Crawl Space Cleaning: When, Why, and How


Even the most meticulous homeowner knows that there are some nooks and crannies that tend to escape notice when it comes to cleaning a house, and crawl spaces tend to be one of them. These little-used, forgettable storage spaces are usually not  top priority on anyone’s list of places to clean, yet they still deserve some attention. Completely ignoring your crawl space can actually lead to significant issues, which is why it’s important to give it some attention every once in a while. But how? In this guide, we’ll fill you in on all the things you need to know about how to clean your crawl space effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned DIYer or someone who prefers to rely on the professionals, we have you covered. 

How’s the Condition of Your Crawl Space?

Before you dive into cleaning head first, it might be wise to assess the current state of your crawl space. Pick up a flashlight and some gloves–maybe a moisture meter if you’re feeling wild–and take a look. If all that greets you is some dust, you’re probably safe to go on with your day, but if you notice musty smells or foul odors, visible mold growth, rodent droppings, standing water, or high humidity levels, these are all signs that it’s time to clean. 

If you encounter significant structural damage, it’s best to contact a professional for repair.

Preparing for the Cleaning Process

Gather Necessary Equipment and Supplies

Once you’ve determined that there is a need for attention in your crawl space, you’ll want to gather your supplies. For a thorough cleaning, you will need heavy-duty trash bags, a broom and dustpan, a wet/dry vacuum, disinfectant and mold remover, plastic sheeting, and vapor barriers.

Ensuring Proper Ventilation

Good ventilation is crucial during the cleaning process to prevent the buildup of nasty smells and ensure fresh air circulation. Don’t make the process any more miserable for yourself than it has to be and open all access points, using fans as necessary.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Always wear PPE, including gloves, safety goggles, a respirator mask, and coveralls.

Removing Debris and Waste

Identifying and Removing Large Debris

Start by removing any large debris, such as old insulation, broken wood, and construction materials. Use heavy-duty trash bags for disposal and take care to avoid disturbing any hazardous materials.

Dealing with Hazardous Materials

If you come across hazardous materials, such as asbestos or sewage leaks, it’s best to hire a professional to handle the cleanup safely.

Why Does My Crawl Space Smell Musty?

Common Causes of Musty Smells

A musty smell in your crawl space is typically a sign of excess moisture and poor ventilation. Common causes include standing water, high humidity levels, and mold growth. Rodent droppings and other organic materials can also contribute to the smell

Identifying the Source

To identify the source of the musty smell, inspect the crawl space for visible signs of water damage, mold, and pests. Use a moisture meter to check for high humidity levels and look for areas where water might be pooling.

Addressing the Issue

To rid yourself of the stink, start by removing any standing water and fixing leaks. Install a vapor barrier to prevent moisture from seeping into the crawl space. Use a dehumidifier to maintain low humidity levels and improve ventilation by installing vents or fans. Cleaning and disinfecting the area will also help. 

Cleaning Mold and Mildew

Recognizing and Disposing of Mold and Mildew

Look for discolored patches on walls or insulation, as these are signs of mold and mildew. Recognizing and dealing with these early can prevent more extensive damage. To remove these unwanted visitors, we recommend scrubbing with a mold remover or bleach solution with brushes, and ensuring proper ventilation to avoid inhaling spores.

Preventing Future Mold Growth

You can prevent future mold growth by maintaining low humidity, regularly inspecting and cleaning the area, and ensuring good ventilation.

Pest Control in the Crawl Space

Common Pests Found in Crawl Spaces

Crawl spaces are often the preferred stomping grounds for many unsavory and unwanted guests. These dark, warm spaces can harbor pests such as rodents, insects, and termites. Finding and removing these pests is crucial to maintaining a clean space.

Safe Pest Removal Methods

Remove pests using traps and baits, professional extermination services, and sealing entry points to prevent future infestations.

Preventative Measures

Prevent pests by keeping the area clean and dry, regularly inspecting for signs of pests, and using pest deterrents.

Improving Crawl Space Air Quality

Importance of Good Air Quality

Good air quality in your crawl space is not just important to keeping the space itself clean, but for the overall health of your home. Poor air quality can lead to health issues and unpleasant smells.

Installing Ventilation Systems

Consider installing ventilation systems to improve air circulation if you don’t already have them. Proper ventilation not only helps in maintaining low humidity, but also plays a big role in preventing mold growth.

Using Dehumidifiers and Air Purifiers

Dehumidifiers and air purifiers are another way to help maintain low humidity and clean air. They are effective tools in ensuring a healthy environment in your crawl space.

Final Cleaning and Sanitization

For final cleaning, vacuum the entire area, wipe down surfaces with disinfectant, and use mold remover where necessary. Ensure all surfaces are clean and sanitized. Be sure to use products specifically designed for crawl spaces, such as mold and mildew cleaners, heavy-duty disinfectants, and all-purpose cleaners. Sanitize the space by spraying disinfectant, using UV sanitizers, and ensuring proper drying and ventilation. This final step is crucial for maintaining a healthy environment.

Regular Maintenance and Inspection Tips

Creating a Maintenance Schedule

Create a schedule for regular inspections and maintenance, ideally every six months. This helps in early detection of any issues. This could look like inspecting your crawl space in spring for water damage, in fall for pest infestations, and after heavy rains or snow melts. Regular inspections can prevent major problems.

Professional Maintenance Services

Consider hiring professional services for thorough inspections and maintenance. Professionals can provide a detailed assessment and address issues effectively.

Closing Up

Maintaining a clean crawl space is vital for the health and safety of your home. Regular inspections, proper cleaning techniques, and addressing moisture issues can prevent many common problems. By following this guide, you can ensure your crawl space remains in top condition.

Why Trust Capitol Duct Cleaning?

Here at Capitol Duct Cleaning, we pride ourselves on serving our community well. From Tacoma to Olympia, we strive to keep Thurston County’s air clean and fresh. With an emphasis on customer satisfaction and quality service, our team is well prepared to give your home the treatment it needs, from ducts to crawl spaces. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you maintain a clean and safe crawl space. 

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