Dealing with a Bathroom that Smells like Mildew

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Mildew Removal

When you think about the bathroom in your home, you (hopefully) like to think about it as an escape, or a temporary oasis where you can take a bubble bath, a long shower, or groom yourself at the end of a long day. Unfortunately, that spa-like oasis feel can quickly go away when your bathroom starts to develop a mildew smell.

Mildew, which is essentially mold in its earliest stage, is a fungus — and fungus thrives in environments where moisture is abundant, like your bathroom. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) (an organization that often handles flooding emergencies that breed mold), mildew and mold can grow on wooden products, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, decaying leaves, and other organic materials. In other words, your bathroom is a prime breeding ground for fungus, which is exactly why you need to figure out where the source of the mildew is and how to eliminate it.

Not only does mildew smell unpleasant, but it can also be harmful to your health. For many people, mold and mildew will have no effect, but for others, it can trigger asthma, allergies, infections, or skin irritation.

Let’s talk about how to deal with a bathroom that smells like mildew and how to prevent it in the future once you’ve gotten rid of it.

First, Determine the Source

The only way to ensure complete mildew elimination is to pinpoint the exact place where it’s coming from. The best way to do that? Just sniff around! Sometimes you may find that the mildew smell is actually coming from your towels or your bathmat instead of your shower or bathroom tile.

Once you can determine where the mildew smell is coming from, you can start getting rid of it.

How to Get Rid of Mildew

Scrubbing Shower Tiles

There are many ways to get rid of mildew in the bathroom, and sometimes it may take a combination of techniques to fully eliminate the smell. Whether your mildew is coming from your tile and grout or your bathtub, these quick fixes should get rid of the offending odor and bacteria

Spray It with Vinegar

The simplest, cheapest, and most environmentally friendly option is to spray undiluted white vinegar on the mildew and leave it on for about 30 minutes. Scrub like there’s no tomorrow, rinse the surface off, and then spray it again with the vinegar. This time, let the vinegar air dry. The only caveat to this method is that not all surfaces are able to withstand vinegar, like natural stone. If you have any questions about your materials, do a little research or try spraying a small spot before you douse the entire area.

Use Hydrogen Peroxide or Bleach

These two powerful chemicals should definitely do the trick when you’re trying to get rid of mildew. Mix a spray bottle with one part hydrogen peroxide or bleach and one part water. Shake slightly to mix, and then spray generously over the affected area. Leave the mixture on for about 10 minutes, and then scrub it down. After you’ve sufficiently scrubbed, rinse the surface area, spray it again with your hydrogen peroxide/bleach and water mixture, and let it air dry.

Use a Store-Bought Specialty Product 

There are many products available at your local grocery or home improvement store that you can use to eliminate mildew and mold. Ask the staff for their recommendations or look for suggestions online to see which products actually deliver on their promises.

How to Prevent Mold and Mildew from Coming Back

Now that you’ve effectively gotten rid of the mildew in your bathroom, the last thing you want is for it to come back. Here are the most effective ways to keep your bathroom smelling fresh (and free of mildew) at all times:

Clean It Regularly

Dirt, soap scum, and moisture are essentially food for mold and mildew. Keep them at bay by keeping your tub, shower, and sink completely clean at all times.

Use the Exhaust Fan 

It turns out that the exhaust fan isn’t just for removing unpleasant odors. It’s also used to eliminate moisture in the air when you take a shower or bath. Use it every time you hop into the shower, and it should help combat the growth of mildew.

Don’t have an exhaust fan in your bathroom? Open a window right after you hop out of the shower. You should also remember that your landlord is required to make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated.

Dry the Tile After you Shower

The best way to get rid of water and soap scum build-up is to do a quick wipe down of your tile after you’re done showering. Use yesterday’s (dry) towel to do the job so you don’t have to dry off with a towel that’s already dirty.

Use Shower Spray

If you use it daily, shower spray will help prevent the build-up of dirt and soap scum. Buy one off the shelves or make your own with a combination of tea tree oil and water!

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