Removing Basement Odors

Don’t feel bad because basements frequently have that old, mildewy smell.

When something smells “off”, it simply needs to be cleaned, decaying items removed, and the environmental conditions changed to stop further odors from developing.

Deodorizers and air fresheners make it smell better, but the effect is a temporary mask. It is far more important in the long run to get the odor under control and fix the problem cause before it worsens.

There are 2 easy steps to take when it comes to basement odors:

  1. Remove or repair the problem that is causing the foul smell.
  2. Clean the area to reduce the smell, control and and prevent any odor from coming back.

Luckily, there are some common things that cause odor to develop, and they are easily fixed. Find the solution to your odor problem by following these tips below.

Causes of Old, Musty, Moldy, Mildewy & Smelly Basements:

Basements are one of the most common odor producers in the home, right behind the refrigerator and the cat box. There are several things that can cause basement odors. These are the most common causes of smelly basements and what you need to do to fix it:

Inadequate Cleaning:

The Problem: You know the old saying: “Out of sight, out of mind”. Dust, dirt, grime, cobwebs and decay develops and builds up over time. Rodents and insects can take up residence without you knowing and create foul odors, unhealthy and unsanitary living conditions for you and your family. Mold and mildew put off foul odors that can be absorbed and spread to stored items.

The Fix: Give the basement a good overall cleaning. Start at the ceiling, clean down the walls and behind every item. Use bleach, borax or vinegar to clean and control odor. Clear out old junk stored in the basement. Remove things that absorb moisture or can put off bad smells such as clothing or carpet. A clean area doesn’t just look better, it smells better too. Clutter reduces air flow and mildew frequently develops on decaying items.

Now, once your basement is nice and clean and the clutter and junk are cleared out, check these other areas that may be causing the smell.


The Problem: One of the most common problems with the basement is the amount of moisture. Moisture causes mold, mildew, bacteria, fungal growth and causes wood, fabric and paper to start to rot. The very first thing to do is to get the basement dry. Even before you start cleaning, get the humidity down.

The Fix: You need to dry it out. To do this, use a dehumidifier and air out the location by opening windows. If you see water leaking from faucets or pipes or cracks in your foundation you must get that repaired to stop water from leaking into the area. If you see water stains, investigate the source and get it fixed. Allowing water to accumulate will cause more serious problems than just a bad smell. You must get these taken care of before they damage the home’s foundation.

Poor Air Circulation:

The Problem: Poor air circulation all by itself isn’t a cause of basement odor, but it does make it worse by allowing air to become stagnant and allow bad smells to become more obvious. Moving air also helps water to evaporate. Stagnant air makes mold and mildew worse when spores are released into the air and easily spread to other damp areas.

The Fix: Get the air moving by opening a window, turning on a fan, opening the doors or other methods.

Low Light and Temperature:

The Problem: Low lighting and air temperature can also promote odors. Dark, damp low light and air circulation creates the perfect environment for mold and mildew to grow or basement contents to decay unseen.

The Fix: Bring up the air temperature by using a portable area heater, turn on the lights and open the curtains. Heated rooms help water to evaporate You’ll be able to see the problem areas more easily in the light.

Mold and Mildew Growth:

The Problem:  Mold, mildew and fungus grows in damp areas with low lighting and thrive with poor air circulation. These organisms put off a gas that we most commonly associate with a smelly basement. Poor air circulation makes the smell worse and allows the spread of mold and mildew to other areas with time.

The Fix: You need to clean up moldy areas and scrub away visible stains. Borax is the perfect thing to use to clean this because it’s a natural mineral cleaner that also kills fungus (fungicide) and prevents further regrowth. It’s used in laundry soap. It’s the main ingredient in the product 20 Mule Team.

To Clean It-To make your mold and mildew cleaning solution mix the following in a bucket:

  • one cup of borax cleaner
  • one gallon of hot water

Use a scrub brush to clean the area and follow with a rinse of clean water as borax will leave a residue.

