How to Clean and Get Rid of Mold and Mildew In Your Home for Good
Oof. The smell of mildew will send me running. I’m very sensitive to it as are many people. The smell can give some of us a headache, sinus congestion, and brain fog. Clearly, I’m allergic to it, but even if you aren’t, it can still have devastating effects on your health if you are exposed over a long period.
Also, the presence of mold and mildew is always a sign of moisture, and the moisture and mold can lead to rotting and the degradation of your house. If you suspect mold is in your house, it needs to be taken seriously. I’ve had mold issues in houses I’ve lived in, and I’ve learned the hard way that is better to deal with it immediately. I learned how to clean and get rid of mold and mildew in my house the best way.
- The Difference between Mold and Mildew
- Don’t Use Bleach on Mold and Mildew
- Natural Products that Clean Mold and Mildew
- Products that Work Best to Clean Mold and Mildew
- How to Dress to Clean Serious Mold Infestations in Your Home
- How to Keep Mold and Mildew Out of Your Home
- Causes of Mold and Mildew in Your Home
- What if the Mold Keeps Coming Back?
- Physical Symptoms and Health Risks from Having Mold and Mildew in Your Home
- Do I You Need to Leave Your House if You Find Mold?
- Do I Need to Get the Mold Tested?
- Do I Need to Call a Professional to Clean the Mold in My House?
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The Difference between Mold and Mildew
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “
“Mildew refers to certain kinds of mold or fungus. The term mildew is often used generically to refer to mold growth, usually with a flat growth habit. Generally, mildew can be wiped off of surfaces with soap and water.
Molds include all species of microscopic fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments, called hyphae. Molds can thrive on any organic matter, including clothing, leather, paper, and the ceilings, walls and floors of homes with moisture management problems. Mildew often lives on shower walls, windowsills, and other places where moisture levels are high. There are many species of molds. In unaired places, such as basements, they can produce a strong musty odor.”
Don’t Use Bleach on Mold and Mildew
We all know that to kill mold and mildew, we have to use bleach, right? Well, not always. While bleach does kill mold and mildew on hard, non-porous surfaces like bathroom tubs, sinks, and tile, it doesn’t work to completely kill it on porous surfaces like wood, drywall, and grout. The “roots” of the mold (mycelia and hyphae) grow deep into the porous material. On these surfaces, the mold will come back and often even worse than before. Bleach actually encourages mold growth because it is made up of 90% water. The chlorine, which can kill some mold, dissipates quickly leaving the water, now soaked into the material, behind.
Initially when we use bleach on mildew and mold, we think that it has worked because it bleaches the color of the mold and it looks clean. Underneath, the “roots” of the mold continue to grow, though, and will eventually come back even worse than before.
Bleach is also very corrosive and can damage the surface you use it on as well. It’s best to choose a better method of cleaning mold.
If all you have available to you is bleach, you can temporarily clean mold and mildew with a recommended solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water. Again, it is better to only use this on hard surfaces and make sure it is rinsed and dried very well afterward.
Natural Products that Clean Mold and Mildew
It isn’t usually necessary to use harsh chemicals to clean mold and mildew in your home. Several natural cleaners can also clean mold and mildew. I would use them on non-porous surfaces or lightweight materials that are easy to rinse and dry. I wouldn’t rely on these for cleaning mold off of construction materials.
- White Vinegar – Apply the vinegar full strength and let set for an hour. Scrub with a light scrubber. Wipe the surface to remove mold residue. Do not rinse.
- Baking Soda – Make a thick paste of baking soda and a little water. Scrub onto the area you are cleaning. I would use this alternating with vinegar, lemons or peroxide. The mild abrasiveness helps to scrub the mold or mildew from the surface. Rinse with vinegar to remove the residue left from the baking soda.
- Tea Tree Oil – A powerful antifungal, Tea Tree oil can kill mold and mildew. Use about two teaspoons per one cup of water. You can even add it to your Vinegar to enhance the mold killing abilities of it. Let it sit for a while. Wipe the surface. Do not rinse.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – Use 3% Hydrogen Peroxide full strength to get rid of household mold and mildew. Scrub and wipe with a damp cloth.
- Grapefruit Seed Extract – Mix 20 drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract into two cups of water. Spray directly onto the mold. Do not rinse.
- Air and Sunlight – If you can open up windows and get fresh circulating, that can help keep mildew away. You rarely see mildew growing where the sun is shinging through a window. Sunshine also helps kill mildew and mold. If the mildew is on a fabric, it can help to put it outside in the sun to kill the mildew and then clean the fabric thoroughly afterward.
Products that Work Best to Clean Mold and Mildew
To clean mildew off from smooth surfaces like bathtubs and sinks, I use you really can use your favorite bathroom cleaner that is bleach-free. I use Lysol Bleach-free Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner. The trick is to keep the soap scum off of your shower and tub which is where the mildew likes to grow. For tile, I like to use Zep Shower and Tub Cleaner to get tough mildew off. It isn’t recommended for plastic tub-surrounds though.
