Preventing Mildew

Category Mold
Reducing the amount of moisture and good air circulation help to reduce mold growth. This page is about preventing mildew.


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November 6, 2004

Mildew is a common name for household mold that thrives in dark, damp, poorly ventilated places. Chlorine bleach, diluted according to label directions, is a good mildew remover for use on colorfast waterproof hard surfaces.

Mildew can also be controlled by lowering the humidity in a closed-in space such as a closet. In very humid weather, when mildew growth is greatest, use a continuously burning 60 watt bulb in a large closet to raise the temperature (and thereby lower the relative humidity). A smaller bulb can be used in a smaller enclosure. Be certain that the bulb is well away from any stored articles.

By Donna G.

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May 3, 2005
1. Keep Things Clean

Keep closets, dresser drawers, basements--any place where mildew is likely to grow--as clean as possible. Soil on dirty articles can supply enough food for mildew to start growing when moisture and temperature are right. Greasy films, such as those that form on kitchen walls, also contain many nutrients for mildew-causing molds.


2. Get Rid of Dampness

Dampness in a basement, or any other structure, is often caused by condensation of moisture from humid air onto cooler surfaces. Excessive moisture may indicate that repairs or additional insulation are needed. Replace cracked or defective mortar. Some basements are continually wet from water leaking through crevices in the wall. Make sure outside drainage is adequate.

3. Control Moisture

For waterproofing concrete and other masonry walls above ground, apply two coats of cement paint, tinted with mineral coloring if desired. Waterproofed coatings to seal absorbent brick and other outside surfaces may be needed.

Spread a layer of moisture-barrier material over the soil in crawl spaces under houses. You can use heavy roofing paper or polyethylene plastic film. Good ventilation is important. If possible, do not enclose the crawl space. In extreme cases, a fan or blower may be needed to move the humid air from under the building.


Cooking, laundering, and bathing may add 2 gallons or more of water a day to the house. If circulation is not adequate use some type of exhaust fan. If your clothes dryer is equipped with a vent, have it exhausted to the outside to remove moist air.

4. Dry the Air

Cool air holds less moisture than warm air. Properly installed air-conditioning systems remove moisture from the air by taking up warm air, cooling it (which removes the moisture) and circulating the cool dry air back into the room. In rooms that are not air-conditioned-especially the basement--mechanical dehumidifiers are useful. A humidistat can be attached to the unit to control the humidity. Mechanical dehumidifiers, however, can add heat to a room.

When using air-conditioners or dehumidifiers, keep windows and doors closed.

5. Heat

Get rid of dampness by heating the house for a short time. Then open doors and windows to let out the moisture-laden air. An exhaust fan may be used to force it out.


Air in closets and other small areas can be dried by using an electric light continuously (60- to 100-watt bulb). The heat will prevent mildew if the space is not too large.

PRECAUTION: Be sure to place the light bulb far enough from clothing and other flammables to avoid the danger of fire.

Chemicals that absorb moisture--may be used to absorb moisture from the air. Follow directions on the label exactly.

6. Circulate the Air When the air outside is drier than that inside, ventilation allows the dry air

to enter, take up excess moisture, and then be carried outside. When natural breezes are not sufficient, you can use electric fans placed in a window, set in a wall, or ducted to the attic to move air from the house.

Poorly ventilated closets get damp and musty during continued wet weather, and articles stored in them are apt to mildew. Try to improve the air circulation by opening the closet doors or by installing a fan.


In addition, hang the clothes loosely so that air can circulate around them. Dry all wet clothing (including clothes wet from rain or perspiration) before putting it in the closet.

7. Get Rid of Musty Odors

Get rid of musty odors as soon as possible to prevent further mold growth. Usually musty odors disappear if the area is well heated and dried. If the odors remain, the following treatment may be necessary.

On cement floors and on tiled walls and floors in bathrooms, get rid of mustiness by scrubbing with a diluted solution of sodium hypochlorite or other chlorine bleach available in grocery stores. Use one-half to 1 cup of liquid household bleach to a gallon of water. Rinse with clear water and wipe as dry as possible. Keep windows open until walls and floors are thoroughly dry.


PRECAUTION: Work quickly and carefully on plastic and asphalt tile to avoid spotting the surface.

This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus, with reference from the USDA bulletin, Mildew. Source: MSU Extension

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

I have heard if you stash a few pieces of charcoal in a corner or two in the bathroom it would absorb moisture and discourage mold. I have used Damp-rid before but it gets too expensive. Has anyone ever tried this or know of any other things to try that are cheap?



By Ann4 (Guest Post)
January 6, 20050 found this helpful

If there is a certain spot that you are concerned about, you could spray the area weekly with vinegar. You don't have to wipe it up, I've never had any problems with straight vinegar damaging surfaces.

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By katie a. (Guest Post)
January 6, 20050 found this helpful

If you have a serious dampness problem, I can't imagine a few pieces of charcoal will solve the problem. You probably need to investigate the source of the water. Is the shower water getting out during a shower? How? Can you stop it from escaping or can you wipe it up right away? Does the moisture from bathing stay in the air? Open a window or make sure you leave the exhaust fan on long enough (or replace it if it is ineffective). If the sink or toilet is leaking, fix it to save water and to avoid water damage.

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By tara (Guest Post)
February 16, 20050 found this helpful

I have a really bad problem with moisture too. the shower,tub and toilet area is seperated from the sinks and my washer and dryer. it is so bad that the celing was molded. I have a fan that sucks the air to the out side but oviously it is not enough. I sprayed stuff on the celing to get rid of the mold but i think all it did was cover it up. i may end up replaceing the whole celing. i hope your problem is not as bad as mine i feel for you and i hope there is something or someone out there that can help.

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By nananpopaw (Guest Post)
June 26, 20050 found this helpful

I live in an OLD house, we tore out the celing tile. There's wood underneith. I want to paint the wood, but got to clean the mold off first. I can think of a lot of way's, all are very messy. Any one know how I can get it done with out a lot of mess ?


Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 9, 20090 found this helpful

If you use rubber mats in tub or shower, be sure to pick them after each use and don't put them back until ready for use. This is my main focus and it is probably the main culprit. Good luck

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June 23, 20110 found this helpful

I have a friend who is an FBI agent and she told me they use charcoal to stuff dead bodies to absorb the odor well they are finished investigating.

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Answer this Question...

February 5, 2017

Shower curtains are the perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. This is a page about preventing mold and mildew on a shower curtain.

Shower Curtain

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June 19, 2017

A damp shower in the bathroom can easily grow mildew, especially on tile grout. This is a page about preventing mildew around shower.

Shower Mildew

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