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Question DetailsAsked on 7/27/2015

Eliminate basement odor

How does one eliminate the smell of damp , musty, cement coming up from the basement. Basement odor has penetrated carpet and closed closets thus odor is imbedded in clothing.

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1 Answer


Ventilation to remove the smell, dehumidification to remove the source of the damp/concrete and mildew/mold smell. And ventilating with humid warm outside air only aggravates it, because the high-humidity air condenses on the cold ground-contact surfaces, so generally for year-around improvement you need to circulate inside air (usually return air from the living spaces) through the basement just before it goes back to the A/C evaporator (or to outside if no A/C).

Ventilation has to be done right or you can end up getting excess humidity and mildew in the rest of the house, rusty furnace/air handler from excess humidity, etc., so a good Heating and A/C contractor is what you need to solve this in serious cases. Simple cases a portable dehumidifier inthe basement might handle it - but you have to be sure the removed water does not just reevaporate back into the air - I laugh at the companies that make these with open drain pans, so they remove the moisture from the air then let it immediately reevaporate from the open pan.

Sometimes the vapor transmission or even leakage through the foundation walls or floor slab are so much that only exterior concrete sealing and french drain to lower the water table and waterproof the foundation works. In high groundwater table areas (permanent or wet seasonal) sometimes you have to put in underfloor drainage and sump pump to pull the water table down below the slab to have a chance. In other cases where it is just moist ground transmitting moisture up through the slab drying it out and epoxy or urea sealing it will solve the problem - or putting an edge-sealed vapor barrier under breathable carpeting can sometimes solve it too.

If your basement is carpeted, it is possible a good portion of the musty smell is coming from that - try peeling a corner back and look/smell for mildew or mold - visible or smell. Of course, if the walls are framed, it is possible moisture coming through the foundation wall is condensing in there and forming mold/mildew as well.

Lots more previous questions with discussions on solutions ot damp basements can be found in the Home > Basement Waterproofing link in Browse Projects, at lower left.

On the odor embedded in the clothing - generally a good washing or two on the hottest cycle they can safely handle, with Borax powder added per instructions with the laundry powder or liquid detergent (NOT Boraxo hand powder soap, but pure Borax Powder - boxed, in laundry detergent and products area at store) will solve the problem as long as there is not actual mold or mildew growing on the clothing.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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