Monday, February 19, 2024


As I mentioned in my last post, I’m having problems with dampness and mildew in my basement, to the point where photos I stored down there are stuck together in clumps, magazines and books are covered with so many spots, they look as if a wet Dalmatian sat on them; and all of my solid-colored summer clothes now appear to be tie-dyed.

After spending hours researching mildew online, I finally came up with what I thought were a couple of good solutions to the problem...better than the solutions given to me by the professionals I'd contacted, which would have forced me to sell my house (along with all of the mildew) to get enough money to afford them.

First of all, many sites mentioned that vinegar gets rid of mold and mildew. Spray it on, they said, then later wipe it off…but only on non-porous surfaces. So all of my clothes and paper products, as I’d suspected, were doomed.

Secondly, according to the online experts, a big, commercial dehumidifier (not one of those wimpy, bedroom ones) supposedly will lower the humidity to zilch in a basement. And “zilch” means mold and mildew will hop on the first train bound for a damper location, like Florida. 

As one guy wrote, “Have you ever heard of the Sahara having problems with overgrowths of mold and mildew? That's because they need moisture to grow!”

He made a good point. I was determined to make my basement as dry as the Sahara…during a sandstorm.

So I went out shopping.  Buying the vinegar was a snap…and cheap.

Buying the dehumidifier wasn’t.

The stores I visited had regular-sized dehumidifiers, but the clerks informed me that the kind I needed, the “super-suckers,” had to be ordered directly from the stores’ websites. Most had free delivery, however, which I thought was a pretty good deal.

I spent so many hours reading descriptions of commercial dehumidifiers online that night, my eyeballs felt as if they were on the verge of leaping out of their sockets in a desperate attempt to save themselves. Every time I’d find a dehumidifier that seemed like the perfect fit for all of my needs, I’d then check out the reviews.

“The only thing this cheaply made piece of crap is good for is a giant doorstop!” said one customer.

“It caught fire and nearly burned down our house!” wrote another.

“It worked fine for only about four months and then died!” said about 350.

So I continued to research even more dehumidifiers. I finally found one that not only sounded perfect, it also had great reviews and was reasonably priced. The description said it could handle an area of up to 5,000 square feet (which was about 3,000 more than I needed) and it could suck up 125 pints of moisture per day and drop the humidity by 50 percent in only two hours. It also was Energy Star certified and had a sensor that would turn the machine off and on only as needed, to save even more energy. And best of all, it contained an air-purifier to get rid of any odors, and a built-in pump to empty the water it collected so I wouldn't have to lift a heavy bucket and empty it myself.

Relieved and excited, I ordered it and was given an estimated delivery date of 12 days later. The store said someone would notify me before then with more specific details.

A week before the delivery due-date, however, I discovered the dehumidifier in a big box with straps around it, sitting on my front porch.

I called the store and explained I’d thought the dehumidifier was going to be delivered by actual humans who would carry it down to the basement for me, unbox it and set it up.

The employee’s tone made me feel as if she thought I’d just time-traveled here from the 1950s.

“UPS delivered it,” she said. “And they aren’t allowed to enter people’s homes.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because it’s the rule,” she answered, which explained nothing.

“So how am I supposed to get it downstairs to the basement?”

“Don’t you have any friends or relatives who can help you?”

I thought of a few of my friends and relatives. One was suffering from vertigo, two were going through physical therapy for sciatica, one had just undergone open-heart surgery, and another was scheduled to have a hip replaced.

“Nope,” I answered.

“I’m so sorry,” she said, “If I lived closer, I’d come over there myself to help you with it.”

That was kind of her, I thought, but she had a slight accent and was manning a 1-800 customer-service number. That meant she probably was sitting in a cubicle somewhere in a place like Machu Picchu.

I knew I couldn’t just leave the dehumidifier sitting out on the porch. At the very least, I had to get it into the house, where it would be safe. So I grabbed it by the straps and dragged it, inch by inch, into the front hallway. Then I stood there with my hands on my hips and stared at it.

Was it possible, I wondered, that I also might be able to drag it down a steep flight of stairs if I took only one stair at a time?

I wouldn’t know until I tried.

And that’s what I did. As I struggled with each step down into the damp, smelly pit from Hell, all I could envision was my body, covered with an overgrowth of mildew and lying flattened beneath the dehumidifier, being discovered on the concrete below.

But, I’m relieved to say, the machine and I safely made it. I then unboxed it and grabbed the instruction booklet, which said to allow the unit to stand upright for at least a day before turning it on. That was fine with me because the instructions turned out to be so vague and poorly written, I was pretty sure it would take me an entire day just to decipher them.

I mean, this is an actual photo I took of a sentence printed on the back of the brochure.

It made me wonder if the dehumidifier contained a hidden audio-video camera somewhere!

So, did the dehumidifier do everything it promised? Do I now have a nice dry basement that smells fresh and clean? And why am I sitting on a heating pad as I write this?

I’ll tell you the rest of the story next week.

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Sally Breslin is a native New Englander and an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: