How to Get Rid of Mold From Every Home Surface

before and after of mold remover

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 8 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to $20

Mold—it's a word that strikes fear into the hearts of homeowners everywhere, and for good reason. Mold can cause health problems and damage your property. But, no need to worry: we're here to teach you how to get rid of mold from every surface in your home. We'll start with the most common places where mold appears, and then move on to more specific surfaces. So read on, and learn how to keep your home healthy and mold-free.

Above all, remember the golden rule when it comes to cleaning: the faster you can attack the mess, the better. Don't wait for mold to become unbearable before you get to scrubbing. It's best to address mold issues the second you notice them.

Dangerous Mold vs. Mildew

The most common type of mold found in homes is mildew. Mildew is a surface mold that grows in warm, damp places like your bathroom and on fabrics and books stored in damp basements. Mildew begins as a gray or white powdery colony. It will turn black or brown if not removed promptly and often looks like soil accumulation. To test if the surface is covered with mildew or just dirt, dab the stain with a cotton swab dipped in household chlorine bleach. If the stain lightens or disappears after two or three minutes, it's mildew. If not, it's probably just dirt.

If you detect a musty smell anywhere in your home, then you have a high concentration of mold. It can be coming from a hamper filled with damp towels, from a damp crawlspace under your home, or from carpets that have mold growing in the padding. If you smell that odor, it's definitely time to take action to get rid of the problem.

All mildew is mold, but not all molds are mildew. Mildew can discolor and slowly harm surfaces but there are much more dangerous molds that can damage the structure of your home. If you see a black or green mold that is fuzzy or slimy and the drywall or wood underneath is soft or crumbly, there is irreversible rot, and the mold and the damaged surfaces must be removed immediately. 

Products That Kill Mold

  • Chlorine bleach: Household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) works best to destroy mold and remove any discoloration. Mix a solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 gallon of water, which can be sprayed directly on the mold. Note that bleach is quite harsh, and dilution is an important step before use. Keep in mind, however, that while bleach removes mold discoloration, is also removes color from most surfaces! Use it sparingly and when in doubt, test it out on a small, unnoticeable spot first.

Warning

When working with bleach, use caution to avoid the inhalation of dangerous fumes. Bleach should never be combined with ammonia.

  • Hydrogen peroxide: Less harsh than chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide (3% to 10% solution) will kill mold and lighten stains. While it does have a bleaching effect, it works more slowly than chlorine bleach but has no fumes or residue. Plus, it's great to keep around the house for all other sorts of uses - from whitening teeth to disinfecting minor wounds.
  • Distilled white vinegar: Vinegar is acidic and works by slowly breaking down the structure of mold. Vinegar is relatively gentle, but mold stains may remain and additional scrubbing with a household cleaner may be needed. It can be mixed with baking soda or borax to add a scrubbing effect, and their high pH inhibits the growth and survival of mold.
  • Rubbing alcohol: Rubbing alcohol may not be as strong as other ingredients to kill mold. But when it is diluted with water in equal parts, rubbing alcohol cleans surfaces without any damage and can help to stop the growth of mold and mildew.

Safety Considerations

Brushing or shaking items when cleaning them can potentially aerosolize mold spores. Always wear PPE (personal protective equipment) when working with mold. PPE includes the following items:

  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Protective clothing
  • Respirator (or at least a face mask)

Remember that if you have a serious mold problem on your hands that may be breathing trouble or other negative health effects, it's best to call a professional.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Fabric

  • Hard-bristle brush
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Washing machine
  • Bucket or utility sink

Leather

  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Soft cloth

Appliances

  • Funnel
  • Soft clean rags or paper towels

Tile and Grout

  • Bucket
  • Measuring cup
  • Hard-bristle brush
  • Old towels

Interior Walls

  • Bucket

Exterior Surfaces

  • Bucket
  • Measuring cup
  • Hard-bristle brush
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Power washer (optional)
  • Garden sprayer attachment (optional)
  • Garden hose

Materials

Fabric

  • Laundry disinfectant
  • Oxygen bleach

Leather

  • Distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol
  • Leather soap or Fels Naptha Soap
  • Leather conditioner

Appliances

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Hydrogen peroxide (optional)
  • Distilled white vinegar

Tile and Grout

  • Chlorine bleach

Interior Walls

  • Liquid dishwashing detergent
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Soft, non-abrasive sponges
  • Contractor's heavy-duty garbage bags

Exterior Surfaces

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Sponges

Instructions

  1. Removing Mold from Fabric

    If your home has been flooded and mold and bacteria have been left to grow for many days, it may be impossible to salvage fabric items and clothing. However, if mildew has developed due to dampness and is caught early, it can easily be removed from most machine-washable fabrics.

    1. Start by taking the item outside and brushing the surface mold off with a soft or hard bristled brush (use your best judgment on which to choose depending on the fabric and severity of mold). Toothbrushes work great. Brushing the mold off outside will keep the spores from spreading throughout your home and making the issue worse. Never vacuum a moldy item.
    2. Once you’ve given the fabric a good brush and all surface mold is gone, throw the item in the washing machine (with bleach if the fabric allows) and run the machine on the hottest setting possible.
    3. If the item can’t be machine washed, and the spot is small, try a mold removal product that is formulated for fabric and follow the label’s instructions carefully. If the item is dry clean only, bring it to a professional and point out the spot. Most fabrics can be restored even with some mold or mildew.
  2. Removing Mold from Leather

    As with fabric, all leather that can be taken outside to be brushed should be. You’ll want to use a soft bristle brush to brush away any surface mold first, but be mindful that some leather is very delicate and easily scratched. Your best bet is to test the brush on a small portion of the leather that isn’t visible before you start brushing at the mold spot.