To Remove Stains- Remove stains and fight off mold and mildew regrowth with a bleach and water solution:

  • 2 cups of bleach
  • 2 quarts of hot water

Pour the solution into a spray bottle and work your way around spraying areas where you see visible staining, or suspect are causing odor problems. Keep in mind that there is water in this solution, so use sparingly to avoid contributing to a moisture problem.

Bleach will liquefy, sanitize and remove the color (bleach it!) on contact, depending on the surface it’s being used on.

Chlorine bleach is a very good sanitizer but I don’t use bleach frequently. Because it bleaches everything it comes into contact with I find it can cause more harm than good if you accidentally get it on an unintended surface. But this is one project where it is justified because it works like no other cleaning chemical will do.

Bleach is strongly alkaline and is very harsh. It may be a commonly used product, but you should respect it too. It will erode and corrode many things, and make the surface very slippery. It will burn your skin if it is not rinsed off. Bleach also removes the color from fabric on contact with no second chances. So rinse the area with plain water after using. Also, never use bleach in conjunction with any other cleaning product. It will react to many things and put off a toxic gas that could be very serious in an area of low air circulation.

How to Keep Your Basement Smelling Fresh:

There are several things that you can do to keep the odors at bay and keep your basement smelling fresh and clean.

  • Keep the home and the basement adequately ventilated. Air needs to flow through the home to allow for it to be kept clean. To make sure this happens, have your air ducts cleaned and also have your ventilation system checked yearly.
  • Control the humidity. The biggest odor causing problem in homes is that of mildew and mold. Use ventilation, windows, dehumidifiers and effective means for keeping water out to keep the level of humidity down.
  • Clean your dryer vent. Start outside where it exits and follow it down into the home to the base of the dryer. Blocked dryer vents allow moisture to build up in the home. If the dryer is in the basement, this can be the original source of basement odors to start with. Rodents can take up residence in the vent attracted to the lint that makes a nice nest and warm temperatures
  • Waterproof the basement. Water is the cause of many air quality problems. Make sure your basement is waterproof. A small leak can cause a tremendous amount of moisture and cause the other side of the home to smell bad.
  • Keep the home clean. Get the garbage out of the house quickly; keep the floors clean and pills cleaned up. Take care of those places that people like to avoid like the basement and the garage. Use products that will eliminate mold and mildew from your home.
  • Repair all leaks. If you suspect that your foundation or the beams in your home have gotten wet or damaged, have a professional come out and make sure. Weakened structures are not safe and will cause you to become injured and cause odor in the home.


KDKA-AM – CBS Radio Interview with EZ Breathe

KDKA Afternoon News – CBS Radio

Robert Mangino and Shelley Duffy host the KDKA Afternoon News giving you the news, traffic, weather, business, sports & lifestyle information you need.

KDKA-AM is a commercial station owned by CBS Radio. KDKA-AM broadcasts to the Pittsburgh area at 1020 AM. KDKA-AM’s tagline is “Newsradio 1020.” First airing on November 2, 1920 at 6pm ET, the station became the world’s first radio station. In April 1992, KDKA-AM switched from a full-service format, which included music, to a news and talk format. In December 2008, KDKA-AM became simulcasted on the HD3 channels for sister stations WBZW-FM, WDSY-FM and WZPT-FM.

Live interview from earlier today with EZ Breathe

Real Estate Radio LIVE with Erika from EZ Breathe

Real Estate Radio LIVE was founded and launched in 2011 by Joe Cucchiara, a Bay Area mortgage planner who has guided thousands of Silicon Valley residents (and beyond!) through the home financing process. With Real Estate Radio LIVE ranked #2 in listenership and popularity on The Wall Street Business Network, AM 1220 KDOW, the mission has been widely received and continues to grow.

A home is a safe place, unless it’s making you sick! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the air in the average American home is anywhere from five to 100 times more polluted than the air outside. EZ Breathe Ventilation Systems aims to change that! Erika Lacroix, President of EZ Breathe will chat with Host Joe Cucchiara about the hidden health dangers inside a home.

