If you head into your basement and smell that “earthy” smell chances are there are damp mildew spots and now you may ask how to get rid of mold in the basement?
You know mold anywhere is not good, but the basement tends to be the hot spot for this to develop simply because the engine to our house is usually there, with hot water heaters, furnaces, washing machines and laundry tubs, damp towels and more.
If you have had an obvious leak and are dealing with a wet basement then you need to call in the professionals to deal with it fast before mold has a chance to get started. Mold forms when the area cannot dry out and remains damp.
It can form on surfaces such as the back of drywall or carpets or even ceiling tiles, so it needs to be addressed in the early stages when it is possible to clean it yourself.
Signs – There are usually signs that there is a moisture problem, such as discolored curtains, or the window panes have condensation or that carpet feels slightly damp and discolored, or even the concrete is discolored.
Find the source – This is your first job. You need to find out if the moisture problem is a tiny leak somewhere? These can be hard to find, because sometimes all you need is a sweating pipe in a ceiling dripping or a hose on the washing machine leaking underneath where you cannot see it, or is it simply there is too much humidity building in the basement air?
Once you find the area, you need to wash it and clean it with warm water and dish soap and then let it dry. You should only attack this yourself if it is a small area and you need to be wearing a mask and goggles and gloves to protect yourself and get windows open for fresh air.
If you begin to clean an area, and see that it is larger than you thought, then you need to call in professionals.
How to Get rid of Mold in the Basement? – Start looking in the easy spots first. In the last house that we bought, there was a definite earthy smell in the basement. Armed with masks and gloves we set out to search for it fearing the worst.
In the end it was a towel that had been wrapped around a leaking cold water pipe to stop it from dripping in the laundry area, and over time the towel had stayed damp and had gone moldy.
After carefully placing it in a garbage bag and cleaning the area, and then repairing the pipe we then installed a dehumidifier and that got the moisture out of the air.
Check for any wall leaks – If the basement has been finished, then look for blistering paint or peeling paint on the walls or buckling paneling, as it doesn’t have to be a large leak to cause problems. If you see areas like this, then you need to remove the drywall or panelling and find the source of the leak. It could be something as obvious as an old basement window that needs replacing, or it could be something more serious such as a foundation crack.
You need to find the source before you can continue with the cleaning with soap and water.
Dehumidifier – If you basement simply has too much moisture in the air from all the appliances being used in the basement and lack of air flow, then consider getting a dehumidifier and make sure to empty the tray of water before it gets full.
It is amazing just how much water one of these machines can pull out of the air. You may have to empty it twice a day in the beginning, this may be all that you need to get rid of that mold smell from too much moisture in the air.
Using soap and water and a scrub brush will usually take care of any small patches of basement mold on the floors or on the wall, but if you find it on carpet, then you must remove the carpet and then after finding the source consider building a sub-floor in your basement to house the carpet rather than placing it right on the concrete floor.
Don’t forget the ceiling – If for example you had a dishwasher leak last month and got it fixed and you cleaned up the water all over the kitchen floor upstairs, chances are some of this water may have migrated to the basement ceiling. If you have ceiling tiles, such as with a suspended ceiling the water may drip on the back of the tiles, and you may not see the stain for a few weeks, but you may smell it.
If the ceiling tile has been able to dry out, then mold may not form, but if the air is moist in the basement and you don’t run a dehumidifier mold can form on the back of the tile, so you may need to replace some of these suspended ceiling tiles.
It will be more obvious with drywall, as the paint will begin to ripple or peel off the ceiling or the drywall screws or nails will begin to rust in the ceiling, another sign that there is a problem and mold could be forming.
So how to get rid of mold in the basement?
- Find the source, look for obvious dampness or rippling paint, or discoloration
- Decide how large an area has been affected and consider professionals for larger areas.
- If just a small area, then clean with dish soap and water and allow to dry
- Repair any leaks no matter how small as these all contribute to the mold problem
- Call in professionals for larger areas or sourcing the problem such as with foundations.
- Run a dehumidifier to draw the moisture out of the air, make sure to empty water tray.
- Make sure and wear mask and goggles and gloves when cleaning wet areas and mold.
- Check all appliances in basement for leaks.
- Don’t forget to include ceiling in your search
- If strong earthy smell continues you may need to remove wall coverings and floor coverings to source the problem such as floor drains or cracked walls or leaking windows. Yes this could get expensive, but it can affect your health especially once the mold has got into the air, and your furnace could be circulating it from the basement. Something to consider before just doing a “band aide” repair.
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