No matter how clean and sparkly your home is, one odd room out will be enough to make all your effort to waste. A musty basement smell, whether coming from your actual basement or not, can make your house seem old and abandoned, not to mention trigger specific allergies. (To eliminate allergies, read how to get rid of allergies)
What causes that musty basement smell anyway? If you’ve noticed, that musty basement smell arises when a room has been locked up too long. That’s because the smell is primarily caused by humidity, cracks in the walls and poor circulation within the room. The trapped moisture than leads to mildew, a type of fungus that thrives in dark and damp spaces, and it releases that signature musty smell. That musty basement smell can also creep up on you without any clue that it’s been there along. Winter and summer seasons make use of heating and dehumidifying utilities, namely heaters and air conditioning, therefore masking the smell or keeping the air moving around. Whether your house is old or new, it may also develop that musty basement smell before you know it. Having a systematic method of getting rid of that musty smell is key, and here’s how to get started.
Clean Out Your Basement
Yes, sad but true: You will have to clean out your basement. Whatever the source of the musty basement smell, you will have to clean everything that the smell has stuck itself onto. Choose a fine, sunny day to do this chore. Clear out everything your basement contains–furniture, stocked items, knick knacks.
Furniture and carpets have to be taken out to be aired and sun-dried. A good whacking is also called for. If they smell particularly mildewy or musty, you have the option of having them have a deep cleaning. If you have stacked clothes in them, you will have to launder them and have them dried as well.
For books and papers, ask yourself whether you really need them or they’re just garbage. A rule of thumb when it comes to disposing old possessions is whether you have used or even touched them in the last three years. If the answer is no, your old books will probably be better appreciated in a book drive or a public library.
Once you’ve cleared out your basement, sweep the floors and use a dry scrub to get rid of accumulated dust. You should then use a solution of 3/4 chlorine bleach to a gallon of water to mop up the floors and wash the walls. Let it sit for five minutes and give it a rinse with cold water. Let dry and help the drying process by mopping with a dry mop and having a fan circulate the air in your basement.
Make sure that you scrub the walls, cornices and corners very well! You’re not just cleaning out the basement but killing the mildew that’s been growing in your basement (Learn how to get rid of mildew).
Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your basement and dispatched of the trash, it’s time to investigate where the musty odor and moisture originated.
Check the Drainage
Check the drainage or your basement pipes for condensation. When too much condensation builds up in the pipes, it will drip down your basement floor or run down the pipes and stay there. With the condensation comes the musty basement smell.
Prevent condensation from building up by wrapping pipe insulation around your basement pipes. The rainy season can also cause a buildup of moisture, so make sure that the ground slopes away from the foundations of your house and that the downspouts of the house extends six feet or more away from your house.
Leaking pipes is also another problem that you can run into. For a slowly leaking pipe, you can simply put on epoxy to cover it up. For smaller leaks, you can install a pipe leak clamp. (MonsterGuide also teaches you how to fix house drain pipe leaks)
Basements are typically designed not to be airy nor roomy, so humidity is a constant, leading to that musty basement smell. Unless you can find a way to break out new windows for your basement, your solution is installing a dehumidifier. Attaching a hose to your dehumidifier to the basement pipes will also ensure that all the moisture will go out instead of staying in.
Providing more ventilation in your basement will also help. Installing cross-ventilation that connects your basement with the ventilation system in other parts of your house is another way to prevent humidity and stagnant air. A simpler solution could be creating windows or installing air vent fans in your basement.
Perspiring walls or weeping walls are basically condensation building up on walls. There are many causes for weeping walls, such as the structure of the house, the climate, the make of the walls, the drainage and even your everyday activities can lead to perspiring walls. What comes with the condensation in closed spaces? That musty basement odor.
The direct way to deal with perspiring walls is to have them dried first, ideally done on a sunny day. You can also use a dehumidifier to help you with the job. When the walls are completely dry, apply trisodium phosphate by scrubbing it all over the wall. Follow the instructions and allow the walls to dry once again.
Once the walls are dried, you can seal your walls with a latex concrete sealer following the application instructions.
A faulty drainage system and roof leaks can also be a cause of perspiring walls, so make sure that you check them as well.
Cracks in the Walls
It goes without saying that cracks in the walls can lead to moisture leaking into the basement. This problem can be easily remedied by patching it up with some ready-made concrete that can be bought in small amounts. That should fix it straight away.
When trying to get rid of musty basement odors, keep in mind that you should do it on a sunny day. If it’s raining, stop what you’re doing and postpone until the next sunny day comes up. Remember, moisture is your number one enemy when it comes to musty odors, and doing these methods on a rainy day won’t do at all.
When you’re done doing all the prescribed methods of getting rid of that musty basement odor, give your basement a generous spray of air freshener. Or leave out charcoal briquettes to absorb any lingering smells. You’re sure to find yourself a fresher-smelling basement every time you visit.