Getting rid of mold is a very frustrating process. When removing it, you need to be mindful not to send additional mold spores into your home, so it's important to dispose of it properly.
Mold is disgusting, smells bad, causes wood rot and may eventually attract insects. Left unchecked, mold will eventually take over your house.
If preparing your home for the real estate market, getting rid of mold should be a priority. The presence of mold can lower the value of your home and most like ruin a potential home sale.
Mold is found practically everywhere and will grow on most organic substances as long as it has a supply of moisture, oxygen and an organic food source. It will eventually destroy whatever its growing on.
Mold can be found on food, in bathrooms, basements, attics, windows, ceiling tiles, walls, floors, carpets, wood furniture, leather, paper, under sinks and in closets.
Certain molds, such as the dreaded black mold, is extremely toxic and can cause serious health problems. You must wear appropriate protective clothing and gear when you're getting rid of mold.
Some molds contain toxins, called mycotoxins that will set off allergic reactions in many people. Inhaling or ingesting mold or mildew can trigger asthma or allergies, bronchitis, headaches, pneumonia, lung infections, and irritation of the eyes and throat if the concentration of mold is extremely high.
Black mold is particularly dangerous to the elderly, young children and babies. My husband developed asthma while working in the crawl space of an extremely moldy house.
If you're unsure of the type of mold you have, a home mold test kit lets you do your own testing and will guide you on the proper steps to get rid of it.
First assess the situation...how much mold do you have? What kind of surface is the mold on?
The surface will make a huge difference. For example, a porous surface, like drywall, wood, or acoustical ceiling tile, will need to be carefully cut out and replaced. Why? Because surface cleaning won't penetrate into the porous surface because the mold has set down roots.
Some professionals recommend that any contaminated area larger than 10 square feet shouldn't be undertaken by a non-professional.
For people with compromised immune systems, just cleaning one square foot may be dangerous for their health. When in doubt, contact a professional mold remediator.
1. The first step to getting rid of mold involves scrubbing the affected area with soap and water to clean up most of the mold. Use a detergent or soap, like Dawn dish soap.
2. Next, apply your disinfectant of choice over the affected AND surrounding areas. Spray thoroughly and allow the disinfectant to dry.
3. Dispose of all the supplies you used to clean up the mold; this includes sponges, rags, disposable clothing, gloves, etc. Seal tight in a plastic bag to prevent any spores from escaping. Vacuum the area thoroughly to catch any remaining mold spores.
If mold continues to prosper in spite of your efforts, call in a professional mold remediator.
There are plenty of commercial products effective at getting rid of mold, but some are quite toxic and will often damage surfaces. If you prefer using “friendlier” products, take a look at the natural alternatives below.
Tea Tree Oil - Tea Tree Oil is an essential oil with a strong smell akin to turpentine or camphor-- a few drops goes a long way. It's a noted anti-bacterial and fungal fighter. I've used it successfully for toe fungus, cradle cap, cuts, burns and eczema.
To make an all-purpose cleaner with tea tree oil, combine two teaspoons of tea tree oil with two cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on affected areas. Let dry.
White vinegar - Vinegar is a proven bacteria and virus killer. Plus, it’s really cheap and can be applied to most surfaces. A 5% solution of vinegar and water has been proven to kill 99% of bacteria, 82% mold, and 80% of viruses. Fill a spray bottle with water and 5% vinegar, shake and spray on the mold. For heavy mildew stains, use full strength. Let dry.
Baking Soda - Add 1/2 cup baking soda to your washing machine (with regular detergent) to get the mold out of a shower curtain and liner. Add 1/2 vinegar during the rinse cycle. Hang dry.
Lemon juice - For mildewy clothing, mix up a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub into the mildew affected area. Allow to dry in the sun. (This may lighten clothing on the affected areas.) Repeat if necessary.
Grapefruit seed extract or GSA - This product, along with tea tree oil, can be found at health food stores, or online at amazon.com or supersup.com, my favorite affordable source for supplements and other health-related items.
To make a cleaning solution, fill a spray bottle with two cups of water and 20 drops of GSA. Spray on affected areas without rinsing. Let dry.
Bioclean - Bioclean is an all-purpose cleaner containing natural products, such as, grapefruit seed and orange peel. You can buy this affordable and great smelling product at biokleenhome.com. (Only shipped in the U.S.)
Johnson’s Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Cleaner - will kill up to 99.99% of common bacteria and does a fantastic job removing pink mold in bathroom showers and bathtubs. This product does most of the work for you and requires very little elbow grease.
Chlorine Bleach - Bleach is a cheap and well known bacteria and virus slayer. It kills mold, spores and allergens on hard non-porous surfaces (like tiles and countertops) but may not get all the mold embedded in porous surfaces, as the mold may have embedded itself deep within.
