There are several great air freshener options for making a basement smell better. These include dehumidifiers for removing mold-causing humidity, cleaning solutions that will kill mold already present in your basement, deodorizers that will remove “musty” lingering smells, and air fresheners that will add pleasant new scents to your basement after the bad odors have been removed.
I’ll discuss all of these options below, including what order you should use them in.
Follow These 5 Steps To Keep Your Basement Smelling Fresh
Your order of priorities when cleaning bad smells out of your basement should be the following:
- Kill any mold or mildew currently growing in your basement.
- Clean and deodorize everything that smells bad.
- Get rid of lingering bad odors using our recommended odor removal solutions.
- Prevent future humidity from forming in the basement.
- Add a new scent to your basement by using a non-humidifying air freshener.
The number one cause of bad odors in basement is mold and mildew, which generally grow because your basement is too humid due to poor air circulation.
The best way to handle mold and mildew is at its source. You need to remove the humidity that allows them to grow, and kill any that is already present in the room.
However, a basement can also have a lot of other bad smells. I’ll show you the best options for removing these bad smells and replacing them with good ones.
Step #1: Kill Any Mold Or Mildew Currently Growing In Your Basement
Most of the “musty” smell of basements comes from the growth of mold or mildew. Sometimes, these grow in your walls and are a pain to clean out. Other times, they are growing somewhere where you can easily kill them and scrub them away, getting rid of the source of the odor.
A few solutions for dealing with mold or mildew are:
- Mold and mildew can grow in drains. Clean out any partially clogged drains, such as a shower drain, furnace drain, or basement drain, then kill mildew in them by pouring cleaning chemicals such as Clorox bleach.
- If mildew is growing in your carpet, sprinkle Borax powder on the carpet and let it sit for a day, then vacuum it up. It will kill mold and mildew in the carpet. Avoid breathing the smell of the powder.
- If mildew is growing on your fabrics, clean them with white vinegar.
- Scrub any hard surfaces that are growing mold or mildew with white vinegar. You should avoid using bleach, as the smell of bleach will linger in your basement and be hard to breathe.
Step #2: Clean And Deodorize Everything That Smells Bad
Once you’ve killed mold and mildew, you’ll still need to get the smell out of any objects or materials in your basement that are capable of trapping odor. This means you may need to clean carpets, fabrics, clothes, or anything else that can absorb and give off bad odors.
I recommend using natural substances, such as vinegar and baking soda, for cleaning the basement. If you use a strong chemical cleaner like bleach, the stench of it could linger in your basement for quite awhile. You definitely don’t want to be breathing the smell of bleach in an enclosed, poorly ventilated area like a basement.
Here are some tips for removing odors from different materials:
- If bad odor is stuck in your furniture, you can sprinkle baking soda on the surface of it, let it sit for a few hours, then vacuum it up. It will absorb odors in the material.
- If the “musty” smell is in old clothes or blankets that you store in the basement, wash them in the laundry machine with detergent and white vinegar, then store them in an airtight plastic storage container to prevent odors from entering them again.
- Put your nose to your carpet and smell. If it smells bad, then you need to deodorize it. Instead of steam cleaning it, which can be expensive, just sprinkle more of your baking soda into the carpet. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, then vacuum it up.
- You may need to clean tile surfaces or the cement floor, if it has gunk accumulating on it that smells bad. Use your white vinegar again while scrubbing hard surfaces to deodorize them at the same time.
- If vinegar and baking soda don’t work as well on something in your basement, get a super strength odor-removing cleaning solution and use it instead.
Step #3: Get Rid Of Lingering Bad Odors
There are several viable ways to get rid of odors that continue to linger around the room even after you cleaned it up.
Below is a list of odor removal options that are great for enclosed spaces like a basement. Some of them are instant short term solutions, like using ozone spray or an air freshener bomb. Others are longer term solutions, such as odor-absorbing bags and canisters.
And my final recommendation is for an ozone generator. This is a great solution if the bad smell keeps coming back every few months. Just turn it on and fill your basement with ozone for an afternoon. Then, let the ozone air out of the basement for another day. The natural ozone gas will permeate every surface and totally destroy odor-causing particles.
See my recommendations here:
- Odor-absorbing bags of activated carbon – The carbon in these bags absorbs odor particles that touch it – Just leave them around the room to absorb bad smells over time – Click here to view.
- Odor-absorbing gel canisters – Open these up and set them in the basement to absorb bad odors over time and give off a mild fresh scent in their place – Click here to view.
- Odor-destroying ozone spray– Spray this wherever you want to eliminate odors instantly – Click here to view.
- Air freshener bomb for “Nuking” the odors – Made for vehicles, but you can use them in a room as well – One time use object that totally fills the room with odor-destroying gas – Click here to view.
- Ozone generator for serious long-term odor removal – An ozone generator will plug in and fill your entire basement with natural odor-destroying ozone gas, destroying odor particles that are hiding in every crack and crevice – Allow your basement to air out for 1 full day after filling it with ozone before significantly breathing the air – Click here to view.
Step #4: Prevent Future Humidity From Forming In The Basement
Once we get the odor out, we have to keep it out. The best way to do this is to prevent mildew and mold from coming back by keeping our basement from getting humid and damp.
Our first priority here is to get rid of any unnatural water leaks or sources of humidity. However, in many parts of the country, humidity is just going to happen naturally. This means we’ll have to use a dehumidifier if we want to keep our basement dry and mildew-free.
- Identify any water leaks, such as leaky pipes, a leaky air conditioning unit, leaky toilet, or condensation that forms on pipes in the basement and fix them. If condensation is your problem, sometimes you can stop it by adding further insulation to the pipes.
- Make sure water is not pooling up around the outside of the house and spreading water, humidity, or odor into the basement.
- If your clothes dryer is in the basement, make sure the air vent is fully cleaned out and sealed so that humidity from your clothes getting dried doesn’t leak into your basement.
- If you have cracks in the wall or floor where humidity or water could be getting in, seal them up.
- Try setting up a box fan or installing a ceiling fan to keep air circulating in the room.
- In basements where good air circulation is just not an option, and humidity is common due to the weather, your only real solution is to get a basement dehumidifier and leave it running any time the weather turns humid.
Step #5: Add A New Scent To Your Basement
Once you’ve cleaned out the source of bad odors, you may want to freshen things up with a new smell for your basement.
Although I usually recommend a water vapor essential oil diffuser for adding scents to large rooms, we need to avoid using those in the basement due to the humidity they create. Instead, we’ll look at our other options.
I recommend the following options for adding scents to your basement:
- Plugin air fresheners – Tried and true, plugins add fragrances to the air without relying on scented water vapor – Click here to view.
- Candle wax warmer for heating essential oil – Instead of putting out water vapor like a large essential oil diffuser does, these spread the smell of essential oils by gently warming them up, keeping humidity to a minimum – Click here to view.
- Essential oil 6-scent value pack – Needed for using with the candle wax warmer – Click here to view.
- Scented potpourri – Fills the room with natural fragrance while also looking great – Click here to view.
- Scented gel canisters – Made for cars, but you can use them in any room – Available in 8 different scents – Click here to view.