How to Prevent Mold on Windowsills, Hunker

How to Prevent Mold on Windowsills

It’s easier to prevent mold from forming on windowsills than trying to remove it. Mold can form on both painted and stained windowsills, either from condensation buildup or an airflow issue within your home. Once you address these issues, you can prevent both green and black molds — which each have the potential to damage the wood windowsill if left on it over time — from appearing. Mold growth inside your home may also be hazardous to your health, so it’s important to address the issue before it starts.

Why Mold Forms on Windowsills

Mold can form on wood windowsills when condensation, or moisture, builds up around the window. The moisture may come from humid outside air that’s allowed in, plumbing leaks and even cooking steam. In the bathroom, moisture from daily showers can also cause mold to form if there isn’t adequate airflow. Condensation can also appear during the winter months when the warm, heated indoor air meets the cold window glass. The problem begins when the condensation is allowed to sit on the sill over a period of time — mold needs moisture to grow. Green mold is fairly common in households and is easier to remove than black mold — which is less common but can be hazardous to your family’s health and needs to be removed by a professional. Mold can also form on exterior window stools — the outside sills — from high outdoor humidity levels.

Mold Rots Windowsills

It’s important to prevent mold growth on your windowsills because it can damage the wood if allowed to accumulate over time. Mold can cause both painted and stained wood windowsills to rot, which will damage the structure. It’s best to prevent the mold from ever forming, but if it does appear, you can stop it from ruining the wood if you remove it right away.

Preventing Mold with Proper Airflow

Inadequate airflow is one major reason why mold grows on windowsills. If the humid air inside your home is stagnant, moisture builds up on the sills. One way to maintain good airflow is to set your thermostat at 70 degrees with the fan on «auto» on warm days. Keep your doors and windows closed while the air conditioner is on, because the combination of warm and cool air can also cause moisture buildup on the sills. It’s also a good idea to install an exhaust fan in the bathroom, to help remove moisture and keep the air flowing during hot showers. An exhaust fan above your kitchen stove eliminates excess humidity from boiling water and other liquids. Use a dehumidifier in rooms or areas that tend to stay damp, such as the basement.

Regularly Remove Condensation to Prevent Mold

Another easy way to prevent mold growth is by regularly removing any condensation from your windowsills. You can do this by wiping the moist sills down with a clean, dry cloth or sponge. If you suspect any mildew or mold growth beginning, wipe the wood down with a mixture of 50 percent bleach and 50 percent water to stop the process. This mixture, however, won’t kill mold that has penetrated into the wood — another reason why you need to stop mold growth immediately.

4 Mildew on Wood Furniture Prevention Methods

Finding mildew on wood is not something you should ignore. Mildew is an organism that grows in the dark, moisture and heat. If you are storing furniture in a basement, garage or attic then finding mildew on the wood is not going to be a rare occurrence. Wood furniture is sturdier than other things that mildew can get on and is typically a byproduct of mildew growth. Cleaning mildew is not difficult but you will not have to worry about that if you follow some simple methods to preventing it from happening. The information below will share with you several things you can in order to prevent mildew on wood.

1. Paper and Boxes

When you are storing wood furniture it is important to do so in a space just meant for wood furniture. If you store other materials like paper and boxes you will increase the risk of mildew growth and mold. Paper and cardboard are easily attacked by mildew in dark and humid areas because they are flimsy and have no protection whatsoever. Most wood furniture has been treated so mildew forming is less likely. When mildew begins to form on paper or boxes it can spread to the wood furniture. The simplest preventative measure is to remove the space of all paper and cardboard products. This will decrease the risk of finding mildew on wood.

2. Dust and Clean Often

Even though your wood furniture is stored properly you will still need to take simple care of the wood. Failure to do so may result in your finding mildew on the wood after a time of neglecting it. Dust will still happen even in a closed room and in dust are biological components such as hair and skin. Once these materials decompose they give off oils and gasses which can lead to mildew. Regularly dusting the space and furniture will help prevent the formation of mildew. You can further prevent mildew by wiping the wood furniture down with polish.

3. Using a Dehumidifier

Mildew on wood is caused mainly by the environment that the wood is sitting in. The darkness and the humidity will cause the mildew to grow. Placing a dehumidifier in the room will leach the moisture from the air. Without moisture there is no humidity and mildew will not grow. Just be certain to empty the water bucket on the dehumidifier regularly or it will stop working. When this happens the mildew will have a chance to grow. The water in the reservoir, if left unchanged, can also grow mold and mildew so this is very important to empty at least monthly. You can empty it more if your home suffers from high humidity.

4. Furniture Covers

This is the easiest way that you can prevent the formation of mildew on wood. A cover can exist in many forms from cloth to plastic. The best product to use is a zippered plastic bag made specifically for storing furniture. You can also use travel bags that movers use to protect furniture during moving.

