How to get rid of damp basement odor?

Me and the wife are about to purchase a house, and the basement apparently gets water in it when it rains a lot. We intend to get this fixed of course—but that still leaves the smell it has from having had water in it, a strong damp odor. Anyone know what the best way to go about getting rid of, or at least minimizing this odor would be? There are windows down there but I don’t think just “airing it out” is going to do the trick here.

Just make sure the problem is, in fact, “fixable” before you plunk your money down. I’ve seen places where no amount of grading, treating the foundation, installing french drains, etc., would actually keep the water out.

A tough problem. There are lots of things you can try - some may help, some may not.

Obviously, if there’s any sort of carpeting down there, pitch it. If someone’s built in some shelving, it might be worthwhile to pull it out and toss it, too. If there’s drywall down there, it might be worth sacrificing it.

Once you’ve gotten rid of things that would be inclined to absorb, and hang on to, odors, you might want to invest in a dehumidifier, and keep it running. You can also get inexpensive packages of desiccant crystals (check out www.damprid.com - my local Home Depot carries their stuff), which absorb remaining moisture, and deodorize in the process. You might also put some dilute bleach in a spray bottle, and spritz the walls, anywhere that you see any traces of mildew or mold.

thanks–and we will be having someone come take a look at it before we buy it, not only to verify that it can be fixed, but that we can afford the fix.
There is no carpeting, but a few wooden shelves (which I am not certain the current occupant isn’t taking with them). I realize it will probably always smell like a basement, but I’d like it to be bearable at least.

If there are finished walls, there could be mold and/or mildew growing inside them where it never gets good and dry.

Luckily, there are no finished walls–just the concrete.

My basement apartment flooded. To get rid of the “damp basement” smell, we had to murder the mildew. We couldn’t see it, but it was there. After the carpet was ripped up (to be replaced), we soaked the concrete floors with a fairly concentrated bleach and water solution.

We used a mop to slather it on, but rather than mop it up again, we let it sit for about a half hour. Then we mopped up the excess water and let it dry. Moldy smell was gone.

Once the shelving is gone, I’d mop the floors and sponge down the concrete walls with a bleach and water solution to kill any kind of mold that may be in the pores of the concrete.

You’ll need a lot of ventilation.

Then get a dehumidifier going to keep the moisture out.

Good lighting also helps to keep mildew at bay, so that musky smell will stay out.

The smell will never go away unless you get the problem fixed. Basements that get wet can be very expensive to fix - it could involve tearing the concrete out and installing sump pumps if your basement was installed below the water line. It would not be uncommon to spend $10k if this was needed.

So my advice is to have it thoroughly checked out by a qualified company, don’t just rely on what the home inspector says - they are just trained to inspect a wide variety of things and are not specialized enough. Have a company that specializes in this type of repair come in and give you their thoughts and estimates. Then, you can either decide to pass this house, or perhaps use it as a bargaining token in your offer.

It’s hard when you love a house that has a major problem, but I would advise to look past your emotions and get a house that you will be happy with. Otherwise you will be paying for a basement that is unusable. Most importantly, just be informed.

Get an incontinent cat? :smiley:

Get some zeolite pouches at your hardware or pet store and hang them in the basement. These little things have a volcanic mineral in them that absorb any smell. We used them once in a house where someone had died on Friday of a hot July and was not discovered till Monday.

I’ve recommended zeolite before on these Boards. The stuff is amazing, and it really, really works. It comes in powdered form if you need help with smelly rugs.