GJ MacRae Foundation Repair

The Original Wetbasements Experts – Since 1975

Get Rid of Musty Smell in Basement: Musty Basement Solutions

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Written and Edited By Gavin MacRae


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Do you ever feel frustrated by the unpleasant odors in your home, even after trying everything to get rid of them? One of the worst offenders is the damp and stale odor that often lingers in basements. It can ruin not only your mood and health but also the whole vibe of your home. If the basement stinks, it can make the entire house stink too.

A musty smell shows the presence of mold and mildew. These fungi travel in the air and find moist, dark, and warm spots to grow and spread. Some people are allergic to the spores of the mold species that inhabit homes, even though most are not harmful to humans. They may experience symptoms such as a stuffy or runny nose, headache and fatigue.

Don’t let this issue ruin your home and the health of your loved one. Find out how to get rid of it.

Why Is There a Musty Smell In The Basement?

To effectively eliminate the musty smell from your basement, it is crucial to identify the source or underlying causes of the odor. Several factors, such as mold or mildew, dampness, and sewage, can contribute to the unpleasant smell. By identifying and labeling these common causes, you can effectively eliminate the musty smell in your basement and help you achieve long-lasting results.

These are some of the usual causes of the unpleasant odor in your basement, which we have described briefly.

Mold And Mildew

Mold and mildew are fungi that can flourish in various environments, particularly in areas with excessive moisture and inadequate ventilation. They are formed when spores encounter the right environment supporting their growing conditions involving moisture, organic matter and lack of airflow.

During their metabolic process, mild and mildew release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which is the primary cause of the musty smell. As mold and mildew feed on organic materials, they break them down and produce these compounds as byproducts. These VOCs contribute to the unpleasant smell often described as musty, damp, or earthy.

It can have several negative impacts on both health and home. Exposure to mold and mildew can trigger various health problems, especially for individuals with allergies, respiratory conditions, or weakened immune systems. Besides, they degrade organic materials like wood, drywall and insulation and compromise their integrity causing structural damage.


Dampness in a basement is also a common cause of the musty smell. A damp basement occurs when excess moisture infiltrates the space, creating an environment conducive to the growth of mold and mildew.

One of the primary sources of dampness in a basement is pipe leaks. Plumbing pipes that run through the basement can develop leaks over time, allowing water to seep into the surrounding areas. Even minor leaks can contribute to significant dampness, leading to the growth of mold and mildew and the subsequent musty smell. Regular inspection and prompt repair of any pipe leaks are crucial to prevent dampness in the basement.

Another common source of dampness is cracks in the foundation, walls, and basement windows. Over time, foundations and walls can develop cracks due to shifts in the soil or other structural factors which allow water to enter the basement, leading to damp conditions. While improperly sealed or aging windows allow moisture to penetrate the basement. Properly sealing the basement windows and repairing the foundation and wall cracks is essential to prevent water infiltration and subsequent dampness.


Sewage-related issues can indeed contribute to a musty smell in the basement. When there are problems with plumbing or pipe leaks, particularly in the basement drain pipes, it can lead to the presence of sewage and subsequent odor.

Some primary sewage-related issues are bad plumbing and pipe leaks in the basement, allowing sewage to seep. This can occur due to deteriorated or damaged pipes, improper installation, or blockages in the sewer line. When sewage leaks or backs up, it brings foul-smelling substances, bacteria, and organic matter, resulting in a musty odor.

Other Issues

Besides the causes mentioned above, several other issues can contribute to a musty smell in the basement, such as pet supplies, rat and rodent infestations, and old carpets and rugs.

  1. Pet Supplies: If you keep pet supplies in the basement, such as litter boxes, bedding, or food, they can emit odors over time. Moisture from spilled water bowls or urine accidents can seep into the surrounding areas, leading to a musty smell. Regular cleaning, proper storage, and ensuring adequate ventilation can help minimize odors associated with pet supplies in the basement.
  2. Rats and Rodent Infestations: Rats and other rodents can cause significant problems in the basement. Their droppings, urine, and nesting materials emit a strong, unpleasant odor that can contribute to the musty smell. Additionally, rodents can chew through materials, leading to water leaks and moisture issues. Proper pest control measures, sealing entry points, and cleaning up any infested areas are essential to eliminate the musty smell caused by rodent-related problems.
  3. Old Carpets and Rugs: Over time, carpets and rugs can accumulate dust, dirt, and moisture, breeding for mold and mildew. The fibers’ trapped moisture and organic materials can emit a musty odor. If the carpets or rugs in the basement are old or have been exposed to water damage, they can contribute significantly to the unpleasant smell. Proper cleaning, regular maintenance, or replacing old carpets and rugs can help alleviate the musty odor.

