Air purifiers for basement smell

Will An Air Purifier Help With Basement Smell?

Can air purifiers help with basement smell

One of the worst problems that can drive you crazy if you live in a house with a basement is basement smell. Whether you have a basement apartment or storage or an unfinished basement, basement smell is a common occurrence if you live in a humid area or generally around springtime and summer when the air becomes more humid. However, you can also get a bad smelling basement even when the humidity levels are low or in the middle of winter.  Whatever your case, you are likely here because you are wondering if an air purifier will help.

As you might have found, there are several solutions for basement smell but will an air purifier really help you? Air purifiers can help with basement smell, but this strongly depends on the type of air purifier as not all air purifiers are designed to deal with odors. This being the case, as much as air purifiers can help with basement smell, they do not get rid of the source or cause of the smell.

If the source of your basement smell is mold or mildew caused by moisture from rain, humidity or flooding or an untidy basement, you have to dry up and tidy up your basement first for an air purifier to be effective. Otherwise, your air purifier will be fighting a losing battle in an environment that is constantly producing smell causing air contaminants.

So, the first step to improve the smell in your basement is to cut the production of smell causing contaminants. Then only after you do this, will an air purifier be most effective in maintaining fresh nice smelling air in your basement. That said, you can already start using an air purifier and feel some improvement in the smell before and as you try to eliminate the source of the bad smell.

With this information in your mind, let me share with you in more detail the types of air purifiers you should be considering for basement smell and give you some tips on what else you can do to sort out the smell in addition to using an air purifier.

Types Of Air Purifiers That Will Help With Basement Smell

To deal with basement smells, you will want to either go for a true HEPA purifier with an activated carbon filter or a photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) air purifier. You can also try Ozone Generators but do consider the dangers. Based on my research, all the other types of air purifiers are not as effective or are completely useless in dealing with odor causing air pollutants. Now let me take you through the ins and outs of how HEPA and PCO purifiers will help.

HEPA Air Purifiers

When it comes to basement air quality, mold spores are your number one enemy. HEPA purifier filters are designed to filter pollutants in the air with particles sized as small as 0.1 microns while mold spores range from 3 to 40 microns. Accordingly, HEPA air purifiers can help you considerably reduce the number of odor causing mold and mildew spores in the air and subsequently dampen or eliminate the smell they cause.

So, just from a particle size perspective, you can already see how HEPA purifiers can be effective in freshening the air in your basement. In fact, they are able to also get rid of mold spores that survive long after you have sorted out your basement’s moisture and humidity issues.

However, as much as HEPA purifiers can clear the air of mold spores and dust floating in your basement, on their own they can’t completely remove the smell as this is also caused by gaseous air contaminants that are too small for HEPA air purifiers to trap. What you will need to also get rid of the smell is a HEPA purifier combined with an activated carbon filter.

The carbon filter contains some porous and chemically treated charcoal with millions of pores which not only eliminate smells but also Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and gases by absorbing their dangerous particles. 

PCO Air Purifiers

Now, let's look at PCO purifiers. Like HEPA air purifiers, these devices also work by sucking in air into the purification core of device using a built-in fan.  However, unlike HEPA purifiers, PCO purifiers are filterless. Instead, they contain a broad-spectrum UV light that reacts with a thin catalyst film (normally titanium dioxide), creating hydroxyl radicals and super-oxide ions that burn and destroy odor causing air contaminants, VOCs and microorganisms absorbed on the catalyst's surface.

PCO is such a powerful air purification technology, destroying particles as small as 0.001 microns. PCO purifiers can destroy gases like carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide  which easily escape and do not get filtered or eliminated from your indoor air by other types of air purifiers.

PCO purifiers destroy much more than the particles causing smells in your basement, and work to eliminate other related dangerous airborne particles in your basement such as tiny lung penetrating particles that can cause serious internal damage to your respiratory system. PCO air purifiers are much better than HEPA purifiers which merely trap pollutants rather than destroy them.

With this in mind, you might now be asking if there is any point in getting a HEPA purifier for your basement. Well, the only reason, I would get a HEPA purifier is because of affordability and ease of replacing spare parts.

