If you’ve noticed a musty smell in your basement it likely means you have at least mildew, and possibly mold, growing. Mold and mildew won’t go away on their own but will only get worse and could spread to other areas of your home. These spores can also contain toxins that can be dangerous to the health of your family. The only way to alleviate the smell is to completely get rid of the cause.
Step 1 – Find the Source of the Smell
Do a thorough inspection of your basement to find out where the mildew or mold is growing. Look for areas where the odor is the strongest, where moisture is prevalent, and look for any black or green spots or patches. You’ll need to check everything, including walls, carpets, furniture, and stored items. If you have a lot of things in your basement, you may want to take everything out to do a more thorough inspection and cleaning.
Step 2 – Clean it Up
You will need to do a thorough cleaning of everything that has mildew or mold, as well as everything that has absorbed the smell. This may mean throwing out some items that have been over taken by mildew growth. If spores have got into porous materials such as fabrics, carpets, and wood furniture, it may be impossible to completely get rid of.
To clean the items you are keeping, as well as the walls and floors, you can either use a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, vinegar and water, bleach, or detergent. Give everything a good scrub and make sure to dry it all completely. You can put furniture out in the sun to dry or use a fan to circulate air through the room.
Step 3 – Fix the Problem
Once you've thoroughly cleaned your basement, it's time to take care of the problem that produced the mildew in the first place. You need to determine what is causing the excess moisture in your basement. It may be a water leak from a pipe, a crack in the wall, or lack of proper air circulation.
Regardless of the source of the excess moisture, it’s a good idea to provide better ventilation in your basement to prevent future mold and mildew problems. If the area doesn’t have good air flow, you could install cross ventilation that connects your basement with the ventilation system in the rest of your house. You should also install a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.
Step 4 – Freshen Up
Now that the source of the bad odor is finally gone, it's time to bring in some good odors. Give your basement a generous spray of your favorite air freshener and put in some long term air fresheners, such as plug-ins, potpourri, or scented candles, so long as the candles can be monitored.