The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recognizes mold as a trigger for upper respiratory systems, allergic reactions, runny noses, and sneezing in otherwise healthy people.
Exposure to microscopic mold spores can cause scary symptoms such as coughing and wheezing in people with asthma or those who are susceptible to pneumonitis.
Once you have mold in your home, it can feel impossible to eliminate. It shows up in the grout lines in your bathroom, darkens porches, rots damp wood, and discolors drywall.
A major infestation can devastate your home as well as your health. It’s essential to learn how to remove mold once it overtakes your home. Sometimes, it’s vital to hire a local professional to get the job done.
Keep reading to learn more about mold, how to prevent it from growing, and how to remove mold once it’s in your home.
Toxic Mold vs. Mildew
Mildew is a type of mold commonly found in homes. It tends to grow in warmer areas, such as your bathroom, and on damp items stored in basements.
You can spot mildew by the evidence of a white powdery colony. Over time, it darkens to black or brown. It can begin to look like a pile of soil if it isn’t promptly removed.
If you’re unsure if it is mildew or dirt, dip a cotton swab in chlorine bleach and dab the stain with it. If the stain begins to disappear, it’s likely mildew. If it looks the same after two or three minutes, you can assume it’s only dirt.
Another indicator of mold is a musty odor. This odor might come from damp clothing in a hamper, carpets that have succumbed to spills, or crawlspaces that stay damp.
This smell means you have a problem. But not all molds are mildew. Mildew is a nuisance, but dangerous molds can harm you and your home.
Black, fuzzy mold isn’t cute. If you see hairy or slimy mold that is causing your drywall or wood to crumble, the surface is rotting, and it’s time to take action.
How to Prevent Mold in Your Home
The number one thing you can do to prevent mold growth is to eliminate all water and moisture issues in your home.
Inevitably, mold spores will find their way into your home from outdoors, but they will have nowhere to grow if there isn’t moisture present in your home.
If you ever end up with water in your home, it should be removed within 24-48 hours to inhibit the growth of mold. If mold forms, is cleaned up, but the water comes back, the mold will come back as well. It’s vital to remove the source of moisture to prevent this from happening.
Here’s a list of tips to prevent mold growth indoors:
- Use a dehumidifier, especially in the humid North Carolina climate. Humidity levels should ideally stay under 50%.
- Add mold inhibitors to interior paint before using it on your walls.
- Change any carpet that has been exposed to water and wasn’t dried immediately.
- Ensure that your kitchen and bathroom exhausts and any dryer vents exhaust outside of the home.
- Regularly clean your bathroom with products formulated to kill mold.
- Always clean and dry any wet or damp spots found inside of your home within 24-48 hours.
- Fix leaks immediately.
- Install adequate drainage around the exterior of your home. Make sure all drains slope away from your home.
People often imagine mold only living on walls and ceilings, but keep in mind that mold can grow anywhere. Under the right conditions, mold can quickly grow on fabrics, books, paper, clothing, wood, metals, and more.
How to Remove Mold After it Has Formed
Once you know you have a mold issue, it’s essential to assess how severe the infestation is. The severity will determine whether you tackle the mold growth yourself or hire a professional.
It’s not necessary to waste time trying to identify the type of mold that is growing in your home. Mold species affect all people differently, so it’s vital to remove any mold found in your home as soon as possible.
If the mold is less than 10 square feet in size, the EPA believes it’s okay to clean it up on your own.
Kill Mold with Products
When it comes to mold-killing-products, you will have several to choose from. Some are harsh, while others are all-natural, but they all work differently.
Chlorine bleach*: Regular household bleach will destroy mold while reversing any discoloration. Due to its harshness, diluted chlorine bleach works best.
*Always remember not to combine bleach and ammonia, due to the toxicity and dangerous fumes they create together.
Hydrogen peroxide: Lighter than bleach but still useful, hydrogen peroxide also kills mold and lightens stains. It isn’t as efficient, but you get to skip the harsh smells and residue.
Baking soda and borax: These two have a high pH which inhibits the growth of mold. Baking soda and borax are inexpensive and non-toxic. They easily mix with water and will remove any lingering stains left behind by mold.
White vinegar: Distilled white vinegar breaks down mold slowly. It is acidic but non-toxic. Unfortunately, vinegar doesn’t remove stains completely, so you may have to combine it with another cleaner.
It’s important not to rinse away these solutions entirely. Their residue can go a long way in preventing future mold growth.
Cleaning Your Home’s Exterior
When you have mold growth on the exterior of your home, you have to be careful not to harm the environment with harsh chemicals. You must also worry about your safety in the case of structural damage, especially to your roof.
Structural damage is more likely in certain areas where humidity is high.
If you’re using bleach to remove stains, cover any plants near the siding with heavy plastic sheeting or a tarp.
The most effective ratio is one cup of bleach to one gallon of water. Put some of this solution in your garden hose, a power washer, or in a bucket for hand-scrubbing (wear gloves!).
First, wet the moldy areas with plain water, then follow with the bleach solution. Give it a few minutes to work. If you see the stains lightening, repeat the process on a new area.
