Regardless of whether it is something you already own or a piece of antique furniture you just bought, both have one thing in common; old furniture seems to be the breeding ground for mildew and that weird, musty smell. If you’re struggling to get rid of both, you’re at the right place. We understand the struggle and want our readers to enjoy their incredible antique pieces, so we decided to share some interesting and useful tips and tricks on how to get rid of mildew and the musty, moldy furniture smell we all know and probably don’t like much. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Mildew and Furniture

What Causes Mildew on Furniture and How To Prevent It?

How To Get Mildew Out Of Your Antique Furniture - What Causes Mildew on Furniture and How To Prevent It

Before we get into those valuable tips and tricks, we first need to understand what is it that we’re dealing with; why does old furniture have mildew, mold, and all that nasty stuff?

Mildew appears on old furniture as a result of a number of different, co-existing factors. Let’s look at this example; you’ve decided to start using that old chest that’s been sitting in your attic or garage for many years (or maybe you’ve decided to take your grandmother’s old furniture and repurpose it). 

Either way, when furniture spends a long time sitting indoors, in rooms and spaces where humidity is elevated (i.e. garage, attic, especially basement), mold will start growing since it is provided with perfect conditions; little light, excess humidity. This can especially happen if you live in an old house or apartment.

Now, in some extreme cases, your furniture doesn’t even need to be stored somewhere to be exposed to elevated humidity and mold. This can happen in your home in general, due to generally elevated humidity. Old houses and apartments are prone to extreme humidity, especially if there is no proper insulation.

So, what you can do to, from now on at least, prevent mildew from forming on your furniture is to tackle the humidity issue. One of our writers is actually dealing with this at this moment, and here are her main tips on how to lower humidity in your living space and prevent mildew from forming on furniture;

  • Buy a humidity meter – if you don’t have one already, you should get it right away. The humidity meter measures and displays the accurate indoor conditions regarding the humidity of the air. It can also show the temperature of the air, which often correlates with the very humidity levels. Ideal humidity levels for your home are between 30% and 50%; anything over 70% on the meter means you’re exposed to elevated to extreme humidity in your living space, which means mold, mildew, and all that nasty stuff is bound to grow and spread.
  • Buy a dehumidifier – the best way to keep humidity and mold at bay is to purchase a good-quality dehumidifier, especially if the humidity meter shows humidity levels over 70%. A dehumidifier will not only reduce the humidity in your home, but it will also prevent the moisture in the air to promote the growth and breeding of mildew, mold, as well as dust mites. It will prevent respiratory issues (such as infections), and help you battle allergies. Contrary to popular belief, modern dehumidifiers are actually cost-effective and energy efficient, which is just perfect.
  • Heat up – sometimes it is necessary to increase the temperature in your home to battle mildew and mold. Turning on the AC, and keeping it running for some time will reduce the moisture in the air and help you control the humidity, as well as the spread of mildew.
  • Keep the windows open – sometimes, a thing as simple as allowing good airflow in your home can help you battle mildew. Keeping the windows open on a daily basis will ensure humidity control and, during the warmer months, allow the temperature in your home to elevate naturally. Natural airflow will also reduce the humidity levels to that ideal 30 % to 50%.

How To Get Rid Off Mildew That Is On Your Antique Furniture?

How To Get Mildew Out Of Your Antique Furniture

Now that we know all about mold, mildew, and how to keep the humidity levels at an ideal percentage, it is time to deal with the nasty stuff; mildew on your antique furniture. Here are some of our best, guaranteed-to-work tips and tricks on how to clean your furniture and prevent it from growing mildew again;

Neutralize the Mildew and the Musty Smell

Let’s first deal with the musty smell and mildew that lives rent-free in antique furniture. For this, you will need bleach! We recommend you create a solution of bleach and warm water by adding a 1 to 10 ratio (for example, 1 cup of bleach, 10 cups of warm water). 

Then, you will apply the solution to the furniture, or rather the areas where the mildew has formed. Despite what your instincts tell you, it is essential to keep the area wet with bleach so that it can kill all the germs, bacteria, and mildew that have formed. Let the bleach solution sit on the furniture for at least 30 minutes, and don’t worry about it causing discoloration. The ratio of the bleach in the solution is enough to kill the mildew, but not enough to discolor the furniture.

