“Geoff and I loved our new home,” remembers Sarah. “We’d always dreamt of living in an older-style, chocolate-box villa with high ceilings. There was just one problem – the house seemed to be a magnet for mould and mildew!”
I discovered that mould and mildew love enclosed, airless spaces
Sarah discovered that the older design of their house – while giving it period features that added character – also meant that there were many closed areas and compartments with poor air circulation. Unlike modern houses with their open-plan design, everything in this villa was boxed off. The poor lighting also meant that there were many dark corners – and the stiff old windows meant that it was difficult to open up the house and air it properly.
“It was especially bad in the cupboards and wardrobes,” says Sarah. “Despite getting a professional clean before we moved in, I found mould and mildew growing on my leather shoes and handbags within a month of moving in!”
The bathroom was another source of trouble. The freshly cleaned walls and ceilings quickly became covered again in ugly black spots as the poor ventilation and small space meant the room remained damp and humid long after showers were finished.
Even the curtains and drapes in the house were not immune with Sarah finding mildew embedded in their folds, especially in the corners which did not get direct sunlight. All the mould and mildew in the house also meant that there was a constant musty odour in the air, as soon as you walked in, which was not only unpleasant but also unhealthy.
I try to fight back
“I’d always read that you should tackle mildew as soon as you discover it,” says Sarah. “So as soon as I spotted any, I would take the item out into the sun, brush off as much as I could outdoors – so the spores wouldn’t spread through the house – and then get rid of the remaining stains with some lemon juice and salt. If you leave it out in the sun after that, it usually works pretty well to get rid of the mildew stains.”
Sarah also wiped over all her leather shoes, handbags and other leather possessions with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol and then again, left them outside to dry in the breeze. She then protected the surface with shoe wax which would prevent moisture and therefore deter the mildew from colonising the leather surfaces again. For the insides, she bought a commercial anti-fungal spray from a shoe store and treated them thoroughly.
For the really stubborn mould in the bathroom corners and ceilings, she used a commercial mould-removing cleaner, although this had to be done with great care as it contained bleach.
I find the right weapons at last
“I found, though, that I was having to go through this cleaning process every few weeks as the mould and mildew kept coming back,” says Sarah. “It was really getting me down. Then I realised that I had to do more than just remove it – I had to actually try to prevent it growing in the first place!”
Armed with some research on mould and mildew, Sarah started making some changes in the household. She improved the ventilation in the bathroom, installing an extraction fan and also changing the old window fitting to a modern one which could be easily opened after each shower. She also made sure that the shower curtain was always spread open, not bunched up in the corner.
All damp clothing was promptly dried – whether in the dryer or on a clothes horse by the heater – or out in the sun on a fine day. Sarah also purchased moisture inhibitors and moisture absorbers, such as moisture-absorbing silica gel or anhydrous calcium sulphate, from the hardware store and placed several in her wardrobes and cupboards. She also made she aired the wardrobes and cupboards regularly – leaving them open while she opened all the windows and doors in the house to encourage a draught through the house. Even on cold days, she tried to make sure that all windows were opened for at least half an hour each morning to improve air circulation in the house. She even bought a fan to encourage more air flow through the house.
“I also invested in a dehumidifier,” says Sarah. “Because damp is your biggest enemy you’re fighting mould and mildew. I was really shocked the first time I emptied the machine to see the amount of water it had collected in just a few hours!”
It’s not over but I’m winning!
Gradually, Sarah began to win her fight against mould and mildew. She also found that the musty odour disappeared of its own accord once the house was regularly aired. While she occasionally still had to do go on a stain-removing mission, overall Sarah found that there were no longer large ugly patches of mould and mildew invading her home. It was an ongoing battle but one that she felt like she was finally winning!