Mildew is an unwelcome sight in any home. It thrives under similar damp conditions to mould and is related, but it is easy to spot the difference between the two species. While in most cases mildew is less harmful to your health and slightly easier to remove from surfaces, like mould it will always return if you don’t take steps to prevent mildew from becoming a long-term problem.
If you have discovered mildew in your property and want to remove it for good, the first thing you need to do is to clean the affected area thoroughly. Once you have dealt with the initial problem, you can then take steps to prevent it coming back.
Cleaning away mildew
Mildew grows on damp surfaces where the air is still. Unlike mould it does not penetrate deep into materials, so it can be wiped away easily. To clean mildew, there are a few things that you need:
- Gloves to stop your skin reacting to any chemicals used
- A face mask to prevent you inhaling spores which can cause an allergic reaction
- Eye protection to stop spores from irritating your eyes
- A clean cloth that you will need to throw away afterwards
- Either a fungicidal cleaner or domestic bleach diluted with warm water in a ratio of 4:1
Ideally you should wear old clothes when using bleach or other chemicals as they may get damaged. Ensure that you wash them after use to prevent contaminating other areas around your home
Cleaning mildew from walls
Mildew can grow into large patches behind furniture such as wardrobes or beds. Cleaning mildew from walls is quite simple to do. Start by gently spraying the cleaning fluid onto the wall where the mildew is growing. This serves two purposes, firstly, the liquid will prevent the filaments or spores from escaping into the air, and secondly, the bleach or fungicide will start to kill the mildew and break down the organic material.
Wipe the mildew off the wall and rinse your cloth regularly with warm water. Once you have finished cleaning, make a second pass over the affected areas with the fungicide or bleach to remove any residue, and then rinse with a fresh cloth and water. Use a separate cloth to dry the area after you have finished.
Once you have completed cleaning, it is sensible to wait 24 hours before putting your furniture back in place to give the area time to dry out fully. Make sure that you leave plenty of space – at least five centimetres between your furniture and the wall when you replace it to allow air to flow more freely in future.
Cleaning mildew from wardrobes
Much of the process for cleaning mildew from wardrobes is the same as for walls, but there are some extra steps.
Start by removing everything from the wardrobe and put clothes straight into the washing machine to remove any spores from them. Carry the clothes to the washing machine in a plastic bag to avoid contaminating other rooms.
Clean all the interior and exterior surfaces in the wardrobe thoroughly and after you have finished drying the surfaces, leave the doors open for 24 hours to ensure that any residual moisture can escape.
When putting clothes back in the wardrobe, try not to overfill it. When a wardrobe is too full, there is no space for air to move around, and mildew can easily grow on clothes.
Cleaning mildew from cupboards
Mildew is an all to common sight in the back of cupboards, particularly in rooms that are rarely used.
When cleaning mildew from cupboards, you should completely empty the cupboard before you start and put the contents into boxes for cleaning outside or disposal.
Wipe down all the surfaces using fungicide or dilute bleach, and then rinse away any residue before allowing the space to dry thoroughly.
If the cupboard contained paperwork or books, they may need to be disposed of to prevent the mildew from growing back from them, as paper is notoriously difficult to clean thoroughly without damaging it – specialist cleaning services are available for precious goods though.
Preventing mildew from returning
Once you have cleaned the affected area thoroughly and allowed it to dry, the mildew will eventually grow back if you don’t take steps to remove the cause of the problem.
In most cases, the damp that leads to mildew comes from condensation. Our guide to condensation has helpful tips to reduce condensation in your home.
The most effective way of preventing mildew from returning is to improve the ventilation in your home. Our local ventilation specialists can visit your property to conduct a free home survey. This will identify the cause of the condensation damp that leads to mildew growing and provide you with advice about how to deal with it. Upgrading the airflow in your home with modern extractor fans, or a whole house Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) System reduces the levels of humidity and ensures that mildew spores do not have the chance to settle on surfaces and start to grow.