Listen here:

Healthy Home Tips! – April is Healthy Home Awareness Month

“Healthy Homes Awareness Month”

Healthy Home Tips! - April is Healthy Home Awareness Month- EZ BreatheApril is Healthy Homes Awareness month! We, here at EZ Breathe, have long supported the Healthy Homes initiative. We are proud that two of our staff members hold the Healthy Homes Specialist certification. They have graciously put together these helpful tips. One for each day…

Click here for more information on the EZ Breathe Ventilation System.

Follow us on Facebook to receive your daily tip:

April 1:

Here at EZ Breathe, we are keenly aware of the 7 Healthy Home Tips:

  1. Keep it Dry.
  2. Keep it Clean.
  3. Keep it Safe.
  4. Keep it Well-Ventilated.
  5. Keep it Pest-free.
  6. Contaminant-free.
  7. Keep it Well-Maintained.

US Department of Housing and Urban Development office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control


April 2:

Keep it Dry

Today is a great day to check for signs of foundation leaks.  As snow has melted, followed by spring rains in much of North America, now is a time to check for damp spots on walls and floors, actual water leakage, etc.  If you have any of these signs, call EZ Breathe for helpful hints on what you can do to Keep it Dry in your basement or crawlspace.


April 3:

Keep it Clean

Today, you can Keep it Clean and Dry at the same time, clean out eaves troughs of tree debris, etc.


April 4:

Keep it Safe

Do you have smoke detectors on each floor of the home? Did you replace the batteries when you adjusted your clocks ahead for Spring?  If not, do it now, and remember to test each smoke detector monthly.


April 5:

Keep it Well-Ventilated

We aren’t coming up with this on our own, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in their “Seven Tips for Keeping a Healthy Home” says:

“use whole house ventilation for supplying fresh air to reduce contaminants in the home.”


April 6:

Keep it Pest-Free

Did you know that a mouse can enter your home through a ¼ inch gap?  Now is a good time to examine the outside of your home for any penetrations.  There are some easy ways to seal these up DIY. Or call a professional who understands Integrated Pest Management.  There is a lot more than chemicals to keeping your home pest free.


April 7:

Keep it Contaminant-free

Have you had your home tested for radon?  See this map from the EPA, and test your home. Some Health Departments have test kits.


April 8:

Keep it Well-Maintained

Inspect the exterior of your home thoroughly for damage from the Winter.  Make a list of repairs. Take care of minor repairs, and prevent much more costly large repairs.


April 9:

Keep it Dry

Visually inspect your roof from the outside, look for missing or damaged shingles.  If you are in a snow/freeze region, ice damming can cause external damage that will create the path for water to enter the home.  One of our distributors in Massachusetts this Winter personally experienced both ice damming, and how EZ Breathe can help to prevent it.


April 10:

Keep it Clean

Like the old school rhyme, “Pick up Sticks” in the yard.  It is both a Keep it Clean, and a Keep it Safe (trip hazard).


April 11:

Keep it Safe

Do you have Carbon Monoxide detectors?  EZ Breathe HIGHLY recommends CO alarms, and Low Level CO alarms or monitors are the way to go!  According to the CDC:  “Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO.”  And these folks are also more likely to be effected at lower levels than many alarms would even recognize as a threat.


April 12:

Keep it Well-Ventilated

When it comes to attached garages, you can take care of a lot of “Keep Its” with one simple thing: Garage mechanical ventilation.   According to the Energy Star Indoor airPlus program, and the Alaska American Lung Association, attached garages should have exhaust ventilation. It will keep garage fumes, including carbon monoxide, benzene, and chemicals stored in the garage, from entering the home.


April 13:

Keep it Pest-free

Inspect the exterior of the home and ensure that the soil outside doesn’t directly contact any exterior wood elements of the home.  This is a pathway for pests including termites.  While you’re at it, look for landscaping bushes and trees in contact with the home, and trim accordingly.


April 14:

Keep it Contaminant-free

As we open our windows (I just opened mine for the first time in months), check for chipping paint, if your house was built before 1978, the paint used around the windows may very well contain lead.  Remove chips, and dispose of them safely.  For tips on handling possibly lead containing paint:


April 15:

Keep it Well-Maintained

Spring is a good time to institute a “remove your shoes at the door” rule.  It will make keeping the house clean easier, and will also keep unwanted contaminants like lead in the soil, pests, etc. from entering your home!


