Mildew is a type of mold that grows on any surface and leaves unsightly black spots that are very difficult to remove.
These black stains are even more stubborn on fabrics that often need to be tossed in the trash as the mold marks are permanent.
You can learn about how to remove molds and mildews out of clothes here.
It is however not so easy to throw you carpets away when they have been affected by mildew and they can be very expensive to replace.
Follow these to remove mildew cleaning techniques for carpets and other fabrics.
1. Chlorine Bleach
Bleach effectively kills mold and reduces the visibility of mildew on fabrics. It works by bleaching or fading the remaining mildew rather than removing it. However, it will also bleach the carpet fabric and should only be used on white carpets.
Even for white carpets, it is important to dilute the bleach as instructed and rinse thoroughly about 15 minutes after application. Leaving the bleach on the carpet for a longer period may result in yellowing as well as destroy the carpet fibers causing them to break and become damaged. Although bleach is very effective at eliminating mildew, it is not the recommended route for carpets.
2. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is also a bleaching agent and is most commonly used in hair color to lighten the hair. Unlike bleach, peroxide does not fade color when used correctly and cannot destroy the fibers of the fabric and is therefore safe for use on carpets.
Like bleach, it effectively destroys mildew and fades the black stains that are left behind. The longer you leave the peroxide, the more effective it will be. However, it is recommended to dilute the chemical in a ratio of 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 5 parts water as stronger concentrations may fade color.
It is also far more effective when used with hot water rather than cold. Read the cleaning instructions for your carpets carefully before applying the solution with hot water as this can cause the fabric to warp or colors to run.
3. Dishwashing Detergent
Dishwashing detergent can remove mildew from carpets but is not as effective or fast acting as either bleach or hydrogen peroxide. You may need to apply a solution of detergent and warm water repeatedly in order to remove the mold. It is recommended for use on small patches of mold rather than for large areas that have been affected by mildew.
4. Benzalkonium Chloride
This is the active ingredient in many different household detergents (like Lysol) and is considered safe for use on most fabrics and carpets although it can fade colors due to prolonged exposure or incorrect dilution. It is however very effective at removing mildew and other types of mold permanently. It also uses the same fading process as the above mentioned chemicals.
5. Lemon Juice And Bicarbonate Of Soda
All of the above mentioned cleaning solutions are chemical and therefore carry health risk that can be mild to severe or even fatal in some cases. It is very important to read the user instructions carefully and don the necessary safety gear, especially in cases of prolonged exposure as would be necessary for removing mildew from carpets.
A solution of lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and water can be just as effective as chemical detergents at eliminating mildew and the associated stains. The acidic nature of lemon juice effectively kills the mildew while fading the unsightly black stains. The bicarbonate of soda acts to lift and draw out the mildew, successfully removing it from the carpet.
Although lemon juice can also fade colors, it is unlikely to do so unless it is used in it’s pure form. An added benefit of using this method to clean your carpets is that is leaves a wonderful, refreshing fragrance rather than a chemical odor when the process is complete. There are no health or safety risks associated with using these two household products although it is recommended to use rubber gloves to prevent the acid from damaging the skin.
For all the above detergents and cleaners, it is recommended to use the following cleaning procedure:
Remove area rugs to be cleaned outdoors. For carpets that cannot be moved, remove all furniture and other items from the area before beginning the cleaning process. The process will cause mildew spores to be released which will settle on other surfaces and can result in growth of the fungus on any items that are not removed from direct exposure. It is recommended to wear a mask to avoid breathing in the spores as well as chemicals released by detergents.
Brush or sweep the carpet while it is dry to loosen the mold. If the fabric is damp or wet, the mold will stick to the fibers and be far more difficult to remove.
Once the carpet has been brushed, vacuum the carpet to suck away any loose debris, mold and mildew spores. Remember that the spores are microscopic and may not be visible to the naked eye so vacuum whether you can see any detritus or not. Make sure that the vacuum has an effective filtration system and to clean it after vacuuming mildew spores to prevent infecting other areas when the vacuum cleaner is used again.
Mix up a solution of your chosen chemical detergent or natural alternative. Never mix two chemicals together or add a detergent to your lemon juice and bicarb solution as this could cause a chemical reaction.
Submerge a cloth or sponge into the cleaning solution and dab onto the affected mildew area, working from the outside of the stain to the center. Do NOT rub as this can result in the stain spreading or entering deeper into the fibers. You may have to repeat the cleaning process multiple times to effectively eliminate the mildew stains.
The carpet will be very wet or soaked after using this cleaning method but it is recommended to allow it to air dry naturally rather than using fans or other fast drying techniques. Once the carpet is entirely dry, repeat the vacuuming process to remove any remaining mold as well as chemical residue.
Open all windows and doors to allow fresh air and natural light to dry the carpets for you. Only move all furniture and other items back in when the entire carpet is entirely dry. Keep in mind that mold and mildew simply love damp conditions and it is more than likely that mold growth will recur in areas that have not been allowed to dry.
Once the carpet has dried, you may notice that the mildew was not completely or effectively eliminated in all areas. Simply repeat the entire process, from start to finish, to fade the stains further until they are entirely eliminated. It is recommended to address mildew on carpets as soon as it is noticeable for the best results.
Alternatively, call in the professionals. Expert carpet cleaners are skilled and experienced at removing mildew from carpets while minimizing the risk of damage to the materials and providing the best results. Different experts will use different cleaning techniques and chemicals so do some research to find which will best suit your needs.
If the carpets are not clean after repeated cleaning or a professional deep clean, there may be no other option than to get rid of it. To dispose of the affected carpet safely, it is recommended to first ensure that the mold is dead before removing it. It is also not recommended to gift the carpet to someone else but rather dispose of it at a rubbish dump or through a trash collection system.
Due to the health hazards associated with chemical detergents and the mold spores, it is recommended to not have pets or people present in the cleaning area or even the home until the process has been completed and the carpet is dry. This is an especially important safety precaution for small children or infants, the elderly, pregnant women and people with respiratory illnesses. This will also allow the carpet to dry properly before being walked on.
The Spot Test
Before using any chemical detergent or other type of cleaning product on your carpets, it is recommended to perform a spot test. Select an area of carpet that is normally hidden from view like a corner or a portion that is normally under a piece of furniture. Apply a tiny amount of your chosen solution to the area and allow it to dry.
Check up on your test spot every now and again. If you notice any fading, running colors or that the carpet is beginning to warp, rinse with cold, clean water immediately. Use a dry cloth to remove the excess water and use fast drying techniques to minimize any risk of damage to the carpet. A professional carpet cleaning service should also perform a spot test before the process begins to minimize the risk of damage.
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