How to Get Rid of Mildew for Good

Knowing how to get rid of mildew, and keep it from returning, is something anyone with allergies — or who resides in a humid area — needs to know. You don’t need fancy equipment or expensive cleansers. You may already own everything you’ll need.

Whether you’ve just noticed slime growing in your shower, or a tell-tale smell wafting from your sofa, these tips can help you find and get rid of mildew and mold — and keep them from returning.

How to Get Rid of Mildew

The Difference Between Mold and Mildew

Although we often use the words interchangeably, mold and mildew are two different types of plant fungi.

Mold is usually fuzzy and darker in appearance, like the dark growth typically found on walls, concrete, and the sandwich your kid left in his backpack for the last month.

Mildew is more powdery or downy in appearance. It typically starts gray or white but turns pink or orange, then eventually black, over time. It often grows in bathrooms, sinks, and laundry rooms.

What Mold and Mildew Have in Common

Drawn by damp: Both mold and mildew thrive in damp, humid areas.

Health issues: Mold and mildew can both cause serious problems including respiratory distress, joint pain and inflammation, skin lesions, and fatigue.

Structural problems: Since mold and mildew can spread throughout damp, rotting areas, they can both cause structural problems in your home. If you have undetected problems with one or both, you’ll also notice a pervasive and unpleasant smell.

Ways to Get Rid of Mildew

We’ve already discussed how to get rid of mold on walls and other hard surfaces, but what about places where mildew grows?

Mildew removal methods differ based on the type of surface you’re cleaning.

On Wood Furnishings

Dissolve 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda) in 1 gallon of warm water. Lightly apply to the affected area and scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Rinse with clean water and buff dry.

If the mildew has worked beneath the varnished or painted surface you’ll need to remove the finish from that area then, wearing gloves, scrub it with a solution of 2 tablespoons bleach to 2 cups warm water. Allow the item to dry before reapplying varnish or paint.

On Tile and Grout

Spray undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide directly onto the surface. Let this sit for 10 minutes to kill the mildew spores. Scrub with a stiff-bristled brush, then rinse thoroughly with warm water.

On Fabrics and Clothing

For mildew on washable fabrics, see these instructions.

For items that you can’t wash (e.g., silk or other non-washable items):

  1. Take the piece outside and brush away as much mildew as possible.
  2. Hang the item in bright sunlight and very lightly spray with a solution of 1 tablespoon white vinegar combined with 1 cup lukewarm water.
  3. You do not want to saturate the item — barely mist it so the vinegar can kill mildew spores and deodorize the material.

For more expensive or irreplaceable items, seek the help of a dry-cleaner.

On Upholstery

Use a vacuum to remove as much mildew as possible. Next, combine equal parts rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and water, and then lightly sponge the upholstery with this mixture to kill the spores. If in doubt about colorfastness, spot test first.

Once you’ve applied the rubbing alcohol mixture, let the area air dry.

On Leather

Combine equal parts rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol and water, then wipe the stained area with a cloth lightly dampened in this solution and allow it to thoroughly dry.

On Paper (Including Books)

For laminated surfaces, wipe the affected area using a cloth lightly dampened in equal parts white vinegar and water.

If the item is a book and several pages require treatment, fan them open then sprinkle with cornstarch to absorb excess moisture. Allow the cornstarch to sit in place overnight, then shake or brush it out of the book.

To remove mildew stains, dab them with a cotton ball dipped in hydrogen peroxide.

On Plants

Water the plant well, then spray the mildewed leaves with a solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda, a half teaspoon liquid soap, and 1 gallon of water.

Be sure to apply the mixture to both the upper and lower surfaces of the leaves, and reapply as needed.

How To Prevent Mildew and Mold

As with most household challenges, prevention is the best approach. Follow these four steps to keep mold or mildew from growing.

1. Keep Things Clean

Dust, dirt, grease, soap scum, and other substances give mold and mildew food to grow on. Diligent weekly cleaning can stop mildew from growing. In bathrooms, use a daily shower spray to keep tubs and sinks mildew-free, too.

If you need help establishing a consistent, effective weekly cleaning routine, find one on my cleaning checklist page.

2. Keep Things Fixed

Regularly inspect your home for leaks before they become a problem.

  • Your roof needs a visual inspection after significant storms or hail.
  • Walls behind toilets and washing machines should be checked at least once a month.
  • Check your pipes after deep freezes, which often cause them to burst.
  • During very dry weather, examine your home’s foundations for signs of shifting or cracks. Do the same during very damp weather. Contact a foundation repair specialist at the first sign of problems.

3. Keep Things Dry

Warm, moist air breeds mold and mildew. That’s why maintaining proper indoor humidity is so necessary throughout the year.

If you live in a damp environment, a dehumidifier can help remove excess moisture from the air while products silica gel or “DampRid” can keep closets dry.

