If you smell a musty odor in your home, chances are you have a mold or mildew problem. What’s the difference? There is no difference! Mildew or mold may generally appear flat or raised and hairly when actively growing, it’s thin and often whitish to bluish-green or some other colors.
Mold or mildew thrives on many organic materials including fabric, paper, ceilings, shower stalls, wood… in fact just it can grow just about anywhere there’s a food source and a moisture problem.
Areas where molds or mildew flourish are damp, warm, poorly lighted and poorly circulated. In unaired places like basements, showers or closets, mildew can produce a strong musty odor, and can cause considerable damage.
They discolor fabrics for example, and can eat into them until the fabric rots and falls apart. They discolor leather and paper. And they can form on drywall or under paint and if unchecked, can cause structural damage in your home by moving into the wood behind the drywall.
Prevention is the best policy. If your home is well-ventilated and dry the chances of having a mildew problem is greatly reduced.
The first step to preventing mildew is to control dampness in the air. Check your home regularly for drips and leaking faucets and pipes. Fix these as soon as possible.
Make sure you have a negative grade around your house and that down-spouts, evestroughing and drains are free of debris and direct water at least two meters from your home.
Cooking, doing the laundry and bathing without adequate ventilation adds gallons of water into your home’s air daily. Turn the fans on in order to get rid of the excess moisture in the air from these activities.
In warm weather, humid interior conditions can cause “sweat” on foundation walls at any time of the year. Cool air holds less moisture than warm air, which means there is less chance of mildew occurring in winter in many parts of the world.
However, in colder weather, condensation can still form on any surface below dew point, and this of course adds excess moisture in the air. A properly working air conditioning system in summer helps to control dampness in the air by keeping the air cooler. And of course, dehumidifiers at any time of the year also help control moisture in your home’s air. Keep humidity in your home between 45% and 55%, and definitely less than 65% to keep mildew at bay.
Improve air circulation by using electric fans, and consider hanging clothing loosely in closets in order to help with air circulation.
When storing materials prone to mildew such as clothing, books, leather etc, pack it with buffers such as silica gel to help reduce excess moisture.
Although there are various suggestions to clean mildew available on the internet, because it often grows on porous material such as clothing, rugs, or draperies, often the item is not able to be cleaned and must be thrown out. Drywall and structural problems can be fixed, but often this means cutting the affected areas out completely and replacing them. This can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair.
Thus prevention is always the best option, and there are really just two main things to remember in order to control mildew in your home. Reduce moisture and increase air circulation to prevent mildew from forming in the first place.
Wikipedia : Mildew
UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension Services : Mildew Prevention and Removal
All Around the House : Moisture / Mildew Problems