Even if you’ve never cleaned up mold yourself, you probably know how difficult and unpleasant it can be to deal with. It’s unsightly, it can grow on almost any surface, it’s hard to get rid of, and it can pose some pretty major health risks.
The best way to keep mold out of your house is to regularly take necessary preventative measures, like keeping humidity levels low and cleaning regularly.
Unfortunately, sometimes it’s inevitable. If you’ve noticed areas of your home that have accumulated any amount of mold growth, it’s extremely important to get rid of the offending spores and assess the damage before it gets out of control.
In the guide below, we explain the best ways to avoid and treat mold growth plus the safest ways to get rid of it if it’s currently inside your home. Keep reading to find out how to keep your home safe and free of mold.
Mold vs. Mildew
Before you begin your hunt for any traces of mold around your home, you should know what you’re looking for. One of the most common types of mold found in and around homes is mildew.
Mildew is a kind of surface mold that grows in warm, damp places like your bathroom and on fabrics and books stored in damp basements. It usually begins as a gray or white powdery colony, turns black or brown if not removed, and often looks like soil accumulation. To test if the offending surface is covered with mildew or just dirt, dab the stain with a cotton swab dipped in chlorine bleach. If the stain lightens or disappears after two or three minutes, it’s probably mildew.
All mildew is mold, but not all molds are mildew. Mildew can discolor and slowly harm surfaces but there are much more dangerous molds that can damage the structure of your home. If you see a green or black mold that is fuzzy or slimy and the drywall or wood underneath is soft or crumbly, there is irreversible rot, and the mold and the damaged surfaces must be removed immediately.
If you detect a musty smell anywhere in your home, then you have a high concentration of mold. It can be coming from a hamper filled with damp towels, from a damp crawlspace under your home, or from carpets that have mold growing in the padding. If you smell that odor, it’s definitely time to take action to get rid of the problem. So with all of that said, let’s get to business.
How to Prevent Mold
One of the best ways to tackle mold is by making your home a less friendly place for mold to grow. Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Before you get rid of the mold, eliminate any moisture issues at the source, or improve the ventilation, ideally both.
- Be sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and water is properly draining away from your home’s foundation.
- Indoors, repair any plumbing leaks and install exhaust fans in the bathrooms, the kitchen, and the laundry room.
- Run a dehumidifier to reduce the overall moisture level in your home to keep mold from growing.
Tips for a Safe Mold Removal Process
- Brushing or shaking items when cleaning them can potentially aerosolize mold spores. Always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when working with mold. PPE includes the following items:
- Safety glasses
- Protective clothing
- Face mask or an N-95 respirator
- Remember that if you have a serious mold problem on your hands that may be breathing trouble or other negative health effects, it’s best to call a professional.
- Wear gloves that extend to the middle of your forearm. If you’re just using water and a mild detergent, household rubber gloves work fine.
- Wear goggles that don’t have ventilation holes to avoid getting mold or spores in your eyes.
Natural Mold Cleaner
You can also create a mold removal solution with some common household items. Be sure to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands while working with cleaning products.
- Use undiluted white vinegar on hard surfaces in kitchens and baths.
- A bleach solution also works to kill mold. Mix one cup of bleach in a gallon of water, apply to the surface and don’t rinse.
- Mix a 50/50 solution of ammonia and water. Spray on the surface, wait two to three hours, then rinse.
Remember to Never mix vinegar with bleach or other all-purpose cleaners; this will create toxic and dangerous fumes.
Household bleach works best to destroy mold and remove any discoloration. Mix a solution of 1 cup bleach with 1 gallon of water, which can be sprayed directly on the mold. Note that bleach is quite harsh, and dilution is an important step before use. Keep in mind, however, that while bleach removes mold discoloration, it also removes color from most surfaces! Use it sparingly and when in doubt, test it out on a small, unnoticeable spot first.
Less harsh than chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide that is between 3% to 10% will kill mold and lighten stains. While it does have a bleaching effect, it works more slowly than chlorine bleach but has no fumes or residue. Plus, it’s great to keep around the house for all other sorts of uses – from whitening teeth to disinfecting minor wounds.
Vinegar is acidic and works by slowly breaking down the mold structure. Vinegar is relatively gentle, but mold stains may remain and additional scrubbing with a household cleaner may be needed. It can be mixed with baking soda or borax to add a scrubbing effect, and its high pH inhibits the growth and survival of mold.
Rubbing alcohol may not be as strong as other ingredients to kill mold. But when it is diluted with water in equal parts, rubbing alcohol cleans surfaces without any damage and can help to stop the growth of mold and mildew.
Removing Mold from Walls & Ceilings
If you spot mold on walls or ceilings made of sheetrock or plaster, you can make them disappear without replacing any materials. But if mold appears on a very porous surface, such as a ceiling tile, it’s best to replace it right away.
- Clean the surface. Apply your protective gear and make sure the area is well-ventilated. Mix a little dish detergent and water. Use a sponge or brush to apply the solution in small circular motions.
