How to Treat Mold in Your Home

How to Treat Mold in Your Home

It is a good idea to carefully inspect your home when you are preparing to put it up for sale on the real estate market. It is during this self-inspection that a lot of homeowners discover an issue they didn’t realize they had—an unwelcome mold infestation.

Thankfully, mold infestations are not the end of the world. There are several mold treatment options available depending on the type of mold, where it’s located, and the size of the infestation.

What is mold?

Mold is a group of fungi that reproduces by releasing spores—basically, tiny seeds—that float around on air currents until they settle on a surface. If the surface conditions are damp and warm enough, mold will begin to grow across the surface, and possibly inside of it.

Mold is one of the most common airborne organisms. We are constantly exposed to invisible mold spores whether we’re indoors or outdoors. The small amount of mold spores you encounter daily are not harmful to your health unless you have a serious mold allergy.

Mold infestations in your home, however, can end up causing serious health issues and significant property damage.

Where do you find mold in the home?

You are most likely to discover mold in kitchens and washrooms, two rooms where surface water, high humidity, and warm temperatures are daily occurrences.

Mold is often found on shower tiles and the surrounding grout, sink backsplashes, and the caulking used to seal around faucets, sinks, and toilet bases. Washrooms are particularly prone to mold growth as every bath or shower turns the room into a warm, steamy breeding ground for mold spores.

Mold can appear in other areas of the home, particularly on window frames and ledges if condensation regularly builds on the window glass from the heating and cooling effect of the sun, or if your home is humid inside during cold weather outside.

Finally, mold infestations often occur where a water leak has happened in the past, or is still taking place periodically. These leaks may be related to plumbing issues, or may be caused by excessive rainfall or snow melting in the spring. When these types of mold infestations occur in basements or attics, they can go undiscovered until they grow into a huge problem.

How do you remove mold?

There are different strategies for dealing with mold depending on the location and size of the infestation. The good news is that many cases of mold can be dealt with easily and inexpensively.

The first rule of mold cleanup is to avoid exposure to any mold spores released during the cleaning. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends wearing the following items when dealing with mold:

  • N-95 respirator mask, available at many hardware stores
  • Long rubber kitchen gloves and a long-sleeve shirt
  • Goggles that don’t have vent holes

The EPA also recommends mold infestations larger than one square yard be treated by a professional mold remediation service.

Safety Tip: If someone in the home has asthma or allergies, you may want to have them leave the home as a precaution before treating moldy surfaces. You should also keep pets away from the area you’re working in.

There are a number of commercial mold cleaning products available, but it is more economical (and generally less toxic) to use one of these common household chemicals:

  • Bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Borax
  • Tea tree oil

Whichever cleaner you choose, the cleaning method is much the same:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with a proper mix of the chemical and water. (see below)
  2. Spray the mold-affected area, and let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Wipe or brush the mold away from the surface.
  4. Repeat the above until the area is completely clean.

Here are some details on how to use the different cleaning agents listed above.

Bleach can be used to treat mold on hard, non-porous surfaces like glass, sinks, and bathtubs. Bleach should only be used in a well-ventilated area, as bleach fumes are corrosive and potentially harmful if inhaled. Use a solution of one cup of bleach to one gallon of water.

Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent antifungal agent, and it is non-toxic. It can be used on both hard and porous surfaces like walls and carpets, but it does have a mild bleaching effect that can cause discoloring. Use a solution of two parts water to one part hydrogen peroxide.

Borax is a natural fungicide commonly sold as a laundry detergent additive. It can be used on hard and porous surfaces much like hydrogen peroxide. Use a solution of one cup of borax to one gallon of water.

Tea tree oil is often more expensive than the other options, but it is a useful all-purpose cleaner and powerful antiseptic that kills fungi and bacteria. Use a solution of one teaspoon of tea tree oil to one cup of water.

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How do I prevent mold from coming back?

Removing mold is only a stop-gap measure if you don’t take care of the conditions that made mold growth possible in the first place.

Mold is always an issue related to moisture control in your home. Armed with this knowledge, here are some simple actions you can take to reduce the risk of mold infestations.

  • Install a ventilation fan in your washroom to vent steam from the room when having a bath or shower. Leave the fan on for a few minutes after you leave the washroom.
  • Check the cabinets under kitchen and washroom sinks—this is a common place for a slow water leak that doesn’t damage the wood, but is enough to enable mold growth. Reseal water connections if necessary.
  • Spray a light mist of borax or tea tree oil solution on your shower tiles, bathtubs, and faucets to keep mold from forming.
  • If you live in a humid climate, consider installing a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air.
  • Keep your home’s air registers dust-free and unobstructed to provide proper ventilation of warm air.
  • Leave the washing machine door open after doing laundry so the inner drum and door seal have a chance to dry out.
  • Check window glass, sills, and frames for condensation in cold or rainy weather. This is a more common issue for homes with older, single-pane windows.
  • Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter to remove mold spores from the air. Be sure to carefully change and dispose of the filter according to the manufacturer’s recommended schedule.
  • Use an occasional light application of your mold cleaning solution on trouble spots where mold reoccurs.

What is mold remediation?

A surface mold infestation larger than a square yard, or where mold has grown deep into the surface of a porous structure, may call for professional treatment. Mold remediation is a paid service where one or more professionals come to your home to:

  • Diagnose the cause of the mold infestation.
  • Safely remove the mold and any mold-compromised porous materials.
  • Test to ensure that existing airborne mold spore levels are within acceptable limits.

Mold remediation is often an expensive service, but depending on your DIY confidence and capability, it may be the right choice if you are dealing with an extreme mold infestation.

Treat mold the DIY way

Mold infestations are an unpleasant find whether you are getting ready to list your home, or you’ve just purchased a new home and discovered something the inspection missed. The good news is that you can treat many mold cases safely and effectively with some simple equipment and inexpensive household products.

Aaron Axline

Marketing Writer at LawDepot
Aaron Axline is an author, technology journalist, blogger, and knowledge management expert based in Edmonton, Canada. He likes cats.

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