How to Get Rid of that Musty Smell in Your Basement

You know that smell. It’s unique and unmistakable: musty basement smell. While the smell is gross and can leave below-grade spaces unusable, when you’ve lived with a musty basement for a while, it’s easy to start thinking that’s just how it’s supposed to be. After all, no matter how much sweeping, mopping, and spraying you do, that unpleasant odor just won’t go away. Since it’s dark down there and below-ground, isn’t this just something you have to live with? Not so fast! 

It’s true that the qualities of basements can factor into the musty smells; basements are usually dark, damp, humid, and often have very little to no air circulation. This nose-wrinkling odor is variously described as “earthy” or “meaty”, or it might be compared to wet socks, mushrooms, rotten wood, or even a wet dog. Fortunately, most musty basements can often be turned around with a few simple methods. With the problem solved, your home will not only smell better, but it will also be a healthier place to live. Your home will have fewer allergens, and your basement will be upgraded to be more valuable, usable space.

The key to eradicating the funky odor is identifying and understanding the root cause, so you can know how to best combat it.

Mold & Mildew 

Mold and mildew are the usual suspects of musty basement smell. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), headaches, nasal irritation, dizziness, fatigue, and nausea are sometimes a result of mold or mildew basement mustiness. The musty smell in your basement from unfettered mold and mildew growth also presents potential harm to your home’s structure. Mold and mildew are both fungi that thrive in damp, humid conditions. These fungi feed on organic materials, which include wood, many types of fabric, paper, and even some glues. Mold can heavily stain ceilings, walls, and floors. It can also decay wood studs and drywall and damage carpets. Mold that’s reached this level often requires the services of a professional trained in mold remediation, but you can easily deal with a simple case of funky mold staining and musty basement odors yourself.

NOTE: We’ve gone over this topic in detail here, but it’s important to always take proper safety precautions (including wearing a disposable respirator such as an N95, eye protection, and gloves) when dealing with mold, as well as always being cautious when tackling a major mold problem and calling in professionals when needed. Those who suffer from respiratory issues or a weakened immune system should avoid entering the space entirely. 

To eradicate mold and mildew in your basement, the first step is to make your basement as dry as possible. Eliminating or mitigating basement moisture is usually not a step-by-step process, but one of employing a combination of targeted measures that will attack most, if not all, of the issues. These measures can include: installing a sump pump in majorly wet basements, blocking water access from the exterior, checking for and filling in cracks in the foundation, fixing leaky pipes, insulating exposed pipes, and using a system of humidifiers. After tackling the main source of basement moisture, all wet or damp materials must be dried out (as quickly as possible), and cleaned. Heavily damaged, rotted, or mold infested materials will need to be removed and replaced. A good place to start is to get rid of any moldy or soggy cardboard boxes or papers you’ve been storing in the basement as mold and mildew thrive on paper products. Instead, pack away salvageable holiday decorations and other items in large plastic storage containers with securely fitted lids. Next, wash and dry any garments or linens with an Anti-Allergen Laundry Detergent to remove mold and mildew spores. 

Finally, you need the right product to banish basement mold and mildew for good. Vital Oxide is an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfectant, heavy duty odor eliminator, and mold killer that eliminates mold and mildew on a molecular level – neutralizing spores and inhibiting fungal growth – without damaging the surfaces treated. Unlike chlorine bleach and other harsh products that are only effective on hard, non-porous surfaces, Vital Oxide can also penetrate surfaces like concrete, carpets, and wood to destroy the roots of tough mold and mildew. Read more about using Vital Oxide for mold remediation here

Sewage Leaks

Sewage smells can be major contributors to musty basement smells, and are usually connected to a plumbing issue in your home. Fortunately, most sewage smells have simple solutions. If you're not familiar enough with home plumbing to solve this kind of issue yourself, a home improvement contractor can easily help you solve most of these issues, which can range from a simple wax seal ring needing to be replaced to more complicated problems like a cracked sewer line. 

After any necessary repairs have been made, reach for Vital Oxide to destroy any remaining odors. Vital Oxide harnesses the power of oxygen to neutralize offensive odors. Simply spray, fog or wipe on full-strength and allow to air dry to provide long lasting residual deodorizing action. 

Basement Pests 

If your basement has an insect or rodent infestation, it’s usually best to seek the advice of a pest control expert. Brace yourself: Just two mice in your house can eat four pounds of food and leave over 18,000 droppings in just six months. A single female mouse can have as many as ten litters in a year, with each litter having six to eight mice each. Those baby mice will be ready for their own litters in just one month. Signs of mice in your basement can include trails of mice droppings, holes chewed through boxes and wires, and heavy urine odors which can be a major contributor to musty basement smell. 

Vital Oxide contains no masking agents or fragrances and is highly effective at neutralizing urine and fecal odors. In fact, it has long been in use by major pest control companies to disinfect and eliminate animal waste odors after pests have been removed. 

Iron Ochre (Iron Bacteria)

Iron ochre is a rust-colored, gelatinous ooze that appears in some basements. This vibrant, slimy material is actually a bacteria that feeds off iron and adds a smell that adds an unpleasant rotten egg smell to an affected basement. Iron ochre can damage pipes and plumbing systems. To clean and remove iron ochre, wear heavy-duty work gloves and use a paint scraper to scrape up large chunks of the sludge and follow with a rust remover. Let dry completely, and then follow up with Vital Oxide to banish any lingering odors and to help remove stains.  

Want to learn more about mold remediation and odor removal? Follow Vital Oxide on Instagram (@vitaloxideofficial). If you have any questions, please Contact Us or Send Us a Message on Facebook. We’re here to help!

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