© Copyright 2001-2014 Landlord.com
Mildew spores are everywhere. These airborne
"seeds" want nothing better than a warm moist spot at which to spring
into life. Most commonly the mildew takes on a blackish appearance, resembling
dirt, for which it is often mistaken. Mildew will thrive on any organic
substance, including paint, soap and other residues in imperfectly cleaned
showers, especially in tile grout, which is difficult to clean.
Mildew is almost always the fault of an occupant who does not properly manage
his rental unit. The moisture, which allows mildew to settle in, most often
precipitates where cold air meets warm. This usually occurs at exterior walls,
or in bathrooms after showers. Cold air cannot hold as much moisture as warm air
can hold. For this reason, as humid warm air cools off, the moisture in it
precipitates out on to walls, windows, shower tile, and so on. This is why, on a
cold day, you can fog a window by breathing on it. The moisture in your breath
precipitates out on to the window when your breath cools.
Proper ventilation will prevent such precipitation and dry up such
precipitation as occurs. Moving air will absorb more moisture than dead air. It
follows that the landlordís responsibility is to insure that proper
ventilation is possible. Windows should be operable and properly screened so as
not to deter the tenant from opening them. Bathroom fans should be operable and
free of obstructions.
From this point, mildew control is a tenant responsibility. A tenant who
complains about mildew should be counseled on proper ventilation, using the
resources available in the rental unit. In addition, mildew can be cleaned up
using a simple mixture of cleaning products:
1/2 cup non-phosphated detergent
1 pint 5% sodium hypochlorite (laundry bleach, like Clorox)
3 pints warm water
This is an highly effective mildew cleaner and killer, although a heavy
infestation may require more than one application. Caution the tenant not to try
to soup it up by adding other things, particularly products containing ammonia,
which, when it reacts with the chlorine will give off a deadly gas. Once the
cleanup is accomplished, the surface should be thoroughly rinsed. Ready made
products are available in the cleaning products section of supermarkets, for the
tenant who does not wish to trouble to make his own mixture.
Consider repainting problem apartments in your building with a paint
containing an extra dose of fungicide. This can help keep the mildew down as
well. This will only work, however, after any existing mildew has been
thoroughly cleaned away.