Getting Rid of Musty Basement Odors

Friday, February 25th, 2011 by Cynthia Freeney


Does your basement smell musty? Damp? Do you wonder where the smell is coming from? 


That damp smell is actually, and unfortunately, mold. You might not be able to see it yet, but if the smell is there, so is the mold.

Mold is a fetid fungus which thrives in warm, wet environments and in the presence of organic matter, in which it feeds. 
It is always warm enough in your home for mold to grow, and there is always some organic matter for it to feed on. 
Even if your basement is unfinished and never used for storage, household dust carries enough organic matter in it to feed mold. These are things you can't control. 

That said, the only way to prevent or eliminate musty odors in the basement is to control and eliminate moisture. If your basement is already smelly,  that means one of two things:

  • You have something organic, porous and absorbent in your basement that recently came in contact with water and did not dry completely in 48 hours. That is, according to the EPA, how long it takes for mold to develop.
  • Your basement has a chronic moisture problem which needs to be addressed before mold growth gets out of control.

If you had anything organic, porous and absorbent in the basement, that came in contact with water and did not completely dry in 48 hours, you need to remove and discard asap. (That includes wood, paper, fabric, cardboard, upholstery). Organic matter feeds mold and once contaminated, according to the US EPA there is no 100% effective and safe way to remove mold from them. 

Please be careful! If you have a mold problem that stretches for more than 10 sq feet, don't do anything. Both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Center for Disease Control, urge homeowners to call for professional help when the mold infestation is larger than 10 sq feet.

If it is smaller than that, you can clean it yourself with a bleach solution, (1 cup of unscented bleach per gallon of water). But you will need a N95 mask, goggles rubber gloves, and provide good ventilation. You do not want to breath in bleach fumes or mold spores and you don't want any of it in contact with your eyes and skin. Wire brush can be used to scrub the basement wall.

If your basement has a chronic moisture problem you will need to address it both ways:
  1. By minimizing ground water infiltration through the basement walls. That can be accomplished with a good interior drainage system, like our patented Waterguard and a reliable sump pump system. By keeping the soil around the foundation as dry as possible, you will eliminate the bulk of the pressure that causes the water to leak in. 

  2. In addition, you will need to take every precaution to bring down the Relative Humidity levels in the basement, which may be apparently dry, but if it is still allowing mold growth, it is humid enough to allow it. Due to differences in temperature between the basement, the outside and the rooms above, there is always some level of condensation, which needs to be addressed with a good dehumidifier like our Energy Star Rated Sanidry.

Mold thrives in environments in which the RH is at 60% or above and the only way to eliminate the problem is to run a dehumidifier to keep moisture levels at or below 55%.

If you live in the Greater Buffalo, NY area, including Niagara Falls, Lockport, North Tonawanda, Amherst, Cheektowaga, and West Seneca, let Frank's Basement System help you with get rid of your basement mold problems. 
We've been your trusted, locally owned and operated basement waterproofing company for over 25 years. As a Basement Systems dealer we have access to 24 patented and award-winning products to custom design a basement solution that is right for you. 

You don't have to live with a smelly, moldy basement! Contact us today for a free estimate!

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Frank's Basement Systems
90 Pearce Avenue
Tonawanda, NY 14150
1-716-402-4832