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Beating Basement Odor

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Winter has long passed but the lingering odor of dank basement can linger throughout the summer months, despite repeated airings.

Damp, musty or foul basement odors can become a serious problem in homes as air naturally moves upwards due to the stack effect.

Sources of Basement Odors

Foul basement odors are most commonly caused by the following five reasons:

  • Mold & Mildew: Growth of mold can often be visible in corner spaces, as well as hidden within wall cavities.
  • Damp or Wet Building Materials: Certain building materials create foul odors when damp or wet. For example, damp or wet drywall has a musty smell to it, while wet fiberglass (often found in insulation) frequently emits a sulfuric, rotten egg scent.
  • Sewage Smells: If you’re experiencing a sewer-type scent, this is likely connected to a plumbing issue in your home. Check for cracked sewer lines, proper venting, and potential leaks such as around the wax ring seal of your toilets.
  • Animal Smells: Foul odors can occur when animals find their way into your basement, often animal waste and urine can accumulate quickly without your knowledge or pests such as rodents can die creating a unique, horrible odor that lingers for weeks.
  • Iron Ochre: This rust-colored gelatinous ooze is a natural bacteria that oxidizes dissolved minerals from water, (most commonly ferrous iron and sometimes manganese). This oxidization process results in a gelatinous rust-colored Slime that is often quite thick and difficult to remove. It has a tendency to smell oily, or swampy and often like sewage. It can also take on a sulfuric, rotten egg scent.

    Getting Rid of that Musty Cellar Smell

    Be sure to remove the cause of the odor first, ensure there’s no standing water, blocked drainage, etc.
    Once you’ve remedied the cause of odor, here are here are a few favorite dirt cheap remedies for beating basement odor naturally . . .

    Onions!The easiest, and probably the cheapest remedy is to simply slice a couple of large fresh onions in half and place each half on plates in your basement. Leave them out overnight and in the morning toss them in the compost pile. The aroma of the onion will dissipate and when it does you’ll have a fresh (non-salad bar!) scent in your basement.

    Vinegar & Water: Combine three parts water with one part vinegar (white or cider). Apply the mixture using a stiff broom or brush to concrete surfaces and scrub thoroughly.

    Dishes of Vinegar: Placing dishes of vinegar around the basement can help break down damp musty smells. You’ll need to leave them in place for several days to take full effect.

    Bag of Charcoal Briquettes– Open a bag of Charcoal briquettes and leave the bag open in the basement to adsorb dampness and odors. Each bag will last approximately 6 months depending on the level of moisture in the air

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