Mold and mildew are common in american households. When conditions allow for it, they grow relentlessly in hidden nooks and crannies, and while they’re fairly easy to deal with, they can both go unnoticed for a long time and cause damage to your property, or worse, to your family’s health.

Which is why prevention is the best remedy, but what exactly can you do to avoid these two inconvenient guests? Let’s find out!

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts. – Eleanor Roosevelt

What’s mold and mildew anyway?

How to identify mold and mildew. Source: Bob Vila
How to identify mold and mildew. Source: Bob Vila

Mold and mildew are both types of fungi that grow in moist, warm areas. While not immediately harmful, excess quantities of either can lead to allergic reactions and respiratory problems along the line, especially to those who are always sensitive to one or the other.

Visually, they’re quite distinct:

Mildew is a powdery white growth, similar to cobwebs in a way, and usually can be wiped clean with no issues as soon as it’s detected. They tend to grow on the surface of materials and if given time, they’ll change color as well, becoming darker.

Mold, however, starts as a dark growth that can potentially destroy whatever is attached to, and is much harder to eliminate after a substantial spread. This usually leads to having to discard the material it was attached to.

Finding either of them is a sign of excessive moisture, which is already something you can fix to prevent their growth in the future.

Where and how do they grow?

Winter is a fantastic environment for mold and mildew to grow in your home, specifically because of the dramatic difference in temperature from outdoors to indoors.

The most basic conditions are moisture and warmth, but both can grow very fast on organics like food (which is why old bread will grow mold in just a few days if left unattended). But other areas are prone to having mold as well, even if no food is directly nearby – for example, bathroom walls and cabinets. 

How to prevent mold and mildew growth

Here’s how to prevent mold and mildew. Source: HGTV
Here’s how to prevent mold and mildew. Source: HGTV

As said before, preventing mold and mildew growth is always the best course of action. Apply these tips during the Winter to be sure your home stays safe!

If you’ve already encountered mold and mildew growth, call a professional instead.

Improve air circulation

Mold and mildew spores are constantly in the air at all times, so having an environment closed for too long will cause them to settle and grow. For most rooms in your home this shouldn’t be an issue, but there’s always a chance of having that one room that isn’t used as much, as an extra bathroom that’s rarely used… those are the areas you should focus on.

During the winter it’s not as easy to open doors and windows to allow for air circulation, so make sure your ventilation system is working properly to allow for constant air flow. Likewise, be extra attentive in warm and humid areas like bathrooms, taking some time to investigate nooks and crannies every once in a while to make sure there’s no growth settling in. Identifying it early is key to make sure no damage is permanent.

Watch out for plumbing leaks

Leaky pipes, even at a small scale, can lead to mold and mildew growth. If there’s significant growth inside a wall, for example, you’re in for some repairs.

Bathrooms and kitchens are the most plumbing intensive areas, but basements can also have fairly well hidden leaks that cause problems, so keep an eye out for those. 

Careful where you store things

Make sure your closet, attic and other closed spaces have good air circulation. Source: HGTV
Make sure your closet, attic and other closed spaces have good air circulation. Source: HGTV

Food, books, and certain clothing pieces (such as leather jackets and shoes) are very inviting to mold and mildew growth. 

When it comes to food, it’s pretty basic: be mindful of leaving food items in the open for too long and watch out for stored food that doesn’t receive enough air flow (such as food in a pantry). For books, the best way is to always keep the room where they’re in well ventilated and receiving sunlight. If you have a lot of books, it’s wise to pick some up randomly every once in a while to check if mold or mildew aren’t growing in secret.

Finally, for clothing it’s basically the same – open your wardrobe regularly to let air in, but getting a simple humidity absorber also helps.

Exhaust fans can help

Something as simple as an exhaust fan can work really well on typically moist environments, such as bathrooms after a steamy shower or kitchens after boiling water for long periods.

But just having good ventilation on your HVAC system overall already works, the exhaust fan is more useful in extreme cases or if you don’t currently have a working HVAC system that covers those areas.

Inspect your HVAC system

It might seem counterintuitive to think mold or mildew could grow inside your vents, right? After all, they get constant air flow and contain no organics, so what gives?

A few reasons: first, certain ducts are prone to condensation, especially during the Winter. Condensation creates moist spots that become inviting to mold growth.

Then, there’s the air flow itself – sometimes it’s not optimal. You can have dirty of clogged filters, or leaky ducts disrupting air flow, which creates “dead zones prone to housing mold.

The best way to prevent any of this from happening is to regularly inspect your HVAC system, which regardless of the mold and mildew problem, is already a good idea overall. 

Signs of mold growth

Signs of mold growth are prominent. Source: MNN
Signs of mold growth are prominent. Source: MNN

Aside from the visual cue, mold and mildew can grow in weird places that are hard to see, so we must look out for other signs.

Mainly, if any room is consistently humid, that’s already a sign you should do something about – mold growth or not.

Another great tell though is the smell – mold in particular has a fairly strong damp odor that can be found in areas where growth is prominent. If you open a door to a room and feel a strange smell, it could be a sign of mold in the area.

Need more help with a mold and mildew problem? Talk to a mold and mildew professional today and get free quotes in your area!


6 Essential Tips To Improve Indoor Air Quality
7 Most Common Heating Problems And How To Solve Them
The Pros and Cons of Ductless Heating and Cooling Units

Join the conversation