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How to Prevent Mildew Buildup in Your Bathroom

Use Exhaust Fans and Fungal Cleaning Products

© 2012 by Sarah Harris; All rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without written permission.

Mildew on shower curtain; photo courtesy Bob Blaylock

The average person may not understand the difference between mold and mildew, and this is likely because they are both forms of fungal growth that can occur in the bathroom.

But mildew is a little different and in fact, may be more common than mold. It appears as a thin, powdery covering that can grow on all kinds of surfaces, including walls, floors, and even textiles.

Some people may mistake it for simple soap scum in the shower or tub. However, it is important to identify and stop mildew in its tracks since it could be harmful to your health, especially if ingested or inhaled.

Mold and Mildew are Ubiquitous

And if left untreated it can turn into a much more serious mold problem. So here are just a few preventive measures that can keep it out of your bathroom.

Mold growth on a peach; image courtesy Andrew Dunn
Most people don’t realize that some amount of mold and mildew exist in nearly every household, although they rarely flourish enough to become noticeable or dangerous. With proper care, it can remain inchoate.

Unless you have a hermetically sealed home environment and everyone that enters is subjected to some kind of decontamination process before being allowed to cross the threshold, you can pretty much expect that spores will make their way in here and there.

Examine the photo above. It demonstrates how mold grows on an orange using time-lapse photography. It offers a bit of inspiration to take this topic seriously.

And generally speaking, this is nothing to worry about since mold and mildew need certain conditions in which to grow. Unfortunately, your bathroom provides just the warm, moist climate they crave.

Exhaust Fans are Mandatory

Of course, knowing how mildew can grow is the key to preventing it. And since the wetness in your bathroom is to blame, your best bet to stop mildew from spreading is to keep the place as dry as possible.

The best way to do this is with proper ventilation. If your bathroom doesn’t have a fan that draws warm, wet air out, it may be time to install one, especially if you’ve experienced mildew problems in the past.

However, if you’re still having issues, which might very well be true if you live in the tropics or a sub-tropical area like the Gulf Coast, you might need to place a dehumidifier in the room to keep it extra dry.

Yes, they can be expensive, but so is your health. Besides, excess humidity can damage some of your fixtures, especially things like wooden towel racks, framed pictures, etc.

Chemicals that Absorb Moisture

According to the University of Missouri, “Silica gel, activated alumina, anhydrous calcium sulfate and molecular sieves may be used to absorb moisture from the air.”

The recommendation is to hand one of these chemicals in bags, not only in the bathroom for continuous drying action, but also it your closet to protect your clothes. These chemicals will not harm fabrics or impart an odor.

Fungal Cleaning Products are Part of the Solution

You should also practice good habits when it comes to cleaning this space. For example, mildew forms over time, not overnight, so as long as you are diligent about mopping up excess moisture, airing out the room, and cleaning with agents like bleach (which tend to be drying), you’ll reduce your chances of mildew formation.

However, you’ll have to clean thoroughly and frequently if moisture is a major issue in your bathroom, and you may want to use a product that is said to attack mildew directly (like Scrubbing Bubbles®, for example).

This is especially important in downstairs bathrooms, where moisture is more prevalent and can lead to mildew on your basement toilets, tubs, walls, and flooring.

In addition, you need to be careful about wet fabrics in the bathroom. Mildew can grow not only on your tub and tile, but also on towels, rugs, bath mats, and laundry that is left lying around.

So leave the hamper outside the door, replace towels frequently with fresh ones, hang the bath mat to dry after each use, and wash throw rugs regularly.

These steps will not only ensure that bathrooms are always beautifully clean, but it will also help you to avoid the unsightly mildew that can lead to allergies, asthma, and other ailments.

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