April 16:

Keep it Dry

Check the attic for any signs of water intrusion from outside OR condensation from inside.  Wet spots, rusty metal, mold, etc.


April 17:

Keep it Clean

One of the best ways to find an area in need of cleaning is to use your nose!  Who has the most sensitive nose in the house?  Follow your nose.  Many things we need to be aware of have a scent signature… what is that musty odor?


April 18:

Keep it Safe

If your home was a workplace (and who has a home that doesn’t involve a lot of work?),  cleaning products and other chemicals would have to be labeled and stored in a secure area.  And most workplaces don’t have pets and children in them.  Are your cleaning products safely stored in an area that children and pets can’t access?


April 19:

Keep it Well-Ventilated

Check your dryer vent hose or pipe, clean it out, check for holes, and make sure the exterior vent isn’t clogged.  In 2010 nearly 17,000 home fires were caused by clothes washers and dryers, 92% by dryers.


April 20:

Keep it Pest-free

Check all fresh air intakes for high efficiency furnaces, water heaters, makeup air,  or the EZ Breathe Balanced system… they should have a filter (ours does), and the filter should be cleaned or changed.  No filter means free access to pests….ask us about the hornet infested house from an unfiltered passive air intake…


April 21:

Keep it Contaminant-free

If there is one thing we should remember when it comes to contaminants it is this: SOURCE CONTROL.  If we don’t bring it in the house, we don’t have to deal with it.  So pay attention to the labels of anything you bring in the house!  See our blog on Formaldehyde.


Today we will be at a conference in Akron, Ohio: “Creating Healthier Indoor Spaces for Healthier Children”, 



April 22:

Keep it Well-Maintained

If you have an outdoor grill, now is a great time to open it up, clean it out, and prepare for grilling season.  Far too many people find out about bugs, mice, etc. that have made a home in their grill when it is too late!


April 23:

Keep it Dry

Make a note to yourself… next time it rains cats and dogs, do a perimeter check of your home, observe the way the rain water comes off the roof, and is it pooling around the foundation?  Rain water should be running to the eaves troughs, into the downspout, and piped away from the foundation.  Any failure to do so should be addressed.


April 24:

Keep it Clean

Clean and organize your garage! Sometimes a disorganized/messy garage hides all kinds of things we don’t want, like pests, old paint cans, etc. One customer told me that our garage system “Changed my life”, it was because of equal parts forcing him to clean and organize his garage, and how it immediately changed how his wife perceived the smell of the garage and adjoining room of the house.


April 25:

Keep it Safe

Inspect your home for trip/slip and fall hazards.  Loose rugs, extension cords across the floor (this is dangerous on many levels), toys, shoes, etc.  Personally, I hate it when I inspect a home that has pairs of shoes “organized” on each step on the way into the house, or into the basement, or upstairs, or all of the above.  Safety is about redundancy, sure it would be great if everyone was always aware of where they were walking, but they often aren’t, and removing a trip hazard prevents serious injury!


April 26:

Keep it Well-Ventilated

This is a good day to check bathroom and kitchen range exhaust fans.  They should be in good working order, and exhausting to the outside.  Check outside vents for airflow restrictions, make sure any ductwork is intact and not obstructed.  Also, flex pipe works best when it is STRAIGHT!  I can’t tell you how many times we see flex pipe hung in ways that guarantee debris accumulation, condensation pooling, and eventual blockage, if not worse.


April 27:

Keep it Pest-free

Pest of the day… DUST MITES.  Where ever your family and your pets spend the most time is where dust mites will be most likely to be found.  Thoroughly vacuum your furniture; move your furniture, and vacuum the carpet around it.  Dust mite-proof bedding is advised, particularly if anyone has asthma or allergies.


EZ Breathe representatives will be attending the 2015 Ohio Healthy Homes and Lead Conference in Cleveland!