- Rinse and let dry. Clean the sponge thoroughly, then dip it into clean water and wring it out well before wiping the surface clean. Let it air dry completely.
- Follow with a solution of water and bleach: Mix ¾ of a cup of chlorine bleach with a gallon of warm water, or 3 tablespoons of bleach in 1 quart of water for smaller spots. Wearing rubber gloves, apply the water-bleach mixture to the stains with a sponge or cleaning brush.
- Let sit for five minutes, then scrub. Give the water bleach solution time to penetrate the moldy spots, then move the sponge or brush in small circles to gently agitate the area.
- Rinse completely and air dry. Use warm water to wash the area clean and blot dry with a clean cloth before letting it air dry.
Removing Mold from Fabric
When clothing, towels or stored fabrics are exposed to humidity or dampness for a prolonged period, mold can appear and flourish. Follow these steps when you find mold on fabric items that are machine washable.
- Brush off the excess mold. First, bring the item outside to prevent excess mold spores from getting inside your home. Apply your protective gear, then gently move a dry cloth, brush, or paper towel back and forth a few times over the area to loosen and free any mold from the surface.
- Treat spots with liquid laundry detergent. Rub a drop or two in with your gloved fingers. Wash it in the washing machine on the hottest setting safe for the fabric, adding chlorine bleach or non-chlorine bleach, as specified by your item’s care instructions. Always check the care label to be sure.
- Air dry. Avoid tumble drying the item until you are certain the mold spots are removed.
Removing Mold from Shower Tile & Grout
Mold breeds in warm, wet conditions, which can make it difficult to keep the shower tile and grout free of these stubborn spots. If they appear, you can erase them quickly and easily with the right cleaner.
- Take safety precautions. Wear protection on your eyes and hands and if you are particularly sensitive to fumes, consider also wearing a mask. Open the window and flip on the bathroom fan for proper ventilation before you start.
- Spray cleaner on mold spots. Apply a grout cleaner or mold remover according to the manufacturer’s directions.
- Watch and wait before you scrub. In some cases, you may not need to scrub at all. If spots persist, use a non-scratch scrub sponge or grout brush to scrub the spots away.
- Rinse the area with hot water. Wipe dry or let it air dry with the shower curtain or door open to allow any built-up steam and moisture to escape.
Removing Mold from Interior Surfaces
If you notice minor mold buildup on surfaces inside your home (like in the shower or on your basement floor) try removing it with a diluted vinegar solution. Follow this method from Sokolowski when removing mold from your home’s interior surfaces.
- Use an old, dry microfiber cloth to gently wipe away any loose mold or debris from the surface. (Remove the cloth from the room afterward.)
- Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
- Spray the vinegar and water mixture directly onto the moldy surface, allowing it to sit for at least 10 to 15 minutes.
- Using a scrub brush or sponge, scrub the moldy area in a circular motion, ensuring you cover the entire affected area.
- Rinse the surface with clean water and wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge to remove any remaining cleaning solution and mold residue.
- Ensure the cleaned area is completely dry. Use fans or open windows to facilitate the drying process.
Removing Mold Outside the Home
External mold is just as serious as mold inside the home. You’ll want to remove mold from the outside of your house, on siding or on your deck, as soon as possible. External mold can do significant damage to exterior surfaces over time, eating away at wood, stucco, and other materials.
In addition, outer mold can quickly work its way into the house if left unchecked.
- Don gloves and eye protection and liberally spray a 1-to-10 solution of bleach and water on the surface.
- Scrub tough stains with a stiff bristle brush dipped in the solution.
- Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes and rinse with a garden hose.
When to Call a Professional
If mildew infestation is caught early, you can easily handle it with household cleaners. But for extensive mold problems, consider hiring a professional. The rule of thumb is if the mold covers 10 or more square feet, call in a professional.
Removing large mold colonies requires exposure to heavy-duty chemicals and proper disposal of infested building materials. Local public health departments can offer advice on mold testing and refer you to an expert mold remover.
Don’t hesitate to give your favorite cleaning services in Boston a call, too! We have deep cleaning and eco-friendly services that can help keep your home as mold-free as possible.
Is bleach or vinegar better to kill mold?
While it is possible to use bleach to kill mold as well, experts agree that vinegar is a much better option. Unlike bleach, vinegar can effectively kill the mold at the root, which means it’s less likely to return. Vinegar is also less toxic than bleach, making it a better choice for household use.
What is the best thing to clean mold with?
Pour a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and apply it to the affected area. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub the mold away. Vinegar: Pour undiluted white vinegar into a spray bottle and apply to the moldy area.
What removes mold permanently?
Use undiluted white vinegar on hard surfaces in kitchens and baths. A bleach solution also works to kill mold. Mix one cup of bleach in a gallon of water, apply to the surface, and don’t rinse. Mix a 50/50 solution of ammonia and water.