A lot of basements and older homes have a musty odor that's difficult to get rid of. You try different sprays, air purifiers or airing it out, but it's still there. The real issue, however, is that little bit of extra moisture that tends to accumulate in older homes, basements, and crawl spaces that feeds mold spores and similar organisms. And those organisms release various chemicals and gases as they metabolize organic materials, resulting in a 'musty' odor. So, air purifiers can definitely help, but a better, more effective way to remove that smell is to also remove the excess moisture-with a portable dehumidifier.
Mold and algae (and bacteria) are the primary culprits when musty, mildew odors are noticed. And those organisms require water to thrive, so when they begin growing and creating odors, you can bet there's a leak somewhere or at least there has been an increase in the amount of indoor moisture or humidity in the home, basement or room.
To prove this, you can easily use a hygrometer or humidity meter to test and monitor the humidity levels. Many of the best home dehumidifiers, such as those from Danby and Stadler Form, include a built-in hygrometer and as you use your dehumidifier and watch the indoor humidity reading go down, you'll notice that the musty mildew smell starts to go away , as well. A cheap outdoor thermometer from Walmart with a built in humidity meter is the cheapest way to check your humidity, although digital hygrometers are more accurate and easier to use.
Many older homes have small leaks or spaces in the brick or around the foundation and this often leads to just that extra amount of moisture needed to make a basement or home smell musty. So if you live in one of these homes, you may have to use the dehumidifier on a regular basis. Or, you may only have to use it periodically. Regardless, keeping indoor humidity down between 35-40% should greatly reduce or eliminate those musty moldy odors. And any remaining odors (or mold spores) floating around can be quickly removed by a quality air purifier with HEPA and carbon filters. Portable dehumidfiers are quite affordable now, and can be had for less than $ 250.
In fact, when trying to get rid of mold and that musty mildew smell, it's a very good idea to use a portable dehumidifier in combination with a quality room air purifier. That way, you remove from the air both the organisms and the excess moisture that feeds them. From there, it's also a good idea to check for possible leaks around the roof, windows, walls, etc and make sure any of those get fixed. If you deal with chronic allergies and respiratory infections, you might also notice that those symptoms improve greatly, since removing that excess moisture also sharply cuts down on airborne bacteria that need moisture to grow.
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To Your Health!