4 Things You Should Know About Mold & Mildew!

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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!

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Melissa Maker is an entrepreneur, cleaning expert, founder of Toronto’s most popular boutique cleaning service, and star of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube (but she still hates to clean!). Every week, Melissa delivers new videos dishing expert advice on cleaning products, tools, DIY substitutes, and practical, timesaving solutions to everyday problems. Melissa has appeared on the Today Show, and has been featured in InStyle, Real Simple, and Better Homes and Gardens.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Expired antibiotics: Don’t throw way.. open an old caplet in a glass add a little water that has been boiled then cooled to room temp. Give it 5-10 mins to activate and paint on to areas that have mold..
    The stronger antibiotics work best and you will see mold disappearing and can then wipe it off.
    Molds kill not only bacteria but other types of competing molds.
    Antibiotics are just the poisons that different molds make to do just thatand do not contain mold spores, so you won’t get mildew or what ever mold made the antibiotics growing afterwards.

  2. I bought a used dresser and it turns out there’s some green mold on the back of the wood drawers. Can I just clean it and move on or is it more of a concern being on wood? Thanks.

    • This is a complete answer, but doing any part of this will help you “win the battle” I started trying to give you a simple answer. There are so many parts of the situation, it just not lend itself to a simple answer. Humidity and understanding tempurature, the inside of your house verse the outside weather… what causes condinsation and many other things go into a complete answer, Depends on where you live, where the moisture is coming from? living near an ocean or lake, ditches, the amount of rain you get and how much sun, hot hot and how cold it gets all plays a role, and we complicate it by making our houses different then what is outside.

      I will tell you up front, I am not the normal person that will answer you, however, I am a home owner, a mother, grandmother, wife that likes to cook and sew also… So here is my and my families working background, then you can decide if you want to read further. We deal with this issue professionally all the time for health, construction commercial and residential.

      I am an medical infectious disease epidemiologist and my husband is an HVAC Master Technician, and I still had to teach him. My Youngest Son is a concrete, soil and construction wher he is building a NASA Station, they need him to build the building and make it air tight, but the parking lots and roads in Mississippi have their problems with rain and floods up close to the Mississippi river and gulf coast delta area.

      So here goes:

      The only think you can do in drawers or cup boards that is really effective is to use material in construction that “breaths.” Vinyl Shelf paper (anything made with plastics or vinyl) does NOT breath and condensation WILL build up on the side with the moisture.

      (They have actually stopped using tyvac in some areas of the country to build and put a moisture barrier on the outside of your house because the condinsation will build up on the cooler side of somtthing that is heated.)

      Understanding how to control HUMIDITY in your house is the ONLY way to prevent it and I don’t think anything does it completely really that is any kind of affordable, but we are trying and doing a lot of the work ourselves (not hard, just time consuming and knowledge intensive.)

      Making sure everything is dry before putting it away will help with drawers and cabinets. A few examples, damp cloths from the dryer or line, and damp or wet dishes and silverware from the dishdrainer or dishwasher in cabinets or drawers introduces more moisture then what is normally in your house. Then by having doors or pusing drawers closed, creates nice dark damp places where mold, mildew and insects like to breed.

      Installing vent fans in areas that are damp,
      – I like to “can fruits and vegatables” so I have a 6″ ducted ceiling fan inside my kitchen as well as the hood fan for the stove top.
      – I also have vent fans in both my bathrooms and in the Utility Area where the washer and dryer is.
      – ALL my vents in the bathrooms, kitchen and utility area where it will fit, are the bigger 6 inch duct type.

      *****Make sure you have someone duct it OUT of your attic into the open air.*****

      We have so many problems with controling humidity on the Atlantic Seaboard at the boarder of North Carolina and Virginia. We are located in a spot where we are humidity outside is nearing 95% for 6 months of the year in the spring sumer and fall; and the AC cannot handle it all. But we get temps in the 10-20s for at least several weeks that causes the humidity to go to about 10-15% so our noses bleed and our skin drys out. Nor easters in the winter occur several times a winter.

      We have had to take drastic measures. We are installing a 130 pint per day dehumidifier inside the central ventilation system for the summer and have installed a humidifier for the winter.

      Portable dehumidifiers only handle 35-70 pints of water per day. Depending on where you live and your climate, will determine more or less what you need. (They work in smaller houses, RVs and in closed spaces.) My house has been built on to making it very long (about 65 ft by 25 ft of meandering as the original house was built in 1870s or earlier.)