April 28:

Keep it Contaminant-free

If there are smokers in the house, make sure to institute a “smoke free” home policy.  If there is smoking in one room, there is smoking throughout the home (your furnace/air conditioning is designed to move air from one room throughout the house), a smoke free home is important to everyone’s health.  And it might help the smoker to limit and eventually quit smoking.  Check your local chapter of the American Lung Association for Smoking Cessation classes.


April 29:

Keep it Well-Maintained

Check your window screens.  Repair/replace as needed.  It looks nice, and it will keep bugs out!


April 30:

Keep it Dry

You already checked and fixed any sources for rain water entering your home at your roof, or foundation….what about water vapor?  If you want to know about how water vapor enters your home, check out the EZ Breathe Blog!







Popular Science Radio with EZ Breathe

Popular Science Radio with EZ Breathe Popular Science Radio with Alan Taylor and EZ Breathe with Erika Lacroix

The stuffy air in your house could be killing you! Find out how EZ Breathe can help you breathe easy with their home ventilation system.


Breathe Easy – Six out of every ten homes are hazardous to live in due to airborne pollutants. EZ Breathe President, Erika Lecroix, has made it her mission to improve the indoor air quality in homes all across America, and is here to tell us how!

For related information on the EZ Breathe Ventilation System, click here.

Ventilation is Key – The most important tool in your arsenal in your fight against hazardous indoor air is ventilation! Erika Lecroix explains how EZ Breathe’s stand alone unit provides an escape for all the nasty stuff in your building at the lowest level.

‘Fragrance’ Making Us Sick?

Fragrance Making Us Sick- EZ Breathe“Fragrance” can mean any of thousands of combinations of chemicals whose identities are not disclosed.

Miller is just one of countless Americans who are sensitive to “fragrance,” a cryptic category of ingredients manufacturers add to products from cleaning supplies to toiletries. This generic term encompasses thousands of combinations of chemicals that give consumer goods their odors, but the identity of those chemicals is rarely disclosed.

Click here for related information on how E-Z Breathe helps with fragrances, smells, and odors.

For decades, fragrance makers have insisted on treating their recipes as trade secrets, even as complaints about negative health effects have proliferated. A 2009 study, for example, concluded that nearly one-third of Americans were irritated by the smell of scented products on others, and 19 percent experienced headaches or breathing difficulties when exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers.

The fragrance industry, with projected global sales of $40 billion this year, insists it ensures the safety of its products through a rigorous system of self-regulation administered by its trade group, the International Fragrance Association. But Women’s Voices for the Earth, a small consumer advocacy group in Missoula, Montana, recently outlined some troubling flaws in the industry’s methods and identified scores of chemicals used in its mixtures as toxic substances.

The Fragrance Association’s North American branch declined to comment for this story, as did association member BASF, the chemical giant. Four other members—Phoenix Aromas & Essential Oils, Premier Specialties, Flavor & Fragrance Specialties Inc., and Bedoukian Research—did not return phone calls.

“There’s a real kind of state of ignorance on the part of scientists, on the part of researchers, on the part of consumers.”

“There’s a real kind of state of ignorance on the part of scientists, on the part of researchers, on the part of consumers, on what is in fragrance and how safe fragrances are for your health,” says Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research at Women’s Voices, whose mission is to eliminate toxic chemicals that predominately affect women. “We were trying to pick apart the claim that the industry is ensuring the safety of fragrance.”

This problem isn’t new. In 2005, California passed the Safe Cosmetics Act, which compels manufacturers to report any product containing ingredients suspected to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. But the reporting database doesn’t include ingredients, including fragrance chemicals, that the companies identify as trade secrets—and experts worry some manufacturers are failing to comply altogether.

At the federal level, the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees cosmetics, doesn’t require manufacturers to prove in advance that their ingredients are safe—the FDA must demonstrate harm before requesting a recall. And while the agency compels cosmetics makers to disclose their ingredients, it, too, has a trade-secret exemption for fragrance or flavor chemicals. Products such as laundry detergents and air fresheners fall under the purview of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, which does not actively screen fragrances for safety.

