How to Get the Musty Odor Out of Furniture in a Basement

Mold and mildew settle easily into damp upholstery.

These fungal growths are the culprit behind the musty smell common to basement furniture. Whether your basement has had visible moisture or is simply humid, musty odor in the furniture is almost inevitable. After you've dried the basement and fixed the source of dampness, you'll still be left with furniture that contains the moldy odor. It's essential to your enjoyment of the furniture and, often, your health to remove traces of mold and mildew and the accompanying odor.

Wear rubber gloves and an N95 respirator to lower your exposure to mold or mildew spores while taking care of the musty furniture. Ventilate the basement, if possible. Open windows and all doors leading to the basement and use fans to circulate the air.

Remove all removable items from the furniture, such as pillows and cushions. Machine wash any washable furniture covers in hot water. Add one cup of vinegar with your regular detergent. Dry these well on high heat, if the fabric can handle high heat (check the label)--if not, hang them to dry outdoors in full sun.

Move the furniture, if you can, out of the basement and outdoors. Place it in a sunny area of your yard--preferably on a solid dry surface, such as a deck or driveway. If you are unable to remove the furniture from the basement, you can still treat it for the musty smell but it won't be as easy. Sunlight and fresh air go a long way towards airing out musty upholstery.

Brush the upholstery with a stiff dry sponge (or a soft brush, if the furniture is leather) to remove surface dust and mold. Vacuum all surfaces of the furniture. Allow the furniture to remain exposed to the sunlight and fresh air for several hours, as long as the weather is nice and you've been able to move the items outdoors.

Spray a household disinfectant with a fungicide all over the furniture. Pay special attention to creases, where mold and mildew spores are probably most numerous. Allow the furniture to air out for several hours more.

Spray the upholstered furniture with upholstery shampoo. Scrub it with a brush and vacuum the furniture again when the shampoo has dried. Clean woodwork with an orange oil cleaner and a soft cloth. Make certain the furniture has dried thoroughly before using it.

Things You Will Need

  • Dry sponges
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Disinfectant with a fungicide
  • Upholstery cleaner


  • If the basement continues to have a moisture problem, the furniture will develop the musty odor again. Consider keeping furniture out of the basement until the problem is fully fixed.


  • Mold and mildew spores, which cause the musty smell, can cause health problems for some people. Keep the area ventilated and discard or clean all equipment (and clothing) used or worn during furniture cleanup.