How to Easily Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Your Basement

Basements, typically enclosed with minimal ventilation, accumulate moisture, leading to potential mold and mildew. The unpleasant smells and potential health risks associated with these fungi call for their removal. Discover five methods to eliminate mold and mildew smells from your basement, and learn when to bring in an expert.

Musty smell in basement

Factors that Cause Mildew Smells in Your Basement

Understanding what causes musty smells is crucial before tackling them. Common factors include:

  • Moisture: Excessive moisture is the main reason for mold and mildew growth. Pipe leaks, foundation cracks, condensation, and high humidity trigger excess moisture. 
  • Mold and mildew “food:” Mold feeds on wood, paper, cardboard, or old clothes, causing it to grow and worsen.
  • Poor ventilation: The lack of ventilation traps the moisture by stagnating the air and preventing the mold and mildew from drying out.
  • Poor insulation: Poor insulation can cause drastic temperature changes in your basement, triggering condensation and excess humidity. 
  • No sunlight: For obvious reasons, many basements don’t get enough sunlight. This darkness, humidity, and other factors provide a breeding ground for mold and mildew.

5 Ways to Get Rid of Mildew Smell in Your Basement

Once you’ve determined which factor(s) contribute to your basement’s musty smells, explore the following five solutions and use the one that best suits your needs:

1. Improve Air Circulation

Moisture accumulates in closed spaces with no circulation. If your basement is often damp, drying it out might be the solution. Some tips to improve air circulation:

  • Open windows and doors.
  • Place portable fans near doors or windows to promote circulation. 
  • Install exhaust vents or fans specifically designed for basements. 
  • Clear your basement of obstructions to air circulation, like furniture, boxes, and other items. 

2. Clean Walls and Floor

Mold and mildew need more than just a damp space to grow. They also need organic matter found in dirt, dust, cardboard boxes, and other items often found in basements. A deep clean will remove these elements or “mold food.”

3. Use a Dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers absorb humidity and store the condensation on a removable container, keeping a stable moisture level and preventing the necessary conditions for mold spores to develop.

4. Use Cleaning Alternatives like Vinegar or Borax

Vinegar can kill mildew and some types of mold by changing acidity levels beyond what they can withstand. You can use pure white vinegar or mix a one-half cup of vinegar with a gallon of warm water. Whichever you use, spray it generously on the affected areas and let it sit for at least one hour. After that, put a teaspoon of baking soda in a spray bottle and mix it with water. Shake it well and spray on the affected areas, then scrub away the mold or mildew.

Borax is an alternative to vinegar. Before using it, get safety gloves and eyewear. Once you’re protected, pour one cup into a 1-gallon bucket of warm water, and mix until you get a cleaning solution. Scrub away the mold with a brush or tool. Repeat the process for 2-3 days to ensure you eliminate all spores.

5. Use a Mold and Mildew Cleaning Solution

If DIY cleaning solutions don’t work, try a more specific alternative. Mold and mildew cleaners separate the spores from the surface they are attached to for easy removal. It’s essential to thoroughly clean the room and surface you found mildew on after using these solutions to ensure no additional spores affect your basement’s air quality.

Do It Yourself or Call an Expect?

DIY is possible if the mold or mildew covers only a small area of approximately 2 x 2 feet. Use any of the solutions above to treat mold and mildew at the same time. Continue to clean the basement with mildew cleaners or vinegar, and don’t forget to use a fan to improve circulation and a dehumidifier to prevent future mold. 

However, you’re probably better off contacting a pest control expert for larger patches, signs of flooding, pest infestations, or black mold. They’ll have the tools and materials to eliminate it and prevent future growth permanently.

Preventing Mold Growth in Your Basement

Mold and mildew growth are common problems for basements because they tend to have poor air circulation and high humidity, the perfect conditions for them to grow. When they appear, removing the musty odors they release by scrubbing and rinsing away can be very unpleasant.

It’s much better to avoid it in the first place by improving air circulation, removing any organic materials that fuel mold and mildew growth, and using a dehumidifier. You can use special or homemade cleaning solutions to eliminate them if they grow.

Stay vigilant for their growth and apply these solutions and preventive measures when you notice them. That way, you should be able to fix the issue and prevent future growth.