As soon as you see signs of mold or mildew growing indoors, you should consider the best cleaning method. Mildew is only surface-deep, but the root structure of mold can reach much deeper. Antifungal cleaners must be absorbed into porous materials in order to eliminate every trace of mold and prevent re-contamination.
Surface disinfectants such as chlorine bleach can be used to eliminate every trace of mildew or mold growing on hard, non-porous materials. These solutions do not penetrate into porous materials, and household bleach is also corrosive and toxic. Less harsh natural mold treatments such as white vinegar or sodium borate can be more effective for eliminating the hyphae and mycelium that function as the root structure of mold.
Cleaning Mildew vs Cleaning Mold
Mildew and mold are two types of fungus. Mildew tends to be light in color, flat and have a downy or powdery appearance. This form of fungal growth tends to start out white, gray or yellow in color and gradually turn brown or black over the course of the growth cycle.
A simple test can help you distinguish mildew growth from surface grime. Dampen a paper towel with chlorine bleach and dab it onto a spot of discoloration. If the treated area lightens in color over the following hours, you are dealing with mildew rather than dirt.
Chlorine bleach is effective for killing mildew, which does not grow beneath surfaces. Make a solution of one-quarter cup bleach for every gallon, or 16 cups, of water. Calculate the right quantity of bleach solution for cleanup based on the size of the affected area. Scrub growth with brush or sponge. If the first treatment is not effective, try cleaning the area again, increasing the ratio of bleach to water to one-half cup for every gallon.
Mold is another type of fungus that has 100,000 known species, with as many as 300,000 species assumed to exist. Growth that has a fuzzy or slimy texture and spreads across surfaces in a pattern tends to be mold rather than mildew. Mold also grows in a variety of colors, with black, brown, gray and green being the most common colors of fungal growth found indoors.
It is impossible to positively identify mold based on observing its color. Not every mold that looks black in color is a toxic black mold, and even toxigenic species of Stachybotrys chartarum can appear green depending on the stage of the fungal growth cycle.
When mold or mildew is growing on nonporous surfaces, surface disinfectants are effective for cleaning a fungal infestation. A diluted solution of chlorine bleach in water is also effective, but this cleanser is very harsh. It is necessary to apply penetrating antifungal agents to mold growing on porous materials.
Where Mildew and Mold Grow
Fungal spores are everywhere and only require moisture and nourishment to form colonies. Mildew often grows in warm, moist areas such as bathrooms, kitchens, laundry or utility rooms. Several mildew species also grow on plants.
Mold also thrives in places where water and food sources are available. The plant fiber cellulose and other substances found in building materials and contents can supply starch and sugar to sustain fungal growth. High moisture levels are the determining factor for most mold infestations.
The bathroom is the most common place to find mildew. This room tends to have the highest levels of moisture. Mildew may flourish on tiles, grout or walls that become damp and dry out slowly. Bathrooms with insufficient ventilation and low light levels run a higher risk of developing mildew.
Kitchen mildew and mold is less common, as moisture levels tend to be lower. Mildew or mold are always most likely to develop in areas where water and food sources are most plentiful. A garbage disposal that is not kept clean can also support fungus growth. Leaky pipes or a leaky dishwasher can also support mold or mildew growth, particularly given the elevated levels of organic substances present in food.
High moisture and heat levels combine to raise the risk of mildew and mold growth in a laundry room. A designated room for laundering clothes or laundry appliances in any other part of a home can pose unique risk factors, such as mildew or mold growth in the washing machine, around water connections or due to improper dryer venting. Run a dehumidifier near laundry equipment to keep relative indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% to make the environment less conducive to mildew and mold.
A utility room may also have an elevated risk of fungus formation. Water heater connections and the condition of the tank in this appliance can cause moderate to severe water damage. This room is likely to be accessed less frequently than a bathroom, kitchen or laundry room and may also have minimal natural light and ventilation.
Mildew and mold may grow where moisture and food are readily available, and factors that keep growth at bay are not present. Regular access and cleaning, good ventilation and the availability of natural or artificial lighting can reduce the risk of a fungal infestation anywhere in a structure.
The Best Mildew Cleaning Method
Mold damage remediation experts recommend using full-strength white distilled vinegar in a 5% concentration or cleaning vinegar with a 6% concentration to clean up mildew. Pour vinegar into a cleaning spray bottle and apply directly to mildew growing on any surface.
After applying vinegar to mildew growth, wait at least a few minutes before using a firm-bristled brush or scouring pad to scrub off the surface. Reapply and repeat the cleaning process as needed while maintaining low humidity levels until mildew does not return.
While chlorine bleach may be effective at killing mildew and mold on nonporous surfaces, this cleaning solution gives off noxious fumes that can irritate mucous membranes. Direct contact with skin or eyes will also result in irritation. Bleach can also degrade or discolor delicate materials.
