Basement Smells Musty

Before you can get rid of the musty smell, you need to get rid of whatever is causing it. No matter how much you clean, unless you get rid of what is causing the smell in the first place, the smell will keep coming back.

The most common reason for a musty smell is because of mold or mildew growth, which could be caused by high humidity in the air, or a leaky pipe or wall.

The worst is when the smell spreads and gets absorbed in your documents, furniture, carpets, and even clothing. The problem not only makes your entire home unbearable to live in but also leads to other health concerns because of the mold growth.

Why Does My Basement Suddenly Smell Musty?

If your basement suddenly begins to smell musty, chances are you have a mold or mildew problem that has started to form. Do not ignore the smell and hope that it will go away on its own; finding the problem and eliminating it right away will help avoid bigger problems down the road.

What causes the smell?

A musty smell from your basement indicates the presence of mold and mildew. Since basements are built underground, the basement exterior walls are generally cool in temperature, and while warm air in the home comes into contact with the cool walls or surfaces, it will produce condensation.  The condensation will then begin to cause mold and mildew to grow. 

To be sure about the mold and mildew issue, it is vital to check for any signs of moisture damage in your basement.

Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Presence of water stains on your basement floors and walls, especially condensation build-up.
  • Signs of staining on your drywall as it can indicate the presence of mold.
  • Look for efflorescence or white mineral deposits around cracks and other openings in your basement. These cracks may be letting in moisture. 

Among the areas where moisture can find its way into your basement include:

  • Malfunctioning sump pump.
  • Faulty fixtures and appliances.
  • Gaps and cracks in your basement floor or walls.
  • Hydrostatic pressure.

Faulty Fixtures / Appliances

Appliances in your basement such as your furnace, washing machine, water softener, and water heater have the potential of leaking water onto your floor.  Look behind and all around these appliances to make sure that there is not a leak. Most of the time, you should be able to see evidence that there is or was a leak because you might be able to see watermarks running down the unit.

Malfunctioning Sump Pump

Ensure that your sump pump is working properly. If your sump pump is not pumping water correctly, it may be causing water to overflow from the pit and get boxes or other items wet.  

Gaps and Cracks

Gaps or cracks along the foundation could be letting water in during a rainstorm or while snow is melting. Look behind and under furniture to make sure your foundation walls or floor is not leaking.

Hydrostatic Pressure

Hydrostatic pressure occurs when the water in the soil surrounding the foundation of your home gets forced into your basement through any little crack or gap between where the wall meets the floor.

Some other things you might to ask yourself and look for are:

  • Are your downspouts facing away from your home and moving water away from the foundation?
  • Are there any pipes leaking or puddles of water on the floor?
  • If you have carpet in the basement, is the carpet wet or damp in some spots?

How Do You Get Rid of Musty Smells Naturally?

Nobody likes to use harmful chemicals in their home, that is why it is important to know that there are several different things that you can try that are natural to help get rid of that musty smell.

Before you start, it is important first to find and identify the source of what is causing the mold or mildew. Without removing the source of the problem, the smell will keep coming back.

Open windows

Opening windows to let some fresh air in will do a world of difference in helping to eliminate the musty smells. By opening multiple windows, you will create a cross breeze that will help move fresh air in, and take those nasty smells out. You can also place fans around the basement to help circulate the air while the windows are open.

Use a dehumidifier

Running a dehumidifier in your basement can help remove moisture from the air that could be the root source of causing the mildew and mold growth in the first place.


Take a medium-sized glass bowl and fill it about halfway with regular white vinegar. Next, place the bowl of vinegar in the corner of the room that smells musty. Leave the bowl in the room for a few weeks until the vinegar has fully evaporated. For the first few days, you will have a strong vinegar odor that will go away, but most importantly, the musty smell will also begin to go away.

Baking soda

Take a medium-size glass bowl and fill it halfway with baking soda. Place the bowl in the room with the musty smell and leave it there for several days. The baking soda should begin to work right away, absorbing the musty smell. After a few days, the musty smell will begin to go away.

Activated charcoal

Activated charcoal is a safe and natural way to deodorize and eliminate musty smells from your basement. Place a few bags of Activated charcoal around your basement, and they’ll immediately go to work deodorizing the area. A bag of Activated charcoal can last up to 2 years. You can buy a pack of 5 bags from Amazon for under $20. Check the current price.

Kitty litter

Pour scented kitty litter into an opened lid container and place it in the room that has the musty smell. The kitty litter will begin to absorb the smell. After 3 to 4 days, replace the kitty litter if needed. Remember, if you have a cat, you might want to place the container of kitty litter in a spot where the cat can not use it, or else you may have some other odor to get rid of.

How to Get Musty Smell Out of Basement Carpet

Basement carpets are often notorious for having a musty, damp smell.

  • Before you begin to try and remove the musty smell from the carpet, you will need to make sure that the carpet is completely dry first.
  • Once the carpet is dry, go over it a few times with a vacuum and suck up all the dirt and hairs.
  • Next, take baking soda and generously spread it all around the carpet.
  • Let the baking soda sit and absorb the smells for at least 5 to 6 hours.
  • Go back over the carpet a few times with the vacuum again to completely suck up the baking soda.

How Do You Get Musty Smell Out Of Furniture and Belongings?

The first thing that you need to do is get rid of any cardboard boxes. To do this, you will need to remove the items from the boxes, which might be a good time to go through some of your old things to see what you can throw away.

If you have clothing in the boxes, you can try washing them and then hanging them outside on the clothesline to dry. That should help take out the musty smell.

If you have old books or papers, you can try using MicroChamber Interleaving Paper from Amazon. This paper will absorb musty odors and prevent mold or mildew.

Another thing that you can do is, take a large plastic bin with a lid and place some of the belongings in the bin. Next, place a bowl of baking soda or activated charcoal in the plastic bin. Let them sit in there for a few weeks before checking. Be careful that the baking soda does not tip over inside of the bin or else you will have a different problem to deal with.

You can also remove furniture from the basement and set them outside on a nice sunny day. Doing so will help dry any moisture out. Try spraying some Febreze on the furniture while it sits outside for a couple of hours.

Will a Dehumidifier Get Rid of Musty Smell?

A dehumidifier can help get rid of the musty smell odor in your basement by helping to lower the humidity levels. When you have high humidity in your home, this will process excess moisture into the air, which is what causes mold and mildew growth.

A good dehumidifier should be able to remove 3 to 4 gallons of moisture out of the air each day. My basement is roughly 1250 square feet, and the dehumidifier that I am using is good for up to 1500 square feet. I bought mine from Amazon for $160, and so far it’s been working great. Check the current price.


Common Basement Smells and Odors – The Problem and Solution

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