I moved into a house in a humid area and had no way to access a dehumidifier.
This forced me to start researching “how to keep basement dry without dehumidifier,” so I could protect my home and belongings.
In this guide, I’ll pass my learnings on to you.
I’ll explain why it’s important to keep your basement dry and share the most effective ways to keep your basement dry without using a dehumidifier.
The best way I have found to control humidity in your basement is to improve the ventilation.
Without airflow, the humidity in your basement will have nowhere to go.
This allows mold and mildew to develop and allows parasites to gather in the air – gross, right?
It can also lead to the water condensing on a cool surface and pooling, eventually leading to water damage.
There are two ways to do this:
Using basement windows
The simplest way to create airflow is by opening windows and directing airflow through the space.
I found that even opening small windows can have a big impact on the air quality because it lets moisture and warm air escape a humid basement.
This can also lower the overall temperature.
Using fans or vents
If you can’t open windows, then you can install ventilation instead.
A simple vent fan can prevent water vapor from lingering in the room, and I like to use use a set of fans to circulate the air around your basement and direct it out of the space.
A fan system can move air around to stop water condensing and direct it out of the space to keep the basement dry.
I’ve found that most home improvement stores sell a basic fan for under $20, so it’s affordable for everyone.
If possible, use the fan to direct the airflow towards a basement window to safely vent the damp air outside.
Desiccants are materials that naturally absorb water. They’re used in desiccant dehumidifiers and are a cheap and easy way to keep your basement dry.
The most common desiccants include:
- Baking soda
- Calcium Chloride (rock salt)
I like to create my own DIY desiccant dehumidifiers because they’re very cheap, but you can pick up a small container desiccant or desiccant bags from most stores.
They work best in a smaller basement, and I use these a lot in small rooms and closets in my home.
Damprids are crystals that are specifically designed to dehumidify your air.
They work using a small plastic container and DampRid crystals, which are mostly made from calcium chloride. They work in 3 simple steps:
- Air flows into the top of the container and comes into contact with the crystals.
- The crystals harden as they absorb water. They then begin to dissolve, and the liquid drips to the bottom.
- Once the crystals have dissolved, there’s an indicator that it needs to be dried out. Empty the liquid from the container and refill it with new crystals.
These small devices can be bought cheaply and used frequently to keep your basement dry (or in other areas of your home as needed).
I usually install several around my basement to give the best coverage, and it can make a big difference to the indoor humidity levels.
Baking soda is the best natural dehumidifier because it’s quick, cheap, and effective. You can use it to remove humidity from a basement in 3 easy steps:
- Fill a box or bowl with baking soda and place it in the room.
- Leave it to remove moisture from the air.
- Check the baking soda every few days, and once it starts to clump together, it means it’s absorbed enough moisture. Throw the used-up baking soda away and repeat the process.
What I like most about using baking soda is that you can use as much or as little as needed.
When the humidity levels rise, I fill bigger containers with baking soda and place them around the basement to absorb more moisture.
During the less humid months, I usually only have a bowl or two down there.
The downside of baking soda is that it’s a low-speed solution without airflow. For best results, you should use baking soda with a vent fan or other method.
Charcoal is a hygroscopic material that will naturally absorb moisture from your house.
If you go to any home improvement stores, you can pick up a few bags of charcoal for under $10, and it’s simple to set up:
- Place the charcoal in your basement or crawl space in the place with the most humidity.
- If you can, increase airflow to that part of the room using a fan to get the best results.
- Once the charcoal starts to clump, throw it away and replace it.
Charcoal is cheap and effective in small to medium-sized spaces, and I usually find it lasts 2-3 months at a time.
It can also remove bad odors and leave you with a distinct smell, so it’s excellent for homeowners who want a better-smelling basement.
The downside is that it takes a long time to absorb the moisture.
Certain indoor plants can improve your air quality while absorbing moisture in the air.
However, not every plant will lower the humidity, so you have to find the right ones. Here are the best humidity-absorbing plants to keep in your basement:
- English Ivy
- Bamboo Palm
- Spider Plant
- Peace Lily
- Calathea Plants
- Boston Fern
- Reed palm (I have reed palms planted in my basement at the moment, and it works really well.)
These plants will typically need some sunlight (or at least indirect sunlight) to properly grow.
If you’ve got some windows in your basement, then this shouldn’t be an issue, and these plants can really help to protect your house without using a dehumidifier.
Crystal salt is a natural hygroscopic material and will actively remove water vapor from the air in your basement.
You can buy specific dehumidifier salt crystals in your local home improvement store and set it up in your basement easily:
- Place a bowl of rock salt, or several bowls if needed, in the most humid part of the room.
- Leave it to start removing moisture from the air.
- Check it every few days and replace the salt every 2-3 months once the moisture builds and it becomes saturated.
I’ve set up several different decorative bowls filled with crystal salts in my basement.
They fit in perfectly with the decor and help to keep the room dry year-round.
Silica gel is one of the most commonly used desiccants, and it captures water through a process known as adsorption .
Little packets of silica gel are used in clothing, shipping containers, and sealed packages to keep them fresh and to keep them dry.
I get a lot of Amazon packages and clothes deliveries, so I always have loads of silica gel packets around.
I usually just gather them up to use in my basement, but you can also buy a pack to use as a dehumidifier.
- Place the silica gel in a bowl in the basement.
- Leave it to work.
- Use a fan to direct airflow towards the silica gel.
- Monitor and remove once it becomes saturated.
Silica gel is one of the most used dehumidification methods across the industry to keep mold and mildew away.
It’s useful in a basement, but I do find it’s only really effective in small areas.
Carpeting mats can give you a physical layer of protection in your basement.
