of the house. Often, this is caused by the things you can’t see, like mold or mildew inside furniture, walls, or carpet. If these causes aren’t addressed, the air quality in your home will never fully improve.
Once you identify and repair the cause of the issue, you need to dry your basement. The easiest way to remove moisture is to use a dehumidifier. These devices pull moisture out of the air and condense it into a removable tank that you can remove and empty. In some cases, you can route a drain hose to a floor or sink drain, removing the need to empty the tank. Dehumidifiers are excellent for basement settings.
Shoot for a humidity level of roughly 50 percent so the space stays comfortable without encouraging mold growth (which occurs at over 60 percent). You can also use a box fan or window fan to improve the ventilation and air movement for faster drying.
Clean and Remove Mold
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.
Another cleaning method is to mix one part vinegar with three parts water. Using a stiff broom or brush, scrub the walls, floors, and other materials that have a musty odor thoroughly.
The goal is to prevent future moisture buildup in your basement. One common contributor to a wet basement is runoff from gutters. Directing them away from the foundation of a home can help to prevent a basement from becoming damp.
Basement cracks should be closed off with a concrete sealer. If you suspect groundwater swelling may be an issue, or that the implementation of a sump pump would correct your wet basement issues, then call in a professional for wet basement repair.
When to Call a Professional
If you suspect mold may be growing in your basement, do not try to remove mold yourself. Mold spores can easily spread to unaffected areas when disturbed or touched. Health and safety is a major consideration during a mold remediation project.
That’s why if you believe that there is a musty basement smell or you want to get rid of musty smell in basement – be sure to contact a professional mold remediation company. Our teams have the experience, training and equipment to remove musty smell from basement. Not only do we focus on how to get rid of basement smell, we know how to get rid of musty smell in basement with decades of experience.
Contact one of our locations today for any mold removal or assessment needs you think need to be addressed in your basement.