Share this article

print logo

Ridding surfaces of mildew

First, there was nuclear waste, then came contaminated ground water. Polluted streams, rivers with fewer fish and oceans with oil slicks followed. There's radon, carbon monoxide gas and more.

Inside pollutants can be almost as dangerous as any of the others that we just mentioned.

Mildew might seem like a docile organism to some, but for many, it has a number of consequences. An allergic reaction to mildew spores can result in an extended hospital visit. At best, mildew is a nuisance. So, with that in mind, this week's offering includes our old standby formula with a few new twists. But, first a bit about where the black, fuzzy stuff comes from.

Mildew and mold spores are everywhere. And your home can be a primary breeding ground. Condensation and humidity are the culprits. If you live in a humid area, you are destined to have mildew. That's because humid air ends up causing damp surfaces and that is exactly where mildew settles. In other climates where the relative humidity is lower, there is still a chance of growth. Condensation can occur in the desert, perhaps not to the same extent as in the Florida Keys or in New Orleans, but it can occur anywhere. And where there is moisture in the air or on ceilings and walls -- or even in walls and ceiling and below floors -- mildew can, and usually does, settle in. Look out you sod busters, mildew is everywhere just waiting for enough humidity, condensation or puddled water to get-a-growin'. Go ahead, don't dry off the walls after showering and see what grows there.

One can battle mildew by eliminating the feeding ground. Keep the house dry and mildew will not find a damp surface upon which to grow. You keep the house dry by circulating the air; by exhausting damp air in bathrooms, at the stove and in the laundry or wherever water vapors appear. In that way, condensation can't occur. Opening windows after a shower helps as well. In very humid areas a dehumidifier is a must. But, if you have a portable one, be sure to empty the drain pan. Also, don't forget the drain pans in your air conditioner and refrigerator. Swamp coolers work best in extremely arid locations. If you live in a warm, humid climate and you have a swamp cooler you can count on having mildew and mold year round.

As promised, here's our famous all-purpose mildew cleaning formula followed by a couple of neat alternatives:

For outdoor mildew removal, mix a quart of liquid chlorine bleach and a third of a cup of powdered laundry detergent into three quarts of hot water. Stir until thoroughly mixed and place in a spray bottle.

For counters, shower walls and for the bathroom in general, use 1 1/2 cups of bleach mixed with one gallon of water.

For mildewed clothing, use two tablespoons of bleach in one quart of water (or soapy water). We like the soapy water. Be sure the fabric is colorfast.

On painted surfaces you can use the outdoor formula. However, you might have sensitive paint. If so, use 1 1/2 cups of bleach and a third of a cup of powdered laundry detergent in a gallon of hot water.

For wood, plaster, plastic and metal surfaces -- indoors or out -- mix vinegar with borax. What a cleaner. Mix as much borax into the vinegar as you can. Keep mixing until the borax will no longer dissolve. Scrub this onto the surface and watch it get clean.

Tip: If you go to a janitorial supply store to get your spray bottle, you will be in for a surprise. The bottles and sprayers are sold separately. It's the same spray unit, except that with the shorter bottles the drawtube on the sprayer is cut shorter. The bottles in the janitorial supply store are a little bit sturdier than the ones you find at the grocer or at the hardware store. The big surprise is when the bottle is filled and you start squirting. It's amazing. You can set a janitorial grade sprayer to hit a spot from across the room.

Cleaning can be more fun when you know what works best. The cleaning concoctions in this article can be made for about a tenth the cost of commercial mildew cleaners. Now, you can be mildew-free while saving money.

James Carey and Morris Carey are nationally recognized experts on home building and renovation.

There are no comments - be the first to comment