If you still see stains, scrub the area and then repeat the first step. Allow the siding to air dry completely before determining if this did the trick.
Regardless of the method you choose, wear protective eyewear, protective clothing, and closed-toe shoes. Don’t wear anything you don’t want to fall victim to the bleach solution.
Eliminating Mold From Walls, Flooring, and Carpet
If there is structural damage, you must remove the material. Place affected building materials in heavy-duty plastic bags and be sure to dispose of them properly. Talk to your city about trash removal if you aren’t sure how to handle it. Allow the affected area to dry entirely before repairing it.
Do not attempt to do this without safety glasses, gloves, and respiratory protection (such as a mask).
To clean porous surfaces without structural damage, mix one-part detergent with 10 parts bleach and 20 parts water. A mild dishwashing detergent works best. Scrub with a sponge or mop, but avoid using too much of the solution.
Wait for the area to dry – do not rinse away.
There is no saving carpet affected by mold. The tell-tale sign is a musty smell. It is best to eradicate it by cutting the carpet and any pads underneath into small pieces. Once the carpet is up, lightly mist the surface beneath with water. Misting it helps prevent the spread of any mold spores that could become airborne.
While still wearing a respirator, wrap the carpet in plastic sheeting and dispose of it as you would building material. Allow the area to dry for several days after cleaning with a wet/dry vacuum before replacing your carpet.
Restoring Household Appliances
Certain appliances combine moisture, heat, and food. This breeding ground is ideal for mold growth, so frequent cleaning is essential.
Most appliances have a cleaning cycle. Clothes washers can be cleaned by running a cycle with hot water mixed with chlorine bleach. Do not wash clothes during this cleaning cycle. If you have a front-loading washer, inspect the door seals frequently to be sure no mold is growing in the nook and crannies.
For refrigerators, coffee makers, and microwaves: use a distilled white vinegar solution and wipe them down frequently.
Saving Leather Accessories, Shoes, and Other Items
Sometimes mold can overtake leather shoes, coats, purses, and even furniture. First, remove the item from your home to clean it.
If the item is worth saving, wipe it down with a cloth dipped in a solution of white vinegar and water. When cleaning leather jackets, shoes, or furniture, use a leather soap and rag with warm water.
After wiping it down, allow the item to completely dry. Then treat it with a leather conditioner if appropriate.
Salvaging Fabric Items
Unfortunately, it’s hard to save most fabric items saturated with mold. If your items were damaged by floodwaters and were wet for several days, it might not be possible.
Caught early, however, mildew can be washed out of most items.
You do not want these mold spores to spread in your home. Take the fabric outside and shake or brush the mold off of the surface.
Use the hottest water available when washing the fabric and add a disinfectant.
If you’re unable to remove stains, soak the item in oxygen bleach and allow to sit overnight or at least eight hours. If it’s oxygen bleach, you don’t need to worry about it damaging fabric. Do not confuse this with the chlorine bleach mentioned earlier.
Some items are labeled as dry-clean-only, so repeat the first step of removing surface mold, then seek a professional cleaning service.
Cleaning Books and Papers
You can remove mold from paper if you catch it early enough, however, it will eventually destroy it if ignored.
If the paper is still damp with mold, do not attempt to clean it. You will tear the paper or just spread mold spores. Instead, wait for the paper to completely dry in the sun or sealed in a container with absorbent material. You can also sprinkle cornstarch in between pages of books.
Once dry, take the papers outside and carefully dampen each page with hydrogen peroxide using a soft cloth. Clean one page at a time (using wax paper underneath), and allow each page to dry before moving to the next one.
If an item is especially significant to you or historic, seek the help of a professional curator.
Ridding Tile and Grout of Unsightly Mold
Mold loves a humid bathroom. Bacteria and dampness is a bad combination as mold and fungus multiply in that environment.
Store-bought cleaners are plentiful, but a chlorine bleach and water solution is just as effective (and it will cost less, too).
Using one cup of bleach to one gallon of water, apply the solution to any moldy areas. Let the solution sit as long as you can, but at least fifteen minutes. Then, scrub. If you scrub the mold away thoroughly, rinsing isn’t necessary.
Feel free to spray the clean areas with your solution and leave a residue to prevent further mold growth.
Hire a Professional
If all else fails, or you don’t want to handle it on your own, hire a local mold professional to remove and remediate the mold in your home.
If mold is present because of floodwater mixed with sewage or that is contaminated, leave the cleanup to a licensed professional. Also, make sure they have plenty of experience in that area. Special care should also be taken if mold is present in your HVAC unit.
If mold is attached to a substantial structure, such as your roof, it’s essential to request a safety inspection.
When hiring someone to inspect and clean your home, always check their references first.
Moving on From Mold Damage
Now that you’re familiar with how to remove mold from your home, you can decide whether to tackle it alone or hire a professional.
If you’re concerned about the exterior of your home, let us help. Our expert inspectors will check the health of your roofing material, including damage inside of your home and your roof’s underside for mold.
We are fully insured and have been in business for over 50 years. For a free estimate, contact us today.