For household mold that is on porous surfaces like wood framing, cement walls, and drywall, you need a strong fungicide that will not leave a lot of water behind in the material. I recommend RMR-141 Disinfectant Spray Cleaner Fungicide which will kill up to 99% of all mold, bacteria, and viruses. Do not rinse after spraying this on as you don’t want to add water to the material. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
How to Dress to Clean Serious Mold Infestations in Your Home
Even if you don’t have a known allergy to mold, it is best to protect your mouth, nose, eyes and skin when cleaning mold.
- Wear at least an N-95 respirator.
- Wear protective gloves and don’t touch the mold with your bare hands. Wear goggles that provide complete eye protection.
- Wear rubber boot or at least rubber-soled shoes, long pants and long-sleeved shirt to protect your skin.
- Be sure to shower and change your clothes to help avoid carrying mold into your current living quarters.
How to Keep Mold and Mildew Out of Your Home
Once you have gotten rid of the mold and mildew in your home, how do you keep it out?
1. Keep Things Clean.
Keeping your house clean is the first step in maintaining a mold and mildew-free space. Cleaning before or at the first sign of mildew in the bathroom and kitchen is imperative.
Dusting will also help remove the dust spores. Use micro-fiber dust clothes which are collect the dust particles so they don’t fly around.
Vacuuming regularly helps keep those mold spores away, too. Vacuuming is much easier these days with robotic vacuums! I love my Eufy RoboVac. It saves so much time!
Clean with the right products to kill mold and mildew spores. For everyday cleaning you likely don’t need th stronger cleaners mentioned above for cleaning mold. But to keep mildew at bay in bathrooms, use a bleach-free cleaner like the one I use which is Lysol Hydrogen Peroxide Cleaner: I like the smell and it cleans quickly and easily. Also be sure to get a washable or disposable shower curtain liner and either wash it in the washer or throw it away monthly.
2. Remove the Source of Dampness
Obviously, you need to fix or remove the sources of dampness in your home. Fix any leaks and make ure rainwater drains away from the foundation of your house.
3. Keep it Dry
Using bathroom vents when showering and stove vents when cooking can help keep moisture out of the air. Improving the air flow throughout your house will help dry the air.
Don’t leave damp clothes in the washer or hamper and make sure your laundry area has good air circulation.
Also, you want to keep the humidity between 30-50% in your house. During the humid months of the year in your region, that can be accomplished with a dehumidifier like this top-rated one from Amazon powerful enough to dehumidify up to 3000 Square Feet. Be sure to drain the dehumidifier at least twice a week and clean out the collection bucket.
4. Purify the Air
Filtering the air in your home can help cut down on mold spores that come in through open doors, clothes and shoes. I recommend room-sized air purifiers place in several rooms in your house like this one:
Using a certified asthma and allergy friendly filter on with your central air conditioning unit will also kill mold spores floating around in the air of your home.
Ozone Machines can also help clear the air of allergens and mold spores by weighing down the particles in the air so that they fall to the ground where they can then be vacuumed up. This is the ozone machine I recommend:
For a lot more ideas on how to purify the air in your home, you can read my article: How to Remove Odors and Clean the Air in Your House Naturally and Permanently
If you find that you follow all of the steps for cleaning but the mold or mildew keeps coming back, it’s most likely because of one or all of the following reasons:
Causes of Mold and Mildew in Your Home
As mentioned, mold spores are floating in the air and come into the house in open doors, on clothes, etc. But they will only grow if there is moisture from leaks or condensation. It will grow in ceiling tiles, wood, wallpaper, carpet, drywall, cement blocks, fabric and even dust.
What if the Mold Keeps Coming Back?
- You didn’t use the right product to clean it with, so the mold wasn’t all killed.
- You didn’t dry the area thoroughly after cleaning. A lot of cleaners, like bleach, leave a lot of water in the material you’re cleaning, especially if you use a lot of the cleaner. Be sure and dry the area very well using a dehumidifier, fans, and possibly heat.
- The source of the dampness hasn’t been fixed. If the moisture keeps entering the space, the mold will likely keep growing. It’s very important to stop all sources of moisture from entering the home.
Physical Symptoms and Health Risks from Having Mold and Mildew in Your Home
According to the CDC, mold may cause health symptoms in some people and noen at all in others. If you are sensitive to mold, you may have symptoms such as:
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Eye irritation
- Blurred vision
- Sore throat
- Chronic cough
Do I You Need to Leave Your House if You Find Mold?
According to the CDC, that is a personal decision. If you are feeling sick because of the mold, you may want to stay somewhere else while the mold is being treated.
Do I Need to Get the Mold Tested?
The CDC doesn’t recommend taking the time or resources to test the mold as the mold needs to be cleaned or removed no matter what kind of mold it is.
Do I Need to Call a Professional to Clean the Mold in My House?
You may need to call a professional to clean the mold in your home if:
- You are allergic to mold or having physical symptoms caused by the mold.
- If the mold is behind walls, ceilings, stairs, or anywhere that a knowledgeable construction crew would be needed to remove the materials and repair them.