Mildew is a destructive growth that feeds on a variety of organic materials such as cotton, wood, and leather. While dormant mildew exists freely in the environment, conditions of dampness and warmth can provide the ingredients for rapid growth, frequently within 72 hours. Some individuals are sensitive to mildew and experience an allergic reaction in its presence.
Since mildew feeds on organic materials, it eventually causes a loss in fiber strength and unsightly staining or discoloration. These effects are not reversible. Once deteriorated by mildew, textile fibers are permanently affected. The gray splotches that sometimes develop following water damage are colonies of the mildew fungi and represent an advanced stage of growth.
The characteristic musty odor of mildew results from its digestive action. The odor disappears when the mildew has been eliminated, and the absence of odor is evidence that improvement has occurred.
A variety of fungicidal solutions will kill mildew without damaging fabrics. They must come in direct contact with the organism to be effective, and the procedure must sometimes be repeated several times. Because many household items utilize organic materials, these furnishings are frequently affected by mildew, especially in humid environments. Oriental rugs, upholstery fabrics, and clothing in closets are frequent victims.
Thorough drying is an essential step in mildew removal. Complete and permanent elimination of mildew requires that the conditions which stimulate growth, primarily dampness, be eliminated. No matter what germicides are used, a continuing damp condition at temperatures over 18 degrees C will eventually result in renewed mildew growth.