Basements are similar to caverns—dark, underground spaces riddled with constant dampness. The darkness and the perpetual moisture create ideal conditions for unwanted mold colonies and the accompanying musty odors. Control the mold, and the musty basement smells will disappear.
Basements, in addition to being dark and damp, are significantly cooler than the upper parts of the home. The cooler air retains less moisture than the warmer air of the upstairs. As a result, these conditions produce a breeding ground for mold on the basement’s cold, wet surfaces.
Homeowners should be aware that mold feeds on an organic food source, such as drywall or wood, a constant moisture source and oxygen. Darkness, in combination with these nutrient sources, energizes the mold colonies, enabling them to thrive in areas that rarely see daylight.
As mentioned, mold spores receive nourishment from porous materials. Mold has the ability to grow within the crevices of concrete walls in basements that are yet to be finished, and within the drywall of basements that are finished. Mold grows in several other basement nooks and crannies, too.
What conditions lead to mold growth in the basement?
Damp clothes left in a clothing hamper in the basement can start to develop mold. The mold-producing conditions are ripe: an organic food source, moisture and darkness. The hungry mold spores can spread to the floor and latch onto the basement walls, leading to an extensive mold infestation.
Concealed mold growth can develop under basement carpeting installed over concrete floors. Excess moisture, including the condensation that accumulates on cold, concrete basement floors, leads to the formation of mold colonies—and the mold growth may not be immediately visible.
Poor basement ventilation is also a trigger for mold growth. The moist, stagnant air in unventilated spaces, like the basement, produces mold. When filters in the HVAC systems are not replaced, the dirty filters can attract mold spores and mildew growth.
Condensation can also form around cold pipes and windows in the basement. During the chilly winter months, the pipes and windows become especially cold; and, condensation readily forms on cold surfaces. These cold, moist basement areas are prime breeding grounds for mold and its odors.
What DIY strategies eliminate basement mold and its musty odors?
1. Discard moldy items
When mold is detected on porous, household goods stored in the basement, immediately discard those items. Tossing the moldy rugs, old clothes and soft furnishings prevents further ruin. Replacing rather than restoring the items is advised to limit the continuous spread of damage.2.
2. Clean with white vinegar
Mold infestations on wooden basement floors or wood furniture can be successfully cleaned with household vinegar followed by odor-eliminating baking soda. White vinegar has the ability to kill over 80 percent of all mold species. Plus, vinegar neutralizes foul odors.
Spray the moldy wood with white vinegar, giving the materials 20 minutes to absorb the liquid. Wipe away the mold using a clean cloth. Apply baking soda to the affected materials to eliminate the musty smells. Thoroughly dry the newly cleaned basement areas by opening windows or running fans.
Household staples, like soap, water, baking soda and vinegar, can eliminate basement mold growth when the infestation is minor. Severe mold invasions require cleaning with more powerful solutions, such as borax, hydrogen peroxide, chlorinated lime, tea tree oil, or bleach.
3. Run a dehumidifier
Moisture levels in windowless basements may be controlled by running a dehumidifier. In basements built with windows, open them. The fresh outdoor air will permeate the environment and eliminate the stagnant, musty basement air. However, do not open windows during cold or rainy weather.
4. Sand moldy wood
Sanding wood in which mold infestations have occurred will remove the spores. The sandpaper dislodges the mold spores that have penetrated the wood. Once the sanding is complete, vacuum the dust using a HEPA filter, which traps mold spores and pathogens before they contaminate the air.
5. Fix leaky pipes
Promptly fix pipe leaks to avoid attracting mold spores to the steady drip of moisture. Homeowners can attempt to repair leaky pipes when the issue is minor; or, contract a professional when the issue is severe. Resolving a basement moisture problem will stop the musty odors.
6. Install a sump pump
Similarly, groundwater flooding can lead to mold growth and subsequent basement smells. Immediately address the pooling of outdoor water in the basement. If the issue is constant, consider installing a sump pump or French drain to prevent ground water from entering the basement.
Prior to beginning any mold cleanup effort, homeowners are advised to protect themselves with appropriate gear. Wear a mask, goggles and rubber gloves. Be aware that mold spores become airborne when disturbed during cleaning and can subsequently contaminate nearby areas.
Mold Remediation Services
Isolating the moldy areas in the basement with plastic can prevent the spores from affecting other materials. While DIY efforts are convenient, ensuring existing mold spores do not spread to other areas will require the help of the mold remediation pros at ServiceMaster.
ServiceMaster provides high quality mold removal services to home and business owners. Our experienced technicians start by inspecting the property and assessing the extent of mold growth. The inspection includes a report sent to the homeowner’s insurance company.
Our professionals contain the mold infestation to prevent spores from contaminating other parts of the property. Mold removal specialists then safely remove all existing mold growth using high-tech equipment. We clean and repair all mold-damaged goods, from furnishings to surfaces.
Mold is a nuisance. Not only does mold gradually weaken and destroy building materials, but mold spores trigger ill health in humans. Mold growth is also responsible for musty smells in the basement. Deodorization by ServiceMaster crews will eliminate the unpleasant odors.
Schedule an Estimate
Mold growth is a serious problem and must be addressed right away. The musty smells in the basement point to a mold infestation, and ServiceMaster can eliminate both. We serve homes and businesses in Southeast Nebraska. Call us for mold remediation services when you encounter mold anywhere in your home or building.