There are no two ways about it: black mold is gross. In our generally white showers and bathtubs, black mold can show quickly and be difficult to completely remove once it's appeared.
After a little more information about what black mold is and its actual risks to your health, we'll cover some of the ways you can prevent, control and remove black mold from even the ickiest corners of your bathroom... without an enormous amount of time or energy spent scrubbing.
What's black mold, really?
Black mold is the common name for a genus of fungi called Stachybotrys. It has about 50 species, and the one that we see in water-damaged or humid environments is called S. chartarum. (This is what spores look like magnified.)
Although it's also known as "toxic black mold", this term is a bit inaccurate. According to the CDC, black mold isn't inherently toxic. Its presence in an environment can sometimes cause respiratory issues like cough or wheezing, especially in people with asthma. But it doesn't cause death or memory loss.
So, although the presence of a lot of black mold can cause problems in people who are sensitive, a little mold in your bathroom isn't going to do much harm.
The trick is not letting it grow so much that it does become a problem. And how do you do that?
By preventing, controlling and removing mold wherever you find it.
Preventing black mold in your bathroom
The first step to reducing black mold in your home is prevention. If you prevent your bathroom from becoming a breeding ground for the fungi, it won't have anywhere to grow.
The secret to preventing black mold is keeping your bathroom environment as dry as possible. Every time you take a shower or a bath, little droplets of water spray everywhere in your bathroom and make the walls, ceiling and floor slightly humid.
And the first line of defense against a humid environment is a proper bathroom fan. Ensure that your bathroom fan can handle the volume of your space by checking its CFM (cubic feet per minute) capacity. It should cover at least 1 CFM per cubic foot in your bathroom.
This Panasonic bathroom fan is best-known for its high efficiency (110 CFM, the best you'll find) and quiet functioning. It's a bit bulky, but if you need lots of air moved in the bathroom, it'll do the trick.
If budget is a concern, this Air King 90 CFM fan is a good choice. For under $40, you get quite a bit of air moving power, and it's easy to install.
Turn your bathroom fan on before you start your shower or bath, and leave it on for at least a half hour after you're done. If you can install a timer on your fan, all the better! You won't want to run back and forth and can leave the house without worrying about using energy uselessly. That's the really easy, lazy way to prevent lots of mold from starting to grow in your bathroom.
Ideally, you want to keep the humidity level at or below 50%. Opening windows, running the fan, and improving ventilation are all ways to do this.
Then, you'll have to remove as much moisture as possible from the bath or shower walls. This is usually done with a squeegee.
This doesn't seem like a good idea for lazy people, but doing a quick squeegee wipe of your shower walls will save you lots of cleaning work down the road.
Sealing your grout every year is also essential to prevent mold from latching on to the porous grout material and growing quickly.
This once-a-year task, which will take you a few hours at most, will also save you tons of trouble down the line. It's really worth investing the time here, especially if you're a lazy cleaner and hate scrubbing grout with a toothbrush. (Read more about grout cleaning and maintenance.)
Controlling and removing black mold from your bathroom
Sometimes, even though we do everything in our power to prevent black mold, it can still find a spot to grow.
The trick is to catch it early, get rid of it quickly, and keep on doing it until it stops appearing.
The first is to clean up growing mold with bleach, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide. (Just NOT ALL OF THESE AT ONCE!) These cleaners effectively kill mold. A spray bottle is an effective way to treat larger areas; you can use a small brush or cloth to apply it to smaller spots like corners and angles.
It can be especially challenging to remove mold that's set in grout (that's why you seal it every year). If you somehow let this happen, you'll need a small brush (toothbrushes are excellent) and one of the cleaning products mentioned above to kill it, remove it, and clean up the stain.
You can buy specialized cleaning products, but they usually are just formulations with hydrogen peroxide in them. You can save a lot of money just using hydrogen peroxide.
Keeping your bathroom clean with at least a weekly cleanup will help keep mold at bay. That's not very lazy, but you don't need to spend hours: just wipe away leftover water from corners, spray a little cleaner on your walls and tub and wipe it off with a soft cloth. Remove soap scum (a great breeding ground for bacteria and mold!) wherever you find it. Baking soda is great for that too.
If your caulking or sealant already has mold growing, cleaning won't help. Sadly, you'll need to replace it. (That's not the best way for lazy people, but it's the only way if you want to stop mold from appearing.)
But if you've followed the prevention and cleaning tips above, there's no reason why it should get to this point!