Author Topic: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?  (Read 3547 times)

Fresh Bread

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Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« on: December 29, 2016, 12:28:11 AM »
Hi all,

Hubby and I live in a humid area and have an ongoing battle with mildew on just about anything stored in a cupboard or wardrobe, or even clothes left hanging behind a door. My house is fairly old but not damp and this has been a problem everywhere we've lived in Sydney since we're not big fans of using air conditioning and we always have a spare room which isn't used frequently. It's a pain to clean mildew off every so often, so I'm doing my best to reduce our belongings as much as poss. Wrapping things in cloth and vacuum bags helps but you can't do that for everything. I also use Damp Rid in containers to draw the moisture out of the air. I think the Damp Rid is reasonably effective but the crystals need replacing regularly, at some cost financially and presumably environmentally as I pour the liquid from the containers down the toilet.

Does anyone use a natural alternative? My research has turned up the following things, but I'm not sure of effectiveness:

Rice (possibly with borax added to deter pests)
Cat litter
Bicarb soda
Salt
Charcoal  - I have some charcoal sachets but I'm not sure how effective they are...

We do have a dehumidifier, bought when we lived in a damp house, which we could run for an hour facing each open cupboard every so often. Anyone do this?

Mr. Green

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2016, 06:24:36 AM »
It might be worth your time to get a thermometer that also displays humidity. All of the items you have listed are acting as dehumidifying agents, and you already have a dehumidifier but it sounds like you aren't using it effectively. If your humidity is so high that you get mildew on surfaces than it's quite possible that you can develop mold in areas that are dark and don't see much air flow. As much as you don't like running the air conditioner, an a/c unit dehumidifies while it runs. You could also opt to run the dehumidifier all the time. Most of them have a control where they will run to a certain humidity level and then cut off. I'd be surprised if a localized solution like some rice in a clothes drawer would be effective if the humidity in your entire house is that high.

former player

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2016, 06:53:47 AM »
Using hanging racks or open wire shelving around which air can circulate, would help, as would leaving doors open on cupboards and wardrobes (or taking them off entirely). 

Can you open windows and get a breeze going through the house?  Mildew and mold prefer still air so anything you can do to get air moving would help.

vhalros

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2016, 07:46:26 AM »
You could try using silica gel. I put some in little spice bags in my kitchen cabinets to keep the humidity low, although it sounds like you live in a much more humid environment, so I don't know how effective it would be. Eventually it absorbs all the moisture it can, but you an revive it by putting it in the oven at 250 F for about an hour (probably put on a fan at this point, since the oven is just releasing all the moisture into the air again).

Cranberries

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2016, 04:25:38 PM »
It looks like you have already struck on some of this, but here is what I have found that helped in a cool temperate humid zone:

~Only owning clothing that could be dried, and drying it all frequently.
~Running a quiet dehumidifier continuously. - This was always pretty key.
~Removing closet doors.
~Keeping furniture six inches or more away from the walls.
~Flipping mattresses weekly.
~Owning less stuff.
~Using wood heat with one of those pizoelectric fans set on top.
~Damp rid
~Only living in places that did not have carpets. It is terrifying how much mold a carpet can hide in a wet climate while still looking fine on the surface.
~Using thinner towels: the Turkish style ones are awesome and there are also conventional western towels that are designed to dry faster.
~Living in houses built in the last ten years or before the 1940's. I swear there is something about plywood exterior sheathing that kills houses in humid climates, especially if they are rentals.
~Moving to a different climate.

I have no experience with any of the damp rid alternatives you mention, but I did have a co-worker at a sushi restaurant I worked at who saved all of the desiccant packages from the nori to keep his car dry.

CU Tiger

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2016, 09:31:35 PM »
Plug in that dehumidifier and run it! It is cheap compared to a real mold and mildew problem. Also, run the a/c a little each day to cool and dehumidify.

It is easier to prevent mold and mildew than to clean it off things. Healthier too, molds in general are bad for your skin and lungs, and the chemicals to kill them and clean them are strong, and in the case of things like TSP, caustic.

ahoy

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2016, 12:39:22 AM »
I'm no expert, but I would think that inside your wall cavity it is not insulated, so with humidity like that it's a disaster.   I would doubt old houses in Australia are insulated.   

mustachepungoeshere

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2016, 01:54:06 AM »
Make sure you vacuum regularly and avoid a build-up of dust on shoes, clothes, etc, as mould can "feed" on dust.

