The most annoying thing about the house we just bought was the musty basement. I’m sure it’s a common problem in 65-year-old houses with basements that are anything less than bone dry, but that doesn’t make it any more pleasant.

Our painter had a suggestion. Fill a big bowl with ammonia and put it somewhere that nobody can knock it over accidentally. He said it would absorb that musty smell very effectively.

So I went to the nearest store and bought a $1.25 bottle of ammonia, filled up three small bowls with it because that was what I had, and set them in the basement. The ammonia was a bit overpowering at first, but admittedly even that was an improvement. Then I came back three days later, and he was absolutely right. The musty smell disappeared.

I must have put $20 worth of air fresheners in the last house to try to solve the very same problem. Not only was the ammonia faster and more effective this time around, it was also a lot cheaper.

So if you need to freshen up a basement, listen to Kevin the Painter. Get a bottle of ammonia at the nearest grocery or discount or dollar store. Pour yourself a bowl or two, and find a shelf to set it on. You won’t be disappointed.