From Clammy to Clean: 9 Ways to Fight Mildew
Yech, mildew. How many shower curtains have I replaced? How many pairs of shoes or leather coats have been rendered unwearable? How many paint jobs ruined with mildew's tell-tale spots seeping through? Below are some of my favorite mildew fighters. (See also: Household Cleaning Hacks That Save You Money)
1. Externally Vented Bathroom Exhaust Fans
These are a tremendous help in drawing away one of the greatest sources of moisture in your house. In my childhood, I remember having to wipe down the mirror after a shower. A bathroom fan would have been a huge boost to our family’s bathrooms, as well as the rest of the house. When I get out of the shower now, the mirror and windows are dry. Our fan is also on a timer switch, so that no one can waste energy by forgetting to turn it off.
2. An Externally Vented Range Hood Fan
Almost every night, I cook rice, noodles, or potatoes. Boiling these dishes introduces a lot of moisture into the air. A range hood, vented to the outside, carries much of this moisture away, reducing the humidity in the entire house. Reduced humidity results in reduced mildew.
3. Ceiling Fans
When we bought our current house, we did not have a single ceiling fan. Now, we have one in each room. For circulating air and controlling the temperature in your home, they are invaluable. You can purchase them for well under $100 at home improvement centers. Not only can ceiling fans look great, but properly-sized fans keep the air moving along floors, walls, and ceilings, which is a useful weapon against mildew.
Every time I plug in this appliance, I am fascinated by the sheer volume of water it collects. Dehumidifiers condense moisture from the air and hold it, lowering the humidity in a room. The collected water drips into a reservoir (unless you have your dehumidifier plumbed to drain outside). You periodically open the humidifier door and empty out the reservoir. I am always amazed at how much water is collected and how much warmer the house seems while I am running it. I usually plug it in when we have a series of rainy, high-humidity days.
Closet heaters/dehumidifiers are also great. When I first heard of these, I envisioned a bulky unit and had no idea how it would fit in my already-crowded closet. Thankfully, they are rod-shaped and mount near the floor of the closet, in the back. The rod warms up, drying and circulating the air in the closet via convective heating. I was also concerned that, being an electrical appliance, our bill would escalate. However, its cost is not even noticeable. It even keeps leather jackets and shoes dry. You have to remember to close your closet doors in order for it to effectively work, though.
5. Keeping Wet Clothes Out of Closets
Speaking of closets, never put away damp clothing in your closet — allow it to dry completely before hanging back up in an enclosed area (even with the closet heater/dehumidifier installed). This also goes for shoes.
The last time you bought shoes or electronics, you probably noticed the little packets that were in the shoebox. Usually a silica gel, they help to absorb moisture. You can purchase small packages of it to tuck into shoes or put into the corners of your closet.
7. Good Old Bleach
Once a week, I spray our shower curtains with bleach solution. For a while I had an automatic sprayer mechanism which, at the push of a button, would spray the entire shower area with a bleach solution. It was wonderful while it lasted. Alas, it gave up the ghost, and I am back to manually spraying my curtain. For really tough spots, I use Tilex, which contains bleach. It works really well. Use ventilation and gloves.
Mildew on your walls? If you are ready to paint, give your paint job a fighting chance by wiping down the walls with a bleach solution and letting it dry. (Be sure to work in a well-ventilated area and wear gloves and eye protection). Use a paint that contains a mildewcide, or purchase separately and add to your paint.
8. Alcohol Rubdown
If you have mildew-y leather coats or shoes, give this a try. Mix one cup rubbing alcohol and two cups of water. Dip an old washcloth into the solution. Squeeze out most of the liquid. Wipe down the coat or shoes; allow to dry. It may take a couple of applications. I have saved three leather coats using this cleaning method.
Like writer Peg Bracken, “I Hate to Housekeep.” I hate mildew more, though, and that forces me to do it. Dust, sweep, vacuum, scrub, and do your laundry.