How to Get Rid Of Mold in the Basement and Prevent It From Returning

Taylor Sansano
Written by Taylor Sansano
Updated November 2, 2022
Finished modern designed basement
Photo: Anatoli / Adobe Stock

Say goodbye to the mold hiding in your basement

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Mold loves to grow in basements—the warm and wet conditions are everything mold spores look for in a home. Unfortunately, mold can cause extensive home damage and negative health conditions for residents. 

If you notice mold growth in your basement, it is important to remove it as soon as possible. This guide details how to get rid of mold in the basement and keep it from coming back.

What Causes Mold to Grow in Basements?

Mold growth thrives in warm, moist areas, making many basements the perfect residence. The tiny spores break down organic debris in the environment, and mold spores spread when they come in contact with moisture. 

Basements tend to be an area that collects moisture from leaking pipes or hot water heaters, pipe condensation, or rainwater that enters through holes or cracks. That’s why it’s important to waterproof your basement as much as possible.

Signs You Have Mold in Your Basement

Mold is often black, white, or green in color. These colors can be camouflaged in basements, especially dim-lit areas like corners and ceilings, making it difficult to identify if you have a mold problem. Use these common signs of mold to assess whether you have mold growing in your basement.

  • Damp or musty smell: Mold gives off a pungent, earthy odor. It will be similar to the smell of a damp basement, but stronger and overbearing.

  • Dark spots: Dark speckles or stains found on walls or insulation are a signature sign of mold. Mold can be black, gray, green, or white, have pink, purple, or orange steaks, and have a flat or fuzzy texture.

  • Peeling paint: While peeling paint is caused by moisture issues, it creates the perfect breeding ground for mold. Also, check for mold within the wall and foundation cracks.

  • Allergies or related health issues: The presence of mold can cause an allergic reaction for those living in your household. If anyone experiences sneezing, itchiness, watery eyes, or shortness of breath, mold could be the underlying issue.

Prepping to Remove Basement Mold Safely

Mold is a dangerous toxin, so it is important to take precautions to protect yourself before attempting any removal. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homeowners do not take on DIY mold removal projects larger than 10 square feet. Contact a professional mold removal specialist to complete the job if needed.

Read through these safety recommendations before proceeding with how to kill mold in the basement.

  • Wear protective equipment: To protect your body and avoid inhaling any mold toxins, wear protective equipment, including N95 masks, gloves, and eye goggles. You should also protect your skin by wearing a long shirt and pants.

  • Consider alternatives to bleach: Many homeowners reach for bleach when trying to kill mold; however, the product can be hazardous and is not the best option for mold removal. It tends to kill surface mold, but it leaves spores deeply embedded in cracks and holes.

  • Ventilate the area: Ensure your work area is well-ventilated. The mold will become airborne during the removal process and you do not want to breathe it in. Open any windows and turn on a fan to circulate air.

How to Get Rid of Mold in a Basement

If your basement currently has any of the signs of mold listed above, it is important to remediate the problem as soon as possible. Use one of these ways to get rid of mold in your basement. 

1. Remove Mold-Damaged Materials

If mold is growing on porous materials, it will be impossible to remove it all. Inspect your drywall, carpeting, curtains, or other porous materials in your basement for mold, and then remove and replace any items with visible growth.

Use a pry bar to take down drywall or pull up any carpeting. Take down curtains and other textiles. Place all mold-infested materials in trash bags and remove them from your home. Dispose of the bags per local regulations.

2. Create a Mold-Killing Solution

You’ll need to combine some common household cleaners to make a mold-killing solution. When creating and using any of these mixtures, keep children and pets away from the area. You can make a water-based mold-killing solution with any of the following:

  • Vinegar: Combine one part undiluted vinegar with three parts warm water. This is a great solution for removing mold from basement walls.

  • Dish soap: Combine one part dish soap with three parts warm water. This solution is best for wood surfaces as it is not harsh enough to damage the finish.

  • Borax: Combine 1 cup of borax with 1 gallon of warm water. You can boost the effectiveness of this solution by adding several teaspoons of soap, vinegar, or baking soda. This solution is great for basement walls or around plumbing.

  • Bleach: Be extra careful when using this bleach mixture. Combine ½ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water. Keep in mind, bleach will kill mold, but it won’t always remove the dead spores.

3. Scrub Mold With the Solution

Pour your water-based solution of choice into a spray bottle. Spray the solution across the entire mold-affected area. Use a microfiber cloth or towel to wipe away the sprayed solution and the accompanying mold. 

If any mold remains after the initial wiping, spray more of the solution and let it sit for 30 minutes. Return and wipe away the area again. You can use a stiff-bristle brush to scrub at the surface. Let the entire area dry and repeat the process as needed.

4. Replace or Repaint As Needed

Once there is no more visible mold, you can repair any materials previously removed due to mold growth. For example, you should install new drywall or repaint surfaces. Consider using a moisture-blocking primer to prevent any water from seeping in and allowing future mold to grow.

How to Prevent Basement Mold Growth

Homeowners should take preventative measures to stop mold from growing in the first place. By implementing these steps in your basement, mold will no longer find a suitable spot to grow.

  • Eliminate basement moisture: There are many possible reasons for moisture in a basement. Start by identifying holes and cracks in the walls and floors, leaks in pipes or equipment, or pipe condensation, and take the proper steps to eliminate the source.

  • Use a dehumidifier: A dehumidifier will remove excess moisture from the air in your basement. Be sure to regularly empty the water vessel or consider installing a dehumidifier system that automatically drains.

  • Regularly change filters: Clogged filters can store moisture and spread mold throughout your home. Regularly change furnace and air conditioning filters to prevent this.

  • Ensure proper ventilation: Mold prefers damp, stagnant air. Keep your air circulating to avoid this condition. Make sure your whole-house ventilation system is properly functioning and open up windows for fresh air on occasion.

DIY Basement Mold Removal vs. Hiring a Professional

As noted above, the EPA only recommends DIY-ing mold removal if the affected area is less than 10 square feet. For larger mold removal projects, be sure to call in the pros who will have the right tools and techniques for the job. Professional mold remediation costs anywhere from $1,130 to $3,350.

Basement mold remediation specifically will cost anywhere from $500 to $3,000. Hire a local mold removal team to test your home for mold, recommend what materials to remove and which ones to clean, and complete the mold removal process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mold in a basement is harmful as it can trigger allergy symptoms, especially for those with asthma and other breathing conditions. Symptoms of mold exposure include itching, sneezing, running nose, and congestion.

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