“Government has failed to provide a real regulator…There are plenty of examples of where counting on the good graces of industry has wound up being a mistake.”

“Government has failed to provide a real regulator,” which is a problem, says Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). “There are plenty of examples of where counting on the good graces of industry has wound up being a mistake.”

In May 2010, a coalition called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics revealed the results of independent tests it commissioned on 17 popular perfumes, colognes, and body sprays. EWG analyzed the results: Each product contained more than a dozen undisclosed chemicals, including “chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions,” the group reported, and other “chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues.”

Earlier that year, under pressure from Women’s Voices and others, the International Fragrance Association released a list of some 3,000 chemicals used by its members. Women’s Voices presented its analysis this past November: Well over 1,000 of the listed ingredients, the group reported, also appear on official listings of worrisome chemicals. The United Nations, for instance, has more than one-third of the fragrance chemicals flagged with the word “warning” and explicitly labels 190 of them a “danger.” The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a division of the World Health Organization, lists seven of the ingredients as possible human carcinogens. Fifteen of the chemicals, Women’s Voices noted, are banned from cosmetics in the European Union.

Scranton, the scientist who authored the Women’s Voices report, points out that the Fragrance Association’s list gives no indication of how often and in what quantity each chemical is used, which makes it difficult to vet. “When I see styrene [a possible carcinogen] on the list of chemicals in fragrance, that’s a red flag,” she says. “Is it only used very, very rarely, in very small amounts? Possibly. Is it used in every fragrance that you come across? Then it’s going to be a problem.”

In a brief paper posted on its website, the Fragrance Association touts the industry’s ability to ensure “the highest levels of safety,” and insists that the industry adapts to new scientific findings “more quickly and efficiently through self-regulation as opposed to diverse legislation in different countries on different continents.” The association works with its research arm, the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, to produce standards it says are science-based.

“The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials is like a black box…None of their safety studies are publicly available.”

Women’s Voices cites several problems with this setup: First, the vast majority of fragrance safety studies are produced by the Research Institute—the Fragrance Association says it spends about $8 million a year on joint studies with manufacturers—or by the fragrance houses themselves. But the industry research is rarely published or peer reviewed, and there is no routine review of laboratory practices, Women’s Voices says, to ensure that results “have not been manipulated.”

Over the past year, however, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety has examined studies by the Research Institute and found repeated failings in its methodology—including incomplete data and invalid protocols.

The industry vets safety data and creates safety standards with guidance from a panel of “independent experts“—but the panel’s deliberations are off limits to the public. These standards, according to the Fragrance Association’s website, amount to 186 substances it has banned or restricted over the years, but Women’s Voices contends that the group does little to police its standards.

“The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials is like a black box,” says Janet Nudelman, the director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund and director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “None of their safety studies are publicly available.”

The Research Institute did not argue with the findings of Women’s Voices but simply responded with a statement affirming that “the industry is committed to addressing consumers’ interests through a continuous health and environmental safety review.”

The Fragrance Association opposed a recent bill that would force manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose their top 20 ingredients.

But the industry remains opposed to greater transparency regarding the chemicals it uses. The Fragrance Association, for example, opposed a California bill—introduced last February by state Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles)—that would force manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose their top 20 ingredients on the label. In a letter to the assemblyman, the association said it was worried about counterfeiters.

Miller, the New York professor with fragrance sensitivity, says “it would be very helpful” for people like her if companies would come clean about what’s in their products. “Fragrance is not just some pretty concept,” she says. “It actually can be a fairly nasty combination of chemicals.”

This story was reported by FairWarning, a nonprofit news organization focused on public health, safety and environmental issues.

EZ Breathe on WGN Radio Frank Fontana Show

EZ Breathe on WGN Radio Frank Fontana Show

EZ Breathe on WGN Radio

Erika Lacroix explained how EZ Breathe can help us breathe easier in our homes and make us healthier in the process on the Frank Fontana show on WGN Radio.

Listen to the interview at (Erika’s interview begins at the 28 minute mark)

Click here for more information on why you should choose the EZ Breathe Ventilation System for your home.