Preventing Mildew Saves Removing It - On the House

Preventing Mildew Saves Removing It

By on September 22, 2014
crawlspace with plastic

Mildew that has developed in your home is easy to remove. All you have to do is mix 1 cup of powdered laundry detergent (less if concentrated) and 1 quart of liquid bleach with 3 quarts of warm water. And, in minutes – scrubbing with a bristle brush makes the mildew disappear. Although this is a reasonably mild solution that can be used for most painted surfaces, rubber gloves and eye protection should be used.

Problem is, the mildew isn’t the real problem. Mildew is the effect – not the cause. Mildew can’t grow without a food source, and the food source that mildew thrives on is moisture.

Mildew spores are in the air – everywhere. They spend all of their time look­ing for moist places to settle, feed and grow.

How to Prevent Mildew

So how do you prevent mildew from growing in the first place?

  1. Simple, reduce or eliminate the food source – cut down on the amount of moisture (usually found in the form of condensation) that is allowed to settle on the walls, floors and ceilings. This may not be as simple for someone who lives in Flori­da as it would be for a family that lives in West Texas. But, given varying degrees of attention eradication is possible even in relatively humid cli­mates.
  2. Improving air circulation inside the home reduces the chance of condensation and makes it hard for mildew to find a place to grow.

But the problem can’t always be found inside the home. Sometimes the culprit is damp earth beneath the floor.

The area under a wood-floor home can generate a substantial amount of moisture that mildew can use to feed on. What happens is simple. Natural warmth from the floor of the home emanates downward into the sub area, the warmth vapor­izes the moisture in the damp soil, and the vapors rise into the floor and walls above – creating a new place for mildew to thrive.

It’s best to prevent moisture from getting into the subarea in the first place, but once it’s there it can be dealt with.

If the moisture in the subarea was created by a one-time occurrence then a fan can be used to circulate the air and dry out the earth.

Managing Long-term Moisture Problems

If the dampness is an ongoing problem, then a layer of polyethylene sheeting (use the 6 mil thickness) should be laid on the earth in the subarea. When the heat from the house attacks the moisture in the dirt below, condensation is forced to occur on the underside of the plastic instead of on the underside of the wood floor and walls above.

Installation of the plastic sheeting can provide a decade of protection as long as certain pests (rats, mice, moles, gophers, snakes, etc.) aren’t making a home there. But that’s another article.

Anyhow, it’s important that the layer of plastic be tape-sealed at all joints, at all points where it adjoins the foundation walls and where it surrounds foundation piers. Taping serves two functions: it helps to hold the plastic sheeting in place and prevents moisture vapors from seeping through. Two-inch duct tape is best.

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