How do I preserve documents that smell musty?
Q. Dear Donia,
I have a number (at least 25) of cardboard boxes of papers that my boss insists on keeping, but they smell musty (I don't think it's mildew.). I imagine the papers have the musty smell as well as the boxes, which are now in my basement and in a 6x10 storage space in our office. Would it help to remove the papers from the boxes and store them in plastic bins with lids? We very seldom have to access them. Feel free to suggest some other solution, but nothing that's labor intensive or expensive. Thanks, Caroline
A. Dear Caroline,
It would definitely help to remove the records from the boxes but I don't know if plastic bins are the best option if you don't know if the smell is from mildew or active mold. I would first transfer the records into new cardboard boxes to see if that helps to reduce the odor. Quite often, the boxes will be the first to get moldy or midewy and you can reduce the odor just by replacing them.
If this does not help the problem, then you can go to plastic bins but I would do two things. First, I would get an odor eliminator which is available from our sponsor Hollinger Metal Edge. Second, if these are records that your boss needs to be kept for business purposes, I would check them on a monthly basis to be sure that there is no evidence of active mold growth. Plastic can trap moisture that would lead to mold growth.
I hope this helps!