Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Check the Squalor Archive for assistance. Are you still dirty? Email her.

I live about a mile from the beach, and mold is a huge pain in my ass. I hang DampRid in every closet and bought shuttered closet doors, which still doesn’t do the trick (keeping mold off of clothes) if I keep the closet doors closed. I’ve heard nailing cedar wood in closets also helps absorb moisture, but haven’t done that yet. I also bought a dehumidifier for the downstairs office/guest bedroom, which fills completely in about 12 hours (it’s fucking insane).

Any other suggestions? I imagine super-wealthy people in Malibu have some big secret, because I never hear about their shit getting fucked up.

Oh, sure, those super-wealthy people in Malibu probably do have some secret. I’m not privy to it myself, not being a super-wealthy person in Malibu, but I can guess what it is. I offer that bit of hedging in the event that the secret involves, like, ritualistic poetry slams performed in concert with the wearing of fine Italian leathers.

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Here’s what I suspect the secret is: HVAC systems that have built-in dehumidifying functions. Which is probably not all that helpful to you, as I suspect you’re not going to go in for a full-scale upgrading of your home’s ventilating system. But you can take some inspiration from those super-wealthy people in Malibu and invest in a more powerful dehumidifier than the one you currently have.

Now then, I’m making some assumptions about the dehumidifier you currently have; perhaps your is a large-capacity one, and you just live, like, underwater. But probably not, in which case an upgrade may be in your future. Consumer Reports and Lowe’s both offer guides to buying dehumidifiers that you should check out. In your case, a model that has a “continuous operation” function is going to make your life a whole lot easier, in that you won’t have to worry about emptying the tank. Continuous-operation models work in one of two ways, and your choice of one over the other will depend entirely on your setup. If you live in a home that has a floor drain in the basement, you can opt for a dehumidifier that connects directly to that drain. If not, choose one with an internal pump that can be connected to a water basin that can allow for continuous draining.

Consumer Reports explains the difference thusly:

If you place the dehumidifier in a basement with a floor drain, a hose connection lets you divert the condensed water directly to the drain so you don’t have to empty the bucket. In a basement without a floor drain, a dehumidifier with a pump can send water up through the window, or to a slop sink or other high drain.

Once you’ve figured out which continuous-operation type is best for your home, you’ll need to determine the capacity of the machine you need. Dehumidifier capacity is measured in pints, and the size you select should take into account both the square footage of your home as well as the relative dampness. Here is a handy chart from Lowe’s. (This isn’t an ad for Lowe’s; I just landed on their site when I began my research. Sometimes brands are your friends, it turns out.)

Dehumidifiers vary according to pint-removal capacity every 24 hours. The following guide will help you choose the right capacity model for your needs. (Numbers listed are in pints per 24 hours.) Source: Lowe’s.

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The last thing to know about these higher-capacity dehumidifiers is that prices start around $250 and go up to almost $2,000. So be sure to pay close attention to the price tag when comparing brands and features, so you don’t get hosed.

(That was a dehumidifier joke, by the way.) (At least one of you will appreciate it.) (The rest of you need more whimsy in your life.)

In addition to getting yourself a higher-capacity and more powerful dehumidifier, let’s talk about a few other things you can do to keep moisture levels more balanced. You’re already using DampRid, but you should consider switching from the hanging style you’re currently using to the high-capacity product they offer.

Are you a plant person? If so, great! Get a potted Peace Lily or a Boston fern, which absorb moisture in the air, and which will help to control humidity levels in the home.

Ventilation is also crucial here: Make sure that your kitchen, bathroom and laundry room—which are the places in your home that will produce the most airborne moisture—are well ventilated, and that you’re leaving vent fans running longer in your home than one would in a drier abode. Ceiling fans are also marvelous for helping to control moisture, as are standing or wall-plug-in fans.

In the bathroom, small things like squeegeeing shower walls after you’ve performed your ablutions and regularly rotating towels so that they’re not hanging around in there all damp-like will help to reduce humidity levels.

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And then, of course, if all else fails, there is always the option of engaging in ritualistic poetry slams and the wearing of fine Italian leathers.


Jolie Kerr is Deadspin’s resident cleaning expert and the author of the book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha (Plume). Follow her onTwitter, or email her: jolie@deadspin.com.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

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