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Farewell Fungus! Mildew Removal and Prevention Tips and Tricks

Posted January 21, 2023 by Mike Lewis under Tips

Farewell Fungus! Mildew Removal and Prevention Tips and Tricks

Mold and mildew can be a nuisance in any home. As a homeowner, I’ve dealt with my fair share of mildew outbreaks in the bathroom, on exterior walls, and in other damp areas of the house. After years of trial and error, I’ve learned some helpful tips and tricks for getting rid of mildew and preventing it from coming back. In this article, I’ll share everything I know to help you bid farewell to fungus and keep it from returning.

What is Mildew and What Causes It?

Before jumping into removal tips, it’s helpful to understand exactly what mildew is and what conditions cause it to grow.

Mildew is a Kind of Mold

Mildew is a type of mold that grows in damp environments. It starts off as tiny spores that land on surfaces and then germinate, spreading thread-like roots called hyphae and multiplying quickly.

It Needs Moisture to Grow

Mildew needs moisture to sprout and thrive. Bathrooms, basements, laundry rooms and exterior walls are prime targets because of humidity and dampness. Leaky roofs, plumbing, or other water intrusions can also create mildew-friendly environments.

It Feasts on Organic Materials

Mildew utilizes organic materials like wood, drywall, and fabric to provide nutrients for growth. That’s why you often see black or grey mildew stains on grout, tile caulking, weathered deck boards, and other areas where water has seeped into porous building materials.

Now that we understand the key factors that cause mildew, let’s look at how to get rid of existing growth and prevent its return.

Mildew Removal Tips and Tricks

When you discover mildew in your home, swift removal is key to keeping growth contained. Here are my tried-and-true tips for safely removing mildew from various surfaces:

Cleaning Mildewy Hard Surfaces

On nonporous surfaces like tile, glass and metals, mildew can be removed with some elbow grease and natural cleaners. Here’s my process:

  • Mix together in a spray bottle:
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1⁄4 cup vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup baking soda
  • 5-10 drops tea tree oil (a natural anti-fungal)
  • Spray mildewy areas until thoroughly soaked. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Scrub with a stiff brush or scouring pad.
  • Rinse clean with hot water.
  • Allow to fully dry before assessing if more treatment is needed.

The abrasive scrubbing action and anti-fungal tea tree oil in this solution kill mold and lift stains without harsh chemicals.

Cleaning Mildewy Grout

For mildew growing in porous grout, using a steam cleaner before applying the spray solution really helps lift stains. The heat kills mold on contact.

Killing Mildew on Drywall

On drywall and other wall materials, removing mildew takes a bit more effort:

  • Protect nearby surfaces with plastic sheeting and painter’s tape.
  • Apply a fungicidal wash (like Moldex or Concrobium) using a garden sprayer.
  • Let soak for 10 minutes.
  • Scrub with a stiff nylon brush in circular motions.
  • Rinse thoroughly and allow to fully dry before repainting.

When mildew has feasted on the paper surface of drywall or eaten into wood or particle board, you may need to cut out the affected areas, seal exposed edges, and replace with new, mold-resistant materials. Preventing water intrusion is vital to avoid repeats!

Sanitizing Mildewy Fabrics

For moldy clothes, bedding, or other machine-washable fabrics:

  • Machine wash in hot water with detergent and 1 cup borax.
  • Add 1 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle.
  • Dry thoroughly on highest heat setting.
  • Discard if stains remain – mildew can persist in embedded fibers.

This hot wash sanitizes, while the borax and vinegar act as antimicrobial agents to kill mold and residual spores.

Eliminating Mildew on Books

To remove mildew from books or papers without damage:

  • Carefully brush off surface mold outdoors.
  • Place in a plastic bin or hang in the breeze to air out for 2-3 hours.
  • Wipe gently with a soft cloth dampened in lemon juice solution: 1 part juice to 2 parts water.
  • Allow to fully dry in an airy room, periodically turning pages.
  • Discard if musty smell persists. Mold may remain in binding glues.

The citric acid in the lemon juice kills mold while the air circulation helps dry pages thoroughly. Take care not to soak book pages as moisture fuels more mildew growth!

While these methods work well for surface mildew removal, severe mold issues in walls or HVAC systems may require professional remediation. But tackling minor outbreaks yourself using natural cleaners is very doable.

Preventing Mildew Growth

Stopping mildew before it starts is by far the best approach. Here are my top prevention strategies:

Control Moisture

The most critical step is controlling excess moisture that promotes mildew growth.

  • Run bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans during and after showering or cooking.
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp basements and crawlspaces.
  • Avoid air-drying laundry indoors.
  • Fix plumbing and roof leaks promptly.
  • Improve ventilation in enclosed spaces.

Eliminating moisture minimizes mildew opportunities.

Clean Often

Clean often to remove household dirt and organic matter that mildew spores feed on.

  • Use a biweekly cleaning regimen for bathrooms.
  • Vacuum, dust, and sanitize other problem areas regularly.
  • Deep clean with vinegar, tea tree oil, peroxide or grapefruit seed extract. These act as natural anti-fungal agents.

Frequent scrubbing deprives mildew spores of nutrients they need to thrive.

Apply Preventative Treatments

Applying preventative treatments is like putting up a force field against mold growth.

  • Spray tile, grout, tubs and sinks every 1-2 months with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or Concrobium solution.
  • Apply Mold Armor or other fungicidal sealants when remodeling bathrooms.
  • Use anti-fungal paints like Zinsser Perma-White when repainting exterior walls prone to mildew growth.

These protective layers inhibit spore germination and starve out mold. Be sure to follow product instructions closely.

Increase Air Circulation

Improve air circulation wherever possible to avoid the damp, stagnant conditions mildew loves.

  • Open windows periodically.
  • Run ceiling fans.
  • Move furniture away from exterior walls.
  • Consider installing bathroom exhaust fan timers.
  • Use box fans to improve airflow in problem areas like basements.

Proper ventilation inhibits condensation build-up that feeds mildew.

Inspect and Repair Regularly

Make it a habit to inspect your home’s interior and exterior regularly for early signs of mildew growth or moisture damage.

  • Check grout lines, caulk seals, and tile edges in bathrooms.
  • Peek inside attics and under sinks for dampness.
  • Inspect exterior walls, windowsills and rooflines for discoloration after storms.

Promptly fix any leaky plumbing, clogged gutters or other defects that allow moisture intrusion. Catching issues early prevents mildew from taking hold!

Conclusion

By understanding what causes mildew and learning DIY removal techniques, you can wage war on mold in your home. Combine swift treatment for existing mildew with good prevention practices, and you’ll win the battle against fungus! With this comprehensive guide under your belt, you’re equipped to kiss mildew goodbye and maintain a fresh, mold-free home. Let me know if you have any other mildew questions – I’m happy to help you bid farewell to fungus for good!

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