While tiles may be able to withstand cleaning with bleach, the porous grout in between may wear away and cause a mildew problem to worsen. If mildew is growing on delicate materials, you should exercise care when choosing a cleaning solution. Exercise care when choosing a cleaning solution for mildew growth on delicate materials. Consult with our mold remediation specialists if you are unsure about the best mildew cleaning method.
The Best Method for Cleaning Mold
Vinegar is not as harsh than chlorine bleach and is just as effective for cleaning mold off of hard, non-porous surfaces. Mold growing on porous materials can only benefit from cleaning with a solution with antifungal agents that penetrate under the surface.
The best mold cleaning method involves using full-strength white distilled vinegar in a 5% regular or 6% cleaning concentration. Sodium borate or Borax is another effective bleach alternative for cleaning mold. Make a solution by dissolving one cup of Borax into one gallon of hot water.
Vinegar is acidic, while sodium borate is alkaline like bleach. The major difference is that the antifungal properties of Borax sink into porous surfaces to kill the hyphae and mycelium of mold, which function similarly to a root structure. Chlorine bleach is strictly a surface disinfectant and does not penetrate under the surface of porous materials. Caustic cleaners such as bleach also pose greater risks of additional damage to delicate materials than the low concentration of acetic acid in white vinegar or the alkaline compound sodium borate in Borax.
No matter which cleaning solution you choose, you should stick with it through one or more applications. Always rinse surfaces treated with bleach thoroughly before using vinegar treatments, as these ingredients combine to form toxic chlorine gas. When diluted bleach is applied to mold growing on porous materials, this solution only kills surface growth while the water in the mixture sinks into the affected material and may support ongoing mold growth.
How To Stop Fungus Growth
Mildew and mold have the same simple requirements for growth: moisture and nourishment. Moisture from leaks or indoor relative humidity levels higher than 55% can support fungal growth. Run a dehumidifier to keep ambient humidity in the 30% to 50% range.
Should any form of water damage occur, property owners should pursue mitigation and restoration in a timely manner. The risk of a mold infestation rises the longer water is left standing and materials stay saturated. Mold may start growing in as little as 48 to 72 hours if moisture levels remain elevated.
While it is not possible to eliminate every source of nourishment, as many building materials and contents are made out of the plant fiber cellulose, it is important to clean and disinfect surfaces on a regular basis. As long as you control moisture levels, fungus growth will be less likely anywhere in a home or commercial building.
When To Hire Mold Remediation Professionals
The owner of a residential or commercial property should rely on the expertise and specialized equipment of remediation professionals under certain circumstances. Mold growth that affects more than 10 square feet of a structure or an infestation that might involve toxigenic species call for expert cleanup.
In general, mildew poses less of a health risk than mold. It is still necessary to clean up mildew and keep the affected area clean and dry to stop fungus from regrowing. Infestations of less than 10 square feet of a structure can be DIY projects with appropriate PPE and cleaning equipment. Professional testing, cleanup and remediation are the best ways to solve any mildew or mold problem.
Mildew and mold are two types of fungi. Mildew is typically light-colored and grows on damp surfaces, including plants. Most mold is darker in color with a patterned or textured appearance and tends to grow on undisturbed, moist surfaces. Mold has the potential to pose more serious health problems.
Fungi can thrive anywhere where food and water sources are available. Bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, utility rooms and basements may all run a higher risk of supporting mildew and mold growth than other parts of a structure, unless water damage raises moisture levels elsewhere in a residential or commercial building.
White vinegar, borax and other natural cleaners that have antifungal properties can be effective for use in cleaning mold and mildew. Wait an hour after application before scrubbing and wiping. Repeated treatments may be necessary, but these substances get absorbed and are more effective than chlorine bleach at preventing regrowth.
While mildew grows on surfaces and is relatively easy to clean, the mycelium or filament structure that underlies mold can cause an infestation to grow back after superficial cleaning. Apply a natural antifungal cleaning solution that penetrates into porous substances and scrub and wipe to eliminate every trace of fungi.
Treat mold on bathroom ceilings, floors, walls or in a shower or tub with white vinegar. Spray on this acidic substance and wait an hour before scrubbing and wiping. Repeat treatments and maintain lower moisture levels by ventilating a bathroom during and after bathing or showering and promoting fast drying.
Prolonged and repeated exposure to any fungi such as mildew or mold can cause or intensify allergies and lead to other health issues. While mildew may pose less serious health risks than mold, this fungus is still allergenic. Side effects of mildew exposure may include coughing, headaches and difficulty breathing.
Regular upkeep is the best way to keep fungi from developing on damp surfaces and porous materials such as tile grout. Regularly spray on shower cleaner or a mixture of white vinegar diluted in water and lightly scrub surfaces to discourage mildew and mold growth, and be sure to thoroughly dry the area.
Hiring a professional mold inspector will give you peace of mind. Being in a position where you are uncertain as to the toxicity of mold in your residence can be extremely stressful.
At moldremediation.io, we pride ourselves on being quick, thorough and effective in how we communicate the mold remediation tests that we perform for our homeowner clients.