Prevention and cure: Dealing with mildew

Ok, so we spent a few days getting settled in to our apartment in Guatemala before heading off to the states for a visit. Right before we left, my dear husband closed the windows and the doors to our room, and sprayed some bug spray to try and keep any curious bugs away. We thought we were set for six weeks of traveling in the states!

Little did we know that for those six weeks the humidity in the highlands of Guatemala would continue to climb and our nicely closed up rooms would become giant growth chambers for mildew and mold!

Sure enough when we arrived back from our visit stateside, our bedroom welcomed us with the dank scent of mildew. Our clothes were damp, our pillows discolored and the musty smell was almost deafening. Yes, it hit our senses so hard we almost lost our hearing!

My husband and I decided to seek out the wisdom of veteran missionaries and see how they combat the moist mildew monster. Turns out we’re not the only ones who have to battle the moisture and it’s pretty much standard issue when you live in Guatemala. One suggestion for prevention was to move to Arizona! Mildew is here because…well, we live in Guatemala and it’s the rainy season. We’ve been told it will get better during the dry season. At least we know there is hope!

On a more practical note, we found out about several tips worth trying out to see if we can reduce, remove, and possibly even prevent mildew and mold in our home.

Tips for Preventing Mildew:

  • Keep air moving. This is key. Apparently, mildew doesn’t like fresh air! Several friends suggested fans, leaving closets open and even putting furniture out in the sun when possible to help prevent mildew from taking over.
For Clothes:
  • Rotate clothes and/or air them in the sun. (This can be hard to do during the cloudy rainy season!)
  • Use a closet dehumidifier
  • Wash off-season clothes half way through the rainy season to prevent mold growth.
  • Don’t over pack closets or drawers. Allow for circulation of air.
  • Lightly wipe leather things with a rag with a 3-in-1 oil on it.
For Furniture:
  • Keep furniture away from moisture prone walls. Leave a 6-inch gap between furniture and the walls.
  • Cover wood furniture with a thick layer of varnish inside and out, top and bottom.
  • Let the sun shine in. Lots of open windows and sun
  • Monitor your humidity levels and kick on dehumidifiers if humidity rises over 60%.
Products that may help:


DampRid is available at PriceMart in Guatemala City

  • Dehumidifiers (available at Cemaco and PriceMart)
  • “Damp Rid” (a moisture removal product available at Cemaco)
  • Closet dehumidifiers
  • Moisture lock paint or “Anti-Hongo” paint (available at Sherwin Williams)

How to get rid of mildew once it’s already there:

Basic solutions:

1) Bleach

Use bleach and water on all clothes that you can. Wipe down or spray walls or inside cabinets with a bleach water solution to kill as much of the mildew as you can.


Adding some white vinegar to a load of laundry helps get the smell out of towels.

3) Lemon Juice plus Salt

Mix lemon juice and salt and moisten the stain with this mixture. Spread the cloth in the sun to bleach. After it’s dry, rinse thoroughly.

4) Hydrogen Peroxide

I read here that you can use Hydrogen Peroxide to remove a mildew stain on clothes. NOTE: Use the Hydrogen Peroxide between the wash and dry (before the drying) and it “should” help remove the stain.

5) Removing mildew from leather

Use Saddle Soap an Tanner’s Oil (if you can find them.)

Clean the leather item with saddle soap using a soft cloth or spong that is damp. Rub the soap until a light lather forms and rub this into your leather product and clean the entire leather with this. After cleaning the leather rub it with a dry soft cloth to dry and shine it. Use the Tanner’s Oil on a soft rag and rub it into the leather. This will shine the leather and leave it “as good as new!”
Sarah, our source for this one, said “I usually follow up the process by leaving the shoes and jackets either out in the patio for a bit or by a window with sunlight just to make sure that they dry completely. Try not to “bake” them in the sun as this dries out the leather and is actually counter productive. So far we haven’t lost a shoe or jacket or anything else leather to the mold. We just have to do this process at least once a year to get them all back in shape.”

Extreme solutions:

1) Scrape the walls and re-stucco with pegamix psp (normally used under ceramic tile) then paint with Aqualoc paint.

2) Move. 🙂 Really, friends said they moved to a different home in Chichi, because the mold in their last place was too bad.


Do you have an idea of how to prevent or remove mildew or mold? Share it in the comments! We want to beat this stuff!

One thought on “Prevention and cure: Dealing with mildew

  1. Hi.Thank you of the post. I just rented a large house in Antigua which was closed up for a few months. The smell of “Hongo” was quite strong in the Sala and the dining room. After leaving the doors and windows open the smell has gone away. BUT! Now after doing a walk through I realize that the main wall that runs from the sala to the dining room is full of moisture pockets that when hit with a broom handle fall away from the wall. Hopefully my landlord will fix the walls..She is a very nice woman and cares about her property. I HOPE. If she doesn’t can anyone reccommend a contractor that could fix my walls..?

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