Erase mildew stains

Q:

I started making a china cabinet out of ash, and put it aside. I knew it would be a long time before I worked on it again, so I covered it with a nylon tarp and set it up on 4x4s in my garage. Six months later, I found a greenish mold or mildew had formed over the lower third of the unfinished wood. How can I get that off without ruining the wood or driving the mold deeper into the grain?
—Andy Hunter, Adams, Ind.

A:

Mildew stains look bad, Andy, but it’s easy to give this fungus the brush-off using readily available products around your house. Start by mixing up a solution of 1 part dishwashing liquid or detergent to 10 parts household bleach and 30 parts warm water.

Wearing rubber gloves and working in a ventilated area, use the solution and a cloth or soft-bristle brush to gently scrub away the surface mildew, including any that’s reached into the grain of the wood. Finish by rinsing the cleaned area with fresh water, and wipe the surface dry with a soft towel. Wait for the wood to dry thoroughly before working it further, then sand off any raised grain.

When future projects need to be put on hold and you can’t store them indoors, cover them with an old sheet or blanket that allows air to circulate and won’t trap moisture, as will a waterproof tarp.

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