Mold and mildew are fungi that thrive in moisture. Don’t be fooled by the different names—mildew is actually just mold in its early stages. There’s little difference between the two, but both are the same in that they’re a pain to keep out of your home.

Mold and mildew are important in the natural environment, as they help destroy organic materials such as leaves and dead plants, breaking them down to enrich the soil. However, mold isn’t helpful at all for humans. A moldy home can have serious health hazards, such as headaches, sinus congestion, respiratory problems, and more.

These fungi can grow on a whole range of household surfaces, from wood products to your ceiling tiles. The growth usually occurs on damp surfaces, and within one to two days, they produce spores that travel through the air. Not only are these health hazards, but when left neglected for a while, their growth can spread and eventually break down whatever they grow on. This makes it especially awful if there is mold growth in the structural foundation of your home, as it could affect the structural integrity of your house.

The problem doesn’t disappear on it’s own. If you’re dealing with mold and mildew, you’ll need to get your hands dirty and make sure that the problem doesn’t occur again. So whether you’re looking to be more proactive about preventing mold growth or need solutions for removing the mold and mildew from your home’s surfaces, here are our 5 easiest solutions:

1. Keep things clean and dry

First things first: look through areas where there could be high humidity or water damage and make sure those areas are clean and dry. We’re talking about damp basements, crawl spaces, closets, drawers—any enclosed space where light and heat don’t reach. These are the places mildew is most likely to grow, so you’ll want to keep them as clean as possible. You’ll also want to keep an eye on your kitchen and shower walls, as these are surfaces in your home that come into contact with moisture the most.

If a room or structure in your home is perpetually damp, then this is probably due to moisture condensation from a humid weather environment. It might also mean that there is a leak in the wall or ceiling. Either way, have a repairman inspect the area and see if the room needs repairs or additional insulation, or if the pipes and water supply lines are all intact.

2. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier often

Cool air holds way less moisture than warm air, especially if it’s run through the filtration systems of an air conditioner. An air conditioning system, when properly installed, should take the humid air in the room and cool it down, removing the moisture as well. If an air conditioning system is too expensive or if the weather in your area doesn’t call for one, then the next best thing is a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier won’t cool down the air, but it will remove the moisture in it to make sure that the air that circulates is dry.

When using any of these appliances, remember to keep the doors and windows closed, otherwise you’ll be minimizing the machine’s ability to do its job AND wasting electricity in the process.

Read More: How to Look Out for Mold in Your Home

3. Keep the windows open during the day

Dampness grows in enclosed spaces where air doesn’t circulate, so make sure to keep your doors and windows open during the day. As the air outside is drier than the air inside, the outside air will enter through the ventilation and move through your home, taking the excess moisture outside. Leaving the windows open will also let in some heat and sunlight, which will be great for drying out any moisture in your home.

If you live in an area with a good, natural breeze going on, and with ample amount of sunlight, then it’ll be easy to keep mold and mildew out of your home if you air out your house routinely. However, if you’re in an area where opening the windows would spell disaster, then an electric fan or an HVAC system should do for getting the air in the room moving.

4. Identify and Eliminate Musty Odors

Musty odors in your home are a surefire sign of mold and mildew growth in your home. Inspect your basement or your shower stall first, as these are the most common places in your home for mold to start growing. Once you catch a whiff of a musty odor, you need to take special precautions to get rid of it as soon as possible, as leaving it untreated won’t just be bad for you and any potential guests, but it might also lead to damaging mold growth.

If there’s no visible mildew growth yet, then the musty odor will disappear if the area is heated and dried. However, if the odor doesn’t immediately disappear even after this, then you may have to utilize the following treatments:

  • In enclosed spaces such as an attic, basement, or crawl space, you’ll need to use bleaching powder or chlorinated lime to remove the odor. Simply sprinkle it all over the floor and leave it until the musty odor disappears. Sweep up the powder once done.
  • On cement floors, tiled walls, and floors in bathrooms, you can use a chlorine bleach solution to get rid of the mustiness. Mix around half to a whole cup of liquid bleach with a gallon of water, and scrub the solution onto the surface. These chemicals are very harsh, so don’t forget to wear gloves! Rinse off the bleach with clear water and wipe down the area as best as you can. Keep the windows open or bring the fan in to ensure the walls and floor dry out thoroughly.

If all DIY methods fail and the mustiness persists, then it’s time to call a professional cleaning service to deep clean your home. A deep cleaning will ensure that every surface of your home is cleaned out and dried, and a professional cleaner will properly identify and pay special attention to the areas of potential mold growth. If the infestation is caught early, then a deep cleaning should eliminate it immediately.

5. Hire a Professional Mold Removal Service

For really extensive mold problems, consider hiring a professional service, one that specializes in mold removal. A general rule of thumb: if the mold covers 10 or more square feet, then it’s a full-blown mold infestation and you’ll need professional help ASAP. Only a professional will have the heavy-duty chemicals needed to remove large mold colonies.

If left alone, some molds can become highly toxic and dangerous to breathe in. Especially if you’re someone with a compromised respiratory system, you will need to hire a professional to remove the growth so as not to risk your health.

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