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Is mildew hiding behind your wardrobe

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Is mildew hiding behind your wardrobe

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Dec 08, 2021

During the winter when we spend more time indoors, we start to notice things about our house that we may not be aware of during the summer months.  Without regular fresh air from open windows, you might start to notice stale or musty smells in some rooms.  In some cases, this musty smell is caused by mildew growing in a hidden corner or behind furniture.

Mildew is a close relative of mould, and both grow best under similar conditions of dampness and still air, however they are often found in different places in your home and look very different to each other.

Mould commonly grows on walls and ceilings where the black patches that it creates are clearly visible.  Mildew is usually white and appears almost fluffy due to the thin filaments known as hyphae that cover its surface.  Mildew tends to grow in enclosed areas including cupboards and behind furniture where it can develop into extensive wall covering colonies quickly.

How Quickly Does Mildew Grow?

Like mould, mildew is very quick growing.  From the time the spores settle on a suitable surface until the first blooms of mildew appear can be just a few days.  Because mildew tends to grow in more enclosed areas, the first warning that you have a problem is usually the point at which the colony has developed to a point where it has begun to give off its characteristic musty odour.

How do I find Mildew?

The first sign that you have a problem with mildew in a room is usually the development of a musty, stale smell in a room.  If the mildew is growing in a cupboard, you may only notice the smell when you open the door.  If mildew is growing behind furniture, the smell can be very strong in the room where it is present.

Once you find the source of the musty smell, the presence of mildew is obvious.  Patches of white, grey, or very light green growing on the wall or surfaces.

What is the risk of Mildew?

Aside from the stale smell making a house unpleasant, the presence of mildew can cause other problems.  If mildew is growing on wallpaper or fabric, it may become stained and need to be replaced.  Mildew on soft furniture such as a sofa, mattress, or cushions is very difficult to remove as it will grow both inside the material and on the surface.

In terms of the health risks of mildew, it can be an allergen for some people.  If the mildew is disturbed, the white filaments that make up the structure can become detached and if they are inhaled, they may irritate your airways or eyes causing breathlessness and soreness. 

How do you clean mildew?

If it has not penetrated below the surface of a wall or furniture, mildew can be cleaned with normal household cleaning products.  On walls and non-porous surfaces, you should use dilute bleach in order to kill the mildew properly.  As with mould, when cleaning mildew off surfaces, you should wear gloves, eye protection, and a mask to prevent inhaling the spores and fibres.  Once you have finished cleaning the area, you should dispose of your gloves and any cloths to prevent contaminating other areas of your home.

If mildew has grown on clothing, you should wash the clothes thoroughly on a hotter wash to get rid of the spores.

Unfortunately, getting rid of mildew permanently is very difficult, and unless you address the conditions that allow it to grow, it will return again as soon as fresh spores are allowed to settle and grow.

How to permanently remove mildew

To get rid of mildew and prevent musty smells returning in your home, you need to deal with the underlying cause of the damp that sustains it.  As most damp in UK homes is caused by problems with condensation being allowed to settle, improving the ventilation in rooms where mildew is forming is your best chance of preventing it in future.

Ensuring that you use extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms when the rooms are in use is important, as is avoiding drying clothing indoors and using pan lids when boiling on the stove.

Find out more

If you are concerned about mould problems or the growth of mildew in your home, then there are things you can do.  Contact us today to book a free home survey.  Our local ventilation specialists will be able to advise you on the cause of mildew in your home and provide you with information about the best way to resolve the issues permanently.

Need help with condensation, mould or damp problems?

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.

During the free survey we will

  • check Assess any condensation, damp or mould problems in your property
  • check Take readings of the relative humidity levels
  • check Identify any underlying problems and make recommendations for a permanent solution

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