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What causes mildew in the home

What causes mildew in the home?

If it is allowed to gain a foothold in your home, Mildew can become a big problem and damage walls and furniture.  Aside from creating unpleasant musty smells around your home, small amounts of mildew growing in wardrobes can ruin clothes.  If the mildew grows on woodwork or walls, it can leave stains that are hard to shift.  Understanding what causes mildew in the home is a first step in preventing it.

Mildew can be harder to spot than mould problems.  While mould normally grows out in the open on walls and ceilings in damp rooms like bathrooms and kitchens, mildew is more secretive.  It enjoys the same humid conditions as mould but tends to be found in quieter areas with poor air flow such as behind cupboards and on furniture where you might not discover the problem until it has spread.

What causes mildew?

In the home, warmth and moisture are the main factors that cause mildew to spread.  Mildew normally grows in areas where the humidity levels are between 60-90%.  It grows fastest in warmer temperatures but will also spread more slowly in cooler places such as cupboards where the air flow is limited and does not disturb the delicate filaments that make up the mildew.

Mildew will grow on almost any porous surface including wood, plaster, and furniture.  It can also spread on clothing if the material is stored in a wardrobe with poor airflow.

The most common cause of mildew in British homes is dampness as a result of condensation.  Without extractor fans operating in wet rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens, the steam from cooking and bathing can easily find its way into other parts of the house where it can create damp areas that are the ideal environment for mildew to grow.

What does mildew look like and where do you find it?

Mildew appears as patches of fine white or pale green filaments that spread across large surfaces quite quickly.  It is quite easy to tell the difference between mould and mildew, as mould is normally very dark green or black and appears moist and shiny.

Most of the time, mildew will be hidden from view until it spreads into more visible areas, so the first sign that you have a problem will be a musty smell around affected areas.

Removing mildew

The spores released by mildew can be an allergen and cause severe reactions in people with respiratory conditions such as asthma, so it’s important to wear a face mask, eye protection and gloves when cleaning it to help prevent you inhaling any particles that are released.

Mildew grows through porous surfaces so simply wiping away the visible part is rarely enough to get rid of the problem.  To remove mildew properly, you need to get beyond the surface layer.  Fungicidal cleaners or dilute bleach are ideal because they will kill off the mildew.

Start by spraying the cleaning fluid over the area where the mildew is growing.  This will start to kill off the colonies and will also help to stop the filaments breaking away and spreading around your home.

Allow the cleaning fluids to soak into the mildew affected area so that they can start to break it down, and then wipe away the material with a soft cloth.  Don’t scrub at the surface as this can release spores that will grow back later, and make sure that you dispose of the cloths that you use along with gloves and masks so that they don’t contaminate other parts of your home.

Getting rid of mildew for good

While both mould and mildew are easy to clean away, they will keep coming back unless you remove the dampness that gives them friendly conditions in which to grow.

This means reducing the humidity levels in your home to prevent condensation forming in those hard-to-reach areas.

Simple steps to reduce condensation like using pan lids while cooking and avoiding drying clothes on radiators will partially help, but ultimately the only truly effective way of getting rid of condensation for good is by improving the ventilation in your home.

Ensuring that your bathroom and kitchen extractor fans are working properly will reduce the amount of moist air that can spread around your home, but the best results come from modern whole house solutions such as Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) systems, which have a central unit in the loft or a cupboard and ensure gentle air flow throughout the whole building to prevent moisture levels from building up anywhere.

Find Out More

If you are concerned about the health risks of mildew and mould, or the damage that that Mildew can do to your belongings if it is allowed to spread, contact us today and book your free home survey.  Our local ventilation specialists will visit your home to identify the causes of your mildew problem and provide helpful advice and guidance about the best solution for your needs.

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

Need help with condensation, mould or damp problems?