Mildew tends to grow anywhere that there is sufficient moisture and warmth, and will affect almost any kind of surface, particularly natural ones, be it paper, fabric, wood, tile or concrete. The damage to “soft” surfaces such as fabric, leather and paper cannot be undone; once decay has set in, you must either throw it out or replace the damaged area. You can, however, clean bathrooms, basements and similar areas.
As with most things, prevention is far easier than the cure. Control the humidity in your home, not allowing it to get above 65% at the very highest; and the temperature, keeping it ideally between 64 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit, although it may be a little higher or lower. Make sure you have air circulating. Check for leaks, and for cracks in walls, roofs and windows, having them repaired to keep outside moisture from getting in. Finally, clean your home often.
- If your basement starts to smell like mildew, sprinkle bleaching powder, also called chloride or lime or chlorinated lime, throughout the room. Leave it there until the smell disappears, turning up heat and air circulation to speed up the process. Sweep to clean up.
- Tiles on walls and floors may be scrubbed with a mixture of chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) and water. Add one cup bleach to each gallon of water. Rinse, wipe dry, and be sure to keep windows and curtains open until the room’s completely dry.
- Bathroom caulk is infamous for gathering mildew. You can scrub it with the same stuff as the tiles, but if the mildew has gone deeper you might be better off just getting new caulk put in, since it will keep coming back. Tile grout may be treated with a commercial spray cleaner designed for mold and mildew. To make your bathroom less susceptible to mold, chose a high gloss finish for your tiles, and keep your exhaust fan on any time you’re running water.
- If the cushions on your outdoor furniture begin to grow mildew stains, cover them with warm water, borax and detergent. After they’re soaked, use a pressure sprayer. Canvass requires naphthalene soap rather than the borax and detergent. Unfortunately, you are not guaranteed a perfect result, but they’ll be cleaner than before. Wooden furniture should be protected from mildew by seals and varnish, or else paste wax on unfinished wood.
- Some canvasses are pretreated with a mildew resistant finish, such as boat canvas. These should be washed with soaps—not detergents—and warm—not hot—water. Rinse with cold water and dry thoroughly before refolding. Examples of mild soaps which will not damage the finish are Ivory and Lux. If the canvas is already mildew stained, use a very weak solution of non-chlorine bleach. A half-and-half white vinegar and water solution will help prevent future mildewing. Treat mildew on sails in a similar fashion, washing the bleach off immediately to avoid damage. As always, let them dry completely before stowing.