Remedy for a Cold Damp Smelly Basement?

I'm living in an old house. I use the basement just to store things. It's got dirt in cold room. I have a dehumidifier that runs all year around when cool or the fall comes the smell comes upstairs. Once the furnace cuts in the basement warms up and the smell leaves. What can I do to stop that old damp smell coming into the porch and main rooms?


Thank you.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
August 26, 20180 found this helpful

The odor may be coming from mold. I would try activated charcoal in addition to the dehumidifier

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 196 Feedbacks
August 27, 20180 found this helpful

Yep, we have that same old house issue, except we get "the smell" in the spring.

We have managed it two ways...the biggest dehumidifier we can afford and run it year round. Dump it daily (we tried having it go into the drain directly but that never seemed to work). Clean it monthly (the water catcher) with vinegar and baking soda and clean the filter weekly (we got one with a "gold" filter that is washable to cut costs.


Use the water to water outside stuff only as I learned the hard way if I use it to water inside plants, the smell sticks to the water (ick).

Then we run an air purifier in front of one of the vents in the center of the house during the smell season. Again, clean the filters on that thing frequently and keep it clean).

That seems to work best for us.

Reducing the amount of cardboard and paper boxes in the cellar also helped (I am trying to downsize and get rid of stuff and what I do need to keep goes in plastic tubs. That has also helped as when I first moved in year ago, everything was in cardboard boxes and the stench was terrible.

The change to plastic helped almost immediately and as we get rid of stuff, the smell has dissipated even more.

Good luck!

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 949 Feedbacks
September 4, 20180 found this helpful

You do not say if you are buying or renting this house so some suggestions may be more costly than you wish to put into this house.

  • I agree that anything in storage should be completely dried (away from the basement) and then stored in sealable plastic containers. Even plastic garbage cans will work for some things (especially linens/blankets) but I really like using the the sealable shrink space saver bags as they do a good job and can be used over and over.
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  • If there are cold exposed pipes you might want to cover them with some sort of barrier. I use a lot of the Dollar Tree children's foam play noodles for this type of coverage (cold pipes). Not sure how much this helps but with dampness I will try anything.
  • Some suggestions:
  • Level the dirt floor and put a vapor barrier (Six-mil polyethylene plastic) on top and put one of a number of things on top of that (seals out moisture that causes mildew/mold and odor).
  • If you do not use the basement very much you can just use enough of something to make pathways.
  • Children's foam or rubber play mats (even Dollar Tree has some of these - but not as thick maybe) or indoor/outdoor carpet. You might even try using some carpet remnants, especially if found at a thrift store.
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  • If you do not want to do any modifications such as suggested then it may be better to try placing pans with layers of charcoal, cat litter, vinegar or baking soda as they may help with the moisture and the odor.
  • Even a second dehumidifier may be necessary.
  • You can always hang a DampRid to see how much moisture is still in your basement. If you use one of these you should check about every 12 hours to see how much the bag has collected.
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