Mildew ranks at top of home’s enemy list

  • By the Carey Bothers
  • Wednesday, May 30, 2012 12:40pm
  • Life

If mildew isn’t the No. 1 headache for most Americans, then it runs a close second.

Mildew is everywhere, all around us. But we don’t see it until it finds a food source. Once that happens mildew begins to flourish.

Here are some specific causes of mildew and how to prevent it:

First, keep enclosed spaces, like closets, clean and dry. With mildew, cleanliness is close to godliness. Dirty clothing, for example, can provide enough food for mildew to grow when the humidity and temperature are just right.

Water droplets caused by condensation create enough food for mildew to run rampant. Water leaks in walls, ceilings, floors, the crawl space and the basement result in yet another food source for mildew.

Waterproofing all of these elements is a must. To waterproof exterior concrete walls apply several coats of latex block paint. Several coats of a high quality clear sealant also can be used on masonry. For crawl spaces add a layer of 6-mil plastic sheeting over the entire area.

Be sure to leave a six-inch space between the foundation walls and the edge of the sheeting. Doing so will prevent a buildup of moisture beneath the plastic. If possible, install additional foundation vents and if that isn’t enough add a fan. Ventilation inside is also important.

The shower, laundry and the kitchen all create steam that turns to moisture droplets everywhere. Every area where steam can be produced should be fitted with a high-powered exhaust fan.

An air-conditioner (the refrigeration type) is another defense against mildew feeding moisture. Air-conditioning systems remove moisture from the air by eliminating warm air, cooling it (which removes the moisture) and circulating the cool dry air. Where air-conditioning isn’t available a portable or built-in dehumidifier will do the trick.

Here’s a trick you can use to fool Mother Moisture: With all windows and doors closed, heat the house until it is warmer inside than outside. Then open doors and windows to let out the hot, moisture-laden air.

To dry out an average size closet we recommend using a 60-watt light bulb in the ceiling. Leave it on all the time. Mildew will never grow in the closet again. Place the light bulb clear of clothing or other flammables.

In some cases, opening the closet doors and spacing clothing loosely can aid in enough air circulation to eliminate the use of a light bulb. Absorbents such as lava rock also help to dehumidify almost any area.

When the air outside is drier than the air inside, open windows and doors.

Natural air currents often can do the trick. If there is no breeze, create one with fans placed at opposing windows. Make sure the fans are blowing outward.

During winter months run decorative ceiling fans in reverse so that air is blown against the ceiling. The circulation of hot air from the ceiling will prevent condensation on windows if the drapes/curtains are open.

Here is our famous mildew removal formula. You will need:

1/2 cup powdered laundry detergent

16 ounces liquid chlorine bleach

1 1/2 quarts hot water

Add the detergent to the water first, and then add the bleach. Stir thoroughly. Although this formula is mild be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection. Add the blend to a spray bottle to apply the solution.

Next, use a nylon bristle brush to scrub the affected area. When the black mildew turns white rinse with fresh water. Dry immediately.

For tips from James and Morris Carey, go to or call the listener hot line, 800-737-2474, ext. 59. The Careys are also on KRKO (1380-AM) from 6 to 10 a.m. every Saturday.

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