      I wish I could say that the HVAC technicians and companies understood this better, but they don’t.

      Aim for NO LESS then 40% and NO more then 55-60% humidity.

      AprilAir INC. sells central HVAC humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Humification is not expensive, and fire places can dry out your air in the winter besides your furnance so HVAC technicians from colder climates DO install the them. They are wonderful. However, good luck at finding anyone to understand and make recommendations for dehumidification.

      HVAC companies are natorious in our area for gouging the customer by stating you have to gut and reinstall your whole ventilation system, and they count on you not having the knowledge to say different… (which sometimes is necessary but not usually. Modifications to your current system if you have a good basic system.)

      You will have to use, companies specialize in disaster clean up from floods and hurricanes they are called Mold Remediation and they are not cheap. Since this is my husbands and my fields of profession we have tons of articals but the knowledge base has not been distributed very well. The HVAC techs will tell you Air Conditioners will handle humidity, to a certain degree that is so but the air has to go slow over the AC coils so the freon will have enough contact with the moisture in the air to condense the extra moisture out. And AC techs are not specialists at getting the fans inside the AC units to do that.

      They will also tell you it will increase your energy costs (that is conventional wisdom) but it is not so either. Moisture holds heat, and so the less moisture in the air the easier it is to cool, the more moisture in the air the more heat it will hold in the winter.

      Both of us also volunteer with American Red Cross (hurricanes, tornados, floods, tsunomis, nor easters disaters) and with National Oceanic and Aeronotics Administration (NOAA) for percipatation of rain, snow and hail. and have over 40+ years in our fields and volunteer work. so we are in our 60s… So we study it for work, we study it cause we have always lived in areas of extreme weather.

  3. The excess amount of water standing would grow mold if it will be not remove before time and that would be unhealthy for us. You have really provided us a great tips how to deal with mold. Thanks for sharing such a informative post.

  4. How do you clean tea towels and face cloths so that the mildew smell doesn’t show up the second they get wet, even right out of the washer and dryer? We solved the recurrence of problems in the bathrooms by installing towel warmers but not in the kitchen although I’m tempted to install one in there too.

    • Use the recommended amount of bleach in your washing machine and that will kill and mold and get rid of the smell. In the infection control 10% regular household bleach is used to kill many things. If you have it on a wall, or in a dresser, keep it moist for about 10 minutes. It will kill most everything. It is bacteriacidal and fungicidal. And it kills most every virus I know of too off the top of my head.

      Sodium hypocloride is simple:
      Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidizing agent in liquid form and is greenish or yellowish in color. It is commonly referred to as bleach because it is the active ingredient in bleach. Its chemical formula is NaClO, composed of one sodium (Na) atom, one chlorine (Cl) atom and one oxygen (O) atom.

      So, if NaCl is regular table salt, then it just has one oxygen atom attached to it to make bleach.

      However, as an oxidizing agent, it will take the color out of most anything even at a 10% concentration so be careful with the cloths that are not white. But it will not eat through the cloths at 10%. I have done it many times. We have mold on our house and I use it on their a few times a year or so.

  5. Melissa you are the best. I have my work cut out for me and suspected this was my problem, but never thought the smell would take over the house. I think between bleach and a good dehumidifier in the cellar we may lick this problem. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

  6. Thank you so much Melissa for giving complete details about mold and mildew. I was looking for such post last 3-4 month but none of the blogger gives complete information. But I think your post solves all of my doubts. Thank you so much again for complete and informative post.

  7. precious info as always. Thanks Melissa for yet another excellent and doable solutions for a big problem x

    I wonder why I am still not convinced of microfibre towels!! They don’t seem to absorb as well as cotton ones. Is the problem in me or the type of microfibre towels I use and I can promise you that I have dozens of many different types!!! They just do not dry surfaces properly!!

  8. Nice video Melissa. Anyway, I noticed that there is mirror cleaning video that you made last year. Remember the type of towel you said to use-flat weave microfiber? Well I have one understanding of microfibre towels. What I understand about them is how they’re different from ordinary towels. However, I also have one misunderstanding of these unique towels-how to differentiate the types of towels made from microfibre. What I mean is, how is a flat-weave towel different from a Terry towel, and how are these towels different from any other towel in the microfibre world? I’m interested in learning how to judge a microfibre towel type by how it looks. Beyond that I would just like to know the best cloths to choose when cleaning certain surfaces. If you could make a video on different types of microfibre towels (all or some types, all if it’s not too much), that would be most appreciated. 🙂

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