How to Remove Odors From an Old House

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Old house smells (especially mildew) can be downright impossible to live with, and getting rid of those smells is an ongoing effort. If your old house smells musty and you've already tried airing it out and dehumidifying the basement, these cleaning tips and methods are for you.

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Check for Leaks

Your first step is to locate the source of the musty smell. Check everything from the dryer vent to underneath your kitchen sink. Check behind and under furnishings and in cupboards. Take down or remove anything that would obscure your view of mold or mildew. Finally, check for leaks in your piping and make an appointment with your plumber to fix any leaks that turn up.

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Scrub Off Mildew

If your old house seems damp, mildew growth is the likely culprit. Your exact cleaning method will depend on where the mold is located (for example, your sink cabinets or flooring). If you can't locate the source of the mold or mildew, mix 1 part bleach to 3 or 4 parts water in a large bucket and use this solution to scrub the walls and floors.

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Clean Your Washing Machine

The washing machine is one of those appliances that you may simply forget to clean. If your old house smells musty, it may just be time to clean your washing machine. Mold and mildew grow easily there, especially in front-loading machines. Use 2 cups of bleach (or vinegar) in a cycle with hot water and always leave the door open between uses.

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Wash Your Cabinets and Walls

Over time, food smells and random old house smells can get trapped in your cabinets and walls. It's a good idea to clean them periodically anyway, but if you detect an unpleasant odor, now is the time. Use warm water and gentle soap to do so.

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Alternatively, if your walls are mildewed or greasy, the best thing to do is to use a bleach-water solution. Mix 1 part bleach with 3 or 4 parts water. Scrub, rinse thoroughly, and then let them air-dry.

Use Baking Soda

If you're dealing with icky fridge odors or you've checked everything else in the house and pesky fumes persist, try using baking soda. It's one of the best odor eliminators for an old house since it effectively absorbs smells and clears the air. Place an open container of baking soda (white vinegar does the trick too) in the fridge or on top of a cabinet. Leave it untouched and replace it every month or so.

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Do clean out your fridge and ensure that something hasn't gone bad. You should also use an all-purpose cleaner (or put a spray attachment into a bottle of hydrogen peroxide) to wipe down the shelves.

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