It's enticing to think that home staging as simply rearranging furniture and making things look pretty, but the truth is we DIY home stagers have to get down and dirty sometimes.

Cleaning is one of the essentials of staging. A clean home has a certain glow about it and it smells fresh.

Mildew does not smell fresh. Mildew smells musty. Buyers hate mustiness. Mustiness means the house has not been cared for. And buyers offer less for a house that's not been cared for.

Mildew is a fungus that can grow on many different surfaces. It is a thin, black, or sometimes white, growth produced by mold. Although molds are always present in the air, those that cause mildew need moisture and certain temperatures to grow.

Mildew commonly develops in humid summer weather, especially in closed houses. It loves to live in cellars, crawl spaces of houses without basements and clothing closets -- anywhere it is damp and dark, and the air doesn't circulate. 

Mildew can also grow on draperies, rugs and upholstered furniture in basement recreation rooms, or on shower curtains in a bathroom that doesn't get good air circulation. 
 Mildew will discolor and deteriorate these fabrics and leave that musty odor we all know and hate.  Natural fibers like cotton, silk, wool, and linen are more susceptible to mildew than synthetic fibers.  

Leaving a large, open bucket or bowl of a 50/50 solution of bleach in a musty room or closet for a few days will help absorb mustiness by "cleaning" the air. But for people with mold and fugus allergies, that's not suficient.     

Mildew likes to grow on dirt, and it doesn't take much to keep it happy. If there is enough moisture in the air and the temperature is warm, mildew will thrive on even any slightly dirty surfaces. Greasy films such as those that form on kitchen walls, also contain the food that mildew eat to live.

How to keep mildew at bay

Keep your house clean and dry. If you have a damp basement, repair the cause, whether defective mortar, leaking casement windows or condensation. Make sure rainwater drains away from your foundation and that downspouts are not dumping water near the foundation. 
Sometimes a moldy crawl space is all that's needed to discourage buyers. What's called for is a layer of moisture-barrier material over the soil in crawl spaces under houses. You can use heavy roofing paper or polyethylene plastic film. 

Good ventilation is important. If possible, do not enclose the crawl space. In extreme cases, a fan or blower may be needed to move the humid air from under the building.

Dealing with smells

To remove musty odors from carpeting, sprinkle on chlorinated lime (commonly called chloride of lime or bleaching powder). Concrete floors or floors covered with ceramic tile or vinyl can be washed with a solution of solution of one cup ordinary household bleach to a gallon of water. Even painted walls can be washed with this solution. 

I have had success with Tilex Mold and Mildew Killer spray on many different surfaces. It costs more than bleach, but it's handy. Use all these products with good ventilation.  

Exterior surfaces like wood, brick, stucco, stone and vinyl can be cleaned with bleach and water solution. The worse the mildew is, the stronger the solution should be. Sometimes agitation is necessary to remove mildew from decks, soffits and railings. An old broom usually does the trick. 

Getting rid of smelly, unsightly, and damaging mildew is part of home staging, one of the important steps to getting your home sold. Read more tips to help sell your home in my eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar.