Mold Remediation Baltimore Pro’s would like to share some valuable information on how to prevent and remove mildew in your Baltimore home. The University of Florida has some great information and facts at the following URL:

How to Prevent and Remove Mildew

Mildew is a persistent problem in warm, humid climates and in many parts of the country where the humidity level is high during summer months. Mildew can also be a problem during the winter months when conditions are just right. To prevent mildew and eliminate it after it has formed, an understanding of what mildew is, what causes it to develop, and how it can be stopped and kept from returning is necessary.

Although there are many varieties of mildew with many variations in growth and appearance, the information that follows is generally true for most mildew types.

Mildew — the Problem

What is mildew? Mildew is a mold. A mold such as mildew can decompose cellulose and lignin, therefore ruining paper and cellulosic fabrics that are not protected. Wood, paint, glue, and leather may be attacked by mildew also. Mildew mold secretes an enzyme that decomposes organic matter and uses it for growth and reproduction. High humidity is required to hydrate mildew cells and materials on which they can grow. Mildew is unsightly, produces an unpleasant odor, and often acts as an allergen that can create health problems.

What is necessary for mildew to grow? Mildew spores, or seedlike forms of mildew,

exist almost everywhere. They will not grow and spread, however, unless certain conditions are met. There are many varieties of mildew, but generally the following conditions contribute to mildew growth:

• Molds thrive on organic materials such as paper, leather, natural fibers or surfaces coated with the slightest amount of organic matter such as food or soil.

• The optimal growth temperature range for molds is 77°F to 88°F (20°C to 30°C), though some growth may occur anywhere between 32°F to 95°F (0°C to 35°C).

• Mildew requires moisture. The optimal growth range for mildew is 70 to 93 percent relative humidity (RH). RH would have to be below 62 percent to stop all chances for mold growth, although RH below 70 percent inhibits most mold growth. A lower RH delays spore germination of molds, reduces the rate of mold growth, and lowers the number of cells produced.

• Molds are aerobic. That is, they require oxygen for growth.

1. This document is Fact Sheet FCS 3042, a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: October 2001. First published: May 1986. Revised: August 1991. Reviewed: October 2001. Please visit the EDIS web site at

2. Written by Virginia Peart, former associate professor, Housing and reviewed by Nayda I. Torres, professor, Family and Consumer Economics, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, 32611. Linda Carleton, graduate student in Botany, assisted with the literature review. Information from earlier publications by Judy Yates and Diane Yates, County Extension Agents in Florida, was also used.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences/University of Florida/Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean.

• Light is not required for mold growth.
Mold growth can continue indefinitely without light.

• Mold growth is promoted by a slightly acid condition.

• Mold growth is inhibited by a variety of fungicides such as chlorinated phenols, copper napthenate or oleate. Coal tar creosote can be used on wood surfaces where paint is not to be used or where odor or appearance would not be objectionable. Ultra-violet radiation can kill mildew. Exposure to sunlight has been a mildew remedy since pre-air conditioning days.

Mold growth is slow to start and can take several months or seasons to get established. After growth begins, however, it is very rapid.

Identifying Mildew

Mildew on textiles, books, and other household materials will often be recognized by an unpleasant musty odor as well as by discoloration. Dirt on some hard surfaces such as paint, tile, or wood resembles the discoloration caused by mildew. To distinguish between dirt and the discoloration produced by mildew, put a few drops of household chlorine bleaching solution on the discolored surface. Mildew will be bleached within a minute or two, but most dirt will not bleach.

Stains on the exterior surface of buildings that appear below the shade line are usually a type of algae rather than mildew. However, algae often responds to the same types of removal treatment as mildew. In warm, humid environments, treatment of mildew outside a home will need to be repeated from time to time.

Preventing Mildew Growth

Since mildew spores are almost always present, the three best ways to control mildew growth are to eliminate the source of food, deprive the mildew of sufficient moisture, and/or

to keep the temperature too low for fast mildew growth.

Keeping things clean. Many materials in homes provide a ready source of nutrients for mildew. Mildew can feed on natural fibers used in clothing and furnishings, paper materials that have not been treated, glues such as those sometimes used in book bindings, and materials in some grout. Some other materials, such as ceramic tile, glossy paint, and glass, do not support mildew growth when they are clean. However, the slightest amount of soil on their surface will supply the necessary nutrients for mildew growth. The organic residue of some soaps left on shower stalls and shower curtains provide the required nutrients for mildew growth. Smoke and volatile cooking oils also settle on walls and furnishings to provide a soil on which mildew will grow. Walls, closets, basements, clothing and other textiles where mildew is likely to grow should be kept clean.

Controlling the temperature. Since mildew thrives at temperatures between 77°F and 86°F, summer conditions will encourage mildew growth. Air conditioning will reduce the interior temperature of homes, but the temperature may not be uniformly low enough to stop mildew growth if the air is fairly humid. Areas within cabinets and closets or behind draperies may be warmer, and humidity will be trapped unless the doors are louvered or left ajar.

Controlling moisture in the air. Since a high relative humidity is required for mildew growth, we need to understand what RH is and how it is related to temperature. Technically, RH is the ratio of the partial pressure of the actual water vapor in the air to the pressure of totally saturated air at the same temperature.

Warm air can hold more moisture than cool air. For example, air at 80°F can hold twice as much moisture as air at 60°F. If air in a house at 60°F and saturated with moisture (100 percent RH) is heated to 80°F without a change in moisture, the RH would then be about 50 percent. Both situations would prevent mildew growth:

60°F is too cool for fast mildew growth even at 100 percent RH, and 50 percent RH would be too dry at 80°F.

Managing Moisture in the Home

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and with mildew problems, this is especially true. Water vapor moves quickly from a high humidity area to a low humidity area. Think about how rapidly condensation forms on a jar taken from a refrigerator.

Moisture can become trapped in enclosed areas when humidity is sometimes high and sometimes low. In such areas, plastic wrap is not recommended for storing mildew-sensitive materials. Louvered doors and wire closet shelving help promote circulation of air. You may have observed mildew growing behind large pieces of furniture that are placed too close to a wall. Where there is a potential moisture problem, solid closet doors and drawers should be left ajar to encourage air circulation. If a closet, cabinet or drawer space reaches the point of smelling musty, it and its contents should be cleaned and thoroughly dried.

Indoor Moisture Production

Moisture accumulates inside a home from normal household activities: breathing, bathing, cooking and cleaning. A family of four at home for 12 hours a day can produce about 6 pints of water as moisture by respiration. Each shower bath would add another half pint of water directly to the air, and moisture left in the shower stall and on towels would add even more. A bath in a tub would add a little less moisture. Cooking might add another two to three pints. Washing clothes, dishes, and floors would also add more moisture. Ways to reduce some of the moisture from these sources can come from common sense, such as cooking with covers on pans.

Managing Moisture from Outside

The environment in Florida and many coastal areas of the country is nearly always humid and much of the year quite warm. The temperature and humidity levels of outside air are high

enough to cause mildew to flourish outside under leaves and in shady places. When this warm, humid air enters a house, it has the capacity to support mildew growth indoors as well. For example, if 85°F air outside with 60 percent or higher RH enters a house and is cooled by walls and furnishings without air conditioning to 80°F, the RH will be 70 percent or higher. These conditions are right for mildew growth indoors, too. Lowering the temperatures only will further increase the relative humidity. Ventilation during warm, humid periods, even at night or early morning when outside temperatures are low, can lead to mildew conditions.

Vapor pressure. Vapor pressure moves moisture through cracks, down the fireplace chimney, and through doors and windows when they are open. Vapor pressure can move moisture through many materials. Once moisture gets into a house, it continues moving into closets, cabinets, and drawers. Once moisture is diffused into wood or other materials, it is very difficult to drive out.

Ventilation. The function of ventilation in inhibiting mildew growth is to replace moist indoor air with dry air. Open windows and doors or exhaust fans can serve this purpose if the outside air holds less moisture than the inside air.

When trying to control moisture during the air conditioning season, windows and doors probably should not be opened at night unless the nighttime low temperature is at least 15°F lower than the air conditioning thermostat setting. The dew point temperature should be below 55°F or 60°F. As much as 7 or 8 pints of excess moisture can be brought into a house every hour. An air conditioner would have to work much harder the following day to remove the moisture.

In a home, moisture also gets into closets, cabinets, and drawers during humid, non-air conditioning periods. The moisture is released very slowly when room air dries out.

Infiltration of air. A new, tightly constructed house can be expected to have some

leaks around windows, doors, vents and other joints that will permit one/half air change per hour. On a humid, summer day as much as 20 gallons of moisture can come into a house through infiltration. Older homes sometimes have as many as 2 air changes per hour. In colder climates, weatherstripping is suggested to reduce the infiltration of cold air. In warm, humid climates, where air conditioning is used much of the year, weatherstripping is suggested to reduce the infiltration of moisture, even more than to keep out heat in the summer or to keep it in during the winter.

Air Treatment

Air Conditioners. Air conditioners remove moisture from the air as the air is cooled. Air is blown over cooling coils, and since cool air can’t hold as much moisture, some of this moisture condenses on the coils and runs to a drain. The heat absorbed from the air by the air conditioner is carried by a refrigerant to coils outside the house where the heat is released.

Since moist air conditioners are designed to cool more than to dehumidify, they do not dehumidify effectively enough in Florida during humid periods, which last from May through October.

The longer an air conditioner is operated, the greater the amount of moisture that will be removed. An air conditioner unit too large for the area it cools might not operate long enough to remove enough moisture. Even though the home is cool, enough moisture can remain to produce mildew in areas with little air movement. Unfortunately, energy efficient air conditioners may not reduce humidity effectively enough for homes in warm, humid climates.

When air conditioning during humid weather, do not set the air conditioner fan to run continuously. This will cause moisture just removed by the cooling coils to be put back into the air, therefore, keeping the air more humid.

Dehumidifiers. Where no air conditioning is provided, a dehumidifier can be used if properly

sized for the area. When using a dehumidifier, windows and doors must be kept closed. A dehumidifier collects moisture from the air in much the same manner an air conditioner does. However, a dehumidifier has both the heating and cooling coils inside, so there is little temperature change in the air, and moisture removed is either collected in a container that must be emptied periodically or through a hose that runs into a drain. Collector pans can become a place for mold/mildew to grow if not cleaned and cared for properly.

Heating. In some closets or basements that are damp and cool, mildew growth may be inhibited by adding heat. As the air warms, its capacity to hold moisture increases. For example, air at 75°F and 75 percent RH can be heated to 85°F and the humidity will be less than 60 percent, low enough to slow mildew growth. If the problem area is large, such as a basement, an electric space heater can be used. NOTE: Gas and kerosene heaters add considerable moisture, so cannot be recommended for this purpose. A low wattage light bulb can do the job in the closet. Place the light bulb away from clothing or anything else that might ignite. Strip heaters designed especially for use in closets are available. For safety purposes, follow instructions very carefully.

Desiccants. In small, enclosed areas, where temperature and humidity cannot be controlled by air conditioning or dehumidification, desiccants can be used. Desiccants are materials such as silica gel or alumina that absorb up to half of their weight in moisture. Place an open container on the floor or a shelf of a closet that can be tightly closed. Once a desiccant becomes saturated it can still feel dry, but will remove no more moisture. To be used again, these desiccants must be heated in a vented oven at 300°F for several hours. They will then be dry and can be cooled and replaced in the closet to continue removing moisture.

Calcium chloride granules are also desiccants and can be used to remove excess moisture from an enclosed area. Granular calcium chloride can absorb and hold moisture equal to several times

its weight. As it absorbs moisture, it liquifies and cannot be reused. The granules should be placed on a screen over a container that can catch the liquid as it forms. Calcium chloride will damage fabrics if it comes in contact with them. Calcium chloride is sometimes combined with other materials to keep it from liquefying as it absorbs moisture. Follow package instructions when using.

Chemical Mildew Inhibitors

There is no true mildewcide — no product that will kill mildew and guarantee it will not return. Chemical mildew inhibitors should be used with caution, as they are toxic to people and animals.

Cleaning agents that claim to remove mildew most often have a chlorine component. Chlorine both kills mildew and bleaches the darkened mildew filament. However, when such products are used, some scrubbing and rinsing are required to remove the mildew and soil residue. Otherwise, as soon as humidity and temperature conditions are right, mildew will use the residue as a substrate to grow on. A new supply of mildew spores is always floating in the air waiting for the right conditions. Commercial fungicidal products in pressurized cans provide some mildew protection. Check the label on the container to see what it claims to do and for instruction on how to use it safely and effectively.

Protective Sprays

Water-repellent and soil-resistant spray treatments inhibit mildew growth by reducing moisture or food available. Carefully read instructions on the label to understand the claims made and to know how to use the product safely and productively.

Cold Weather Mildew Problems

Areas of Florida that have periods of very cold weather can be exposed to winter conditions that lead to mildew problems. Mildew in moderate climates is usually related to tight construction and indoor moisture production in cold weather. Without an interior vapor seal, moisture produced indoors during cold weather can penetrate walls and condense. Later, when outdoor temperatures are higher, mildew and other organisms can destroy studs in the walls. Occasional ventilation when outside air is cool and dry will protect against this cold weather/high humidity condition.

Basement mildew in moderate climates often starts in the spring when windows in a home are opened to air outside the house. Temperature on the floor and behind books and curtains in basements can still be below the dew point temperature. The relative humidity in these areas becomes high enough for mildew to grow. Apply heat as described earlier to provide protection from this potential mildew problem.


The two most effective methods of avoiding mildew problems are keeping things CLEAN and DRY.

Once mildew appears it should be removed as soon as possible and precautions should be taken to prevent its return by keeping humidity levels low. The following chart contains instructions for dealing with mildew problems on commonly affected surfaces.
Mildew Removal and Prevention
Item To Remove Mildew To Prevent Mildew Growth
Clothing and Textiles Begin as soon as mildew is discovered. Brush off outdoors. Sun and air clothes before laundering or dry cleaning. To remove mildew stains that remain, try one of the following Test fabrics for color fastness first.

1. Moisten stain with a mixture of lemon juice and salt. Lay textiles in sun to bleach. Rinse thoroughly.
2. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of a powdered non-chlorine bleach containing sodium perborate or potassium monopersulfate with one pint of water. Use the water temperature recommended for the fabric or color. Sponge or soak the stain. Let stand 30 minutes or longer; then rinse well. Old stains may need to soak overnight.
3. Mix 2 tablespoons of liquid chlorine bleach with 1 quart warm water. Sponge or soak stain for 5 to 15 minutes and then rinse. Do not use chlorine bleach on silk, wool, or spandex fibers. Keep fabrics dry. Never let damp or wet clothes lie around. Dry or wash them. Spread out damp towels and washcloths to air dry. Stretch out wet shower curtains. Dry washed clothes quickly.

Clean clothing before storing. Soiled clothes are more likely to mildew than clean ones. Do not leave starch in clothes for long storage periods since molds feed on starch. Air the clothes in closets by opening doors and shifting them to provide air space around them.

Commercial mildew inhibitors are available in hardware and paint stores. In severe cases, these inhibitors may prove to be effective. Since strong chemicals are used, read the label instructions carefully to see what the inhibitors can do and how they can be used safely.
Mildew Removal and Prevention
Item To Remove Mildew To Prevent Mildew Growth
Leather Goods After testing for colorfastness, wipe leather with a cloth moistened with
diluted alcohol* (1 cup denatured
alcohol to 1 cup water). Dry where the air is circulating. If mildew remains, wash quickly with thick suds made from a mild soap or detergent, or saddle soap. Wipe with a damp cloth and dry in air. Polish leather shoes, etc., with a good wax dressing.

After removing mildew, air or sun the leather product thoroughly.

*Test for colorfastness before using the alcohol/water sponge. Store shoes in a dry, well-ventilated place. Buy a commercial mildew inhibitor spray
and use it regularly as directed.

Apply a thin coat of wax dressing to cleaned leather goods. Some waxes have antifungicidal ingredients. (These may discolor white or light colored leathers)

Never put away damp leather shoes, or other damp leather items. If one piece becomes mildewed, remove it from the other until cleaned.
Paper and Books If books or paper are damp, dry in a breezy place. Take outside and brush off any loose mold with a clean, dry cloth.

Remove stains by wiping gently with a cloth that was soaked with suds and wrung out. Rinse with clear water. After removing the stain, pat the area dry with a soft, dry cloth. For stubborn stains, a chlorine bleach and water solution can be used. Rinse with clear water on a cloth and dry with a soft cloth as above. Try not to wet paper, and do not scrub.

Spread pages of books fanwise to dry in an airy place. If still damp, sprinkle cornstarch between leaves to dry. Leave on several hours, then brush.

For damp wallpaper, heat or air condition the room to thoroughly dry plaster and paper. Air circulation and heat help keep books and paper dry. Use a small light bulb or hang a mildew inhibitor or desiccant inside an enclosed bookcase.

Sprays containing fungicides can be used. If books are not kept in dry shelves or boxes, re-spray frequently.
Mildew Removal and Prevention
Item To Remove Mildew To Prevent Mildew Growth
Upholstery, Mattresses
and Rugs Vacuum or dust off mildew. Be sure to dispose of vacuum bag, as it will contain
mildew spores. Dry the item in the sun if
possible. If mildew remains, sponge with a cloth moistened with 1 cup denatured or rubbing alcohol* mixed with cup water. Dry thoroughly.

Rugs and carpets that show mildew should be shampooed and dried as quickly as possible. Sunning is a big help. Sometimes the cause of mildew on carpets is moisture from the floor or padding underneath. If this is the case, the carpet should be removed and the cause of the moisture determined and corrected.

*Test for colorfastness before using the alcohol/water sponge. Periodically dust and air your mattresses and upholstery and inspect for mildew.
Spray with a fungicide aerosol spray that
gives mildew protection.

Sunlight is a mildew inhibitor. A good sunning is an excellent idea for mattresses, rugs, and upholstery whenever possible.

Upholstered furniture, drapery fabrics and carpets are often treated at the factory with fluorocarbons that repel water. These fabrics will stay drier and inhibit mildew growth.
Painted Surfaces Inside — Scrub mildewed paint or plaster with a solution of 3/4 cup household bleach to 1 gallon water. Rinse with clean water and allow to dry
thoroughly before painting or papering.

For wooden* furniture: Remove mildew with vacuum cleaner. Clean with a soft cloth dipped in a mild detergent and water solution and wrung almost dry. Work with a small area at a time, rinsing with a cloth dipped in clean water and wrung almost dry. Dry each area thoroughly before going on to the next area. Mildew often feeds on the dirt and greasy film that accumulates on furniture. If a white film develops after this cleaning, wax buildup has probably occurred. Use a furniture cleaner to remove the layers of wax. Finally, re- apply a thin coat of paste wax.

For wood* walls: Scrub wood with a mixture of 4 to 6 tablespoons washing soda to 1 gallon of water. Do a small area at a time. Rinse with clear water and dry quickly, If mildew still appears, use a mixture of 4 to 6 tablespoons Select a paint that has a mildewcide added to it by the manufacturer.

Paint can be even more mildew resistant by adding additional commercial mildewcide, which is available at local paint stores. Be sure to follow directions on the product label.

Use heat and air circulation to keep clean wood dry.

Keep furniture clean. Dust and soils in the air from food cooking and automobiles settle on furniture. These provide food for mildew.

Oil-based paints mildew more readily than water-based paints, while soft paints mildew much more easily than hard paints. Flat paints mildew more easily than glossy paints.
Mildew Removal and Prevention
Item To Remove Mildew To Prevent Mildew Growth
Painted Surfaces
(continued) trisodium phosphate and 2 tablespoons household ammonia per gallon of water.

Be sure to test for colorfastness. Never mix ammonia and bleach. It produces a deadly gas.

Outside — Scrub mildewed paint with 2/3 cup trisodium phosphate**, 1/3 cup detergent, 1 quart household bleach, and 3 quarts warm water. When clean, rinse thoroughly with clear water. Then treat the surface with a commercial fungicide. Repaint with a mildew- resistant paint.

For a roof cleaner, use 2/3 cup of trisodium phosphate to 1/3 cup of detergent, 1 quart of chlorine bleach and 3 quarts of warm water. Work in small areas so scrubbing and rinsing can be done before the mixture dries.***

When cleaning with chlorine bleach use rubber gloves. Avoid contact with skin and eyes or prolonged breathing of the vapors.

Remember to protect plants from these chemical mixtures.

*Water will damage wood if allowed to stay on it. Always test the cleaner before using. Work with small areas that can be rinsed and dried before moving on.

**Trisodium phosphate is available in paint or hardware stores.

***Chlorine bleach damages some roofing materials. Test before using. Latex paints can be applied to damp surfaces. They permit moisture below to
evaporate, and withstand mildew. Alkyd
paints can withstand scrubbing (to remove mildew) better than latex, but must be applied to perfectly dry surfaces. Alkyd paints are also better on any surface where water may collect.

Paint with zinc oxide inhibits mold growth more than paints with titanium pigments.

Outside get rid of damp soil or heavy vegetation near walls. Rearrange plantings so that there is good air circulation between them and the house. Make sure cement blocks or wood walls are sealed to prevent moisture buildup.
Mildew Removal and Prevention
Item To Remove Mildew To Prevent Mildew Growth
Unpainted Wood Decks and wood shingles — Scrub surfaces with a solution of 1 quart of
bleach to 3 quarts of water. Rinse
thoroughly. Commercial cleaners are also available. Read directions carefully to know what the cleaners will do, how to use them and what precautions should be taken. Commercial fungicidal products will inhibit mildew growth, but may be toxic for humans
and pets. Follow instructions for using

Sealants are available to put on clean, dry wood. They penetrate the wood surface and prevent moisture from penetrating wood.
Bathroom and Basement Scrub surfaces with a solution made from one quart liquid chlorine (household) bleach, two tablespoons liquid detergent, six tablespoons
trisodium phosphate and nine quarts of
water. Use a brush or old toothbrush to clean grout. Let surface dry, then rinse with plenty of water. If shower curtains can be washed by machine, add chlorine bleach with the detergent. Use a warm water rinse for plastics and hang while warm for wrinkles to fall out. Keep the area as clean and dry as possible. Use an exhaust fan to pull dry air conditioned air into the bath after showering or bathing. If it is cool and dry outside open
a window in the bathroom. If it is humid
outside, it will be better to use the fan to pull air conditioned air through the bathroom to dry it out after bathing.

So do not delay in contacting us if you need help removing mildew and mold in your home or business. Call us today at 443-961-2725