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Extension > Environment > Housing Technology > Moisture Management > How to remove mildew

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How to remove mildew

Diane Corrin

Do you think you have mildew in your home? You may see it growing on walls or floors or perhaps you smell a musty odor. It's important to correctly identify mildew. Sometimes dirt on paint, tile or wood looks like mildew. To be sure it is mildew, put a few drops of household bleach solution on the discolored surface. Mildew bleaches out in a minute or two but most dirt will not.

Mildew grows when it is warm, moist and dark. Mildew grows on clothing, other textiles in the home, leather, books, paper, upholstery, mattresses, rugs, and wood.

Mildew removal from textiles

To remove mildew from clothing or other fabrics, brush the mildewed area. It's best to do this outside. Dry the item in the sun if possible. If a stain remains: for colorfast items or items that cannot be put in the washer, sponge with a diluted chlorine bleach solution. This is 2 T. bleach to 1 quart warm water. Test the fabric before treating the entire item. Soak white clothes in the chlorine bleach solution, then wash, rinse and dry them.

Mildew removal from paper products

If papers or books are mildewed, dry them in a well-ventilated area. Then take them outside and brush off loose mildew. Damp wallpaper can be dried by heating or air conditioning the area. Then rinse the area with a cloth soaked in suds and rinse with clear water. For stubborn stains, use the chlorine bleach solution mentioned earlier. Test in an inconspicuous area first. Painted areas can be scrubbed with a solution of 3/4 c. bleach and 1 gallon water. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Mildew removal from painted surfaces

According to Iowa State University chemists, painted areas can be scrubbed with a solution of 1 quart chlorine bleach, 1 T. liquid detergent and 9 quarts water. When working in enclosed areas, make sure that they're well-ventilated. Avoid being directly in the line of the fumes. Use a brush to scrub grout lines. Rinse surfaces with plenty of water. Dry thoroughly. Never mix ammonia products with bleach.

Reviewed by Dick Stone April 2011

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