At this time of year, we have high humidity and some warmth, a classic breeding ground for both mildew and mould. They are different types of fungi but have similar treatments.

Let’s look at mildew first

This is a type of mould, a microscopic fungus that travels through the air in the form of tiny spores. When these spores land in damp or humid environments, mildew begins to colonise and grow. But it doesn’t penetrate surfaces and grow into the materials it lands on like mould does. Instead, it grows on top of flat surfaces and it’s generally much easier to spot and get rid of than mould. It is typically white, grey or yellow and grows on the surface, and has a fluffy or powdery texture.

Now a look at mould

This is another type of fungus made up of microscopic spores that also float in the air. There are actually more than 100,000 known species of mould, many of which are harmless. But some, if left to grow indoors, can cause damage to your home and make you ill. Because it grows best in the damp, it is commonly found in bathrooms, basements and kitchens, and will often grow near leaks in roofs and windows or behind appliances where water has collected. Mould growth shows up as irregular patches of green, black, brown, orange, pink, purple, or other colours. It often appears fuzzy and is typically accompanied by a musty smell.

The effects of mould tend to be serious and can be long term, as reactions to it can include respiratory issues, heart problems, migraines, fatigue, depression and even joint pain. Not to mention those who have allergic reactions to it, with congestion, sneezing and eye, throat or skin irritation, and it can aggravate existing asthma.

How difficult is it to get rid of each fungus?

With mildew, all it takes is a mildew cleaner and a good scrubbing brush, and if it isn’t widespread, it is possible to prevent it without hiring anyone for the job, since there are prevention tactics to try, with mould and mildew prevention sprays available.

Mould spores will rise throughout the house. This is called the “Stack Effect’, where warm air rises in the home and exits through the upper levels, taking the spores along too.

Bleach is one option

To clean mildew and mould effectively from walls and grout, one way is to mix a solution of one part bleach to three parts water. Dampen a sponge with the solution and apply it to the mouldy areas. (Remember to wear protective gear such as glasses, gloves and even a face mask). Gently scrub and wipe until the mould is gone. Once finished, dry thoroughly. But apparently bleach can actually encourage toxic mould growth on porous surfaces because it provides even more moisture. Bleach contains about 90% water, so when the water soaks into porous surfaces like wood, it encourages mould growth. So, bleach can actually make your mould problem worse. Bleach is also very corrosive, and shouldn’t be mixed with any acids such as ammonia because it causes dangerous fumes that can kill with just a few breaths. Chlorine gas, nitrogen trichloride and/or hydrazine will be produced when these two are mixed. Other reactive by-products that can come from bleach mixtures are toxic chloramines and dioxins.

Vinegar – a bold mould killer

But apparently white vinegar is better than bleach at killing mould. Mould can grow back, as it recognises the bleach as a 'threat,' and will grow back even stronger. When bleach is used on porous surfaces, mould will move deeper into the surface to avoid the chemical. The mild acid in vinegar kills about 82% of known moulds and can help prevent future outbreaks, but it might make your home temporarily smell like a chip-shop! Vinegar contains about 20% acetic acid, so don’t add water, which will dilute it and make it less effective. Spray the vinegar onto the mouldy surface and leave for an hour. Finally, wipe the area clean with water and allow the surface to dry. And give the house a good airing afterwards!