How to get rid of the musty smell in the basement?

Basements are dark and often moist. However, you might be surprised to find out that their prominent basement smell is not actually supposed to be there.

Even though moist basements are below-grade and often don’t get enough fresh air and light, not all of them need to become musty and smelly. In this article we will talk about the main causes for bad smells in the basements, as well as some simple methods you can use in order to prevent stinky basements from smelling.

Keep in mind that the first step to properly removing musty smells, you need to understand the cause of them. Continue reading to find out what the most common causes for damp smells are and what to do in order to get rid of each one.

Mould and Mildew

Both mould and mildew are fungi that can be found on water, oxygen or food. They are the most common cause for basement smells.

It is important to be able to spot the differences between the two. Mould is usually thick, can be found higher and has a fuzzy appearance. By contrast, mildew is flat. Another noticeable difference is the colour. Mildew is usually brown or grey and turns into white powder. Mould ranged from dark green to black.

Good to know – Mould and mildew might be the cause of headaches, skin and nasal irritations, as well as dizziness, fatigue and nausea. You should not ignore this in order to avoid such health issues. Black mould can be extremely dangerous so always call professionals to help you with its removal.

Other common causes for basement smells

  • Damp Materials – When wet and not allowed to properly dry out, drywall, fibreglass and other insulation materials can contribute to a basement’s musty smell. That often happens in fully or semi underground basements.
  • Sewage – Since most sewage lines run through the basement, their improper fitting or liquid spills can be the cause of bad smells. Always inspect them and make sure all is in order.
  • Animal waste – Rodent faeces are tiny and unnoticeable. However, they are a great contributor to the foul smell in the basement. What is more, they can also spread diseases. Cleaning them will help reduce the smell.
  • Iron ochre or iron bacteria – Iron ochre looks like slimy mud. It is a red-brown bacteria and feeds off of iron. It can add a rotten egg smell to the basement.

What can you do?

Your main goal is to limit the moisture in your basement. If you get rid of mould and mildew, you are halfway through the job.

    • Drying out your basement – Always begin on the outside. Effective exterior water management can often stop the water before it enters the basement.

– pitch the soil around the house down and away from it.
– a good drainage system will take the water far away from the basement.
– window well covers will protect your basement windows.
– waterproof the foundation of your building with a membrane.
– install gutters and drainpipes and always make sure they are all in order.

  • Hire a professional cleaning company if you do not have time to clean it by yourself.
  • Clean or replace mouldy, damp and rotten materials
    Remove baseboards to pull back wall to wall carpets and examine the bottom of them. Mould (especially black) would be obvious. Laminate and vinyl can also be pulled back and dried. However, if their underside is damp or mouldy, they should be replaced.
  • Check and repair leaky pipes
    Your whole place is laced with pipes of all kinds. Soil stacks can cause unpleasant smells. Inspect all visible and hidden pipes. If you need to, hire a professional plumber to help you with the inspection.
  • Hire a pest control company
    For a couple of mice, use traps. However, if you have a persistent problem with rodents and insects, call professionals. The technicians will keep coming on a regular basis and help you get rid of the pest for good.
  • Remove iron ochre
    Use a knife to scrape the iron ochre away. Follow with a rust remover. You may not be able to remove all stains but the odour producing iron ochre and bacteria will be gone. Cleaning this will greatly reduce the bad smell in your basement.

Use those methods in order to keep your basement free of musty and damp smells. Regularly inspect its condition and make sure to keep it aired out whenever possible.

If your basement is already damp, avoid storing materials that may absorb moisture, such as books, clothes and carpets.

With regular cleaning and maintenance and moisture control, you will be able to slowly but surely get rid of the foul smells in your basement.

In extreme cases you can install a moisture extractor fan. It will help with the humidity, as well as the condensation of your basement.

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