4. Keep Air Circulating

  • Open your windows to allow fresh air to flow when the outdoor humidity levels are low.
  • If you live in a humid area, run your ceiling fans and bathroom exhaust fans for 15 minutes after performing tasks that add humidity to the air.
  • Leave the washing machine lid or door open, so the drum thoroughly dries.
  • Stretch shower curtains fully open after each use, so they don’t sit growing mildew.
  • Run your air-conditioner when relative humidity exceeds 60 percent, and consider installing an attic vent, so moist air doesn’t accumulate and spread mildew through the house.

Knowing how to get rid of mildew is only the first step in eliminating it. Make a point to examine potential trouble spots and address damp areas in your home to keep mildew from spreading.


Charlotte Lyon says

I am having a mildew problem on my interior front door and wall by door under carport. I don’t know what’s causing it. Any help would be appreciated.

Hi Charlotte,
I’d love to provide help but need a bit more information. Are the areas you’ve described shaded? What type of materials are involved? Can you give me a rough idea of what part of the country (or which country) you live in, so I know the climate you’re dealing with, too?

I have a question? Just bought a house, it has been closed up for 2 years. had it inspected more mildew than mold on walls and wood work. White powdery patches the size of a nickel and musky smell. what would you recommend cleaning with? also the carpet in the bedrooms is really nice but needs to be cleaned . Should i get like Stanley cleaners to steam clean carpet or choose a different professional cleaners dealing with mold or mildew issues. The house was built in 2006 so its not that old and no water leaks .

Hi Helen,
I’d start by airing out the house and cleaning it top to bottom. I ordinarily use vinegar-based natural homemade cleaners to deal with mildew and make sure there is proper ventilation. Here’s what I’ve written about how to steam clean carpets. Again, proper ventilation is absolutely essential.

Although I now have hard flooring throughout my house, I’ve used Stanley in the past as well as a “Dry Chem” company and, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t very happy with either. Stanley didn’t pre-treat stains, so they all reappeared several days later os the carpets dried and the stains wicked back up from the padding. (They also tried to hard sell me on getting my air ducts cleaned, which I didn’t appreciate.) The “Dry Chem” company swore their products were pet-safe, by my oldest cat had seizures the day after they did my carpets. Plus, they raked their cleaning solution into my rugs and that left grooves that didn’t come out until I shampooed my carpets myself. Those are my personal experiences, though, and yours might vary.

So, long story short, I’d start with opening windows, cleaning hard surfaces with vinegar-based natural cleaners (here’s where you can find all the ones I use) and shampooing the carpets yourself. Then, if that doesn’t solve it, contact pros — but look at Google and Yelp reviews before you hire anyone.

Let me know how it goes!

Hi there! I’m having a tough time finding solutions online to a black mold issue on my bathroom stone sink on a biweekly basis. I understand that acidic solutions are a no-no for stone surfaces. So I’m assuming vinegar and lemon juice is out of the question unless somehow I can adjust the pH. Any homemade suggestions remedies for black mold on stone surfaces?

Hi Nadia,
Are you sure it’s black mold? I ask because that’s a pretty odd place for it to grow. Just because it’s dark doesn’t mean it’s actually black mold — in fact, a lot of times the stuff growing on bathroom counters is just plain old mold, not the highly toxic stuff.

You’re correct in thinking vinegar and lemon juice isn’t good to use on a stone sink. I’d suggest scrubbing with soap and water, then wiping the area with hydrogen peroxide.

What is the best solution to use for mildew on wallpaper.

Katie Berry says

Spot test first, but usually a wipe with a 50-50 vinegar and water mix should do it. Follow with a plain water wipe so the vinegar isn’t just sitting there.

Thanks for the information on how to clean mold from tile and grout. I’ve noticed some mildew and mold in my shower and want to get it cleaned as quickly as possible! I’ll definitely use your recipe of 1/4 cup bleach and 3/4 cup water to get rid of it today. Great article!

Doesn’t mixing bleach and liquid soap release toxic fumes!

How to Remove and Prevent Mold and Mildew on Wood

Mold and mildew can be dangerous to people and damaging to wood, so it’s always a good idea to clean it off when it comes up. While you’re at it, applying a fresh coat of sealant can prevent the problem from popping back up.

Step 1 — Preparation

If you’re removing mold and mildew from a deck or wooden steps, remove all of the patio furniture and sweep the area first. Cover any bushes, plants or trees that are nearby—you don’t want the cleaning solution to get on them. Put all pets inside.

If you’re removing mold and mildew from any other exterior surface such as wood siding, wood patio furniture or fences, hose down the wood and sweep it clean with a broom. Cover plants, flowers and trees in these areas also to prevent spraying with the mildew remover.

