It’s official – La Niña is here for the summer, the Bureau of Meteorology has announced. And she’s bringing ‘increased likelihood of damage and flooding related to strong winds, high seas and heavy rains from tropical cyclones’.
So with our Christmas season likely to be wet, or at least damp and muggy, we will need to be on the lookout for mildew growing in our homes. The earlier it is found and removed, the easier to keep it under control.
Mould and mildew can appear on any surface, given the right conditions – it usually just needs excessive moisture and a lack of light. Fortunately, it is easily detected.
Any area of your home that has a distinctive musty smell or is covered with a white, black or grey colouring is more than likely being attacked by mould or mildew. This is most common in areas that are subject to consistent moisture and little natural air or light, such as the shower recess or curtain, or inside wardrobes.
Mould and mildew are not merely unsightly, but also a common cause of allergies and asthma. If allowed to progress, mildew may also cause walls and floorboards to rot.
The first thing to know when removing mould is to never dry brush it, as that can release spores into the air and cause allergic reactions.
Superficial mould and mildew inside the home can be cleaned with a mild solution of bleach on a damp sponge.
If you prefer natural solutions, tea tree oil is the most effective. An essential oil which is harmless to people and pets, tea tree oil is both antibacterial and antifungal, capable of killing all types of moulds.
Baking soda is another, mild (pH of 8.1) alternative, that is harmless to your family and any pets. Besides killing mould, baking soda also deodorises, so using it can get rid of the smell mould leaves in your home. It also absorbs moisture to help keep mould away.
Vinegar is often used along with baking soda when cleaning up a mould problem since vinegar kills different species of mould to baking soda. Vinegar is a mild acid which can kill 82 per cent of mould species. However, it also has the advantages of being natural and safe. Vinegar is non-toxic and doesn’t give off dangerous fumes like bleach does.
Regardless of the weather, homes with poor ventilation are most subject to the development of mould and mildew. The best way to prevent build up is with dehumidification above floor level and ventilation below.
Dehumidification can be achieved either by using a “dehumidifier” or simply by opening windows to let air naturally circulate around your home. If your walls develop mildew, open windows to allow as much air as possible through the house. If the room gets little sunlight, leave artificial lights on during the day.
Dehumidifiers are devices that draw the moisture from the air, preventing it from condensing on a surface and keeping the space free of mould. These can be mounted on skirting boards or free-standing so you can move them from room to room.
Ground moisture or ‘rising damp’ can be avoided by ensuring that air can circulate adequately underneath floorboards and that moisture rising from the earth below can’t penetrate.
If you do have excessive mould and mildew in your home, it might be a good idea to call in a professional to inspect the subfloor ventilation. The result of an inspection may be to install additional air vents or a fan that will circulate a consistent stream of air under your home.
The most successful approach to preventing mildew is to control moisture, so either remove the source of moisture or ventilate the area adequately, and use products that prevent further growth.