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Control Humidity in Your Home to Eliminate Mold and Mildew

Updated on April 1, 2014

What Mold Does to a Home?

Mold can grow just about anywhere in a home Mold is unsightly. It grows in a moist or humid environment that lacks adequate airflow, making bathrooms, basements and closets prime targets.

Mold will aid in the rot and degradation of a variety of materials especially wood. Mold can destroy the strength of the wood fibers and potentially threaten the structural integrity of a home.

Clean Moldy and Mildew-Laden Surfaces First

If you are trying to control a mold and mildew issue in the home by reducing the amount of humidity -- you are headed in the right direction. The first and necessary step is to rid mold and mildew from surfaces. Follow all safety precautions such as providing adequate ventilation, wear rubber gloves, safety goggles -- not glasses and wear a filtering mask. Mold is harmful to your health and the health of those living in the house. Steaming away mold and mildew with a handheld steam cleaner is highly effective and does not use any harsh chemicals.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency:

Humidity levels in a home should range between 30 and 50 percent.

How to Remove Mold and Mildew From Wood Furniture

Every surface in an overly humid home can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. If the mold and mildew is left on the wood surface, it can cause the wood to discolor and can cause the wood to rot. Care needs to be taken when cleaning the furniture, especially if you have antique furniture because you do not want to devalue the piece or ruin an heirloom.

Place the furniture in a dry area, preferably near a dehumidifier.

Vacuum the wood with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter.

Apply a specially formulated mold and mildew stain remover to the furniture - test a hidden area to determine if the product will harm the finish.

Apply the mold and mildew stain remover to the furniture and allow it to sit for a few minutes.

Wipe the furniture down with a clean rag.

If the stain remains, treat the wood a second time.

Store wood furniture in a dry area of the home rather than a damp basement or garage.

Excess Humidity in a Home

Excess moisture damages wood surfaces If you have more than 30 to 50 percent indoor humidity, the excess moisture also known as condensation can land on a variety of household surfaces and cause a range of problems other than mold and mildew.

Excess humidity landing on metal surfaces causes rust.

Clothing, linens, upholstered furniture, carpets, books, pictures, papers, rugs and other textiles will take on a musty smell.

Too much moisture in a home can cause wood furniture, floors, stairs and supports to warp.

Excess humidity in a tiled bathroom, kitchen or laundry room will lead to mold and mildew growth, which can stain grout lines.


If you have condensation on your windows - you have a humidity problem in your house.

Keep an Eye on Indoor Humidity Levels

Many homeowners fail to monitor the humidity in the home before a problem occurs. Oftentimes this is due to the fact that they do not know they can. To monitor humidity levels in a home, you will need humidistat or hygrometer. When humidity rises above optimal levels, be ready to act.

Desiccants to Reduce Excess Moisture in Closets, Cabinets and Drawers

Desiccants absorb excess moisture in the air. A desiccant will typically, hang in a closet or sit on a shelf. They are good for small areas such as closets, cabinets and drawers.

Controlling Mold and Mildew in Closets

Increase air flow to help eliminate mold and mildew in closets Consider adding a louvered door to a closet.

Leave closet and cabinet doors open to allow fresh air to circulate through problem areas.

Store white chalk in a silverware drawer to keep silver from tarnishing due to excess humidity.

Add an exhaust fan to a closet -- this is especially effective in a basement.

Never hang or put away wet clothes, linens or textiles.

Store clothing and textiles in a closet that does not have a humidity problem.


A dehumidifier removes excess moisture from the air. Some dehumidifiers store the moisture in a collection tray. Some dehumidifiers have a hose that connects to the unit and the free end of the hose is placed into a sink or drain to allow the excess water to be carried away. Choose a dehumidifier based on the size of the room. The larger a room the larger a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers significantly reduce household moisture. If you have excess humidity in a basement and on a first floor, consider a dehumidifier for each floor.

Repair Water Leaks Around the House

Repairing pipe leaks to help combat moisture problems that lead to mold and mildew Inspect your house for water leaks. Check for drips along pipes running in basements or crawl spaces. Look under sinks and inside cabinets -- repair any leaks you find. Some water pipes may have condensation, but no obvious sign of a leak. If this is the case, wrap the pipes with pipe insulation to help keep excess humidity levels in check.

