According to experts in the documentary Moldy, more than half of all homes in the U.S. have mold issues. In the right conditions, the pesky fungus can grow quickly in bathrooms, HVAC systems, behind walls, or in other potentially humid environments and severely effect a person’s well-being. However, with the right advice and an emphasis on maintaining a dry, well-sealed house, you can easily get rid of mold and minimize its impact on your health.
What is Mold and Why Does it Occur?
Molds are a type of fungus occurring both indoors and out. They produce spores, which float through the air and spread, making their prevention next to impossible. That being said, spores thrive in moist, warm environments, so when they land on damp or moist wood, paper, fabric, insulation, drywall, and other surfaces, they easily spread throughout a house.
Are There Different Kinds of Mold?
Nobody knows exactly how many different subspecies exist, but experts estimate there may be up to 300,000 different types of the fungus. Of these, some of the most common indoor varieties include:
• Alternaria – Occurs in damp indoor spaces, such as showers and underneath leaky sinks.
• Aspergillus – Occurs indoors on drywall and other dusty, powdery building materials.
• Cladosporium – Occurs on wood surfaces and fabrics in both warm or cool areas.
• Penicillium – Occurs on water-damaged materials and has a distinctive blue or green fuzzy appearance.
• Stachybotrys (Black Mold) – Occurs in damp, water-damaged environments and can cause severe health issues.
Why is Mold So Dangerous to Your Health?
Contact with moldy surfaces or breathing in moldy air can potentially cause minor to severe health problems. Since they produce allergens, and sometimes toxic substances called mycotoxins, exposure to a large number of spores can result in allergic symptoms, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, and fatigue. Prolonged exposure can increase the severity of these symptoms, and certain varieties, like Aspergillus and Stachybotrys, can lead to a more serious illness.
How to Get Mold Out of Your House – 5 Expert
Whether it’s caused by a leaky roof or a damp basement, this potentially dangerous fungus can usually be cleaned and eradicated with everyday household cleaners and items. Here are some tips for using each to properly clean and treat a variety of moldy surfaces.
1. Try Soap and Water First
Begin by scrubbing moldy surfaces, such as tile, window sills, and even wood, with water and dish detergent. Then, use a rag to dry the area completely. In less severe cases, this alone will usually work, so it’s worth trying before moving on to mold removers and more abrasive cleaners.
2. Treat Naturally with Vinegar or Lemons
White vinegar is mildly acidic and commonly used as a bleach alternative to disinfect, deodorize, and clean. In terms of cleaning moldy surfaces, it can kill 82 percent of the fungal species, including Stachybotrys, on walls, drywall, and other hard and porous surfaces.
Overall, vinegar is a safe and effective mold remover, and its pungent odor goes away quickly. Just spray undiluted vinegar onto a moldy surface, let it sit for about an hour, wipe the area clean with some rags or towels and water, and then let the surface dry. Any vinegary smell should clear within a couple of hours.
Lemons are also useful in cleaning moldy surfaces. In addition to acting as a natural deodorizer, cleaner, and stain remover, they can also be used to remove Stachybotrys and other spore species from outside or inside your home. Similar to bleach, the highly acidic nature of lemons breaks down fungal matter, making it much easier to remove. Lemons can also be used to disinfect the area, and of course, they also provide a refreshing citrus aroma.
For most moldy areas, a handful of lemons is all that is needed. While fresh squeezed juice is often best, you can even buy a bottle of pre-squeezed juice to avoid the time and mess. Just pour the lemon juice over the moldy area, allow it to sit for about five minutes, and then use a damp towel to wipe the surface clean. Additional applications and a little scrubbing may be needed for tougher stains.
3. Harness the Cleaning Power of Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful anti-bacterial and anti-fungal solution found in most first aid kits and home medicine cabinets. You can safely use it on moldy hard flooring, bathroom tubs and fixtures, kitchen counters and appliances, and even some wall surfaces.
Simply spray and saturate a moldy surface, let the peroxide sit for 10 minutes or so, and scrub the area just forcefully enough to remove moldy stains. When the area is clean, wipe it dry. Just note, before going the peroxide route, test an inconspicuous area first to prevent any discoloration.
4. Create a Solution
Other household items can also be used to clean moldy surfaces in your house. For instance, a bleach solution containing one cup of bleach per gallon of water can be applied to the surface with no need to rinse. If you’re not a fan of bleach, you can also use a 50/50 ammonia solution. Just spray and saturate the surface, wait a few hours, then rinse and wipe it clean.
Whichever you choose, make sure to wear protective equipment, like eye goggles, and wear pants as well as a long-sleeved shirt. Also, never mix bleach or any other all-purpose household cleaners with ammonia, as this will create dangerous and toxic fumes.
5. Speed Up the Process with a Commercial Cleaner
To speed things up, try a specially formulated mold remover. There are several commercial products effective in cleaning moldy surfaces. However, while they may be more effective, the chemicals they contain are often just as harmful as the fungus itself. There are several other effective methods that don’t involve the use of toxic chemicals.
Ultimately, the best way to keep your home’s surfaces clean and mold-free is to prevent it in the first place. While there’s no practical way of completely eliminating all spores from finding a way into your home, keeping rooms properly ventilated and humidity levels low will help keep your home dry and free of this potentially dangerous fungi.