Does mildew exist?

The festive period effectively ceased to exist for me when I discovered a rather severe damp and mould problem. The first thing I learnt as a result was just how much time, energy and sanity can be devoured by the need to dry and clean the affected books. The second thing I learnt was that there is a question over the existence of mildew. Not in the general sense, mildew isn’t a fiction, but in terms of its presence, or not, in damp books.

I, like almost everyone, including most experts (or ‘experts’), refer to the spotting of books as mildew. However, one exceptionally well-researched site on mould, whose creators had carried out all sorts of tests into the presence, cause and treatment of mould, were unequivocal that mildew doesn’t affect books. It’s probable this is an issue of terminology, with lay people using the word in a sense different to its strict scientific application, in the same way that most berries are not, scientifically speaking, berries.

But, another website, while agreeing that what most people call mildew isn’t, stated that it can be found in books as it can be found feeding on other moulds.

Others, as noted, refer to the presence of mildew generally.

So, when it comes to mouldy tomes, the question remains: Does mildew exist?

It’s a good example, and not too contentious a one, of how something that might be considered known fact isn’t necessarily certain. It’s never a good idea to rely on just one source, but rather to throw out a wide net for as much information as possible, before judging it all with a critical eye (including checking whether sources are just citing one another over and over). If you’re lucky, unlike the question of mildew, you might even find a solid answer!

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