Be sure to work in a well ventilated area while using chlorine bleach. Wear gloves, protective clothing and protective eye wear in case of splashing.
Mix together one cup of bleach to one gallon of water in a bucket. Pour some of the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray onto affected surface and let sit for about 5 minutes. Rinse with warm water, using a sponge or rag and allow to air dry. You may need to repeat this application if the problem is severe.
Ammonia - In a spray bottle, combine 50% ammonia to 50% water.
DON'T MIX AMMONIA WITH BLEACH! THIS CREATES MUSTARD GAS, A TOXIC FUME!
In a well-ventilated area, spray the ammonia mixture on the affected surface. Leave on for two-three hours before rinsing off.
Hydrogen Peroxide - In a spray bottle, pour a 3% concentration hydrogen peroxide. Spray on affected area and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse off and allow to air dry.
Borax - Borax is useful for getting rid of mold and mildew from fabrics and upholstery. Make a solution of 1/2 cup of borax and dissolve it in two cups of hot water. Soak a sponge in this solution and rub the affected areas. Let the affected article soak in this solution for two hours, or until the stain disappears. Rinse well.
Black mold, or Stachybotrys Atra, is the toxic mold that sends home buyers scurrying back to their cars faster than anything else!
As a former real estate agent, I can attest to that. I had one client ready to sign the papers until she discovered a small bit of black mold in the upper corner of a bedroom closet.
How do you know if you have black mold? You can identify it by it's mildewy and musty smell. In appearance it's black and spotty, or greenish-black. The greenish-black color is not typical in other types of mold.
Black mold is caused by moisture build-up in your home. You often find it in houses where the heat has been turned off for a period of time.
The first thing you need to do is find the source of the moisture problem and repair it. The area should be dried thoroughly with a shop vac and/or dehumidifier.
One reader asked me if she should sweep the mold. NO...NEVER inside the house! This will disperse deadly mold spores into your home.
Before you tackle the cleaning, seal off the area with plastic sheeting and duct tape to prevent spores from spreading to other rooms in your home. Cover any open vents as well.
If the black mold is on a porous surface, like drywall, you'll need to replace it and the area surrounding it, to make sure you got it all.
If you suspect you have dangerous black mold in your home, you may want to contact a mold remediation service to inspect it for you, especially if your home is highly affected.
Pink mold is an airborne bacteria called Serratia marcescens. This mold can cause respiratory infections, conjunctivitis and urinary tract infections if ingested.
Pink mold can be found around the edges of showers and bathtubs, in tile grout, sinks and toilets. It feeds on moisture and shampoo residue, but thankfully, it's fairly easy to get rid of. Consistent cleaning will keep it at bay.
Non-toxic mold cleaning supplies for pink mold:
Pour vinegar on a sponge or rag and scrub at the pink mold. Using some elbow grease, remove as much mold as possible. Rinse the vinegar off the area with water.
Mix hydrogen peroxide and 3 oz. of baking soda into a paste. Dip the toothbrush into the paste and scrub the mold. This should remove any remaining mold left behind after the first step. Rinse off with water.
Let dry for 24 hours before using the shower.
Quick, but hardcore cleaning tip for removing pink mold:
Once again, Johnson Scrubbing Bubble Bathroom Cleaner to the rescue! Spray it onto hard, non-porous surfaces, let set for about five minutes, then wipe off. Rinse thoroughly. Repeat if necessary.
Put on the eye protection, gloves, and mask before you start the cleaning process.
Vacuum and sponge up any water in the basement. Make any necessary repairs to fix the source of the leak. With a dehumidifier or fan, ventilate the basement to remove excess humidity.
Throw out everything that has absorbed water and become moldy; carpets, books, papers, clothing, and so on.
Scrub all non-porous surface, such as, metals, plastics, solid wood, and concrete with a detergent and water mix. Clean up your wash water with a shop vac or sponge.
Make a solution of 10 percent bleach with water. Spray this disinfectant on the same non-pouous surfaces and let set for 10 minutes before rinsing with clean water. Again, vacuum or sponge up excess water.
Keep an eye on the cleaned surfaces for a couple days for any signs of new mold growth. Keep the dehumidifier or fan running until your basement or cellar is dry.
If you've discovered mold in an area you want to paint, you need to kill it before painting. If you add your beautiful paint colors on top of the mold, it will come back to haunt you! The same is true of cigarette residue.
Watch the video by BenjaminMoorePaints below for tips on getting rid of mold before painting.
If a musty odor persists in your basement even after drying out, try sprinkling the basement floor with some chlorinated lime. (Chlorinated lime is a bleaching powder and disinfectant, available at most hardware stores.)
When the odor has disappeared, sweep up the powder and dispose of it into a plastic bag and seal. Don't let this powder come into contact with your skin and keep pets out of your basement.
