Sunrooms offer a relaxing and sunny oasis in a busy world. In order to fully appreciate all the comforts of your sunroom, it’s important to keep a check on the health of the room. Don’t let mold or mildew spoil the atmosphere. Being able to prevent mold and mildew from growing in your sunroom is quite simple and doesn’t require harsh chemicals.
What is Mold and Mildew?
Both mold and mildew are forms of fungus. Mildew generally appears as white or grey, or, if left for a period of time, it may turn a yellowish brown. It mostly appears dry and flat and sometimes powdery. Mildew remains on the surface and the white or grey spots spread outward.
Mold presents itself as green, red, blue or even black spores. Mold actually eats into whatever it infests, and it is fuzzy to the touch. It sometimes grows upwards. It tends to be more problematic to remove than mildew and is generally considered to be more hazardous to health.
Both have an unpleasant smell. Mildew has been described as a mild, musty smell like wet socks. While mold has a much stronger, more pungent smell.
What Conditions Cause Mold and Mildew to Form?
- Too much indoor humidity
- Too much moisture from various causes
- Roof and foundation leaks
- Leaking pipes
- Indoor plants
During the damp winter months we generally turn on the heat and close our windows. This may warrant the use of a humidifier to moisten the dry air, but you should monitor how moist your sunroom becomes because too much moisture in the air can encourage mold and mildew to grow. Conversely, when the weather warms up the natural humidity in the air will also encourage mold and mildew growth. Comfortable temperatures are recommended along with moderate use of humidifiers when needed to moisten the dry air.
Where Do Mold and Mildew Flourish?
Mildew and molds grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, wallpaper, carpets, drywall, fabric, plants, foods, insulation, etc. Mold growths can start to grow on a damp surface within 24 to 48 hours. If the indoor humidity is over 60 percent and the temperature is between 77 F and 86 F this is an ideal environment for mold and mildew to grow. Molds thrive in damp, humid, and wet conditions and need water to grow and spread.
What Health Concerns Are Related to Mold and Mildew
According to FEMA prolonged exposure to mildew include respiratory issues like wheezing, nasal and sinus congestion, eye, nose or throat irritation, and headaches.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exposure to mold may include these symptoms: sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, dry, scaly skin, itchy eyes, nose and throat. Someone with asthma or an allergy to mold might experience wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
How to Prevent Mold and Mildew in Your Sunroom
1. Regularly Clean Your Sunroom
The main areas to be cleaned are: floors, fabric, lounges, armchairs, cushions, carpets, furniture and walls. Always check your fabrics for discoloration. Mold is often mistaken for dirt or stains. However, you cannot always see mold, but you can usually smell it. Clean fabric is much less likely to develop mold than soiled fabric. Most synthetic fibers are resistant to mold so fibers like acrylic, polyester and nylon are good choices.
2. Keep Your Sunroom Windows as Dry as Possible
In the winter months condensation on the inside of your windows is likely to form when warm (and especially humid) air meets cold glass. This kind of dampness on your windows can lead to mildew and mold. Condensation on your windows is a clear sign to reduce the humidity in your sunroom. Make sure your windows have a good seal on them to prevent cold air from coming into your home. It’s also a good idea to close your windows on humid, damp days and nighttime when humidity increases. You can open the windows on a dry day when the sun is at its strongest. This way the heat can dry out the room to prevent mold and mildew growth.
If your kitchen and/or bathroom is close to your sunroom, you may try to reduce humidity by covering pots and pans and by running the kitchen exhaust fan when cooking. As for bathrooms, leave fans on when showering to get rid of moisture.
It’s not necessary to close doors – in fact, it’s better to leave inside doors open to encourage good air circulation so the mold wont build up in one place.
An easy way to check your humidity is to get a hygrometer. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Ideally, your sunroom humidity should be between 30 percent and 50 percent. Anything over 60 percent could attract mold and mildew. Using a dehumidifier is another tool in the fight against mold and mildew. Just be careful to monitor it. If the humidity is too low it could cause cracks in any wood items you have.
3. Use Moisture Absorbing Products
Chemicals like silica gel and activated alumina are able to absorb moisture and odors and so can protect fabrics and furniture in your sunroom. Place these chemicals in cloth bags as plastic bags don’t breathe and will cause the chemicals to not work at all. Place them under the cushions of sofas and chairs.
How to Handle Mold & Mildew
Trying to get rid of mold and mildew as a DIY project is tricky. Most experts agree that treating it yourself should only be done if the mold is segregated to a small area, generally no larger than 3 feet by 3 feet. If the mold and mildew is affecting a larger area you should consider having the issue resolved by a professional, particularly if you have a health condition or if you have started to be affected by the mold.
But if you have the DIY bug and you only have a small area affected, here are a few tips for getting rid of a small area of mildew or mold.
A Natural Way to Kill Mold and Mildew
- Using a spray bottle, add full-strength cleaning white distilled vinegar (6% strength) and spray a thick layer onto the mold.
- Let it sit for at least an hour before wiping away mold.
- Apply again if the mold Is very strong and let sit for another hour
- Wipe clean with paper towels. Dispose of these in a garbage bag immediately.
- Because it is acidic don’t use vinegar on natural stone, waxed wood, cast iron or aluminum.
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) does not recommend using bleach to get rid of mold. It only gets rid of the superficial spores and the mold is likely to grow back again.
Make sure to wear gloves, goggles and a mask. Also, thoroughly wash your clothing afterwards. After de-molding, make sure to turn on your dehumidifier and aerate the room by opening windows.
For larger areas of mold and mildew it is very important to call in an expert. Mold can spread from one area of the house to another and is a definite health hazard.
Prevention is, of course, the best method. Hopefully taking care of your sunroom on a consistent basis will prevent mildew and mold from taking hold.
Sunshine Sunrooms has been helping homeowners design and build beautiful sunrooms since 1993. Call us at (972) 243-5390 for all your sunroom design, construction, and repair needs or contact us online to request a quote.