Mold and mildew in the home is not only unsightly, but it can be a very real health hazard, especially to allergy sufferers. The difference between mildew and mold is how it is described. Fruit may be moldy but a shower curtain is considered to be mildewed; however, they are basically the same fungal organism. They always grow where it is warm, wet, and dark, which makes it much easier for you to find where it is growing.
The most important thing regarding mildew is to find it quickly when you suspect it’s growing, and to clean it up to prevent as much damage as possible.
Step 1 - Check for Mildew
Mold and mildew can be identified easily. If you think it is growing in your home and smell a musty odor, use an eyedropper and place a few drops of bleach on the affected area. If the spot disappears in a minute or two, then the area is infected with mold. Dirt will not be removed with this method.
If you suspect mold and mildew in the home, check everywhere you think it may be growing, including the attic, basement, and underneath sinks in the bathroom and kitchen. Check the carpeting in the bathroom if it is installed as well. Mold begins to grow in as little as 24 hours, and as a bathroom is usually a high humidity area, carpet can be hiding mold without your knowledge. It can also develop behind interior walls if pipes are present and there is any sweating of the pipes or any leakage. As such, it is most prevalent in the bathroom and kitchen. Many mold specialists even advise checking outside the home to see if there is an entry point. Mold can be active in leaves and debris, or shaded by large trees close to the home, so always keep any waste cleaned away from exterior walls.
Also check around fixtures and in the back of washing machines for mold and mildew. If your basement is damp and you do your laundry there, be especially attentive to any mold collecting on interior walls and for any signs of leaking or standing water.
Step 2 - Clean Up
The best way to clean mold is with chlorine bleach. For painted surfaces, you can scrub with a solution of one quart bleach, one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent, and nine quarts of water. Do not add ammonia to this solution. Use a sponge to treat the affected area, and always rinse with plenty of water. Then, dry the area thoroughly when all traces of mold have been removed. Always work in a well ventilated area, and be wary of fumes, which can be very powerful.
If wallpaper is damp and shows signs of mildew and mold, heat or air condition the room to dry the wallpaper. Sponge the affected areas with a cloth and liquid dish soap, and rinse with water. If the stain persists, use the bleach solution mentioned earlier; however, you will want to test the solution in an unseen area. Also, be careful not to over saturate the wallpaper so it doesn't bubble or lift, and dry thoroughly with terry cloth towels when all traces of mold are gone.
For clothing, take it outside and brush away the mildew from the fabric first. Wash according to care label instructions, and if possible sun dry to kill the spores. If the stain is persistent, use a mixture of two tablespoons chlorine bleach to one quart warm water, but always test for color fastness in an unseen area of the garment, such as a seam allowance, before attempting bleach. Sponge the area with the solution, and launder as usual. Any white washables can be soaked in a chlorine bleach solution, and wash, rinse, and dry as usual.
Mold cleanup specialists advise you should not attempt to remove large areas of mold. If you think the job will be much trouble for you, or are concerned about using bleach, leave the removal of mold to the professionals. They can also do an assessment of your home to help you identify areas that are affected, and draw up a plan for you to repair the suspected areas. Large patches of mold always indicate some type of water leakage in the home, and should be taken care of as quickly as possible to prevent further damage.
Alden Smith is an award winning author, and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. With a wealth of knowledge to share from his 50 year writing career, he works on topics as diverse as home repair, healthy living, cars, personal finance, and cooking.
Alden and his wife Betsy live in Charlotte, MI, where they own a successful consignment shop, Bella Grande. He has recently taken up blues guitar after his wife bought him a Fender Strat with amplifier.
With over 20 years of professional home cleaning experience, Lindani has extensive knowledge about best practices, space management, and cleaning solutions. Lindani especially loves researching natural, non-harmful ways to clean. She holds an LLBS from the University of Zimbabwe, and is a lifelong learner who always seeks to improve the world around her.