Dear Allie: A Green Way to Get Rid of That Musty Basement Smell

Posted on August 27, 2007 by Allie


Last week in comments, Corinne asked the following:

I’m wondering if you have any eco-friendly ideas for freshening up a smelly basement. We have two cats and although we scoop their litter daily and have a dehumidifier in the basement, it still stinks! I would like to do yoga down there, but I can’t stand that “basement smell”. Any ideas?

Hi Corinne,

This is an excellent question. Most basements have that musty basement smell to some degree. Unfortunately, most commercial air fresheners and deodorizers contain petrochemicals that can be irritating to your skin, eyes, and airways. And while they seem to work for a time, most don’t actually remove the odor, they just mask it.

I recommend a multi-tiered approach.

Launder any fabrics or cushions you have in the basement, as those tend to retain smells, and try giving any sealed surfaces a scrub with a green all purpose cleaner.

Fill old (clean, obviously) yogurt containers or jars with baking soda, punch holes in the top and place them around your basement. The baking soda will absorb odors and moisture. You’ll have to change the baking soda every few months, but you can use the old baking soda for cleaning or unclogging drains. You can also try using activated charcoal or coffee grounds the same way.

While you’re waiting for the baking soda to do it’s job, soak cotton balls or old swatchs of fabric in your favorite essential oil and place around your basement. You can also check your kitchen for vanilla, clove, or peppermint oil to use instead.

If the kitty litter is a source of odor, try adding Mrs. Meyers Pet Litter Deodorizer.

If you have a sump pump in your basement, you may want to check to make sure that the water empties completely from the sump pump hole. Standing water in there can be a source of odor.

And if you have finished walls in your basement, you might want to consider a fresh coat of paint. Fresh paint can do wonders for a musty room.

Hope this helps!

Do you have a green question you’d like answered? Email me at alliesanswers at gmail dot com.

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No Comments +

  1. Do you know a safe/green way to get rid of odors in the fridge and freezer? I constantly keep baking soda in both and it doesn’t help at all.

    August 27th, 2007 at 9:27 pm
    Comment by Layla
  2. Yes! Try some coffee grounds in a bowl (filter and all is okay). Also, make sure there’s no old moldy food in there causing the smell, obviously, and give the fridge a good cleaning with an all purpose cleaner so you’re starting with a clean slate. I really like Parsley Plus, but Method makes some good ones too.

    August 27th, 2007 at 10:53 pm
    Comment by Allie
  3. [...] talked about using coffee grounds as a deodorizer, but there are lots of things you can do with the grounds after you’ve made your morning [...]

    July 17th, 2009 at 9:26 am
    Pingback by Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds

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Tip of the Day

If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It


According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.

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