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How Do I Win the War Against Mildew and Mould in Winter?

Updated on November 7, 2017
Stella Kaye profile image

As a property developer, Stella has written many articles on the home environment, decor and problems that arise in the home and garden.

Let us Spray!

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Winter Worries

Mould and mildew issues are commonly associated with the winter months in northern climates. This is when the amount of moisture produced in the home by normal household activity is unable to escape due to inadequate ventilation. Householders usually make the mistake of keeping all windows tightly closed to reduce heat loss but this also means that water vapour cannot escape. Then condensation will accumulate on windows and other cooler surfaces causing black mould and mildew growth to get out of hand. Make sure your house benefits from some frequent exchange of air. Don't block vents and keep some windows slightly open for an hour or so each day. An even temperature maintained throughout the home will also help prevent moisture droplets from settling on cooler areas.

Householders are often astonished when made aware of the large amount of water vapour produced by normal household activity and the larger the family, the larger the quantity of moisture that needs to escape to the outside. Breathing, bathing, drying washing and cooking are the main contributing factors and if your home is not properly ventilated on a regular basis in winter just where do you think all that moisture is going to go? It will condense on cooler surfaces and cause issues with mould and mildew which you might not notice until the problem has become rife and the black mould has already had time to destroy your decor and even some of your cherished possessions.

Another fact that householders often find difficult to acknowledge is that mould and mildew problems often present themselves far away from the site where the moisture was originally produced. Drying washing in the lounge may thus cause problems in a little used and unheated bedroom.

Mould and mildew issues are a problem of the modern era. They would not happen in bygone times before the advent of double glazing and home insulation. In times past, working chimneys would serve to keep homes ventilated as coal fires would draw away the moisture to the outside.



Put a Stop to Mould and Mildew

Keep your home free of mould and mildew
Keep your home free of mould and mildew | Source

Preserving the Fabric of your Home and Contents

Everyone is familiar with that certain musty odour if mould and mildew are both present in the home environment. It is something every householder or tenant needs to address at some point if they value their health and want to preserve the fabric of their home. Mould, mildew and condensation issues can often be confused with damp problems and disagreements over this are cause for disputes between tenants and landlords. Tenants are often quick to blame the fabric of the building when mould and mildew problems are a lifestyle issue caused by inadequate ventilation. Damp is always caused by an ingress of water from the outside but is never caused by the moisture produced inside the house which has been allowed to accumulate.

See the accompanying video to learn how to recognise the difference. Mould actually hates water that has come from the outside as this water will have penetrated the brickwork and has a high salt content that mould doesn't like.

Ensure That Steam Can Escape to the Outside

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All Steamed Up

The kitchen, bathroom and utility areas of your home are the most likely places where mould and mildew present problems. This is because they are areas of high usage where there will be more moisture produced than anywhere else in your home. Extractors can help carry away much of this moisture to the outside but if none are fitted, you'll need to take other measures to allow adequate ventilation. Mould and mildew need moisture to survive so if you remove the moisture, the mould and mildew won't spread.

The methods for combating mould and mildew in the kitchen can be implemented in the bathroom too. If you do spot a patch of mould or mildew don't despair! There is a wide variety of products cheaply available that can assist you in your battle. Armed with a few bottles of mould and mildew spray which can be bought for next to nothing at any reputable hardware or DIY store you can win the battle and indeed the war!

Drying laundry in the home can cause mould problems too so make sure you don't have washing airing on radiators and if you have a dryer, ensure it's vented to the outside if it isn't the self-condensing type.

Mould Loves To Accumulate Around Windows

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What is Mould?

In nature, moulds and mildews serve a useful purpose as part of the natural biological decay process but are not welcome in the home environment. They will wreak havoc with stored items, furnishings and décor as well as the structure of the building if left to their own devices. Mildew loves natural materials such as suede and leather, so when you come in from the rain be careful to dry shoes and coats thoroughly before storing them away. If you place damp items in an unventilated cupboard, mildew will soon take hold and ruin them by the next time you want to wear them.

Telling The Difference Between Damp and Mould

Be Careful with Foodstuffs

In a kitchen environment, there is an additional attraction for mould and mildew to develop: perishable foodstuffs. Not only will you have to be careful in your control of moisture levels but you'll need to store food responsibly so it won't provide a breeding ground for mould spores. Airtight containers and refrigeration are your greatest allies to protect foodstuffs but be sure to use fruit and vegetables swiftly as these have a high moisture content and will perish easily when left on display in fruit bowls or vegetable racks for too long. Keeping all your kitchen worktops free of clutter and leftover foodstuffs will ensure that mould and mildew don't get a foothold. If you don't have a waste disposal then remember to empty your kitchen bin regularly.

The interiors of kitchen cupboards ideally need ventilation holes drilled in them so that airflow is encouraged and growth of mould prevented. Opening your kitchen window and wiping the panes for a few minutes each day will ensure the air is fresh and not laden with moisture vapour. In doing so, you'll reduce condensation and prevent the ideal humid conditions that cause mildew and mould growth.

Ideally, your kitchen should be equipped with an efficient extractor to direct the steam from cooking food, boiling kettles etc. to the outside. This helps immensely in your battle with mould and mildew. It's also an idea to close your interior kitchen doors whilst food is cooking so the moisture produced doesn't cause problems by settling on cool surfaces elsewhere in the building where it will inevitably cause further mould and mildew issues.

Protect Your Home This Winter

Keep your home Warm this Winter
Keep your home Warm this Winter | Source

'Prevention is Always Better than Cure'

To implement the above, why not invest in a good mould-inhibiting waterproof paint when redecorating your kitchen, bathroom and utility areas? Also widely available are mould-inhibiting silicone sealants to seal your work surface areas. You can also buy mould-inhibiting grouts for tiling. For severely affected areas you'll need to get rid of all the mould first before you consider redecorating. Never paint directly over mould as it will just come back with a vengeance. A wealth of products are available to assist you in this task but always ask a professional decorator for advice before tackling any large area that has been severely affected by mould.

Cleaning Mould Effectively

© 2015 Stella Kaye

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