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Tag Archives: cleaning

Let’s talk about mildew.  In particular, let’s talk about mildew as related to household items and cleaning.

Mildew is a superficial fungal growth on organic matter and also the resulting smell from said growth.  In a house, mildew can refer to many types of mold growth, but usually the mold has a flat growth habit.  These molds thrive in damp conditions or in areas with poor moisture control, e.g. a poorly ventilated bathroom.

Exposure to mold and mildew can cause various symptoms, such as nasal and sinus irritation, eye irritation, respiratory problems, skin irritation, and headaches.  It can be a trigger for asthma attacks in those suffering from asthma.

There are only three things are needed for a mold colony to establish itself: a food source, moisture, and time.

Time: mold can start growing within 24 hours from when growing conditions are met.

Moisture: mold needs moisture to help the decaying process caused by the mold.

Food source: This can be any organic matter.  Cellulose is common for indoor molds.  Besides the decorative indoor plants and fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator, there are plenty of cellulose-based products in a home.  Lots of building materials are plant-based and thus contain cellulose, e.g. wood, paper, drywall, carpet, carpet padding.  Lots of textiles are made of plant-based materials and thus contain cellulose: e.g. curtains, couch upholstery.

But mold does not feed only on cellulose; a colony can from where there is any organic matter, e.g. dead skin cells, soap, cotton.  And here’s the whole reason for this post on mildew.  Think about the last three items I listed, dead skin cells, soap, and cotton.  Now think about how you often wonder why your bath towels start stinking it up after you use them a couple of times.  Think of all the dead skin cells you’re leaving behind on the towels along with the water.  Think about just how much laundry detergent you put in your washing machine to try and get rid of the smell.  Think about how disappointed and confused you were when your towels almost immediately started smelling like mildew again.

STOP USING SO MUCH LAUNDRY DETERGENT.  Yes, you’re washing away the dead skin cells on the towels, but you’re replacing it with a bunch of soap, which is also organic matter, which is a food source for mold.  Your washing machine has a set time and amount of water it will use to rinse the load.  If you use a metric crap ton of detergent on your towels, how do you expect to rinse all of that away with limited water and time?  When you accidentally use too much soap washing your hands, don’t you have to rinse longer?  SAME.  PRINCIPLE.

Follow the recommended guidelines for your preferred brand of laundry detergent and you won’t have nearly the same issues with mildewy towels.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by my pet peeve of people using too much laundry detergent.

Let’s talk about ammonia.

Perhaps you’re completely taken aback by my suggestion.  Perhaps you are wondering why I would want to talk about ammonia.  Perhaps you’re thinking about where you last saw that bottle of Windex and whether or not you should buy a new bottle because people are forever stealing your Windex.

Those are all excellent thoughts.  Well, maybe not the one about being taken aback.  That’s not really a thought.  But anyway, I would like to talk about ammonia because recently, I had this wonderful task of cleaning the kitchen.  In particular, the stove, oven, and range hood.

You might not think that this is a big deal.  Well, it is.  It is because my family is Asian.  Many Asians stir fry a lot.  Stir frying at home, while it’s nowhere near as greasy and gross as what you find in a typical Asian restaurant, still involves oil and is still frying.  That means you get a lot of grease and oil buildup on the stove and surrounding surfaces if you’re not careful.  And…that’s what happened with the stove and range hood that I was cleaning.

Now you’d think you can just use a degreaser, let it sit for a minute, and then wipe off this huge layer of grease with a sponge leaving this wonderfully clean surface in its wake, right?  I’m sure you’ve seen a commercial for an oven cleaner that magically works like that, right?

Well, none of the oven cleaners/degreasers that I’ve ever used works like that.  Nothing happens after a minute.  If you read the instructions, they normally ask you to leave it on the mess for at least 15 min.  But not just that, it has to be wet.  After a few minutes, the cleaner starts to dry.  So that means you have to baby sit the mess and keep spraying the moment it starts drying off so it can soak.

If you manage to do this, the oven cleaner/degreaser still doesn’t necessarily work like how you see in the commercials.  I don’t think you’ll ever be able to take a sponge and just wipe a whole section clean of grease.  I think the commercials are lying.  Or at least, greatly exaggerating.  All the oven cleaners/degreasers I’ve ever used only loosened the grease at best and make it slightly more feasible for me to scrub off the grease using a lot of scrubbing power.  Scrubbing power is kind of like drill power, but not really.

BUT!  I have found something that makes it seem like you’re in a kitchen cleaning commercial!  And that something is ammonia.  You can get a bottle of 10% ammonia from the hardware store for a few bucks.  If you pour about half a cup of that into an enclosed container or trash bag and then stick say…your cast iron stove grates that are hideously greasy into said enclosed space and the wondrously acrid ammonia fumes work their magi for a few hours, you might be able to pull the grates out of the ammonia fumes and wipe off the grease JUST LIKE HOW YOU SEE IN THE COMMERCIALS!

Now then, stove grates aren’t like oven doors.  You could stick a half cup of ammonia in the oven and close the door for a few hours and then pretend you’re in a oven cleaner commercial, but I actually wouldn’t recommend it unless you really had no other recourse in cleaning your oven.  Ammonia fumes are dangerous.  If you aren’t careful, you’ll burn your eyes and lungs and skin.  It’s really better to do all your cleaning with concentrated ammonia (Windex is only like 5% ammonia) outside or in some well-ventilated space.  Your oven is not a well-ventilated space.

So anyway, that’s my story about ammonia and my kitchen cleaning adventures.