Mould and mildew on curtains and upholstery is unsightly, unhealthy, gives off a musty smell and has the potential to stain or eat into fabric. It’s a greedy little fungus that likes to feed on the dust or dirt on your fabrics, or even on the fabrics itself.
Organic fibres are gourmet fare for mildew. This includes animal (protein) fibres such as wool or silk, or plant (cellulose) fibres like cotton, linen or rayon – although man-made fibres are not immune either; all it takes is some dust to gather in the folds of your curtains or creases in your couch, and mildew quickly moves in. Areas near the kitchen are particularly at risk – cooking grease released into the air settles on your soft furnishings, attracting damp and dust, and providing mildew with a tasty snack.
When choosing fabric for your home, you can select a type that resists mildew better than others, such as polyester or viscose. If you love the natural look, there’s no need to give it up – modern blends of man-made fibres can be woven to mimic the look and feel of natural fabric.
Mildew loves something easy to stick to – a smooth, shiny fabric is harder for it to establish itself on, and a good choice if you find that mildew is a problem in your home. You could also try a water repellent fabric. These are less likely to get damp and encourage mildew growth.
Mould thrives in warm, damp, humid conditions, so make sure your home is well insulated and ventilated. Use a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. You can try heating the house to draw moisture out of your soft furnishings, then opening the windows and doors to release the damp air. Double glazed windows are invaluable to a warm, dry home.
Keep surfaces and fabrics clean and dry by vacuuming and dusting regularly, and remove any mildew before it can spread.
Like Dracula, mildew cannot survive light and heat. Spread your fabrics out in the sun and it will quickly die, but remain attached to the fabric.
Many stores offer fabric cleaners that specifically target mildew. Try spot cleaning a discreet area first to test the effect on the look of your fabric, as you could face problems with the dye diluting, or the weave warping in the water. If in doubt, always consult a professional.
Make sure you rinse the fabrics thoroughly. Some cleaners contain ingredients that mildew loves, so while it may seem that you’ve solved the problem, it may return quickly and threefold! Also ensure you have dried your fabric completely to prevent further growth.
After a particularly nasty mildew infestation, you may find your curtains are permanently stained or even coming apart. Unfortunately, in these cases you may need to admit defeat – treat yourself to some new furnishings, and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again!