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« Gluten-free Fried Green Tomatoes and Squash Blossoms | Main | Sweet cherry strawberry giveaway »

Non-toxic mildew solution that actually works

Over the last few years I’ve waged an ongoing assault with mildew. I’m always on the losing side of this battle.

My bathroom is a cave. No ventilation, no windows. These dubious microbes await every opportunity to bloom and spot up my agave fiber washcloth and polyester shower curtain liner. With these two different surfaces in need of fungicide (mildew is a fungus), the battle has felt unending and rather hopeless. You may remember how I’ve written about this very subject before, in which I’d made progress, but hadn’t yet found the solution for completely removing those stubborn tiny spots of deeply rooted mildew.

The shower curtain and I have a special hatred for each other. I’ve used everything under the sun including the sun herself, the infamous chlorine bleach, Oxyclean, Borax, vinegar, towels for agitation, baking soda…You name it, I’ve tried it with a 100% failure rate.Removing mildew with lemon juice, salt and sun: pretty but not really effective.A few days ago, it was the washcloth that actually spurred me into action. It’s no fun to get into the shower everyday and feel like a loser to the mildew battle. I pitched my last washcloth, but I decided not to let a faceless fungi win again. Plus, they’re $5 apiece, which seems like nothing, but little things add up fast.

Are you sufficiently in suspense about my mildew breakthrough?

Non-toxic, completely effective shower curtain mildew removing solution:

  • Go to the drug or grocery store and buy as many of the large bottles of hydrogen peroxide as you can carry. I use it on the rinse cycle of our white laundry loads, so it’s something we go through pretty fast around here.
  • A small bottle will be enough for a washcloth. One and a half large bottles will cover the entire bottom section of your shower curtain.
  • Submerge the problem area of the cloth completely in undiluted hydrogen peroxide in a glass bowl for at least 12 hours, 24 hours if you can. Really just as long as it takes for the mildew to disappear.
  • Mildew will form a large, iodine-looking smear after soaking for a while. Keep the cloth in there and those smears will eventually disappear.

It’s an effing miracle:No more mildew! Thanks hydrogen peroxide!I should’ve taken a ‘before’ shot, but that’s just gross. There were round flecks of mildew dotting the whole lower portion of the curtain, plus the weighted bottom hem was just lined with mildew on the inside. Not one single speck of mildew left, my shower curtain is like brand new again!

Hydrogen peroxide is known to lighten things so I wouldn’t soak anything darker than a natural, cream colored fabric in it.

Let me cover a few details/questions that might arise:

1. I have and love my not-so-much-eco polyester shower liner, plain white (and i also have a tan one for back up, i.e. so we can still shower while I’m waging offensives against fungus.) I know it’s made out of petroleum by-products. But it’s not vinyl which offgasses phlalates into your nose and lungs every time you shower.

2. I’d buy another hemp shower curtain (now that I know how to kill the mildew that inevitably grows), but only when we have two bathrooms since these polyester curtains will never destruct. I think hydrogen peroxide will be fine on hemp and not discolor it. If you’re really concerned with discoloration, test a tiny corner portion of it (or try to find a piece of similar fabric to test it first.)

3. I only submerged the bottom of my shower curtain and the fringes of my washcloth in the peroxide. Peroxide didn’t make the bottom/submerged portions whiter than the rest of the cloth. So I suppose here is where it differs from traditional chlorine bleach.

4. If you have a not-near-white curtain or washcloth, I’d try soaking overnight in Seventh Generation’s color-safe oxygen bleach. It’s basically just hydrogen peroxide in a greater dilution of deionized water (to make it safe for colored clothing). I can’t promise anything, but it seems like it would work, maybe just require a longer soak? Please let me know if you try this!

5. I plan to try peroxide on my tan shower curtain when and if mildew appears again. Will post an update on discoloration and/or success at some point.

Prevention Measures

Let’s face it. Most everyone is in ‘recover from mildew’ stage, not a ‘prevent mildew’ stage. If you bought a shower curtain yesterday or just successfully hydrogen peroxide’d away your mildew problem then, yes, you’re in the prevention stage.

  • Lug a fan into the bathroom (and keep it there). I just replaced our five-inch clip fan with a deluxe 13-inch fan. I’m serious about ventilation.
  • Wring out your curtain/liner after you turn off the shower water.
  • Place your all-cloth bathmat (rubber-bottomed mats are a mildew magnet in poorly-ventilated bathrooms) over the edge of the tub. Gather your curtain/liner loosely behind the area where the cloth bathmat is blocking the tub. Don’t scrunch it up tightly, but spread it out over the three or so feet of your bathmat. This allows air into the shower stall from the sides and keeps the tub from incubating areas of mildew where it touches your liner/curtain.
  • Spread your curtain out after it’s dry in there.
  • Take it down and wash it weekly or every two weeks (this is where having two curtains comes in handy)

Reader Comments (6)

Sweet! I really hope I have not been the only one waiting with baited breathe to see what you had to share. Great idea! I'm definitely going to raid my pharmacy of peroxide!

June 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHolly

Whew! Peroxide! I'm on it. I wonder if it will tackle mildew on the tile too? A little harder to soak.

June 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermeg

Yeah, Meg. the soak is key. I can't really think of any other non-toxic whiteners that can be made into a paste.

You might try a borax paste--borax with enough water to thicken it to paste--leave it on for a long time and then add elbow grease (muscle power) and salt (for some extra scrubbing action)?

June 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterKate

Oh god, I really need to do this. Also, we need to wash our shower curtain more regularly. But I'll do this first in hopes of saving it!

June 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKat

Okay so I really want to have cleaning product chat with you sometime soon as soon as this heat spell breaks. Mornings are good for me!

July 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Thank you! I'm going to try it today!! Going crazy here!

October 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjen

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