If you have ever walked into a room or opened a cupboard and been hit with a strong musty smell, then the chances are that a few minutes later you’ve had the shock of seeing a major mildew infestation growing. Mildew is different to mould, but thrives in similar damp conditions, and can spread very quickly to cover entire walls with a mass of white or pale green patches.
Mildew can grow anywhere in your home but is most often found behind large pieces of furniture which are placed close to walls, or in cupboards and wardrobes where it can spread onto clothing. Mildew appears more delicate than mould – it has a downy or fluffy structure with a coating of thin white filaments growing above the surface. These filaments, or hyphae, are the spores that mildew grows from, and they can be easily disturbed by air currents. As a result, although mildew spores might be found in any room of your home, the environments in which they tend to develop into large patches tend to be damp enough for the spores to “stick” to the surface, with limited air flow that allows the mildew to grow undisturbed.
The first step in preventing mildew is to remove any existing infestation that has grown. Thankfully, it is easier to remove mildew than mould, as the mildew grows on the surface rather than below it, although in some cases, mildew will leave a stain behind when it has been cleaned.
It’s best to use a fungicidal cleaner or dilute bleach to clean mildew from walls and the interiors of cupboards. This will break down the organic material and kill off as many spores as possible. Gently spray the mildew with the cleaning fluid before you start to wipe it away – this prevents too many spores from escaping – and avoid scrubbing the surface. As with mould, you should wear a face covering, eye protection and gloves when cleaning mildew, and once you have finished, dispose of any cloths you have used to prevent contamination.
If you have found mildew in a wardrobe, even if you can’t see patches of growth on the stored clothes, you should wash everything properly, otherwise the mildew will simply grow back.
The only way to truly prevent mildew is to remove the conditions that allow it to grow in your home. In the UK, condensation is the main cause of damp in homes. Condensation occurs when moist air comes into contact with cool surfaces. The amount of water vapour that the air can hold is dependent on temperature, so when air cools it releases some water onto surfaces. On non-porous surfaces such as glass or tiles the moisture forms beads of water, however on porous surfaces, the moisture soaks into the surface and creates damp patches.
To prevent mildew from forming, you need to be able to do two things:
There are simple steps you can take to reduce the amount of moisture in the air including avoiding drying clothes indoors and using lids on pans when cooking on the stove. Similarly, keeping windows open allows fresh air into your home and helps to control humidity levels.
Unfortunately, neither of these steps is sufficient to prevent mould totally. There are many sources of moisture in the air in our homes, and it’s not always practical to leave windows open – particularly during the winter, or if you live in an urban area where there are higher levels of pollution and noise.
Improved ventilation in your home is the most practical way of preventing mildew from developing. Extractor fans in bathrooms and kitchens can help control humidity, especially modern fan systems such as the Cyclone 7 which features moisture sensors that adjust the power level to reduce moisture levels quickly.
To fully prevent mildew throughout a home, a whole house solution such as Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) systems is required. These feature a central unit that draws filtered air in from outdoors and then distribute it through the building to displace moisture. Gentle air flow throughout all rooms removes the stillness that mildew requires to grow.
Have you recently discovered patches of mildew growing in your home? If you are worried about the health risks of mould and mildew or concerned about the damage that could be done to the fabric of your home, we can help. Our local ventilation specialists can visit your home to conduct a free home survey that will identify the cause of condensation. They will provide you with advice about the best solution for your needs and help you prevent mildew and mould from becoming a problem.
One of our local experts will contact you to learn more about your problems, offer free expert advice and make recommendations for a permanent solution.
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