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7 Steps to Get Rid of Musty Basement Smells

man holding is nose because of bad smells

Some people’s sense of smell is more sensitive than others’, but if there are musty odors in your basement, you notice them. Your nose upturns and your face crinkles in disgust. You might also brush off the unpleasantness as something that simply comes with the territory of basements.

While musty basement smells are common, they are not normal or healthy for your home or family. They typically signal bigger problems such as mold, moisture, and water intrusion.

We understand how frustrating these issues can be to tackle. This article highlights ways to stop musty odors in their tracks and how local basement waterproofing specialists can help.

Musty Basement Odor Removal: Follow These Tips

Simply spraying an air freshener is not going to cut it. Embrace these seven tips to eradicate unwanted musty smells from your basement while addressing their underlying causes.

damp box on a wet basement floor

Tip #1: Remove Damp, Moisture-Damaged Items

While basements are convenient storage spaces, certain materials can succumb to moisture issues, contributing to musty odors. Cardboard boxes, furniture, carpets, clothing, wood, and paper are prone to releasing unpleasant smells when exposed to dampness. Promptly remove or replace these items to mitigate unpleasant smells.

burst pipe spewing water

Tip #2: Address Plumbing Leaks and Condensation

With most plumbing lines running through the basement, undetected leaks or condensation can easily go unnoticed in this lower-traffic area, leading to musty odors. Consider scheduling a plumbing inspection to identify any leaks or areas prone to condensation, a common culprit of mold growth and unpleasant smells.

installing interior drainage and a sump pump in a basement

Tip #3: Halt Groundwater Leaks

Basements in regions with heavy rainfall and clay soil are susceptible to groundwater exposure, fostering musty conditions. Improve external grading and drainage with gutters and downspouts to direct rainwater water away from your foundation. Protect your basement from the inside with an interior drainage system and a sump pump to effectively manage groundwater before it can contribute to mold growth and odors.

mold on basement walls

Tip #4: Clean and Remove Mold

Mold is a prevalent source of musty basement smells. Depending on the extent, you can use household cleaners like vinegar or bleach for smaller areas. However, for mold spanning over 10 square feet, enlist professional mold remediation services to ensure safe and thorough removal.

basement dehumidifier with Groundworks logo

Tip #5: Install a Dehumidifier

Basements’ below-grade location creates naturally cooler temperatures, leading to condensation when warm air from upper levels mixes. Install a self-draining, air-purifying dehumidifier designed for basements to manage moisture levels and prevent musty odors effectively.

installed basement interior drainage and sump pump with an airtight lid

Tip #6: Seal Your Sump Pump

Open sump pump pits can harbor stagnant, odor-causing water. Upgrade to a sealed, airtight sump pump system to eliminate musty smells and prevent moisture evaporation or overflowing.

fan in basement

Tip #7: Improve Air Circulation

Musty smells often indicate poor air circulation. Install ceiling or box fans, open doors and windows when possible, and use your home’s HVAC system to promote airflow and capture mold spores in the filters (remembering to change them regularly).

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    Musty smells in basements are typically caused by excess moisture, which creates an ideal environment for mold and mildew growth. Other culprits include standing water from leaks, poor ventilation, and stored items that retain moisture.

    A musty smell often indicates mold growth, which can be hazardous to your health. Mold exposure can trigger allergies, respiratory problems, and other health issues. It’s crucial to address the root cause of the musty smell and remediate any mold present.

    While a single dehumidifier may seem sufficient for a basement space, conventional residential models often lack the capacity to effectively remove excess moisture from the entire area. Multiple small units can drive up energy costs. Instead, invest in a professional dehumidifier designed to remove up to 100 pints of water per day while operating efficiently, providing comprehensive moisture control tailored specifically for basement environments.

    Groundworks Addresses Musty Basement Smells at the Source!

    Groundworks inspector meeting with a homeowner

    There’s nothing more unpleasant than being greeted by a musty, unpleasant odor upon entering your home. Prioritize a healthy, odor-free living space by investing in Groundworks’ professional basement waterproofing services. Contact us today to schedule your free inspection.

    Homeowners throughout Northern and Southern Alberta trust our expertise to identify and resolve any underlying water intrusion issues. Our team installs tailored waterproofing systems designed to eliminate musty odors and maintain a dry, fresh basement environment.

    Holly Richards-Purpura

    Holly Richards-Purpura

    Content Writer

    Holly is a Content Writer for Groundworks who has written and edited web content for the foundation services industry for almost 10 years. With a background in journalism, her passion for the written word runs deep. Holly lives in Columbus, OH, with her husband. Along with educating homeowners, she also has a big heart for the Big Apple.