Knowing how to get rid of mildew, and keep it from returning, is vital to the health of your family and the condition of your home.
You don’t need fancy equipment or expensive cleansers. You may already own everything you’ll need! So whether you’ve just noticed slime growing in your shower, or a tell-tale smell wafting from your sofa, these tips can help you find and get rid of mildew and mold, then keep them from returning.
How to Get Rid of Mildew
Mold vs. Mildew
Although we often use the words interchangeably, mold and mildew are two different types of plant fungi.
Mold is usually fuzzy and darker in appearance, like the black or dark green growth typically found on walls, concrete, and the sandwich your kid left in his backpack for the last month.
Mildew is more powdery or downy in appearance and typically starts gray or white but turns pink or orange, then eventually black, over time. It often grows in bathrooms, sinks, and laundry rooms.
Both mold and mildew thrive in damp, humid areas and can lead to serious health problems including respiratory distress, joint pain and inflammation, skin lesions, and debilitating fatigue. In addition to health problems, both can lead to structural problems in the home, along with a pervasive and unpleasant smell.
We’ve already discussed how to get rid of mold on walls and other hard surfaces, but what about different surfaces where mildew likes to spread?
How To Get Rid of Mildew
Methods of mold or mildew removal differ depending on the type of surface you’re cleaning.
Dissolve 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda) in 1 gallon of warm water. Lightly apply to the affected area and scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse with clean water and buff dry.
If the mildew has worked beneath the varnished or painted surface you’ll need to remove the finish from that area then, wearing gloves, scrub it with a solution of 2 tablespoons bleach to 2 cups warm water. Allow the item to dry before reapplying varnish or paint.
Tile and grout
Spray undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide directly onto the surface. Let this sit for 10 minutes to kill the mildew spores. Scrub with a stiff-bristled brush, then rinse thoroughly with warm water.
Fabrics and Clothing
For washable fabrics see these instructions.
For items you can’t wash (e.g., silk or other non-washable items), take the piece outside and brush away as much mildew as possible. Hang the item in bright sunlight and very lightly spray with a solution of 1 tablespoon white vinegar combined with 1 cup lukewarm water. You do not want to saturate the item — barely mist it so the vinegar can kill mildew spores and deodorize the material. For more expensive or irreplaceable items, seek the help of a dry-cleaner.
Use a vacuum to remove as much mildew and mold as possible. Next, combine equal parts rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and water, then lightly sponge the upholstery with this mixture to kill the spores. If in doubt about colorfastness, spot test first.
Once you’ve applied the rubbing alcohol mixture, let the area thoroughly dry.
Combine equal parts rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and water, then wipe the stained area with a cloth lightly dampened in this solution and allow it to thoroughly dry.
Paper (including books)
For laminated surfaces, wipe the affected area using a cloth lightly dampened in equal parts white vinegar and water.
If the item is a book and several pages require treatment, fan them open then sprinkle with cornstarch to absorb excess moisture. Allow the cornstarch to sit in place overnight, then shake or brush it out of the book. To remove stains, dab with a cotton ball dipped in hydrogen peroxide.
Water well, then spray the mildewed leaves with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda, half teaspoon liquid soap and 1 gallon of water. Be sure to apply to both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves, and reapply as needed.
How To Prevent Mildew and Mold
As with most household challenges, prevention is the best approach. Follow these four steps to keep mold or mildew from growing.
1. Keep it clean
Dust, dirt, grease, soap scum, and other substances give mold and mildew food to grow on. Diligent weekly cleaning can stop mildew from growing. Also consider using a daily shower spray, which can be used to keep tubs and sinks mildew-free, too.
2. Keep it fixed
Regularly inspect your home for leaks before they become a problem. Your roof needs visual inspection after significant storms or hail. Walls behind toilets and washing machines should be checked at least once a month. Check your pipes after deep freezes, which often cause them to burst. Immediately repair any leaks you discover before they lead to mold and mildew growth.
3. Keep it dry
Warm, moist air breeds mold and mildew. That’s why maintaining proper indoor humidity is so necessary throughout the year.
4. Keep air circulating
• Open your windows to allow fresh air to flow when the outdoor humidity levels are low.
• If you live in a humid area, run your ceiling fans and bathroom exhaust fans for 15 minutes after performing tasks that add humidity to the air.
• Leave the washing machine lid or door open, so the drum thoroughly dries.
• Stretch shower curtains fully open after each use, so they don’t sit growing mildew.
• Run your air-conditioner when relative humidity exceeds 60 percent, and consider installing an attic vent, so moist air doesn’t accumulate and spread mildew through the house.
Knowing how to get rid of mildew and taking the time to prevent it from returning is worth it. Not only will your efforts protect your family’s health, but they’ll also protect the health of your home, too.