How To Get Rid Of Musty Smell in Basement?

Addressing these issues involves taking specific actions. We will explore effective solutions to eliminate that unpleasant musty basement smell. Whether it’s caused by dampness, mold, pet supplies, or other factors, we’ll provide practical tips and techniques to tackle the issue head-on. Say goodbye to the damp smell in your basement and reclaim a fresh, inviting space. Let’s dive in and explore the solutions to banish the musty smell from your basement once and for all.

Identify The Source of the Smell

The first step is to identify its source to eliminate the musty smell in your basement. As discussed earlier, several potential sources could contribute to the unpleasant odor, such as mold and mildew, dampness, sewage issues, pet supplies, or even rodent infestations. It is crucial to pinpoint the exact source before eliminating the smell. By identifying the underlying cause, you can implement targeted solutions and address the root of the problem. This approach ensures that your efforts are focused, effectively eradicating the musty basement smell. So, before diving into the solutions, take the time to investigate and identify where the odor is coming from. Once you’ve recognised the source, you can proceed confidently and apply appropriate methods to get rid of that musty smell in your basement.

Get Rid Of/Repair the Source of Smell

Once you have pin down the source of the musty smell in your basement, it’s time to take action and eliminate or repair the underlying cause. Let’s break down the process by focusing on each potential source:

Clean The Mold and Mildew

Cleaning mold and mildew from walls and basement surfaces is crucial for eliminating the musty smell. To do this effectively, take the following steps:
Ensure safety by ventilating the area and wearing protective gear.

  • Gather supplies such as a bucket, mild detergent, water, scrub brush, and sponge/cloth.
  • Create a cleaning solution with warm water and mild detergent (avoid bleach).
  • Gently scrub the affected areas using circular motions and adequate pressure.
  • Rinse the surfaces with clean water and thoroughly dry them to prevent mold growth.
  • Dispose of used materials properly to prevent the spread of mold spores.

For extensive mold infestations, it is advisable to seek professional assistance. Mold remediation experts have the expertise, equipment, and safety protocols to handle larger-scale issues effectively.

Repair Old Leaky Plumbing & Sewage Pipes

Repairing old leaky plumbing is crucial for eliminating the musty smell in the basement. Identify the leaking pipes and replace them with new ones to ensure no further leaks. Hiring a professional plumber to handle and install the repairs properly is recommended. Similarly, if there are issues with sewage pipes causing the musty smell, consult a professional plumber to fix the problem. They will inspect the sewage system, identify any damaged or faulty tubes, and do the necessary repairs or replacements. Properly functioning plumbing and sewage systems will help eliminate the source of the musty smell and improve the overall condition of the basement.

Foundation Crack Repair

Proper foundation crack repair is crucial to prevent the musty smell in the basement. To address this issue, Choose the appropriate repair method based on the crack size and severity, such as epoxy injections, polyurethane foam, or hydraulic cement. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the selected repair material to ensure proper application. However, foundation crack repair can be complex, especially for extensive or structural cracks. We recommended you to seek professional help from a contractor specializing in foundation repairs. They possess the expertise, experience, and specialized tools necessary for a thorough and effective repair. By addressing foundation cracks promptly and with expert assistance, you can prevent moisture infiltration, eliminate the musty smell, and ensure the stability of your basement.

Remove Pet supplies and Use Pest Control

You need to follow these steps to get rid of rats and rodents and eliminate the musty smell in the basement. Employ effective pest control measures to eradicate rats and rodents from the area. This may involve using traps, baits or seeking professional pest control services. Move pet supplies such as cat litter boxes, food, and bedding out of the basement to minimize odors and prevent attracting pests. Addressing rodent infestation and relocating pet supplies can help eliminate the musty smell and create a cleaner, fresher basement environment.

Replace Basement Windows

This process is often overlooked by lots of people. You should replace old, improperly sealed, or aging windows to prevent moisture infiltration during rain or high humidity. Once properly sealed, these windows will minimize dampness and condensation. Besides, it also tackles basement flooding by addressing the root causes, such as improving drainage systems, redirecting water away from the foundation, or installing a sump pump. By replacing windows and addressing basement flooding, you can effectively reduce dampness, prevent mold growth, and eliminate the musty smell in your basement.

How To Prevent Musty Smell in Basement?

