Contributors: Alex Garcia-Putnam
Mildew is a thin surface film of fungal growth that thrives in humid environments, and can be damaging to organic materials.
Synonyms in English
Mildew, a thin film of fungal growth, is particularly deleterious to textiles and other organic materials. Mildew, often called mold, thrives in humid environments, and is a common problem in conservation. Mildew is not particularly harmful to metal and siliceous materials.
The use of simple cleaning agents and biocides can easily protect against mildew; also refrigeration is a simple tactic to combat mildew (Hamilton 1999).
Dehumidifiers, fans and proper climate control can inhibit the start of mildew growth once an artifact is in storage. Mildew is easily cleaned and managed with proper storage techniques. Textiles are often the most effected by mildew in a conservation setting; usually improper storage and handling are the cause of such growth (AIC 2013).
Another unpleasant attribute of mildew is the odor it can give off, and conservators must also combat this (AIC 2013). Mildew, left untreated can weaken or do damage to organic artifacts, but can, in its early stages, be treated easily with the methods mentioned above. The best course of action is proper storage, not allowing mildew growth to start in the first place.
Objects from buried or maritime environments will not have mildew in situ, as the fungus needs oxygen to thrive. Architectural features and surface finds may have mildew growth in the field, and will need to be mechanically and potentially chemically treated to remove and stop the growth. Generally mildew is a problem once out of the field and into the laboratory and storage facility.
Hamilton. D. 1999. Methods of Conserving Archaeological Material from Underwater sites, pp. 605.