Clove oil has been touted as a natural mould inhibitor, and you can use a diluted mix to wipe down the inside of your wardrobes and shelves, as well as a weaker dilution on certain wardrobe items.

I've used it safely on leather boots and bags, but obviously be careful and do a test patch first. (My parents lived in Darwin for four years, and clove oil is commonly used up there to combat mould from the killer humidity.)

A little clove oil goes a long way so don't be put off by the price. Bonus: your house will smell like apple pie for a few hours.

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2016, 03:28:47 AM »
It might be worth your time to get a thermometer that also displays humidity. All of the items you have listed are acting as dehumidifying agents, and you already have a dehumidifier but it sounds like you aren't using it effectively. If your humidity is so high that you get mildew on surfaces than it's quite possible that you can develop mold in areas that are dark and don't see much air flow. As much as you don't like running the air conditioner, an a/c unit dehumidifies while it runs. You could also opt to run the dehumidifier all the time. Most of them have a control where they will run to a certain humidity level and then cut off. I'd be surprised if a localized solution like some rice in a clothes drawer would be effective if the humidity in your entire house is that high.

Thanks Mr Green, I think we'll make a schedule for our dehumidifier. It's quite a basic one - on or off but it works. The average humidity in Sydney is around 70%, so yes, it's a losing battle.

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2016, 03:33:27 AM »
Using hanging racks or open wire shelving around which air can circulate, would help, as would leaving doors open on cupboards and wardrobes (or taking them off entirely). 

Can you open windows and get a breeze going through the house?  Mildew and mold prefer still air so anything you can do to get air moving would help.

Thanks for the wire shelving tip. We do try to leave the wardrobes open but they have sliding doors so there's always a part closed off. Maybe in the future we could look at different doors, the bedrooms aren't big so there's space issues with 'normal' doors but maybe they could be narrow ones, 30cm or something.

The humidity in general is quite high so although the airflow helps, once we run the aircon or dehumdifier and then open up doors and windows it all gets damp again, if that makes sense!

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #10 on: December 30, 2016, 03:34:54 AM »
You could try using silica gel. I put some in little spice bags in my kitchen cabinets to keep the humidity low, although it sounds like you live in a much more humid environment, so I don't know how effective it would be. Eventually it absorbs all the moisture it can, but you an revive it by putting it in the oven at 250 F for about an hour (probably put on a fan at this point, since the oven is just releasing all the moisture into the air again).

Thanks for the tip. We don't have any mould issues in the kitchen, probably due to the air cycling a bit more? But it might work in the bedrooms.

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #11 on: December 30, 2016, 03:39:25 AM »
It looks like you have already struck on some of this, but here is what I have found that helped in a cool temperate humid zone:

~Only owning clothing that could be dried, and drying it all frequently.
~Running a quiet dehumidifier continuously. - This was always pretty key.
~Removing closet doors.
~Keeping furniture six inches or more away from the walls.
~Flipping mattresses weekly.
~Owning less stuff.
~Using wood heat with one of those pizoelectric fans set on top.
~Damp rid
~Only living in places that did not have carpets. It is terrifying how much mold a carpet can hide in a wet climate while still looking fine on the surface.
~Using thinner towels: the Turkish style ones are awesome and there are also conventional western towels that are designed to dry faster.
~Living in houses built in the last ten years or before the 1940's. I swear there is something about plywood exterior sheathing that kills houses in humid climates, especially if they are rentals.
~Moving to a different climate.

I have no experience with any of the damp rid alternatives you mention, but I did have a co-worker at a sushi restaurant I worked at who saved all of the desiccant packages from the nori to keep his car dry.

Cheers, especially for the carpet heads up. I was thinking of getting carpet for the bedrooms for comfort but you're right, it would be gross! Come to think of it, old houses with carpet in Sydney always smell musty... We already do the thin towels thing (bamboo ones) and that helps as thick ones don't dry, and we'll put them outside in the sun in winter. We aim not to have furniture against outside walls as that is the worst for mildew, but unfortunately we have two bedrooms that have 3 x external walls as they sort of jut out from the main section. Moving it away a bit will certainly help as we'll be able to get more easily behind to clean. 

