How to Clean Mildew in 3 Simple Steps

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Design: Cathie Hong Interiors; Photo: Margaret Austin Photo.

Picture this: you're doing chores around your house, minding your own business, when you spot a gray, powdery substance along your walls or ceiling. It's not until you get a little closer and take in that tangy, slightly dirty, aroma that you realize you're working with mildew. Ew.

If you want to keep your home looking its best, it's a good idea to eliminate emerging mildew, stat. The good news is that it doesn't require a Herculean effort to learn how to clean mildew. In fact, it can be quite easy, thanks to these simple steps.

Meet the Expert

Alex Varela is the general manager of Dallas Maids, a cleaning company that services the Dallas, Texas area.

How Often Should You Clean Mildew?

Before we delve into learning how to clean mildew, it's important to understand why it even arose in the first place. Not only can identifying any underlying causes of the mildew give you a full picture of what you're working with, but it can also teach you how to get rid of mildew for good. After all, nobody wants to be a repeat offender.

"This can happen because of two reasons; the first one is the area you live in," explains Alex Varela, the general manager of Dallas Maids. "Some areas like Dallas can get very humid during the year. The second one is that there’s one or several areas that contains these elements. The most common areas are pantries, the inside of your washing machine, and bathrooms."

When mildew is present, you might have to repeat the cleaning process a few times a week until it goes away.

Things You'll Need

  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft brush
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda

Step One: Grab Some Vinegar

Don't let mildew's less-than-glamorous appear fool you; according to Varela, most mildew grows on top of the surface. To help make superficial blemishes a thing of the past, enlist some white vinegar — preferably with a concentration of five percent or higher.

"Apply using a spray bottle," Varela recommends. "Let sit for an hour and then scrub the surface with a soft brush."

To take charge of rampant mildew, Varela says consistency is key. "You might have to do this every day for a week until the mildew stops growing," he says.

Step Two: Make Your Own Cleaning Solution

But, what's a dweller to do if the mildew is still present? Don't worry, you have some options. If white vinegar alone isn't cutting it, Varela suggests giving your mixture an extra kick with a half teaspoon of dish soap. Or, if you really need to call in some reinforcements, some experts recommend adding some baking soda for good measure.

Step Three: Call in the Pros

And, if that mildew still won't budge? Well, you might be dealing with a more serious issue that requires outsourcing.

"Other species of mold that grow inside walls, which you will need a professional service to remove," Varela explains.

Tips to Keep Mildew From Growing

emily henderson laundry room

Design: Emily Henderson; Photo: Tessa Neustadt.

No matter how easy mildew might be to clean, dealing with it can be a total pain in the neck. Fortunately, it is possible to nip it in the bud before any signs of mildew begin to appear. But, how? Varela wants you to think back to those underlying causes behind the mildew. Are you working with an ultra-humid environment? Is that mildew growing in a dark nook or cranny? The answer might be your key to making mildew a thing of the past.

Whether it’s a room in your home or your entire area, he says the best way to reduce humidity and avoid dark nooks and crannies is with sunlight and airflow.

"Another common error is to push your furniture and appliances all the way to the back," Varela adds. "Let your furniture breathe as well by leaving a small gap that allows air to flow."

And, if you're working with a very humid space, a dehumidifier will be your secret weapon.

"A dehumidifier is a device that allows you to reduce humidity and, depending on the device, choose the exact level you need," Varela says. "A pleasant level is around 60 percent of humidity or less."