How To Get Rid of a Musty Smell in the Basement

A musty smell in your home or basement is often indicative of mold and mildew growth, which thrives in dark, damp environments. This odor can not only be unpleasant but also may signal the presence of potentially harmful bacteria and allergens. How to get rid of musty smell in basement? We will learn the causes of a musty smell, how to get rid of it, as well as preventative maintenance.

Let’s learn more!

What Causes a Musty Smell?

Musty smells usually arise from the presence of mold or mildew, which are fungi that grow in moist conditions. Typically, these microorganisms develop in places with poor ventilation, high humidity, or water leaks. Over time, these conditions allow the fungi to proliferate and release odorous compounds into the air.

Identifying the source of a musty smell from the basement is important. In this case, it was due to flooding in the basement.  The basement will need to be dried out.

How to Get Rid of Musty Smell in Basement

When you discover the musty smell in your basement, there are some things you can do to find out where it is coming from and combat it right away!

  1. Identify the Source: Begin by locating where the moisture is coming from. Check for water leaks, dampness, or condensation problems.
  2. Dry Out the Area: Use dehumidifiers and fans to remove excess moisture. Opening windows can also aid in drying out the space if outdoor humidity levels are low.
  3. Clean Thoroughly: Scrub the affected areas with a cleaning solution that’s designed to kill mold and mildew.
  4. Use Air Purifiers: Air purifiers with HEPA filters can help capture spores from the air, reducing the musty smell over time.
  5. Absorb the Odors: Place containers of activated charcoal or baking soda around the area to absorb lingering odors.
Having a dehumidifier in the basement helps control moisture levels and keep the musty smell away.

Creating a Fresher Environment

I mentioned above dehumidifiers, fans, cleaning solutions, and air purifiers and how they each play a pivotal role in combating the musty odors typically found in basements. Let’s dive more into how they contribute to creating a fresher environment:


Dehumidifiers are essential for reducing moisture levels in the air, which is a critical factor in preventing mold and mildew growth. By maintaining a drier atmosphere, dehumidifiers help inhibit the conditions that fungi need to thrive, thereby helping to eliminate the musty smell.


Fans improve air circulation within the basement, which helps to dry out damp areas and prevent the stagnation of air where mold spores might settle and proliferate. The increased airflow also aids in dispersing any localized musty odors, making the air feel fresher.

Cleaning Solutions

Specialized cleaning solutions designed to kill mold and mildew are crucial in removing these fungi from surfaces. These solutions often contain antimicrobial properties that not only eradicate existing growth but can also prevent future occurrences when used regularly as part of a maintenance routine.

Air Purifiers

Air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters can capture mold spores from the air before they settle on surfaces and multiply. By filtering out these spores, air purifiers help reduce the overall spore count in the basement, contributing to a decrease in musty smells and improving the air quality for healthier breathing.

Together, these tools form a comprehensive approach to managing and eliminating musty odors in a basement, ensuring the space remains dry, clean, and pleasant to use.

Water and mold in the basement create a musty smell but also can be harmful to breathe in.

Address Musty Smells Quickly

Addressing musty smells promptly and effectively is important for several reasons:

Health Concerns

Musty smells are often indicative of mold and mildew presence, which can have adverse health effects. Exposure to mold spores can lead to respiratory issues, allergic reactions, and in some cases, more severe health problems, especially in individuals with asthma or compromised immune systems.

Structural Integrity

Moisture that contributes to musty odors can also cause damage to the structural elements of a building. Wood can rot, metal may corrode, and other materials might deteriorate if the underlying moisture issues are not resolved, leading to costly repairs.

Property Value

A persistent musty smell can negatively impact the value of your property. Potential buyers or tenants are likely to be deterred by the odor, associating it with poor maintenance and possible health risks.

Quality of Life

Living in a home with a musty smell can significantly decrease your quality of life. It can make the environment uncomfortable and unwelcoming, affecting mood and overall well-being.

Prevention of Further Damage

By addressing musty smells early, you can prevent the spread of mold and mildew throughout your home. This proactive approach saves time and money in the long run by avoiding extensive remediation efforts.

In summary, dealing with musty smells quickly and efficiently is crucial for maintaining a healthy living environment, preserving the integrity and value of your property, and ensuring the comfort and safety of occupants.

Maintenance of the Basement

  • Regularly inspect for any signs of moisture or water damage.
  • Keep gutters and downspouts clean to ensure proper drainage away from your foundation.
  • Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels, aiming to keep them below 60%.
  • Seal any cracks in the foundation to prevent water seepage.
  • Store items off the ground and away from walls to encourage airflow.

Maintenance of the Basement

Now that you know about getting rid of the musty smell in a basement, here are a few other maintenance ideas.

One is improving air quality in the basement. We learned above about getting rid of a musty smell in the basement, but it is also important to think about testing for radon and removing VOC chemicals. Additionally, breathing in good, clean air is important and necessary for your health.

Another is sealing basement windows. Eventually the caulk around the windows starts to wear off and needs replacing. This isn’t something that you want to let go of for too long. This is because moisture and bugs can get in. Additionally, air will come in and out of the windows and you don’t want that.

Lastly, hiding ductwork in the basement. This isn’t something you have to do, but many homeowners choose to. By using ductwork covers, ceiling treatments, wall coverings or drop ceilings to name a few. It is up to you how you want the basement to look and what you will use it for.

When to Call a Professional

If the musty smell persists despite your efforts, it’s crucial to call a professional. Persistent odors may indicate an underlying issue such as a hidden mold infestation or structural problems that require expert attention.

Take a look at the video below at the Ozone Generator as an option for your basement.


Mitigating a musty smell requires a proactive approach to moisture control and cleanliness. Regular maintenance can prevent the conditions that allow mold and mildew to flourish. If you find yourself unable to resolve the issue, do not hesitate to seek professional assistance to ensure a healthy living environment. While you are dealing with the musty smell in your basement, it is a great time to have a full home inspection so you can see if there are any other issues in the home. Call House Inspection Associates to conduct a full home inspection in the Virginia, D.C., and Maryland areas.

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