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Mildew is fungus that appears as a dull black mold with a musty odor. It thrives in hot humid places often attacking shower curtains, shoes, fabrics, wallpaper, basement walls, books and luggage. The best way to stop or avoid mildew is to eliminate dampness, improve ventilation, use dehumidifiers and install exhaust fans in enclosed areas.

There are many different ways to eliminate dampness. The simplest method is to improve ventilation by opening windows, doors, closets and drawers on humid days. You can also use small cloth bags containing activated alumina or silica gel in closets and drawers to absorb excess moisture. You can make these yourself, purchasing the activated alumina at a local hardware or drug store. You can also use baking soda, talcum powder, corn meal or cornstarch in these bags to absorb moisture. Leaving the lights in your closets on will burn away excess moisture by raising the heat in minute amounts. Trees and bushes that shade your house will add the excess moisture and should be trimmed back. Protect your books on humid days by placing a box of baking soda near your book shelves or storage area. Bathrooms and laundry rooms should have exhaust fans to remove the excess moisture that builds in the air when you are using these facilities. Using an electric dehumidifier in basements and other damp rooms will often cure a dampness problem. But if you have a problem with leaks or sever sweating in a basement area, the only solution is to waterproof the entire room.

When mildew attacks ceramic tile or concrete it can seem like an endless battle to remove it. If the stains are persistent, scrub with a mixture of one gallon of water and 1 cup of bleach. After the area is thoroughly cleaned, rinse with water and allow it to dry. Painted surfaces should be cleaned with 1 cup of ammonia, 1\4 cup baking soda and 1\2 cup vinegar per gallon of water. Be sure to wear rubber gloves when working with these solutions and make sure the area is well ventilated. Excessively persistent mildew on bathroom tile will respond well to a light misting with bleach. Place the bleach in a glass spray bottle and mist the area thoroughly. Allow to set for 15 minutes and then rinse. Mildew stains in clothing or fabrics can be cleaned with a mild solution of ammonia and warm water. Be sure to spot check the fabric to make sure it will tolerate this mixture and then soak the item for as long as necessary to remove the mildew. If the fabric is all white cotton, a solution of bleach and warm water can be used to remove mildew.

When you have severe mildew on upholstered furniture or a the covering of a mattress brush the material with a stiff bristle brush and sponge on a mixture of 1\2 alcohol and 1\2 water. This should be followed with a fungicidal spray. As a preventative measure you should air out cushions and mattresses in bright sunlight. If the mildew is persistent or gives off a consistently moldy odor you may need to have them professionally fumigated. Mildewed books should be spread with the pages fanning out. Sprinkling the pages with talcum powder or cornstarch is a good mildew preventative for books since it will absorb any moisture. Any loose mold or mildew on the outside of a book should be wiped away with a soft, clean cloth.