Because, PCO purifiers are highly customized devices, and the tech is not yet widespread, it can be quite a financial hurdle to get spare parts. You often find that you have to contact the device manufacturer for parts which can be a pain if you are in a different state or country. That said if your budget is not tight, go for a PCO air purifier hands down for your basement.

Important Features for Basement Air Purifiers

Now that you know what air purifiers you should be looking at for basement smell, to make your life easier, here are some general features you want to have on any purifier. The first is automatic settings. Aim to get a purifier that can detect the level of pollution in your air and adjust itself to effectively clean the air. This will save you on energy consumption and time running around to turn up or turn down your purifier settings for optimal performance.

Finally, please get a purifier that tells you when its time to change your filter or change any replaceable part. It is easy to forget when to change your purifier parts, especially if no one lives in your basement and its out of sight. Having a built-in indicator is the easiest way to remember that it is filter replacement time. Even better you can get a device that links up to your phone like the Coway Airmega to give you real-time feedback on how your air purifier is doing.

Additional Tips to Deal with Basement Smells

As I mentioned earlier on, your air purifier cannot win the fight against basement smell without addressing the source of the smell. To add on to this, if the source of the smell is just general mold caused by humid air, you have to get rid of the humidity in your basement for your air purifier to effectively help with the smell.

Here are 4 steps you should take in conjunction with using an air purifier for basement odors.

4 Steps  To Get Rid of Basement Smell With An Air Purifier

1. Check all potential sources of the smell and get rid of them

The smell in your basement could be coming from carpets absorbing moisture and damp if you have a carpeted basement apartment. Check under your carpets to see if it feels wet and if it does that could be your source.

Damp Carpet in Basement

If there is no moisture, the smell could be coming from certain items like old paint buckets, wood or other stored items. Besides, this, check all the walls and ceilings. If you can’t find anything use air quality testing equipment or have a professional air quality service come in  to investigate. Then once you determine the problem, implement the appropriate solution.

2. Get rid of moisture and damp

Waterproof  your basement sooner than later. If you are moving to a new home, ensure that the basement and the foundations of your house are waterproofed.

Damp walls basement smells

This will go a long way in minimizing moisture from rain and flood damage in your basement and the rest of your home and will subsequently save you from dealing with basement smell. Waterproofing  your  home is just one of those things you have to do. It will save you a lot on house insurance and wall damage by damp and mold.

3. Get rid of basement humidity

Hygrometer for basement smell

Keep a constant eye out on humidity levels in your basement.  The best way to do this is by using a Hygrometer.  One of the most nifty and useful hygrometer's I have come across so far is the Govee Wireless Indoor, Thermometer, Hygrometer, and Humidity Gauge. This device hooks up to your WiFi and phone and it enables you to monitor your humidity  remotely. However  if you don't need fancy features, you can stick to a traditional digital hygrometer like the ThermoPro TP55 and this will work just fine.

Now if your hygrometer shows you that humidity is an issue and you have not thought about a dehumidifier, please get one immediately. You can also get a combo dehumidifier air purifier. This will save you on the cost of getting 2 devices. The best combo device I have seen is the Pure & Dry HEPA70 Dehumidifier and Air Purifier by Aerus.

4. Tidy up your basement

Lastly, to deal with basement smell you will want to declutter and remove unnecessary odor causing items you have stored in your basement, clean out all the dust, stack things neatly and use airtight containers where appropriate. Dirty laundry, is a nono here. If you have a carpet, I would get rid of it but if you must, invest in a good  HEPA vacuum cleaner.

You can also put bamboo charcoal air purifier bags  in cupboards, under furniture and corners around your basement. These bags help with smells and absorb excess moisture that causes mold. The aim here is to keep your basement as clean and as dry as possible, even if it is an unfinished basement. If you take these 4 steps, you should be able to safely leave the rest of the job in getting rid of basement odors to your air purifier.

I think I have covered a lot here but, this is pretty much all the nitty gritty around dealing with basement smells with air purifiers and let me end on this note. For more information on how air purifiers can help you get rid of odors around your home click here.

About the Author

Jean-Baptiste

Jean is a research economist by profession and he runs Fresh Air Genie. He is enthusiastic about maintaining good air quality at home and on the go and he shares his knowledge about this here at Fresh Air Genie.

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