Step 2 — Removal of Mold and Mildew

Mix the deck cleaner, ideally one specifically designed to be a mold and mildew remover, according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the container. Pour the mixture in your pressure washer, plug it into the garden hose, and connect it to a power source that is grounded.

If power levels are available on your power washer, set it at a medium level to start. Use a sweeping motion and saturate the wood with the cleaner. Generally you will see most of the mold and mildew wash away with this step. On stubborn areas, you may want to turn the power setting up a bit and go over it again.

If any areas are still stubborn, pour a bit of the concentrated deck wash onto the area, let it sit, scrub with an old broom, then rinse thoroughly to remove it.

Disconnect your garden hose once all the mold and mildew are removed and use it to rinse the wood completely with clean water. If you think any of the deck wash has gotten on plants, wash them thoroughly and also the soil around them. Most deck and wood cleaners have a high concentration of chlorine, which is harmful to plants and lawns.

Step 3 — Prevention

Allow the wood to dry for several days. During hot dry weather this will happen in just two or three days. If it happens to rain, wait until it’s totally dry again. You don’t want to seal in any moisture. Wood will lighten in color as it becomes more dry.

Coat the wood with a good wood sealer/water repellent for exterior use. This will cause water to bead up and run off the surface instead of penetrating and allowing mold and mildew to grow. Be especially careful to give it a good coating in areas that are not in sunlight as mold and mildew grow more easily in these areas. If the wood has never been coated, you may want to apply a second coat to be sure it’s sealed well.

How to Clean Mold and Mildew From Wood Decks

If you own a deck — especially one in a shady or wet location — you have to accept that mold is part of the ecosystem. It will grow whether you use redwood, cedar or pressure-treated decking, and whether or not you paint the wood. If you want to control mold and mildew, you have to clean the deck periodically. The best thing to use isn’t chlorine bleach, but plain water and perhaps some detergent.

Black and Dangerous

More than a million species of fungus inhabit our planet, and mold is a term that refers to some of them. Fungi need moisture to grow, and decking boards that don’t get enough sunlight to dry out provide plenty of it, along with the cellulose on which some of the more dangerous species, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, feed. This greenish-black mold not only looks bad, it makes the deck slippery and unsafe, and the spores that it releases can cause respiratory illness and allergic reactions. Moreover, black mold is usually accompanied by wood-eating fungi, which cause rot that deteriorates your deck.

Mold-Cleaning Materials

While chlorine bleach kills surface mold, there are reasons to avoid it in most cases, not the least of which is that it’s bad for the environment and is toxic to plants. Bleach has a high surface tension that prevents it from seeping into the wood and killing the embedded mold roots. Pressurized steam is the best way to treat deck mold, but in the absence of steam, a good scrubbing with a simple cleaning solution is effective for most situations. Using a pressure washer is an optional step that can speed cleaning and rinsing and help brighten the wood prior to refinishing a deck.

How to Clean Mold With a Pressure Washer

You rarely need more than 1,500 psi of pressure to clean a deck, and virtually any pressure washer — even a light-duty electric one — can deliver this. A 40- or 60-degree nozzle and a pressure of 800 to 1,000 psi are standard for general deck cleaning. You can easily damage the wood by using too much pressure or too narrow a nozzle or by holding the nozzle too close to the deck surface.

Clean the decking boards systematically, starting on an inside corner of the deck and working your way out. Use the same systematic approach when scrubbing with a soap solution. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose after scrubbing to remove all the soap, which could make the deck slippery.

Clean Without a Pressure Washer

To clean mold from a finish that you don’t want to damage, the best tools are a bucket containing a mixture of 1/3 cup laundry detergent per gallon of water, and a scrub brush. If the mold has stained the wood, a deck cleaner containing oxygen bleach can help to remove the stains.

Another option is white vinegar. A mix of one part water to one part vinegar can serve as an anti-mildew spray. Use a spray bottle to soak the deck. Baking soda is an option as well; just be careful not to mix with vinegar unless you want a school science fair project on your back deck. A broom or a brush with stiff bristles is your best bet for spreading and scrubbing. Mix one cup of baking soda with one gallon of warm water and scrub away. Rinse down with a garden hose when done.

If you use a deck cleaner with oxygen bleach, it may be best to follow with a compatible deck brightener solution. The acid in brighteners help balance the high pH of oxygen bleach cleaners, making the wood more stable for finishing.

Mold Prevention

Frequently sweeping your deck is one of the best ways to prevent mold growth. It disperses leaves and other debris the mold can grow under, and it prevents spores that have landed on the deck from rooting. It’s also essential to keep the wood dry. That may be difficult on the parts of the deck in perpetual shadow, but you can at least keep your gutters in good repair to prevent runoff. When you sweep the deck, use a putty knife to clear debris from between the boards; this improves drainage and helps keep the sides and undersides of the decking boards dry.

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