Insulate Exposed Water Pipes to Cut Down on Humidity Levels

Exposed water pipes may drip or form beads of condensation due to the difference in temperature of the water inside the pipes and the air temperature. Even though it doesn't look like a lot of moisture, it does contribute to the excess humidity in the house. If you have condensation on your exposed pipes, which are usually located in a basement, wrap them in pipe insulation to keep excess moisture out of the basement.

Keep Gutters Clean

Keep gutters clean and free of debris. Make sure downspouts are directed away from the home. If water cascades over the side of the gutter and down the house wall, you can bet it will find a way into the basement or crawl space, which will then increase the moisture level in a home. increased moisture level -- increased mold and mildew growth. Even if you do not have basement wall cracks water will find a way into your home by a process known as hydrostatic pressure. As the ground swells from water saturation, the water has nowhere to go and the force of the soil pressing against the foundation pushes water droplets through miniscule holes in the foundation -- right into the basement.

Remove Humidity from a Basement

Typically, basements tend to be the culprit when considering whole house humidity. Basements are located below ground level where water seeks a way in through hydrostatic pressure, wall cracks, holes or if the foundation sits on a natural spring the water will rise and enter through the floor. The use of a basement dehumidifier is very important to the humidity remediation process. Installing a large dehumidifier will help to solve the issue. Choose an Energy-Star compliant dehumidifier to keep your electric bills down.

Increase Air Flow

Increasing and promoting airflow in a home helps to decrease the amount of humidity. Using an exhaust fan, window fan or oscillating fan keeps the air moving and help to promote drying.

Pull Humidity From the Attic

An attic typically, goes through a wide range of temperature changes during a day. At noon the blazing sun cause the attic to become unbearably hot -- by midnight the attic has cooled off considerably. This drastic change in temperature -- especially in attic that do not have gable vents or ridge vents can lead to condensation. The condensation has to land somewhere and cling to a surface and once it does, mold and mildew with begin to grow. Keep your attic temperature more constant with an attic fan. As an added bonus attic fans help to reduce energy costs. Choose a solar powered fan to reduce energy costs even further. A solar fan costs nothing to run and makes a big difference in indoor air temperatures.

Peeling wallpaper or paint can signal excess amounts of humidity in a house.

Getting Rid of a Musty Smell Caused by Excess Humidity in the House

Some materials in the home will hold the musty smell even after you have resolved the humidity issue in your home. The smell is from mold spores settling into the material.

Wash any washable fabrics

Dry clean items

Dispose of unnecessary cardboard, newspaper and other types of paper

Steam clean carpets and upholstered furniture

Wipe down wood furniture with a rag and white vinegar to both neutralize the odor and eliminate mold spores.

How to Remove the Musty Smell From Wood Furniture

After wood furniture is exposed to constant humidity and moisture, it may have mold or mildew growing on the surface, inside drawers, underneath or behind doors. If furniture smells musty, you can be sure there is mold, mildew or the remnants of one of the two.

Place the furniture in a dry area, preferably a room with a dehumidifier, near the windows.

Open the windows.

Set up a fan to blow air over the furniture and out the window. This helps to promote wood drying.

Sprinkle a thick layer of baking soda inside drawers and behind doors.

Sprinkle lavender, cedar or tea tree essential oil over several sheets of newspaper.

Wad up newspaper and stuff it into drawers or behind doors and let it sit for several days.

Remove the newspaper and vacuum the baking soda out of the drawers.

If any musty odor remains, repeat the process.

If the weather outdoors is nice and warm during the day, you can bring the furniture outside to sit in the sun. Always bring the furniture back in once the sun goes down to prevent dew from settling on the furniture.

Keep Your Home Safe from Mold and Mildew

Healthy air Always maintain a healthy level of humidity to keep your family, friends and guests safe and healthy. If the home is overrun with black mold, green mold or white mold -- hire a mold remediation specialist to clean your home. Excessive amounts of mold pose serious health consequences and are best left to a professional. If you have small amounts of mold and mildew or worry about it -- you can handle it yourself with the proper precautions.

Run your air conditioner often when humidity levels rise -- air conditioning units, whether central air, room air conditioning units or window units will pull excess humidity from the home.

Controlling Humidity

Typically, when the air is humid, the temperatures are elevated. To keep both in check, use your air conditioner. Make sure the air conditioning unit is Energy Star certified to help keep the cost down.


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