Mold and mildew (mold in its early stage) are fungi that happily and quickly grow anywhere there is moisture. They serve an important purpose in our environment by helping to destroy organic materials such as leaves, thereby enriching the soil. But that same attribute can cause a serious health issue for people living in a moldy home: respiratory problems; sinus congestion; eye, nose, or throat irritation; and headaches. Infants, children, pregnant women, elderly individuals, and people with existing respiratory conditions are at a higher risk for these problems.
Check for areas in your home where there could be high humidity or water damage, such as a damp basement or crawl space. Mildew and mold can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, and insulation. These growths can begin to develop on a damp surface within 24 and 48 hours and produce spores that travel through the air. They will break down and destroy whatever they're growing on and can cause mild to severe health problems for you and your family.
The problem won't go away on its own. Learn how to remove -- and prevent -- mold and mildew with these simple tips.
Arm Yourself with the Right Tools
Planning on doing battle with mold and mildew? Make sure you have these cleaning tools on hand.
- Latex or rubber gloves
- Buckets and brushes
- Vacuum with brush attachment
- Mop and sponges
- Nonammonia detergent, soap, or commercial cleaner
- Disinfectant chlorine bleach
- Furniture polish
Keep Your Bathroom Fresh
Few rooms in the home see as much moisture and humidity as the bathroom. Be sure your bathroom stays well-ventilated. An exhaust fan will help circulate the air and remove moisture more quickly. These additional actions will help keep your bathroom fresh and mold-free.
- Spread towels out after use so that they dry more quickly.
- Minimize containers left in the shower for cleaning ease and better circulation.
- Wipe down the shower with a clean towel or squeegee after its last daily use.
- Choose shower curtains that dry and clean easily to help avoid soap residue, which fosters mold.
If you're dealing with a mildewed shower curtain made of durable fabric, follow these steps for cleaning it.
Wash using a solution of 1/2 cup liquid disinfectant to 1 gallon of hot water.
Rinse with a mixture of one cup lemon juice and one cup salt to a gallon of hot water.
Wash with detergent and bleach (using color-safe bleach on color fabrics).
Rinse in clear water.
Freshen Fabric and Upholstery
Avoid sending mold spores into the air and throughout the house by first taking fabric and upholstery that's mobile outside. Brush off as much of the mildew as possible. Then treat these pieces individually as follows.
- Fabric should be laundered in chlorine bleach and hot water. If chlorine bleach is not a safe option for the material, soak it in oxygen bleach and hot water for a half hour, then wash as directed. Take it outside to dry in the sun if possible.
- Upholstery that you can't take outside should be vacuumed first. Replace the vacuum bag or take the canister outside to clean. Then mix 1 cup of ammonia with 1 cup of cool water. (Chlorine bleach and ammonia should never be combined due to the resulting toxic fumes.) Using a clean white cloth, sponge the stains with the ammonia solution. Blot until all the liquid is absorbed. Repeat the process until the stain disappears. To remove the resulting ammonia solution, sponge the area with cold water and blot. Dry thoroughly with a fan or hair dryer set on cool.
Clean Mildew-Stained Carpets
Start by thoroughly vacuuming the affected carpet to remove as much of the mildew as you can. After you are done, either throw away the bag or clean the canister outside. Then proceed as follows.
Briskly mix 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry soap and 2 cups of cool water.
Apply the suds to the stained area with a damp cloth, sponging lightly.
Repeat until the stain is gone, then rinse.
Dry the area completely.
Revive Stored Wooden Furniture
- Vacuum mildewed wood furniture with a soft brush to remove any loose spores. After you are done, either throw away the bag or clean the canister outside.
- Quickly wipe off any stains using a light touch.
- Rinse the area with a damp cloth, let dry, then polish.
Prevent Spores from Getting a Stronghold
Help keep your home free of mold and mildew with a few preventive measures.
- Use dehumidifiers, fans, and open windows to help reduce the moisture in your home. Be especially vigilant during hot, humid months.
- Fix plumbing leaks as soon as possible.
- Do what you can to prevent rain water from seeping into your home. Check potential problem areas regularly.
- Clean the fabrics in your home routinely and keep them dry.
- Store items in dry, well-ventilated areas.
If It's Too Late, Don't Hesitate to Toss
If the mold and mildew on your fabric, upholstery, carpet, or furniture is beyond cleaning and drying, throw it out or call a professional cleaning service. Don't take a chance with the potential health risks that mold and mildew can cause you and your family.
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