Getting Rid of the Moldy Smell in Your Basement

Getting Rid of the Moldy Smell in Your Basement

Appraisal and Home Inspection
Small Projects and Repairs
By Alex Mikayelyan February 02, 2022

You love your basement. In the hot summers, when the upper floors are hot, it’s always nice to know that you have a little cool nook for yourself to hide out in from the Sun’s flaming hot UV rays. Not only that, but the basement is also great for a variety of practical uses, such as extra storage, guest rooms, an auxiliary dwelling unit, and so much more.

Unfortunately, a weird smell in the basement can completely ruin the atmosphere of your basement, making it almost impossible to stay there for long periods of time. There are a variety of reasons that a distinct musty smell in basements comes about and covering them all would take some time, considering the myriad of factors that go into the spread of such odors. But luckily, there are ways you can minimize or completely get rid of basement smells, turning the otherwise unlivable space into something a lot cozier.

Airing Out the Area

Freshen Up the Basement Air without Any Hassle

Freshen Up the Basement Air without Any Hassle

The easiest way to get rid of odors is to air out the basement by opening as many windows and doors as possible. This is best done on days with slightly stronger winds (not too strong though) as during the peak of summer heat the air may be too stale to create a breeze in the basement. Keep the doors and windows open all throughout the day, with only the door and window screens closed to prevent any critters from getting in.

Now, airing out a room seems self-explanatory at first as all you have to do is open a bunch of doors and windows, letting the wind take the strange odor in the basement with it. But there is a bit more nuance to efficiently airing out a basement as it’s not like the other rooms. Because the basement is mostly located underground, the windows may be too small to allow for a strong enough breeze that is able to get the musty smell out of the basement. Basement hopper windows are simply not big enough to accommodate strong airflow.

To create additional airflow, use a fan, if possible an industrial one that is bigger, to allow for extra air circulation. Aim the fan in the direction that the wind is traveling at the time. If the mold smell in the basement does not subside, then you should try airing out the basement all throughout the night. Check the local weather forecast to see if the skies are clear for the night, set up your fan, and keep the windows open, letting the basement air out until morning. Do keep in mind, however, that keeping your basement windows open at night could be dangerous without the right security measures, so ensure that either the windows have some sort of exterior protection, be they window grates or motion sensors.  

Clean the Washing Machine

How and When to Clean Washing Machine

How and When to Clean Washing Machine

Ever leave wet and dirty clothes in the washing machine for some time and then find that it doesn’t smell quite pleasant? That’s a big problem in basements, as the washing machine is prone to developing bad odors, whether it is caused by the contents inside or the mildew that builds up after years of use. Either way, it may be the washing machine that’s causing the funny smell in the basement so cleaning it out should help freshen up the air quite a bit.

To clean a washing machine, you will need to first wipe the drum with white vinegar. Use a spray bottle to get the vinegar all over the drum’s surface. Wipe it off and keep the washing machine open to air out the vinegar smell. Clean out the rubber gasket around the drum that helps to seal the door. If you lift up the rubber gasket, you’ll likely find bits of clothing or hair stuck under it, but there’s also a chance you’ll come upon the mildew that’s causing the smell. To clean out the mildew, mix one-part bleach with three parts water, fill up a spray bottle, and clean the rim around the door. Do this monthly and you’ll remove the basement smell, keeping the air in your basement crisp and clean. 

Check for Leaks

Why You Should Check the Plumbing When the Basement Smell Is Off

Why You Should Check the Plumbing When the Basement Smell Is Off

In order to get rid of the musty smell in the basement, you may need to go to the biggest source of moisture in your entire home; plumbing. Humidity and moisture are the main causes of molding. Since water travels through the pipes, naturally this would be the most susceptible area in your house to the funky smells. Checking your basement piping for leaks could go a long way in finding the cause of the excess humidity and fixing it before the mold spreads too much and envelopes a larger area of your basement.

One easy way to fix this is by hiring a professional plumber who can locate, identify, and repair leaky pipes, thereby getting to the source of the humidity. There may not even be any leaks, but rather the precipitation on the outside of the pipes which pools up somewhere in the basement, causing mold and that musty basement odor.

Reducing Humidity

What to Use to Dehumidify Your Basement

What to Use to Dehumidify Your Basement

Reducing the humidity in your basement should remove the musty smell from your basement to some extent. If there is mold or mildew in your basement that’s causing the smell, the humidifier won’t do much. However, if it is the aforementioned leaky plumbing that’s causing a problem, then the humidifier should help quite a bit.

Even after all the plumbing has been checked, fixed, and insulated, there may still be humidity in your basement caused by the landscape that surrounds your home. After many days of rainy weather, the ground is most likely drenched and thus causes the moisture to precipitate into the basement, creating a stinky basement. The perfect basement air refresher you can find is a dehumidifier, which sucks in moist air, removes the moisture from it, and releases it back into the room as dry air. 

Basement Waterproofing Solutions

How Basement Waterproofing Can Get Rid of Moldy Smell

How Basement Waterproofing Can Get Rid of Moldy Smell

Another reason you may have mold and mildew in your basement which are causing bad odors is because of water leaking in from the outside. There is always a chance a bit of moisture has snuck into the basement, as not only can it seep in through the holes in the windowsill but also through the cracks in your foundation that you may not know about. This is why your best bet would be to waterproof your basement entirely and there’s a good chance you’ll get rid of the mold smell in the basement once it is properly insulated.

There are several ways to insulate the basement, one of which is to caulk the window frames. Over time, as wood and other construction materials shrink and shift, there will be little holes and cracks developing in various parts of your home. These gaps will allow moisture to seep through them and settle in your basement, where it can then develop into mold and mildew. To plug up these holes, use a construction adhesive, such as grout, mortar, or caulk. For windows and doors, caulk is generally the best option. For foundation cracks, you can use silicone or special concrete that’s designed to plug up holes. 


Waterproofing the basement should also put focus on the drain. That distinct basement floor drain smell may be the result of clogged-up plumbing. Have a professional come in and ensure that your drain is working as intended. The water that gets pooled up inside the drain could be the cause of the foul odor, so cleaning it out and returning the drain to its normal, functioning state could help fix the problem.

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Written by
Alex Mikayelyan

Written by Alex Mikayelyan

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