Now, it’s time to take action and prevent it from returning. Let’s explore effective solutions to help you eliminate the musty smell in your basement and create a fresh, clean environment. Without further ado, let’s dive into the topic.

Waterproofing your Basement

Waterproofing your basement is a pivotal step in preventing the musty odor from returning in the future. By effectively sealing your basement against moisture intrusion, you can create a dry environment that smells normal and fresh. So, how can you eliminate dampness and make no room for mold and mildew to grow?
Waterproofing methods, such as sealing foundation cracks, installing drainage systems, and applying waterproof coatings, act as barriers to seepage and prevent water from entering your basement. This proactive approach helps to maintain a dry basement, reducing the risk of dampness and mold growth.
Well, DIY waterproofing measures can also be taken for minor issues, while consulting with waterproofing experts for a comprehensive solution is advisable. They have the expertise to assess the specific needs of your basement and recommend the most suitable waterproofing techniques.

Use Dehumidifier

After waterproofing the basement, you might wonder how to combat moisture in the air? Don’t worry. We have this tool called a dehumidifier which is highly effective. Most basements are humid, lacking proper ventilation and sunlight, promoting dampness and mold growth. A dehumidifier takes out moisture from the air, reducing humidity levels in your basement. Extracting excess moisture creates a drier environment that inhibits the growth of mold and mildew. The dehumidifier pulls in humid air, removes moisture, and releases dry air into the room, which helps to prevent condensation on walls and other surfaces, keeping them dry and minimizing the chances of mold formation.

When choosing a dehumidifier, consider the size and capacity appropriate for your basement. Place the dehumidifier in a central location, ensuring it has proper airflow and drainage. Regularly monitor the humidity levels and empty the collected water as needed.

Using a dehumidifier is a natural and efficient way to maintain a dry basement, prevent the musty smell, and safeguard the overall air quality. Combine it with other preventive measures like proper ventilation and sunlight exposure to create a healthy and pleasant basement environment.

Timely Plumbing Inspections

Getting timely plumbing inspections is crucial for homeowners to prevent a damp basement and avoid the musty smell that accompanies it. By scheduling a complete plumbing inspection every 5 years, you can proactively identify and address any potential issues before they worsen.

During a plumbing inspection, a professional plumber will thoroughly examine your pipes, fittings, and connections for signs of leaks or damage. They will also check for proper drainage and identify any areas of concern that may contribute to a damp basement.

Don’t wait for the musty smell to become a persistent problem. Schedule regular plumbing inspections to keep your basement dry and fresh. Regular plumbing inspections help avoid the musty smell and contribute to your home’s overall health and safety. By taking preventive measures and promptly addressing plumbing issues, you can minimize the risk of water damage, mold growth, and the associated musty odor in your basement.

Taking Action

You can transform your basement into a fresh-smelling space by following these invaluable tips. Keep a vigilant eye out for leaks, maintain full p-traps, and regulate humidity levels with a reliable dehumidifier. Your basement will stay free from unpleasant odors for years by consistently adhering to this regimen. Start implementing these simple yet effective strategies today and enjoy a revitalized basement that invites you in with a breath of freshness. So, are you prepared to take action and reclaim your basement from that musty smell?

Frequently Asked Questions

What absorbs musty smells in the basement?

You may opt for bowls of white vinegar or clean cat litter to possess odor-absorbing qualities; however, set bowls of baking soda throughout the basement area for a better option. As time progresses, the baking soda will effectively soak up unpleasant odors leading to noticeable improvements within a few days.

Will the dehumidifier get rid of the musty smell?

Yes, using a dehumidifier can help eliminate musty smells. Often excess moisture in the air causes musty odors that lead to the growth of mold and mildew. A dehumidifier extracts moisture from the air, reduces humidity levels, and creates a drier environment. By reducing the moisture content, a dehumidifier can effectively combat the conditions that contribute to musty smells, thereby helping to eliminate them over time.

Is it safe to sleep in a musty basement?

Sleeping in a musty basement is generally not recommended due to potential health risks. Musty odors often indicate mold or mildew growth, which can release airborne spores that may trigger allergies, respiratory issues, or other health problems in some individuals.

Gavin MacRae is a professional foundation repair and basement waterproofing expert with over 20 years of experience in the field. He has extensive knowledge about foundation issues such as settlement, and cracks as well as expertise in repair techniques. Gavin is also highly skilled in basement waterproofing using interior and exterior methods. He has worked with hundreds of homeowners to provide permanent solutions to foundation and basement problems.