This week we’re talking about a subject I get asked about all the time, what to do about mold and mildew.
So curl up on the couch, because things are about to get moldy!
What is Mold & Mildew, and what’s the Difference?
Mold and mildew are fungi, which are basic microscopic organisms which can thrive in any moist environment. Now, molds are actually quite important, they are nature’s way of breaking down dead organic matter and help regenerate our environment by breaking down leaves and other organic materials, regenerating soil, and doing other moldy things. This is absolutely wonderful for the outdoors, but if mold is indoors, it’s not a good thing. Not a good thing. Mold is usually green, black or white and can look eventually look thick and fuzzy.
Okay, one quick shout out to mold – we do appreciate that it gave us antibiotics and funky cheese.
Mildew is just mold in early stages. It’s a type of mold and is generally found in homes on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, bathroom and kitchen surfaces, wallpaper, carpet, drywall, fabric, foods, insulation, and other organic materials. Mildew is usually black, brown, yellow or white, occasionally orange or pink and can look dusty or flat.
Mold grows in colonies and starts to form on a damp surface around the 24-48 hour mark. They create mold spores, which are airborne and can land on organic surfaces close to the original source. This is annoying because they spreads like a moldy wildfire and you’re the one left to deal with it, not to mention bare some of the health implications that come along with mold. Now, mildew is less harmful than mold although it can still cause some health issues, but it grows more predictably than mold does and I find it to be easier to deal with. Oh, and that pink and orange mildew in your bathroom? That IS harmless. But it’s ugly. So we’ll cover it, don’t worry!
Why you don’t want Mold in your house
Mold spores can grow or land and start to colonize on damp or moist surfaces like the pumpkin here – or, they can start to grow on a wet sponge, or on your grout, or on a BUNCH of surfaces in your bathroom..basically any wet surface and you might not even be able to see it with your eyes..oh but can you ever start to smell it. If you smell something that’s a little too earthy, a little too outdoorsy, a little too rotten, or a little too cheesy mixed with dirt, gosh, I don’t know how to describe it any better?! That’s mold.
There are health issues associated with mold, which is why people take it seriously. When it starts to grow and settle, those mold spores are considered allergens and that can cause runny nose, sneezing, red eyes, rashes and in more severe cases can lead to asthma attacks. For people with compromised immune systems, it can be even harder to bare. At best, mold can be an irritant however, it can also be potentially toxic. That’s why if you do have a serious mold issue, be it from a flood or lack of ventilation, you need to get it treated ASAP. Mildew can produce less severe instances of these symptoms, but a little bit of mildew in a bathroom is more an eyesore than a health threat, so please don’t worry. There are lots of sources you can research which cover in greater detail the health issues associated with mold, so feel free to check that out if you are interested.
Mold will also ruin any surface it settles upon, eventually, unless caught and dealt with ASAP. I had a mold issue in my old condo – I kept coughing and had itchy skin and I didn’t know why, and there was a strange smell coming from my closet. An earthy, moldy smell. Eventually I took a look behind my clothes and saw a giant mold infestation on my closet wall and carpet, which shared the wall with my bathroom. Well, you know how this one ended. I had to tear out an entire wall and replace my shower. I had to throw away clothing and shoes which were covered in mold, not to mention had to spend some cold hard cash on that little emergency. It was not a good scene.
Mildew on the other hand, is common in damp environments and just needs to be managed. Once it forms, it can be cleaned and treated to prevent regrowth.
How to clean Mold
If you have a mold issue in your home, like what I had, don’t panic but I would recommend calling in a professional company to have a look and handle it. They need specialty protective gear, they can use specialty products, they can test for mold spores in the air and they’ll know exactly how to eliminate the entire problem, not just what meets the eye.
If you have mildew in the house, there are some terrific options for cleaning it.
Now one quick note here, bleach can help remove mold and mildew and it can be an effective cleaner. That being said, we don’t use bleach in my house and there are so many alternatives which work just as well, so here they are.
Option #1 is a Clean My Space favorite – vinegar – we’re going to be using undiluted vinegar, so it’s going to be really strong – but that’s what we’ll need when fighting mildew. Be certain the surface you are cleaning can tolerate vinegar first though – so this is a no no on natural stone and other sensitive surfaces. Simply apply undiluted vinegar (or full-strength vinegar if you have it) onto the surface with mildew, leave it for 30 minutes and scrub vigorously with a scrub brush. Rinse, dry and re-spray with vinegar and just let it air dry. That will help treat the surface and prevent re-growth.
Option #2 involves using oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide – create a 50/50 mix of either liquid or powdered oxygen bleach or hydrogen peroxide to water, apply to the area, leave for 10 minutes and scrub well. Then rinse and re-spray area with oxygen bleach and allow to air dry. Oxygen bleach is not the same as chlorine bleach, it’s a safe and effective alternative and I really love this option.
Option #3 use a specialty product designed to combat mold and mildew, like Concrobium, which I found after that condo drama I told you about. I like it because it’s non-toxic and easy to use and it does work very well.
Remember, clean your cleaning tools after this so that you don’t have any left behind!
How to prevent Mold
It’s no surprise that prevention is key and that the easiest way to deal with mold is to stop it from forming in the first place.
Mold thrives on moisture, so if you can control the moisture in your home – you control the mold! So, here are a few handy tips to help you prevent this nasty stuff:
– Use the exhaust fan in you bathroom, it’s what it is there for! The exhaust fan will help eliminate excess moisture from your bathroom, especially after showers! If you don’t have one, leave the door open and ideally a window open as well.
– Clean your shower curtain on a somewhat regular basis – this helps reduce the soap residue in your shower area which mildew feeds on – we’ve got a video on that and we’ll link it below.
– Use storage baskets with holes which allow air to pass through so that moisture can’t build up in these areas
– Hang damp towels to dry entirely – allow air to pass through them and avoid that moldy, musty smell that comes from a towel not drying properly – the same thing goes for sponges. Let them dry entirely so that they don’t smell!
– Use a squeegee after you shower/bathe or towel dry the tiles and tub – it’s the best way to eliminate water build-up on tiles, grout and other areas where it can puddle and attract mold and mildew
– Keep your shower / bath area as clear from bottles as possible – it will make it easier to find the spots where water is collecting.
-Use a daily shower spray containing one teaspoon of tea tree oil to one cup of water and mist after each shower. You can also use 1 part vinegar and 1 part water, and this prevents mildew from growing.
-That pink and orange stuff in the tub and toilet just needs to be scrubbed away – so clean with one of the solutions I suggested and scrub quickly, that will be eliminated…until it comes back again, and it just will. I have not discovered a way to get rid of it entirely.
Remember, mold will not grow if moisture isn’t present – so that’s the key to beating it inside your home!
This week’s comment question is – what should I clean next?? Let me know down below what you would like me to clean in an upcoming Clean My Space video!