    1. Dip a rag in distilled white vinegar or rubbing alcohol. Do not use bleach or hydrogen peroxide as it will damage the leather.
    2. Give the leather a good wipe down on and around the mold spot to prevent the spreading of any spores.
    3. Follow up the wipe-down with some leather soap and warm water.
    4. If you feel it's safe to keep the cloth and wash it to remedy any loose mold spores, that's fine unless you prefer to toss it into the garbage.
    5. Let the item completely air dry before treating it with a leather conditioner.
  3. Removing Mold from Household Appliances

    Appliances like washers, refrigerators, and coffee makers that combine moisture, heat, or food to feed mold need frequent cleaning.

    Removing Mold from a Washing Machine or Dryer

    Clean a washer by cycling either chlorine or hydrogen peroxide
    through it.

    1. Adding a cup of chlorine bleach or hydrogen peroxide (but do not mix the two) into the washer drum.
    2. Run a hot water cycle without any clothing. Next, inspect the front-load washer door seals to be sure no mold is growing that can leave clothes smelling moldy. 
    3. Run a cloth dampened with white vinegar around the door seals and gaskets. You can either disinfect the cloth after use or toss it in case it harbors loosened mold.
    4. Dry the seal and gasket with a dry towel when you are done.

    Removing Mold From a Refridgerator

    If you suspect your refrigerator might be moldy, don’t fret.

    1. Remove all items from the fridge and wipe down the surfaces with distilled white vinegar. You’ll want to avoid using bleach so close to where you store your food.
    2. Be sure to wash any rags you use and dispose of any paper towels immediately.

    Removing Mold from a Coffee Maker

    The last most common household appliance to hold mold is your coffee maker (yuck). Unfortunately, the moist interior of a coffee maker is prime real estate for mold and mildew growth.

    1. Clean the coffee maker by using a funnel and pouring white vinegar into the maximum fill line of the water tank.
    2. Run a cycle with the vinegar (no coffee).
    3. Repeat if you spot a lot of mold or mildew at the top of the tank.
    4. Run one to two cycles of plain water to rinse the vinegar from the coffee maker before making coffee again.
  4. Removing Mold From Tile and Grout

    There are lots of effective store-bought cleaners for removing mold in tile and grout, but if you’d like to go the DIY route, follow these instructions.

    1. Mix one cup of bleach with one gallon of water.
    2. With rags and a brush, apply a liberal amount of the mixture to the mold-affected areas. You will need to disinfect the rags and brush after the project to eliminate mold spores.
    3. The most important step here is to let the bleach mixture sit for at least 15 minutes before scrubbing with your brush.
    4. Rinse and wipe dry, checking to make sure all the spores are cleaned.
    5. Treat again if necessary, and be sure to leave any windows open if you can to allow the space to breathe.
  5. Removing Mold from Interior Walls

    To clean off mold from porous surfaces like wood and drywall, a detergent should be added to a bleach and water solution to help it adhere.

    1. In a bucket, mix 1 part dishwashing detergent, 10 parts bleach, and 20 parts water.
    2. Apply the mixture with a sponge, trying not to over-saturate the surfaces.
    3. Toss sponges after use.
    4. Allow the mixture to air dry thoroughly (do not rinse!) and dispose of any materials properly.
  6. Removing Mold from Concrete, Brick, and Stone

    Bleach works best on exterior home surfaces. Be sure to take proper precautions to avoid getting bleach on any surrounding fabrics or plants.

    1. In a bucket, mix 1 cup of chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water.
    2. Use a garden sprayer or power washer to apply the solution to the moldy surface. For smaller surfaces, scrub by hand with an abrasive sponge or brush (soft- or hard-bristle brush depending on the surface).
    3. Toss sponges after use. If you want to keep the brush, you will need to disinfect it.
    4. Wet the moldy areas with plain water using a garden hose or by hand, then the bleach and water solution, and allow it to sit on the surface and work for several minutes.
    5. Scrub, then check your work. If the stain remains, the mold may require multiple treatments.
    6. Once the spots have lifted, be sure to rinse any surrounding areas (especially plants) that may have been splashed with bleach inadvertently.

Tips to Keeping Surfaces Clean of Mold Longer

  • Keep humidity levels in your home low to discourage mold from developing. Using a dehumidifier or air conditioning helps to keep humidity levels hovering around the ideal mark of 50% throughout the day.
  • Always use exhaust vent fans when showering in the bathroom and when you cook in the kitchen to prevent the build-up of moisture and humidity.
  • Ensure that your dryer has a vent and that it vents to the outdoors, not indoors.
  • Use mold-killing cleaners in your bathroom to keep spores away.
  • Avoid using wall-to-wall carpeting in areas that may become wet or moist, such as basements, bathrooms, and kitchens.
  • Prevent mold formation by fixing leaks anywhere in your home as quickly as possible.
  • Investigate your storage areas for mold, particularly storage bins for clothing and fabric.

When to Call a Professional

If mildew infestation is caught early, you can easily handle it with household cleaners. But for extensive mold problems, consider hiring a professional. The rule of thumb is if the mold covers 10 or more square feet, call in a professional. Removing large mold colonies requires exposure to heavy-duty chemicals and proper disposal of infested building materials. Local public health departments can offer advice on mold testing and refer you to an expert mold remover.

Originally written by
Mary Marlowe Leverette
Mary Marlowe Leverette 2018
Mary Marlowe Leverette is one of the industry's most highly-regarded housekeeping and fabric care experts, sharing her knowledge on efficient housekeeping, laundry, and textile conservation. She is also a Master Gardener with over 40 years' experience; writing for over 20 years.
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