Mold has a bad reputation, which is mostly well deserved. Although there are types of mold useful to humans, such as penicillin, mold is an unwanted invader in our homes, capable of ruining our possessions and causing allergic reactions such as watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing, rashes and even asthma attacks. In particular, the dreaded black mold is known to cause respiratory problems, including pneumonia, in people with chronic illnesses. That’s why knowing how to get rid of mold safely is so important.
While it’s best to keep areas like your shower, tile grout, and dishwasher spotless, small spots of mold here and there, no matter how unsightly, shouldn’t cause serious health issues. But he is crucial in preventing mold from spreading further. Give it an inch and it could be 10 square feet. That’s how much mold you can try to remove yourself before you need to call in a professional. Likewise, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should hire a professional if the mold damage was caused by contaminated water such as sewage. If not, chances are you can do the job yourself, especially with these handy tips. But if in doubt, call a professional.
Of course, a good defense does nothing but help the attack, and because mold needs moisture to grow, unless you reduce or even banish the humidity from your home, mold will keep coming back. Here are some of the best ways to dry out your home:
- Install vents or exhaust fans in places that produce humidity, such as the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room. Keep bathroom windows open when showering or bathing if possible.
- Do not use spaces that are usually damp, such as the attic or basement, to store your belongings.
- Run dehumidifiers in particularly humid areas, including the basement. The overall humidity level must remain below 50%.
- Repair any plumbing leaks.
- Seal the grout around your bathroom tile every year.
- Clean the air conditioning drain pans and make sure the drain lines are leaking.
- Keep your home’s gutters and downspouts free of debris and ensure that water drains away from the foundation.
- Act quickly in the event of a water leak or spill. If damp areas are dried within two days, mold will usually not have time to grow.
When cleaning moldy surfaces, it is essential to protect yourself against airborne spores. The EPA suggests wearing an N-95 respirator mask, along with gloves that reach mid-forearm. If you’re using a particularly strong cleaning solution or bleach, the EPA recommends gloves made of “natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC.” Never touch mold without gloves and always wear goggles without ventilation holes to keep spores out of your eyes.
While there are a variety of name brand mold removers that work well, including Clorox Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover, the best mildew remover might be a simple household bleach. Dilute it before using, by mixing one cup of bleach with one gallon of water. Be sure to ventilate the area you are working in to avoid harmful fumes, and never combine bleach with ammonia.
Other mold removers include:
- Undiluted white vinegar, which you can use in a spray bottle on kitchen and bathroom surfaces. It’s much milder than bleach, so it’s best to let it sit for an hour and be prepared to follow up with a household cleaner to get rid of tough stains.
- Hydrogen peroxide is also a bleaching agent and kills mold. Use a 3% solution in a spray bottle and leave it on the stain for at least 10 minutes before rinsing.
How to remove mold from tile and grout
Areas of your home with tile and grout can be the most difficult to keep mold free as they are the most humid spaces. The bleach and water solution works especially well on these surfaces – just be sure to let it sit for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing. If mildew has spread to your shower curtain, put it in the wash following the care instructions if it’s fabric. If it’s plastic, wash it in warm water, on the gentle cycle, using both laundry soap and bleach. Or spray it with a cleaner like Clorox Tilex Mold and Mildew Remover. If in doubt, replace it.
How to remove mildew from fabric
Found a big box of moldy old clothes in your basement that you hid for years? Chances are you have to throw them away. However, if mold has only been growing on a fabric for a few days, such as on a damp bathing suit, you can usually save it.
- Take the fabric outside to remove as much mold as possible.
- If the item is washable, follow the care instructions by rubbing the detergent directly onto the stain. Wash in the hottest water as directed on the label. For stubborn stains, soak fabric overnight in bleach and water.
- Take fabrics that are not machine washable to a dry cleaner.
- If an item is leather, take it outside and wipe it down with the distilled white vinegar solution. Follow it with an application of leather soap and warm water. Apply leather conditioner.
How to remove mold from walls, ceilings and floors
Unfortunately, there are certain materials, like carpeting and ceiling tiles, that you’ll almost always have to replace if they’ve developed mold. Generally, the more porous the substance, the better the chances of getting rid of it. To clean surfaces like drywall and plaster, mix dish soap (one part) with bleach (10 parts) and water (20 parts) and wipe over affected areas, working letting it air dry without rinsing.
To kill mold on wood, start by vacuuming the affected surface and the area around it with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. Mildew that hasn’t deeply penetrated the wood can probably be treated with a solution of a teaspoon of dishwashing liquid and a spray bottle of water. Spray the mold and scrape it thoroughly with a soft bristle brush, drying the surface with a soft towel when you’re done. If that doesn’t work, try equal parts undiluted white vinegar and water. If mold returns, use a teaspoon of borax mixed with a cup of water. Scrape off the outer layer, allowing the borax to penetrate the wood, inhibiting future mold growth.
How to remove mold from appliances
Just as you need to keep an eye on bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms for mold growth, you need to make sure you clean the fixtures there regularly to control mold. Refrigerators can be wiped down with distilled white vinegar; for coffee makers, fill the tank with half water and half vinegar and leave for half an hour. Run the mixture through one brew cycle, stir it, then run plain water through several more cycles.
Washing machines should be cleaned monthly. Drain them, with bleach, on the hot water cycle. Check washing machines and refrigerators for mold on door seals.
How to remove mold from outside your home
Just like indoors, mold is a serious problem outside your home. Over time, mold can damage your siding and decks, so it’s best to nip it in the bud before it takes hold. Bleach works well for cleaning everything from siding to brick, stone, and concrete, but it kills plants, so be sure to cover them well with plastic before starting any project using it.
To rid the exterior of your home of mildew, apply a 1 in 10 mixture of bleach and water to problem areas. Scrub stubborn stains with a stiff bristle brush and be sure to let the solution sit for 20 minutes before rinsing.
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