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #12 on: December 30, 2016, 03:40:49 AM »
Plug in that dehumidifier and run it! It is cheap compared to a real mold and mildew problem. Also, run the a/c a little each day to cool and dehumidify.

It is easier to prevent mold and mildew than to clean it off things. Healthier too, molds in general are bad for your skin and lungs, and the chemicals to kill them and clean them are strong, and in the case of things like TSP, caustic.

Yep good point. We are going to make a plan to move the dehumidifier around weekly and do a room. We just have the one aircon unit in the living/dining/kitchen space so it can't tackle the bedrooms but it can help with the books, so we'll run it more.

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #13 on: December 30, 2016, 03:43:10 AM »
I'm no expert, but I would think that inside your wall cavity it is not insulated, so with humidity like that it's a disaster.   I would doubt old houses in Australia are insulated.

No, you're right, we have double brick external walls and they aren't insulated. The walls have vent bricks at intervals. I think if you insulate the wall cavity so they don't ventilate properly it can make the humidity worse though. We've got roof and underfloor insulation though :)

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2016, 03:49:23 AM »
Make sure you vacuum regularly and avoid a build-up of dust on shoes, clothes, etc, as mould can "feed" on dust.

Clove oil has been touted as a natural mould inhibitor, and you can use a diluted mix to wipe down the inside of your wardrobes and shelves, as well as a weaker dilution on certain wardrobe items.

I've used it safely on leather boots and bags, but obviously be careful and do a test patch first. (My parents lived in Darwin for four years, and clove oil is commonly used up there to combat mould from the killer humidity.)

A little clove oil goes a long way so don't be put off by the price. Bonus: your house will smell like apple pie for a few hours.

This sounds familiar, I had just forgotten all about it! Will get some clove oil, it will be a big help for the furniture. I threw out three pairs of leather boots a few months ago as I was sick of cleaning them all the time... I think I'll just have to have an annual spring clean of fabric shoes/bags/clothing. I guess if I'm not wearing something regularly enough I should get rid anyway. Realised yesterday I have 9 pairs of jeans (I do wear them for work though!) My wedding and funeral gear is in space/ vacuum bags which does the trick. Do you ever use clove oil on fabric-y luggage, ski boot bags, that sort of thing? How about windows and venetian blinds??!

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2016, 03:52:49 AM »
There are 3 things you must do:
1) ventilation 2) ventilation 3) ventilation
Mildew is caused by condensation, the best thing against that is airflow of dry air.

- All your closets need a small opening top and bottom.
- All the shelves in those closets need to be modified to allow convection at the back (I'll post a drawing later).
- you need airflow in each room where there is an issue, it's a small job (silent low CFM air extractor and air vent) made complicated because in Oz you need a trained professional to change a light bulb.

In the short term, open the windows and door in each room a least 15min a day.

Fresh Bread

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #16 on: December 30, 2016, 04:36:47 AM »
There are 3 things you must do:
1) ventilation 2) ventilation 3) ventilation
Mildew is caused by condensation, the best thing against that is airflow of dry air.

- All your closets need a small opening top and bottom.
- All the shelves in those closets need to be modified to allow convection at the back (I'll post a drawing later).
- you need airflow in each room where there is an issue, it's a small job (silent low CFM air extractor and air vent) made complicated because in Oz you need a trained professional to change a light bulb.

In the short term, open the windows and door in each room a least 15min a day.

Thanks Gilbert.

What does CFM stand for?

We just had a ceiling fan installed and that's helping with general air movement and we do leave the wardrobes open a bit each side (sliding doors). We forget in the spare bedroom though. There's a brick air vent in the main bed wardrobe already, so maybe this is a good location for an extractor? The wardrobes don't go all the way up to the ceiling, otherwise we could vent to the roof space. The air in Sydney is generally humid so the outside air doesn't help us all that much but we do create a through flow, and the back door is left open 6 months of the year.

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Re: Cheaper and greener ways to stop mildew in wardrobes?
« Reply #17 on: December 30, 2016, 05:54:57 AM »
Cubic Feet per Minute.

The brick vent might be a good place, but extraction is no enough, air has to move, hence a small  constant space at the back (2cm ish) etc.