By lining the floors with carpets, you can stop condensation from forming and prevent water from pooling, keeping the room dry.
Carpeting won’t eliminate moisture or dampness, but it can stop humidity from being such an issue.
Plus, they’re generally quite cheap and easy to find. You will need to remove the mats once they become saturated, or they can add to the dampness.
I usually have a very warm home, but in recent years, I’ve been using my heaters less frequently to try and manage my bills.
However, heating your basement will help to reduce the relative humidity levels in the space and prevents water from being released from the air, keeping the space dry.
This should only be used as a last resort for those who want to dry their basement without a dehumidifier.
It’s expensive and inefficient, and the heating bills may cost more than you think.
Humidity is the measure of how much moisture is in the air. The ideal humidity for living areas in your home is 30-50%, and in a basement it’s 40-60%.
You can use a humidistat to determine the exact humidity in your home, but anything above 60% humidity in a basement means too much moisture.
Higher humidity levels happen when the air absorbs more moisture. This usually occurs when it comes into contact with water.
This can happen for a few different reasons:
Every city and country is different, but if you live in a damp area, there is naturally more moisture in the air. 
This could be because you live near water, or it could be influenced by the heat, weather, and climate.
Either way, if you live in a humid environment, your basement will likely be more damp. The seasons can also have a big impact on your humidity.
Many areas will be more humid in summer as the temperatures rise, and I usually find that I need more dehumidification during the hottest months.
Water entering your home can raise the humidity levels.
Flooding, rainwater, and groundwater swells are all common issues and have the biggest impact on the lowest parts of your home.
It’s important to have appropriate drainage or a sump pump installed to protect your basement from water and humid conditions.
Leaking pipes, hot showers, and moisture from cooking can all gather in your home and raise the humidity level.
Water vapors rise, but water will drip down and greatly impact the lower levels of your house.
If this water isn’t drained or removed with a sump pump, it can increase the basement humidity levels.
Poor insulation allows moisture to enter through the walls and floors. It can also lower the temperature, which means condensation forms.
Similarly, poor drainage can stop water from leaving your home, especially if your drain or sump pump is blocked.
All of this extra moisture in your home can lead to too much humidity in your home, especially in the basement.
In the past few years, I’ve been undertaking a project to improve the insulation and drainage within my home.
It’s taken a lot of time and effort, but it’s made a massive difference in keeping my home warm and dry.
If your basement’s humidity levels are very high, it’s easy to spot, but a small humidity problem can be a lot more subtle.
A humidistat will tell you if the room is too humid, but there are several ways to spot excess moisture:
Mold thrives in damp, humid conditions. If you notice black spots developing in your home’s basement walls or floors, it’s a sign of too much moisture in the air.
Water condenses when wet air comes into contact with cold surfaces.
If you notice fogged-up mirrors or glass or that surfaces become moist quickly, there’s excessive moisture.
Efflorescence is the white, chalky substance that appears from concrete or brick walls.
Salt is drawn out as the brick is absorbing moisture, and it can impact the sealing around the bricks and mortar.
If you notice efflorescence, then there’s a clear moisture issue, and you need to deal with it quickly.
Wet rot happens when wood is exposed to humidities of over 50%.
Fungus is attracted to the wet areas on the damp wood and feeds on it, eventually causing irreparable damage to the wood.
This can have a serious negative impact on your foundations.
I’ve had to do a lot of expensive repair work in the past because of undiscovered wet rot in my home, so I have it checked once a year.
You might not need to check it as frequently, but it can save you from nasty surprises.
Higher humidity can lead to mold and mildew, which causes a musty smell. Generally speaking, if you notice a bad smell, it’s a sign of a moisture issue.
There are 3 main reasons why your dehumidifier needs to be kept dry:
1. To Protect Your Health
High humidity can be hazardous to your health, and regulating the humidity will keep you safe.
It encourages mold, mildew, dust mites, and other contaminants to thrive in the air.
These contaminants can trigger allergies and make respiratory illnesses (like asthma) much worse.
Along with triggering allergic reactions, higher humidity has been shown to cause fatigue, dehydration, and even fainting. 
2. To Protect Your Belongings
Humid conditions cause mold and mildew, which can then spread into your furniture and belongings, causing irreversible damage.
Basements are primarily used for storage, but anything left there can be ruined by higher humidity in your basement.
I keep my important documents in a storage box in my basement (even the deed to my house is down there), so keeping my basement dry is a high priority.
3. To Protect Your Home
High humidity levels can damage the foundation of your home by causing wood rot, corrosion, and water damage.
If you don’t keep your basement dry, the structural damage can cost thousands to repair and make your home hazardous.
Most basements are the entry point for humidity and dampness into your house, but it can spread up to your living area.
By keeping your basement dry, you can prevent this and protect the rest of your home from damp conditions.
Rock salt, charcoal, and baking soda are all-natural moisture absorbers that can dehumidify basements.
A dehumidifier is the fastest way to remove humidity from the air in your basement. If water has actually pooled, then use towels and heaters to dry it out. In severe cases, you may need to rent an industrial dehumidifier.
You can reduce condensation on the walls by increasing the temperature and making the cold surfaces warmer. You can also install insulation to stop the walls from sweating.
Bleach and water will help to remove mold from the room, and dehumidification will help to stop it from forming.
If you have a serious humidity problem, there’s no replacement for a dehumidifier.
However, if you just have slightly higher levels of dampness in your home, there are other ways to protect your basement without a dehumidifier.
Air flow and ventilation are key, and in my basement, I keep a series of fans running so humid air can’t linger.
This prevents water from condensing and gathering in the room, keeping my basement safe and dry.