For odors coming from tiled surfaces in bathrooms or cement, scrub with a solution of sodium hypochlorite or chlorine bleach . (Sodium hypochlorite is a compound used for water purification, bleaching, odor removal and water disinfection. You can find sodium hypochlorite wherever pool supplies are sold. It has more than twice the cleaning power as regular household bleach.)
Use 1/2 cup of bleach or 1/4 cup of sodium hypochlorite to a gallon of water. Rinse with clean water and wipe dry. Keep the room well ventilated until everything is thoroughly dry.
Tile grout - Mix equal parts of bleach and water in a spray bottle. Spray this solution on the grout and let it sit for about 15 minutes. With a stiff brush, scrub, (a lot!) then rinse off.
Shower curtains - For white shower curtains and liners, add 1/2 cup of bleach and 1/4 cup detergent to your washing machine. Wash in warm water, then let hang dry. For colored shower curtains, add 1/2 cup baking soda to the wash cycle, then 1/2 vinegar during the rinse cycle. Hang dry.
Moldy home exterior siding - First, wet down the siding with a hose. Then spray or brush on with a solution of 1/4 cup bleach in two cups of water. Let this solution set for about 15 minutes. Rinse. If stubborn mold persists, you may have to scrub at it with a brush. I've had success using a long-handled brush broom. Repeat if necessary.
Cement and stucco exterior siding - Make a mixture of one cup bleach in two gallons of water. With a stiff brush, scrub the surface with the solution. If this doesn’t work, try scrubbing with 1/2 cup of sodium carbonate dissolved in two gallons of warm water. (Sodium carbonate is NOT baking soda; it's a compound used in making soap powders, glass and paper.)
You can find this product in the laundry section of most grocery stores. Arm & Hammer makes a product called “washing soda.” You can also find it in the spa section at home improvement centers. Look for 100% sodium carbonate. (Sodium carbonate can damage the skin, always wear gloves when handling, and don’t get in your eyes.)
Wood - Combine 1/2 cup of TSP, (trisodium phosphate) with one gallon of hot water in a bucket. Trisodium phosphate is available at any home improvement store.
Stir the solution well. Wearing rubber gloves, dip a scrub brush into the mixture and scrub the wood on the affected area. Keep dipping and scrubbing the wood surface, making sure to get into every crack and crevice. Rinse well with a hose then place in sunlight to dry.
NOTE: If the mold is growing underneath the paint or varnish of the wood you want to treat, you'll need to strip the paint or varnish off before treating the mold.
Clothing - Getting rid of mold and mildew from clothing is really difficult. If moldy, it's better to throw clothing away, because mold stains fabrics and the smell never seems to go away.
You can often save mildewy fabrics, but it takes a little persistence. Wash mildewy clothing by adding 3/4 cup white vinegar to a load of wash. Repeat if necessary. Do a final wash with detergent to thoroughly clean your clothing.
Upholstered Furniture and Mattresses
1. Wearing breathing protection, take the article outside to brush off as much loose mold as possible. DON'T do this inside, as you will release spores into your home. Use a broom or small brush.
2. Second, with a vacuum cleaner attachment, run over the surface of the affected item to release even more mold. (Remove the vacuum bag outside, seal and toss.) If you're lucky enough to have a sunny day, allow the article to dry in the sun. If not, use an electric heater and fan for drying.
3. Next, sponge the item lightly with a mixture of water and detergent, and wipe clean with a clean cloth. Don't saturate the article--try to get as little water on the fabric as possible.
4. Another option is to simply wipe your furniture with a cloth dipped into a mixture of one cup rubbing alcohol to one cup water. Dry thoroughly.
Leather - Wipe leather with a cloth dipped into a solution of one cup rubbing alcohol to one cup water. Turn fans on the item to dry.
If the problem persists, wash with detergent and water, or saddle soap. Wipe with a clean damp cloth and allow to dry. (You can buy saddle soap at Amazon.com, walgreens.com, or any store that sells equestrian products.) Kiwi Outdoor Saddle Soap is a good product.
Sheetrock/Drywall - First, determine whether the surface of your sheetrock is finished (painted) or unfinished (unpainted).
Cover the area with plastic sheeting and tape into place. As usual, wear protective goggles, mask and gloves.
Painted or Sealed Drywall: Choose a mold cleaning product, either natural or chemical. Natural solutions will be milder compared to a more powerful chemical cleaner.
Unpainted Drywall: Unpainted moldy drywall should be cut out and replaced with an entirely new piece. The cut out portion should be larger than the size of the mold stain to make sure you capture all the mold.
Before applying the new piece, paint inside the affected wall cavity and on the backside of the new piece of drywall with Kilz or Zinsser mold killing primer.
Vacuum the entire area with a HEPA vacuum. Mold spores could have been released during the removal process and landed on the surrounding walls or flooring.
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