The reason why you should keep the furniture soaked for half an hour is because that is the amount of time necessary for the bleach to reach deep into the wood, as well as reach all of the mildew spores. It also takes around 30 minutes of bacteria exposure to bleach to actually kill them. 

Now, some people claim that bleach can’t actually kill mildew and mold bacteria. And, in some cases that is correct. When it comes to wooden furniture, it is extremely difficult to have the bleach reach really deep into the wood, while the water part of the solution has no issues moving into the furniture; and we don’t want that. So, the best way for this to work is to combine it with our following recommendations!

Note: When dealing with bleach, it is essential to wear protective gear! We recommend you wear rubber gloves, a face mask (that covers both nose and mouth), as well as goggles. This will prevent you from inhaling or ingesting not only the bleach solution but also the mildew, as both can be dangerous and cause respiratory issues!

Clean The Furniture

How To Get Mildew Out Of Your Antique Furniture - Clean The Furniture

So, the 30 minutes have passed; what now? Well, now it’s time to clean off the mold. For this, we recommend you use soap and a spray bottle. Into the bottle, you will add a teaspoon of soap, and simply fill the bottle up with water. Shake it up, and spray the affected furniture area. If you have one, use a bristle brush (and make it a soft one), to gently scrub off the remaining, visible mildew/mold. If there’s excess liquid, simply clean it up with a sponge. Once you’re finished and all the mildew is scrubbed off, make sure to dry the area using a towel (which you will later throw away and not use anymore).

But, what if the soap doesn’t do the job? Don’t worry, we have suitable alternatives as well.

In case the soap doesn’t work, we recommend you use vinegar. Combine, in the same spray bottle, equal parts of warm water and vinegar. Repeat the process as instructed before, but this time, instead of cleaning right away, you will have to let the solution sit for at least one hour

And, even if that doesn’t work, we recommend you use borax. Simply combine a tablespoon of borax with one cup of water. Apply the solution to the affected area, and using a brush, scrub the mold away. In this case, you actually want as much solution to stay on the furniture as possible, so don’t wipe away any excess liquid. 

Vacuum the Furniture

How To Get Mildew Out Of Your Antique Furniture - Vacuum the Furniture

Just to ensure no mildew or mold is left behind, you should definitely vacuum the affected furniture. If you have a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA filter, use it! We don’t recommend using a non-filter, regular vacuum cleaner for this, since the mildew will just end up in your vacuum cleaner and potentially spread in it! If you don’t have a filter vacuum cleaner, then skip this step.

Now, should you have the HEPA vacuum cleaner, make sure to go over all the affected areas, as well as the area surrounding the mildew? Once you’re done, do not clean the vacuum indoors. Go outside, and get rid of the contents in a tightly sealed bag. This way you’ll prevent from mildew spreading around, as well as prevent inhaling or ingesting the mildew/mold.

Other Recommendations

Sometimes, the cleaning solutions and the vacuuming is still not enough to get rid of the mold and mildew in antique furniture. In such cases, we recommend either getting rid of the furniture overall or if you’re really willing to take extra steps, utilize the final option; sanding the wooden furniture

We aren’t really here picturing our readers to be experts when it comes to wood sanding. So, for this, you can resort to professionals. But, if you know your way around sanding, then good for you. In that case, make sure to use 100-grit sandpaper to treat the affected furniture or affected area. Try not to sand away too much of the wood, but still make sure to treat the mildew traces as effectively as possible; basically, you have to do a lot with as little sanding as possible.

Once you’re done, and satisfied with the results, make sure to vacuum away all of the dust and potential mold/mildew residue on the furniture, and the surrounding area. Dispose of the contents outdoors, as we previously recommended.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, our tips and tricks will help you can rid of that nasty mildew and enjoy your antique furniture piece. However, if the mold seems to still be stuck in or on the furniture, and nothing else seems to be working as well, it is time to get rid of the piece and buy yourself a new one. This isn’t the most budget-friendly option we have for you, but it is the safest one. You don’t want to have a moldy piece of furniture in your home, especially if you’re already dealing with elevated humidity. You’ll just risk yourself and your loved ones developing respiratory infections, and those are far from fun. We wish you all the luck, and remember; safety gear is a must when dealing with mildew and mold!

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