Special Mildew Series

Do you know that mildew, like black mold, can cause health problems? These fungi can be found in your home, but few homeowners are able to differentiate them. That’s why the Black Mold Removal Corner team decided to publish a post about mildew. In this article we gathered information about what is mildew and its dangers at home, how to recognize it, and how to get rid of it.

What Is Mildew?

We generically use the word “mildew” to describe different types of fungi, including molds. For example, people say mildew when they refer to a type of plant disease commonly found in our gardens or to any mold growth on different surfaces in our homes.

Actually, mildew is a whitish coating with a fuzzy appearance caused by different species of fungus. It grows in hot and moist conditions in our homes and outdoors and can be found on damp organic matter (paper, fabrics, wool, leather, wood products, etc.) or on living plants. Please see our article on white mold.

What Is Powdery and Downy Mildew?

Downy vs. Powdery Mildew. Picture from en.wikipedia.org

Powdery and downy mildew are terms used specifically in horticulture to describe a disease that affects a great variety of plants. They can be due to many species of fungus or fungus-like microbes. Powdery mildew are white spots that gradually darken while downy mildew are yellow areas that turn brown. Both of these types of mildew can cause great damage to plants and crops.


What are the Health Effects of Mildew?

Fungi (both mold and mildew) spread by mean of spores in the air and are invisible to the naked eye. When we know that people spend around 60% of their time in their home, these spores can potentially become an health issue if their amount is high as they can cause skin and respiratory problems.

Among potential health effects of mildew are: allergic reactions (whose symptoms can be sneezing, coughing, red eyes, headaches, etc.), asthma, or sometimes more severe reactions such as respiratory infections depending on the state of health of the person. However, infants and children, elderly or people with lung disease, are more at risk to develop severe symptoms.

People exposed to mildew may also develop skin problems such as skin rashes or eczema. It is interesting to notice that these health issues are non specific and other causes can explain them. That’s why it is wise to consult a health professional if you experience any of these symptoms.

How to Identify Mildew?

Mildew grows easily and quickly indoors on damp organic matter or plants. If you detect a musty odor or if you have health problems as described above, you should look for signs of mildew on upholstery, sheets, shower curtains, wallpaper, carpets, fruits or indoor plants. Any moist area at home may host mildew, especially the bathroom, basement or laundry room.

You can recognize mildew by discoloration or whitish and grey stains on these surfaces.

How to Remove Mildew?

When you have identified mildew, you have the choice between many simple products to remove it.

Bedroom Closet growing mold

Bedroom Closet growing mold. Picture from www.epa.gov

The first thing to do is ventilate the room. Open the windows to allow fresh air to enter. This will also help get rid of airborne spores. Then, wear a mask to avoid breathing mildew spores, especially in confined areas such as basement or if large surfaces are covered with mildew. Last, wear rubber gloves.

The way you are going to treat contaminated surfaces depends on the size of the area. For example, if you have small spots of mildew in your bathroom, you can use white vinegar or bleach. For other areas in the household, you may also try tea tree essential oil, which has been proven to be a very effective anti-fungal product, or grapefruit seed extract which is odorless.


Use a vacuum on upholstered items to remove mildew spores. Be careful to properly dispose of the vacuum bag as it contains spores.

In small areas where you smell a musty odor (closets), try to heat the air and make sure the musty odor has been removed. Another solution is to use desiccants (silica gel or alumina) where it is more difficult to control humidity. You can hang cloth bags with some desiccant in the closet or spread it onto fabrics until the fabric is dry. These products can be reused. Just dry in the oven for a couple of hours.

If you can’t entirely remove mildew stains in some areas (fabrics, wood, etc.), you should just throw these materials away to avoid any potential health problems.

If you face a severe mildew problem (for example, if it is recovering a large area or if you experienced several or severe symptoms), experienced professionals exist who can advise you on how to treat a mildew problem.

If the mildew problem comes from one of your houseplant, isolate it to keep mildew from spreading to other plants. You should remove leaves as soon as they show white spots of fungus. Avoid misting and wetting the leaves when watering.

Powdery Mildew 1

Powdery mildew disease. Picture from mbmg.ucanr.edu

If your plant is infected, remove the mildewed leaves, water it and apply one of the followingtreatment:

  • A mixture of one tablespoon of baking soda, half a teaspoon of liquid soap to stick to the plant and one gallon of water.
  • A mixture of one part of organic milk with nine parts of water. Spray this mixture once a week.
  • Horticultural Oil.
  • A mixture of 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider mixed with a gallon of water.

How to Prevent Mildew?

As explained above, mildew are fungi that spread in humid conditions. To prevent mildew growth, keep your home dry. During summer, use air conditioner. Cool air reduces humidity level more efficiently than warm air. During winter, heating help control humidity which should be between 30 and 60 percent. In some parts of the household (basement), you may need extra help by running a dehumidifier.

In the shower, use an exhaust fan and wipe the water away from the tiles after every shower or bath. Choose a shower curtain that can dry quickly. After using them, hang towels apart so they can dry.

Dry everything that is wet or humid, especially in the basement and keep your home clean. A dirty floor and walls are open doors to mildew growth.

Allow indoor air to circulate by opening windows every day for a couple of minutes. Ventilating the home is key to remove spores in the air.

Always check areas where there has been water damage and fix plumbing leaks.

It is very important to prevent and control mildew since the spores can spread easily from one surface to another and contaminate different parts of your home.

Mildew vs Black Mold?

Mold and mildew are both terms used to describe the growth of fungi indoor. However, as explained in this article, mildew are different type of whitish fungus that grow on damp organic matter. On the other hand, black mold is a type of mold that thrive on surfaces such as walls and structures. Black mold can be black, orange, green or brown and is toxic. It can cause many health issues from coughing to more severe ones (vomiting, chest pain, etc.). For more information about black mold, see our other articles.

We hope that you find this article useful. We tried hard to find the information that would be relevant and presented in a concise format. If there is any aspect that could make it better, please do not hesitate to reach out to us using our contact us page.

The Black Mold Removal Corner Team